Mass active transit a major means of combating health dangers of climate change
A story today in the Montreal Gazette cites a new medical study recommending "mass active transit" as one of
the most effective ways of improving public health and fending off dangers to public health from climate
The story, which appears in the Gazette and other press organs in the CanWest network, cites a study
published today in the medical journal the Lancet, part of a series on "Health and Climate Change".
The original paper can be read on The Lancet web site:
Search for "Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: urban land
transport" about halfway down the page.
Walking, biking good for you and the planet: Study
BY MARGARET MUNRO, CANWEST NEWS SERVICENOVEMBER 25, 2009 10:22 AMBE THE FIRST TO POST A COMMENT
(Caption: Pedestrians and cyclists should be made king of the urban jungle, according to an international
study showing the big benefits of "mass active travel.")
Photograph by: File, CNS
Pedestrians and cyclists should be made king of the urban jungle, according to an international study
showing the big benefits of "mass active travel."
It suggests money should be diverted way from roads to make walking and cycling "the most direct,
convenient, and pleasant options for most urban trips." Pedestrians and bikers should also get
"priority" over cars and trucks at intersections.
The study is one of six reports on the "health dividend" of combating climate change published in the
medical journal Lancet Wednesday.
The reports say that enormous changes are needed to slow global warming, but show that reducing carbon
dioxide emissions will be good for people's health. Millions of deaths could be averted by getting people
out of cars, breathing cleaner air and eating healthier food.
Public health researchers and leaders issued the reports in a bid to get the message across to world leaders
and negotiators heading to next month’s climate talks in Copenhagen.
"Sadly, policy-makers have been slow to recognize that the real bottom line of climate change is its risk to
human health and quality of life," Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization,
says in a commentary with the studies.
She says the threats to public health are real: Climate change is expected to increase malnutrition, and
its "devastating effects" on child health, worsen floods, droughts, storms and heat waves, and alter the
geographical distribution of insects that spread malaria and dengue.
"The issue now is not whether climate change is occurring, but how we can respond most effectively," says Chan.
The up-side, say Chan and the researchers, is that some carbon-reduction strategies could result in major
Simple measures to improve household energy efficiency could have huge benefits, according to one study
that looked at polluting indoor cook stoves widely used in low-income countries.
Replacing the stoves with low-emissions stove technology that costs $50 US per household has the
potential to "avert millions of premature deaths and hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2-equivalent
greenhouse pollutants," says the study led by Dr. Paul Wilkinson at the London School of Hygiene and
It found a 10-year program to introduce 150 million efficient, low-emission cooking stoves in India could
by 2020 prevent 240,000 children under age five from dying of acute lower respiratory infections and more
than 1.8 million premature adult deaths from heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Reducing the use of coal to produce electricity would also have "co-benefits," a second study reports.
Carbon emissions wafting into the atmosphere would be reduced along with particulate air pollutants
linked to lung cancer, and acute respiratory and cardio-respiratory illnesses. The researchers say
that by 2030 "decarbonizing" electricity production could prevent an estimated 93,000 premature
deaths in India, another 57,000 in China and 5,000 in the European Union.
The urban transportation study says encouraging more walking and cycling would have big benefits for both
health and the climate. It compared different transportation scenarios for London and Delhi. Walking
and cycling came out on top even when compared to increased use of low-emission vehicles that are widely
touted as "green" solutions.
"Important health gains and reductions in CO2 emissions can be achieved through replacement of urban
trips in private motor vehicles with active travel in high-income and middle-income countries,” the
They suggest policy-makers divert investment away from roads and toward provision of infrastructure for
pedestrians and cyclists. They suggest motor vehicles be slowed down and more strictly controlled,
while pedestrians and bikers should have direct routes with priority at intersections, to "increase in
the safety, convenience, and comfort of walking and cycling."
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
Montreal QC Canada
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