At COP28, a Growing Sense of Alarm Over the Harms of Air Pollution

Participants walk in the Blue Zone on Wednesday during the COP28 climate conference in Dubai. Credit: Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A study released on the eve of the conference found that 8 million people around the world die annually from air pollution. And experts say the crisis is worsening.

n one home video, Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah bops to a choreographed Beyoncé dance. In another, she looks at the camera, and her mom and plants a big kiss on her lips. Then there is a photo of her mid-laugh when she told her mom she could not climb any more steps at a monument. And in some of the final images taken of Ella as she neared the end of her all-too-brief life, the 9-year-old lies in a London hospital room struggling to breathe, an oxygen mask covering nearly all of her tiny, oval face.

When she died in 2013, after years of seizures and a long struggle with asthma, Ella’s death marked a grim milestone in the planet’s battle against climate change: She is believed to be the first person for whom “air pollution” was listed as her official cause of death.

“Not only do you have to grieve, but to carry this and to fight this is huge,” Ella’s mother, Rosamond Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, said of her work as an advocate for clean air during the decade since her daughter’s death. “You do have to thank God for His mercy. But I think it’s the injustice of it all, seeing it all continue. I think that’s also quite heartbreaking.” 12-06-23

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