According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 91% of the world population in 2016 was living in places beneath WHO air quality guidelines levels. The organisation’s estimates for that year reveal that ambient, or outdoor, air pollution caused 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide. The vast majority of these deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries, and were particularly concentrated in South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions. In addition, indoor air pollution is a daily reality for some 3 billion people who cook and heat their homes with biomass fuels and coal, so that 3.8 million premature deaths were attributed to household air pollution.
These stark statistics further reveal the scale of air pollution and its pernicious effects on human health. Whose responsibility is it to tackle air pollution and how can it be done? Is air pollution a winning argument for proponents of the fossil-to-electric energy transition?