How much does air pollution cost?

Анастасия Устругова Анастасия Устругова Expert of Center Russia-OECD published Ecology · Health
How much does air pollution cost?

On 9th of June, the OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented new publication: “The Economic Consequences of Outdoor Air Pollution” at the 8th Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference in Batumi, Georgia.

The numbers introduced are frightening. Due to experts’ assessment, by 2060 outdoor air pollution will cause 6-9 million deaths a year and cost approximately $ 2.6 trillion USD per year (that comprises 1% of global GDP). These costs include hospital and health care bills, and reduction of agricultural products’ volume.

Health care expenses will grow as well. In 2015 people spent on average 500 USD for health care, but by 2060 this indicator will grow to 2 800 USD.

Moreover, overall economic income per person will reduce by 2060 to 330 USD as yearly health care expenses will comprise 176 billion USD. For example, in 2015 this indicator was only 21 billion USD. The number of working days missed due to illness will increase from 1.2 billion to 3.7, which is more than three times.

However, not only economic consequences are frightening but also a number of deaths. In 2010, outdoor air pollution caused more than 3 million premature deaths. The most vulnerable groups are elderly people and children. The situation will be worse by 2060. OECD experts predict double or even threefold increase in mortality.

By 2060 outdoor air pollution will cause one premature death every 4 or 5 seconds.

The highest mortality rates will be in India, China, Korea and countries in Central Asia (i.e. Uzbekistan) because of high population growth and large cities overpopulation where air pollution affects people mostly. A threefold increase in mortality is expected in China, and fourfold - in India.

In the USA, the situation is stable, and in Western Europe, there is even a decrease in mortality from air pollution due to the efforts made (the use of cleaner energy and transport).

The biggest economic problems due to OECD experts will be in China, Russia, Korea, Eastern Europe countries and in Caribbean region because of three main reasons: health care expenses drop in production and reduction of agricultural products’ volume (Russia is an exception).

Yield reduction due to dirty air strike on the economy of almost all countries. The exceptions are Brazil, Russia and some countries of Latin America. In these countries, agricultural lands are the least affected by air pollution. It leads to an increase in the competitiveness of exports and, accordingly, the economic benefits.

Thus, we can see the whole scope of the problem that we can still prevent nowadays. All countries need to tackle the problem of air pollution to reduce risks of more serious consequences. As can be seen from the report, the problem concerns the entire international community. That is why it is necessary to join forces and use best practices to prevent the disaster.