World Economy
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Air Pollution Deaths Cost Global Economy $5t p.a.

The World Bank hopes the study will translate the cost of premature deaths into an economic language that resonates with policymakers so that more resources will be devoted to improving air quality
Exposure to air pollution increases a person’s risk of contracting ailments such as lung cancer, stroke, heart disease and chronic bronchitis. Exposure to air pollution increases a person’s risk of contracting ailments such as lung cancer, stroke, heart disease and chronic bronchitis.

Premature deaths caused by poor air quality cost the global economy around $225 billion in lost labor income during 2013, according to a major new economic study published Thursday by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

The joint study, entitled 'The Cost of Air Pollution: Strengthening the economic case for action', details how an estimated 5.5 million lives were lost in 2013 to diseases associated with outdoor and household air pollution, Business Green reported.

By focusing on air pollution-related deaths of working age men and women, the study was able to calculate the lost labor income that resulted from premature deaths. It found that annual labor income losses cost the equivalent of almost 1% of gross domestic product in South Asia, 0.25% of GDP in East Asia and the Pacific, and 0.61% of GDP in Saharan Africa, where air pollution impairs the earning potential of younger populations.

However, the report also noted that the bulk of air pollution-related deaths are among older people and children, arguing that when an analysis of ‘welfare losses' covering all air pollution-related deaths is undertaken, the economic cost soars to $5 trillion worldwide in 2013.

In East and South Asia, where many cities face some of the worst levels of air pollution, welfare losses related to poor air quality were the equivalent of about 7.5% of GDP, the report said.

Cleaner Sources of Energy

"Air pollution is a challenge that threatens basic human welfare, damages natural and physical capital, and constrains economic growth," said Laura Tuck, vice president for sustainable development at the World Bank, in a statement. "We hope this study will translate the cost of premature deaths into an economic language that resonates with policy makers so that more resources will be devoted to improving air quality. By supporting healthier cities and investments in cleaner sources of energy, we can reduce dangerous emissions, slow climate change, and most importantly save lives."

Oliver Hayes, Friends of the Earth clean air campaigner, said it was depressing that a report was needed "to 'strengthen the business case for governments to act' when the terrible human costs of air pollution should surely be sufficient alone".

The report comes just a day after another major study from the World Bank detailed how industry could play a critical role in tackling climate change.

The report, entitled 'A Greener Path to Competitiveness: Policies for Climate Action in Industries and Products', was undertaken in partnership with CLASP and the Carbon Trust. It argues there is growing evidence that multiple industries can deliver deep emissions reductions while remaining competitive, thanks to new clean technologies and emerging business models.

15 Nations With Highest Toll

India lost 1.4 million lives to air pollution in 2013, while in China the toll was 1.6 million, estimates the World Bank report.

Exposure to air pollution increases a person's risk of contracting ailments such as lung cancer, stroke, heart disease and chronic bronchitis.

China and India aren't among the worst hit in absolute terms because of the sheer size of their respective populations. Even after adjusting for population, these two countries along with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan were among the 15 nations with the highest toll per million population. China and India ranked 4th and 6th worst in the world respectively. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan were ranked 11th, 12th and 15th on this count.

The bank estimates that in 2013 Georgia saw the highest rate of air pollution deaths per million of its population at 2,117. It was followed by Cambodia with a death rate of 1,300 per million. Among the 142 countries for which the bank complied this data, there were 10 where the rate was higher than 1,000 deaths per million. Australia fared best on this parameter with an estimated death rate of 34 per million.

Financialtribune.com