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Nature: China's annual air pollution deaths now stand at 1.4 million per year.

The graphic above comes from a paper in a relatively recent issue of Nature.

Nature 525, 367–371 (17 September 2015)

Some text from the paper:

Air pollution is associated with many health impacts, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) linked to enhanced ozone (O3), and acute lower respiratory illness (ALRI), cerebrovascular disease (CEV), ischaemic heart disease (IHD), COPD and lung cancer (LC) linked to PM2.5 (ref. 8). Many previous studies have been based on air quality measurements, largely focusing on urban pollution3,4,11–14. Atmospheric chemistry and transport models have been used to account for other environments, including those for which no measurement data are available15–22.

Recently, enhanced resolution regional and global models and satellite data have been applied to improve estimates of PM2.5 and O3 concentrations and their impact on air quality19–24. Here we present results obtained with an atmospheric chemistry–general circulation model, applied at high resolution to compute global air quality changes, combined with population data, country-level health statistics and pollution exposure response functions (Methods). Our calculations of air pollution related mortality are based on the method of the global burden of disease (GBD) for 2010 (ref. 5), applying improved exposure response functions that more realistically account for health effects at very high PM2.5 concentrations compared to former assessments8...

Some more details:

...We have calculated premature mortality linked to CEV, COPD, IHD and LC for adults $30 years old, and ALRI for infants ,5 years old (Table 1 and Extended Data Tables 1 and 2). Our estimate of the global PM2.5 related mortality in 2010 is 3.15 million people with a 95% confidence interval (CI95) of 1.52–4.60 million. The main causes are CEV (1.31 million) and IHD (1.08 million), and secondary causes are COPD (374 thousand), ALRI (230 thousand) and LC (161 thousand). Our global estimate of O3 related mortality by COPD is 142 (CI95: 90–208) thousand. Our total estimate of 3.30 (CI95: 1.61–4.81) million people in 2010 agrees closely with the GBD5 . This is in addition to the estimated 3.54 million deaths per year caused by indoor air pollution due to use of solid fuels for cooking and heating5. Figure 1 shows the geographic distribution and demonstrates the locations of hotspots in China, India and many of the large urban centres.

Considering the global population of 6.8 billion in 2010, it follows that the mean per capita mortality attributable to air pollution is about 5 per 10,000 person-years. Of these 5 persons per 10,000 worldwide, about 2 die by CEV, 1.6 by IHD, 0.8 by COPD, 0.35 byALRI and 0.25 by LC. The highest per capita mortality is found in the Western Pacific region, followed by the Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia. The combination of high per capita mortality with high population density explains the (by far) highest number of deaths in the Western Pacific, China being the main contributor (1.36 million per year)....

Of course, not one of these millions of deaths, including the deaths from lung cancer are nearly as interesting as the case of cancer recently reported in one of the Fukushima workers. This is similar to the fact that everybody talks about the reactors, but no one is interested in the 25,000 people who died in the same event from drowning in buildings and things like that. Every cancer death from any nuclear cause is worth tens of millions of deaths, because, well, we don't like nuclear energy, even though in more than half a century of nuclear operations, all of the nuclear events combined, including Hiroshima and Nakasaki will not have killed as many people as will die in the next three months from air pollution.

There are many of us in this party who are content to live (or die) with this situation while we wait, like D'Estragnon waiting for Godot, for the grand solar and wind future, even though more than half a century of jawboning about this grand future hasn't resulted in solar and wind combined producing 5 of the 560 exajoules of energy consumed each year.

It seems that we are incapable of making simple comparisons.

We should be ashamed of ourselves. Really. We deserve what we are going to get.

Have a nice weekend.
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