Air Pollution Costs $2.9tr a Year: Report

Representational image | PTI

PARIS – The global cost of air pollution caused by fossil fuels is $8 billion a day, or roughly 3.3 percent of the entire world’s economic output, an environmental research group said on Wednesday.

The report from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and Green­peace Southeast Asia is the first to assess the global cost of air pollution specifically from burning oil, gas and coal.

“We found that the China Mainland, the United States and India bear the highest costs from fossil fuel air pollu­tion worldwide, an estimated $900 billion, $600 billion and $150 billion per year, respec­tively,” the report said.

Particles thrown off by fos­sil fuel usage account for 4.5 million premature deaths each year around the globe, includ­ing 1.8 million in China and a million in India, the research­ers found.

The new figure is in line with World Health Organ­isation (WHO) estimates of 4.2 million deaths each year linked to ground-level air pol­lution, mostly from heart dis­ease, stroke, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections in children.

Living in the New Delhi area of India is like smoking 10 cigarettes a day, earlier re­search has shown.

“Air pollution from fossil fuels is a threat to our health and our economies that takes millions of lives and costs us trillions of dollars,” said Min­woo Son, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

The global cost for 2018 was $2.9 trillion, the report estimat­ed. “But this is a problem that we know how to solve: by tran­sitioning to renewable energy sources, phasing out diesel and petrol cars, and building public transport.” The 44-page report breaks down the global burden of fossil fuel-driven air pollution — measured in economic costs and premature deaths — by type of pollutant and by country.

Each year the global econo­my takes a $350 billion hit from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — a byproduct of fossil fuel com­bustion in vehicles and power plants — and a further $380 bil­lion hit from ozone, according to middle-ground estimates.

By far the most costly pollutant is microscopic fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), which accounts for more than two trillion dollars per year in damages, measured in health impacts, missed work days and years lost to premature death.

The global breakdown for premature deaths each year was 500,000 for NO2, one mil­lion for ozone, and three mil­lion for PM 2.5.

Some 40,000 children die every year before their fifth birthday due to PM 2.5, which also leads to two million pre­term births annually and twice as many cases of asthma.

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