According to the European Environment Agency (EEA) in 2012, deaths from air pollution in Italy amounted to 84,400 (eighty-four thousand and four hundred) out of a total of 491,000 (four hundred ninety-one thousand) in the European Union.
Of these 84,400 deaths, 59,500 are attributed to micro-fine particles (also knows as particulate matter), 21,600 to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and 3,300 to ozone (O3). The common matrix however is the emissions from fossil fuels.
Literally, AN HECATOMB!
The human tragedies together with the enormous economic damage that pollution
and extreme weather events due to global warming (hurricanes, floods, droughts, etc.) create every year are increasing consistently.
Yet, there are technologies to fundamentally solve the problem, that will allow
TO ELIMINATE FOSSIL FUELS
With its temperate climate and abundance of sunshine, Italy could stop using fossil fuels almost entirely in 20 years (and completely in 30 years).
It would be enough to act in three directions:
- Energy saving and efficiency: imposed with binding rules and backed by a strong commitment to education.
- Electrification of the economy, including transport and cooling of buildings.
- Power generation for the most part from renewable sources and a small part from natural gas.
In 20 years - zero carbon, zero oil, and very little natural gas,
AND TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LIVES SAVED EACH YEAR
Certainly, in the short term, this requires significant effort, also economic, of conversion, but the return is quickly and it is immense. Not to mention the cost in human lives:
How much are 84,400 deaths per year WORTH?
Obviously in a ruthless battle against traditional fossil fuel, energy companies lose out and their lobbies will continue to influence political choices to slow the de-carbonization of the economy - and so far they have been successful: the private interests of a small minority have prevailed over the interests of the community.
But this cannot last, if it causes the deaths of tens of thousands of people each year.
To deal with the recent difficulties encountered just this last December in Italy, as it was stifled by smog, one can take immediate action to reduce the problem quickly (and to avoid repeating the same situation next year):
- To require that all public transport by road (including taxis) are powered by natural gas or are hybrid within a year.
- To impose companies that have fule distribution points to be also equipped, within a year, in at least one in three of their points of distribution, to provide natural gas and LPG. The spread of CNG cars is low because of the lack of refuelling points. (Yet with the same model, a CNG car practically does not emit particulates, emits 70% less NOx, 30% less CO2 and costs half as much in fuel needs). Once more the oil companies lose out and the community gains.
- To encourage the scrapping of older and polluting vehicles and to replace them with CNG vehicles or hybrid or electric, or with low emissions vehicles.
- To speed up the insulation of
buildings, both with binding rules as with incentives.
In the medium term, to continue:
- To invest heavily in public transportation, especially the subway, in the big cities.
- To invest heavily in suburban rail transport, rather than on highways.
- To investing in "highways" of the sea (transport by ship) to transport goods south-north.
- To impose binding rules on the thermal insulation of buildings, LED lighting, environmentally friendly appliances, and so on.
- And obviously to restart renewables (hindered in any way by the past cabinets), both with a strong bureaucratic simplification and with the restoration of incentives, moderate and decreasing for another ten years.
- To establish programmes of environmental education, from elementary school to university, and with large information campaigns on newspapers, television, Internet.
All this obviously has an important economic cost in the short term (although the economic return is huge in the medium term). But again, it is necessary that politicians at all levels and the public ask themselves:
How much are worth 84,400 deaths per year?
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