Just Ending Pollution From Car Exhaust Could Add Three Weeks to Your Life

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter

Switching from fossil fuel powered cars could save 45,000 lives per year and on its own almost solve climate change.

The Mayor of Paris is serious about getting cars out of her city, and will be banning fossil fuel powered vehicles by 2030. One would think that, judging by the extraordinary health benefits, every city would be doing this; on its own, it is estimated that the reduction in PM2.5 particulates will save 400 lives per year and add 21 days to the life expectancy of every Parisian.

Imagine if everyone did this: according to C40 Cities, a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change, it would potentially prevent more than 45,000 premature deaths each year. And if people switched from cars to active transportation, like walking or cycling just 30 minutes per day five days a week, it would deliver the following benefits:

  • 23% reduced risk of heart disease,
  • 23% reduced risk of stroke,
  • 15% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes,
  • 14% reduced risk of depression,
  • 12% reduced risk of breast cancer
  • 11% reduced risk of dementia, and
  • 8% reduced risk of colon cancer
  • An active commute also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and therefore prevents climate change - If 10% of citizens in C40’s North American Cities switch from driving to cycling that would save over 1.6 million tonnes of CO2e per year, equivalent to 180 million gallons of gasoline consumed.

    Of course, Mikael Colville-Andersen is right; it is pretty hard to get people out of their cars if the infrastructure isn't there.

    Yet any time anyone tries to do anything to reduce the number of cars to make cities "cleaner and greener" it is a war on the car.

    New poles in Toronto

    Lloyd Alter/ New poles being installed in Toronto/CC BY 2.0

    It is often a war on pedestrians too, as I found this past weekend when the local electrical utility decided to steal even more sidewalk from people who walk. They could have put the poles out where the cars are parked, but that would be the war on the car; you can't take away parking spaces.

    The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is determined.

    As Mayor of Paris my first priority is to protect the health and wellbeing of Parisians. This research reveals that the policies we are implementing to clean the air we breathe and restrict the polluting diesel and petrol vehicles will add 3 weeks onto the life of every citizen, whilst also preventing climate change. If the policies are escalated to cities and regions around the world, the health benefits will affect tens of thousands of people. Now we see just how dangerous those forces who want to prevent the shift to clean and healthy streets really are. Nothing will hold us back.

    I wish she were Mayor of the world.