September 7th is the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies! This year’s theme is The Air We Share, which focuses on “the transboundary nature of air pollution highlighting the need for collective accountability and collective action”.
The dangers of air pollution
The consequences of air pollution for the climate and ecosystems are wide-ranging and devastating. As a result of burning fossil fuels and other human activities such as agriculture and deforestation, emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) persist in the atmosphere, trapping heat and leading to climate change. The pollution particles accumulate in plant and animal tissue, negatively affecting ecosystem health.
Human societies are also vulnerable to air pollution. It is the single greatest environmental risk to human health worldwide. When we inhale polluted air, minute particles enter our bodies, with the potential to cause lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. According to WHO, 7 million people die each year due to air pollution, the vast majority of whom live in low- to middle-income countries and many of whom are children. If no action is taken, this number is predicted to increase by 50% in the next 30 years. Air pollution has no boundaries, and therefore has to be tackled on an international level.
Air pollution knows no borders and impacts us all, with people living in low- and middle-income countries bearing most of the burden. The only way to mitigate the health and economic impacts of this problem is through collective action, which includes stronger international cooperation; collecting and sharing data and research and raising public awareness.
The Air We Share
Since 2019, the UN has designated September 7th as the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies. Its aim is to raise awareness about air pollution and take steps to improve air quality through international cooperation. This year’s theme, The Air We Share, highlights the global element of this issue. To find out what you can do to tackle air pollution as an individual, check out the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) clean air day guide!
Test your knowledge on clean air by checking out the quiz below!