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Letter: Focus on global warming has led to pollution rise – Financial Times

Your article on the recent heatwaves in New Delhi (Opinion, June 22) raises the question as to how to protect vulnerable inhabitants of cities from the effects of global warming.

With our understandable focus on heatwaves, it is not widely appreciated that extreme cold weather kills about 10 times more people than extreme heat globally. This helps explain the paradoxical finding that the number of lives lost from extreme temperatures in the UK has decreased since 2000.

Those with inadequate shelter and/or without access to affordable energy are the most vulnerable to extreme temperatures. It is therefore paramount that efforts to reduce global warming do not slow development of adequate housing and/or decrease access to affordable energy.

Focusing too much on minimising one risk (global warming) is a serious mistake. The current high levels of atmospheric CO₂ and ambient air pollution are partly the result of excessive focus on minimising the risk of radioactivity. This dramatically slowed the building of nuclear reactors for electricity generation. These were replaced by fossil fuel-fired generators, which are at least 100 times more lethal than nuclear energy and have increased atmospheric CO₂. We must not repeat this tragic mistake.

Anton van der Merwe
Sir William Dunn School of Pathology
University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

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