The global pollution crisis is mounting. Over the winter months, China has been blanketed in a thick layer of smog, forcing Chinese residents to stay indoors. Not even a facemask can provide full protection from the smog. The increasing air pollution forced Chinese officials to declare a red alert in 10 cities, which orders residents to stay indoors and closes schools, as well as advises limited use of vehicles. All said, a total of 50 cities in China were said to have experienced heavy to severe pollution.
The bad air doesn’t stop in China. Los Angeles has long been known to have a high level of pollution compared to the rest of America. Kabul, Afghanistan, and Barcelona, Spain deal with varying levels of smog. The World Health Organization suggests that the worst of the smog comes from a multitude of sources, the most damaging resulting from industrial endeavors, such as construction and coal burning. In a study done by Nature, numbers suggest that 6 million people may die every year due to pollution. Currently, death by pollution is outpacing death by malaria and HIV.
What makes pollution management challenging is simply that many of the sources of pollution are integral in the modern world economy. Small steps have been taken in various cities, like in Los Angeles, which encourages purchasing and using eco-friendly cars. This has reduced emissions in the city but has shifted the smog into nearby Bakersfield, a farming community.
However, on an international scale, pollution reduction has yet to take off. The last international agreement on air quality was between the United States and Canada in 1986, dubbed the “Acid Rain Treaty.” The best efforts are coming from the World Health Organization, which releases statistics about air pollution and makes suggestions about regulations. Ultimately, this is not enough to cause world powers to enact pollution related policies. The world may be heading steadily towards an era where pollution kills more than any other health disaster.