Air pollution caused 1.1m deaths across Africa in 2019
• Plant-based jet fuel could reduce emissions by 68%
No fewer than 1.1 million people died across Africa in 2019 due to air pollution, with household air pollution driven largely by indoor cookstoves accounting for 700,000 fatalities, while increased outdoor air pollution claimed 400,000 lives.
The study by a team of researchers led by Boston College and the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme was published, yesterday, in the latest edition of the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.
The researchers also found that air pollution is costing African countries billions in gross domestic product and correlates with a devastating loss in the intellectual development of Africa’s children.
Boston College Professor of Biology, Dr. Philip Landrigan, who led the project with United Nations Environment Programme Chief Environmental Economist, Pushpam Kumar, said, in the first continent-wide examination of the far-reaching impacts of air pollution in Africa, the international team found that while deaths from household air pollution have declined slightly, deaths caused by outdoor, or ambient air pollution are on the rise.
Landrigan, director of Boston College’s Global Observatory on Pollution and Health, said: “The most disturbing finding was the increase in deaths from ambient air pollution. While this increase is still modest, it threatens to increase exponentially as African cities grow in the next two to three decades and the continent develops economically.”
The African continent is undergoing a massive transformation, the co-authors noted. Africa’s population is on track to more than triple in this century, from 1.3 billion in 2020 to 4.3 billion by 2100. According to the report, cities are expanding, economies are growing, and life expectancy has almost doubled. Fossil fuel combustion has driven an increase in outdoor air pollution that in 2019 killed 29.15 people per 100,000 population; an increase from 26.13 deaths per 100,000 in 1990.
Also, according to new research from University of Georgia scientist Puneet Dwivedi, replacing petroleum-based aviation fuel with sustainable aviation fuel derived from a type of mustard plant can reduce carbon emissions by up to 68 per cent.
Dwivedi led a team that estimated the break-even price and life cycle carbon emissions of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) derived from oil obtained from Brassica carinata, a non-edible oilseed crop.
The study was published in the journal GCB Bioenergy.
Dwivedi, associate professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, said: “If we can secure feedstock supply and provide suitable economic incentives along the supply chain, we could potentially produce carinata-based SAF in the southern United States.
“The aviation industry emits 2.5 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions nationwide and is responsible for 3.5 per cent of global warming. Carinata-based SAF could help reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation sector while creating economic opportunities and improving the flow of ecosystem services across the southern region.”