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The push to end mankind's reliance on fossil fuels is growing more urgent, according to the latest research. While previous studies determined that approximately 4.2 million people died every year from breathing air polluted with particulate matter, that research didn't distinguish between deaths caused by fossil fuel emissions and those linked to other airborne particles.
The 2018 study, from Harvard University in collaboration with three British universities, came to the conclusion that the actual number is more than double what was previously believed, at 8.7 million deaths. That means nearly one in every five deaths worldwide is directly connected to burning fossil fuels, which can cause asthma, cancer, coronary heart disease, and other illnesses.
"We can't in good conscience continue to rely on fossil fuels, when we know that there are such severe effects on health and viable, cleaner alternatives," said Eloise Marais, a co-author of the study. According to the research, the areas with the worst levels of fossil fuel-based air pollution include North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia.
Fossil fuel facts:
- Many of the fossil fuels employed by mankind began forming over 300 million years ago, during the Carboniferous Period.
- In 2019, U.S. consumption of renewable energy surpassed coal consumption for the first time in over 130 years.
- However, despite the push toward renewable energy, around 85 percent of the world's energy is supplied by fossil fuels.