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Page 107 of 122

Chapter 7: Summary In the first chapter of this report, we explained how our economy, industries and way of life have changed over recent generations, and how these trends have affected air pollution over that time. We close the report by looking at the effect that these developments will have on our environment and the air we breathe in the years ahead. We are using up natural resources at an unprecedented rate. Our pollution of the environment harms the delicate global ecosystems on which we rely. The air pollution we generate plays a key role in this damage, not least in the process of climate change, which places our food, air and water supplies at risk and threatens our health and wellbeing. Many of the pollutants that cause this environmental damage are the same ones that are toxic to our bodies. These health problems will get worse if we continue on our current course. There is hope, though, if we act quickly. Many of the changes that would decrease air pollution to protect our health – especially using energy more efficiently and burning less solid fuels and oil – would also help to slow down the overheating of our planet. If we take steps now to save lives by cleaning up our air, we may also protect the future of our home on Earth. Key facts • By 2013, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had increased by about 42% over the levels before the Industrial Revolution, and the concentration continues to rise. Carbon dioxide is one of the main gases causing the Earth to overheat. 92 © Royal College of Physicians 2016

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