No matter how you measure it, the impact of air pollution is startling. According to new research, air pollution worldwide cuts life expectancy by 1.8 years for an average person, and is responsible for some 8.8m early deaths a year globally. That is twice as much as previous estimates, making air pollution one of the leading causes of death in the world.
While air pollution originates from a variety of sources, tailpipe emissions from cars, trucks, and buses rank among the largest contributors. In a world where motor vehicles reign supreme and 96% of transport’s energy use comes from fossil fuels, we are effectively meeting our mobility needs at the expense of our life expectancy.
Low and middle-income countries pay the highest price: as highlighted in this graph by the Sustainable Mobility for All initiative (SuM4All), countries with a relatively low GDP per capita tend to see higher concentrations of PM2.5, a type of particulate matter generated primarily by road traffic.