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Curbing car habit can save lives and crops

In addition to the well-documented negative impacts of motor-based transport on society and the environment, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in America has issued new warnings on the dire implications of continued use of cars on humans and plants.

The analysis published on April 1, 2011 by scientists at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, highlighted the increasing harm vehicle emissions impose on health and agriculture. The focus of the study was on ozone, which is produced from a reaction between nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide in exhaust emissions and sunlight. In humans, it inflames the lining of air passages, making breathing difficult and can scar lungs. In crops, it damages cell membranes, slowing photosynthesis and reducing yields.

The research concluded that the adoption of aggressive standards to reduce the impacts of transport emissions by 2015 would set the world on a course to prevent the deaths of 200,000 people, save 13 million tons of cereal grains and save $1.5 trillion in health damages each year.

After five years, that would amount to saving a million lives, more than 50 million tons of food, and $7.5 trillion in human health damages.

It is clear from the unyielding results of scientific research that our transport choices and the policies that "drive" them are negatively affecting every aspect of the planet's life-support systems. Getting out of the car habit would greatly benefit society and our environment.

John Fitzgerald
Kilmacow, Co Kilkenny

Irish Independent