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  • Writer's pictureGregory Andrews

Breathing Easy: Why Shifting to Renewables is Important for Our Health

In the face of the escalating climate crisis, shifting urgently from fossil fuels to renewables is of course an imperative. But there's another equally compelling reason to embrace renewable energy: the profound impact of air pollution on our health. As understanding of the toxic effects of fossil-fuelled air pollution grows, it's clear that clean energy isn't just about preserving our planet - it's about preserving ourselves.

The Hidden Hazards of Air Pollution

Every day, millions of people worldwide breathe air that significantly harms their health. Fossil fuel combustion in industries, vehicles, and power plants emits a host of dangerous pollutants including particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. These pollutants have a dire impact on human health. They penetrate deep into the respiratory system and bloodstream, leading to diseases that were once thought to be unrelated to air quality. Recent studies, for example, have shown that exposure to polluted air leads not only to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases but also significantly impacts brain health. Research shows a strong link between air pollution and an increased risk of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Air pollution affects cognitive function across all ages, leading to decreased IQ scores and higher instances of neurodevelopmental disorders in children.

Poor air quality is not just an issue in places like New Delhi and Jakarta. In Sydney and Melbourne, motor vehicle and other fossil fuel emissions are significant contributors to air pollution. Diesel vehicles are a particular source of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM2.5) which has been described as a silent killer. Air pollution also hits disadvantaged people harder. People in lower-income areas of Western Sydney, for example, have higher rates of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Liverpool, Bankstown and Parramatta have some of the highest levels of air pollution in Australia. And on days when air pollution is higher in western Sydney, so are admissions to hospital for respiratory conditions, and fatalities from heart attacks and lung disease.

Electrification and Renewable Energy

Reducing the direct health impacts of air pollution is a strong and immediate reason for eliminating the use of fossil fuels. Unlike climate change impacts, which can seem more abstract or distant to some people, the health impacts of air pollution are immediate and personal. They have immediate impacts on quality of life and productivity. And they increase healthcare costs for individuals and governments.

EVs and renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, hydroelectric power and batteries produce no direct emissions. By investing in electrification and transitioning to clean energy, we can drastically reduce air pollution, combat climate change and reduce the burden of disease associated with fossil fuels. Imagine when all the cars and trucks are electrified on our roads. We'll no longer have to put our air vents on 'recirc' behind utes and trucks spewing filthy diesel fumes.

Globally, air pollution is responsible for 7 million premature deaths each year, according to data from the World Health Organisation. That's why shifting away from fossil fuels is not just about preventing global temperature rises. It's about protecting our health. Clean air is a fundamental right, and it's within our power to ensure it for ourselves and others.

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Ian Millner
Ian Millner
Apr 22

Could not agree more. Electrification and a move to renewable energy is a complete win win for society.

Gregory Andrews
Gregory Andrews
May 08
Replying to

Thanks Ian

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