Life expectancy can continue growing even with us shifting away from fossil fuels – Innovita Research

Life expectancy can continue growing even with us shifting away from fossil fuels

By now you probably understand that we need to make our energy in a cleaner way. Solar, wind and hydro power plants will eventually take over. However, what you might not know is that some people believe that growth in fossil fuel use is required for increases in life expectancy. But is that the case? Scientists at the University of York decided to look into this subject.

Fossil fuels helped some economies to grow, which resulted in an increase of life expectancy. But this trend can continue without us using fossil fuels. Image credit: Jawadqada via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Air pollution has a negative effect on life expectancy of people. This means that people in congested cities are likely to die younger. However, fossil fuel use has actually been associated with increase in life expectancy. Not because of the fuel or oil itself. It is just that increasing petroleum production helped some economies to rapidly develop. Economic growth is usually associated with increase in life expectancy, because people are able to afford better food, healthcare and generally suffer from stress less. This is why some people believe that limiting production of fossil fuels is going to negatively affect the growth of life expectancy.

Scientists took a look at improvements in life expectancy across 70 countries between 1971 and 2014. They found that fossil fuel use could be tied to 90% of growth in national incomes (GDP) and this contributed to 29% of improvements in life expectancy. However, then scientists looked at purchasing power parity and found this indicator to be much more important to life expectancy than the GPD growth. In other words, the average life expectancy increased because the poorest of people became less poor. Scientists say that this means that prioritizing GDP growth is not the only way to increase the life expectancy. A smarter way is to think about distribution of resources more and wellbeing of people.

All this means that fossil fuels helped countries become richer, but people are able to live longer because of factors that are achievable through other means. Professor Julia Steinberger, lead author of the study, said: “Our results directly counter the claims by fossil fuel companies that their products are necessary for well-being. Reducing emissions and primary energy use, while maintaining or enhancing the health of populations, should be possible”.

There is a lack of causation between fossil fuel use and life expectancy. There is correlation between wellbeing and life expectancy. And economies can continue to grow despite the changing paradigm. Development of infrastructure for green energy will get a lot of people involved and some parts of the world might benefit from it greatly.


Source: University of York