A new report says fossil fuels account for 5 million extra air pollution deaths per year.

International researchers say that fossil fuels in industry, power generation, and transportation account for millions of extra deaths a year across the globe. 

The 5 million person figure would equate to 61 per cent of the total estimated 8.3 million air pollution deaths being due to fossil fuels, they say. 

To work this out, the team compared data from the Global Burden of Disease 2019 study and satellite tracking data on fine particulate matter, along with other population-based data. 

They add that, if fossil fuels were phased out across Asia, a potential 80-85 per cent of preventable deaths from human-caused air pollution could be avoided. 

In high-income countries, around 460,000 deaths a year could be prevented, they say.

These estimates, larger than previously reported, underscore the urgency of phasing out fossil fuels. 

Ambient air pollution, the foremost environmental health risk, poses a significant challenge due to differing global studies attributing deaths to various pollution sources.

To address this, an international research team employed a new model to estimate deaths linked to fossil fuel-related air pollution. 

They evaluated potential health benefits from policies replacing fossil fuels with clean energy sources. 

The study used data from the Global Burden of Disease 2019, NASA satellite data, atmospheric modelling, and four scenarios representing different levels of fossil fuel reduction.

Results indicate that 5.1 million deaths in 2019 were attributable to fossil fuel-related air pollution, with 82 per cent of potential deaths averted by controlling all anthropogenic emissions. 

South and East Asia, notably China and India, experienced the highest attributable deaths, primarily linked to common conditions such as heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and diabetes.

Phasing out fossil fuels could lead to the largest reductions in South, Southeast, and East Asia, preventing approximately 3.85 million deaths annually. 

High-income countries, heavily reliant on fossil energy, could prevent around 460,000 deaths yearly by transitioning away from fossil fuels.

The researchers acknowledge uncertainties in their model but emphasise the substantial public health and climate co-benefits associated with replacing fossil fuels. 

Researchers also note that beyond saving lives, improved air quality resulting from a fossil fuel phase-out would alleviate the burden of major diseases, reducing hospital admissions and easing pressure on global health systems. 

While endorsing the need for clean renewable energy sources, they call for further research to explore the broader effects of transitioning to alternative technologies.

The full study is accessible here.