James Delingpole agrees that the most recent WHO report on deaths due to pollution is shocking, but points out where the press release does a sleight-of-hand move:
Even if you take the WHO’s estimates with a huge pinch of salt — and you probably should — that doesn’t mean the pollution problem in some parts of the world isn’t deadly serious. During the 20th century, around 260 million are reckoned to have died from indoor pollution in the developing world: that’s roughly twice as many as were killed in all the century’s wars.
Here, though, is the point where the WHO loses all credibility on the issue.
“Excessive air pollution is often a by-product of unsustainable policies in sectors such as transport, energy, waste management and industry. In most cases, healthier strategies will also be more economical in the long term due to health-care cost savings as well as climate gains,” Carlos Dora, WHO Coordinator for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health said.
“WHO and health sectors have a unique role in translating scientific evidence on air pollution into policies that can deliver impact and improvements that will save lives,” Dr. Dora added.
See what Dora just did there? He used the shock value of the WHO’s pollution death figures to slip three Big Lies under the impressionable reader’s radar.
First, he’s trying to make out that outdoor pollution is as big a problem as indoor pollution. It isn’t: nowhere near. Many of the deaths the WHO links to the former are very likely the result of the latter (cooking and heating in poorly ventilated rooms using dung, wood, and coal) which, by nature, is much more intense.
Secondly, he’s implying that economic development is to blame. In fact, it’s economic development we have to thank for the fact that there are so many fewer pollution deaths than there used to be. As Bjorn Lomborg has noted, over the 20th century as poverty receded and clean fuels got cheaper, the risk of dying of pollution decreased eight-fold. In 1900, air pollution cost 23 per cent of global GDP; today it is 6 per cent, and by 2050 it will be 4 per cent.
But the third and by far the biggest of the lies is the implication that the UN’s policies on climate change are helping to alleviate the problem.