A top-level, comprehensive report compiled by the Lancet Commission details estimates of economic and human costs of pollution worldwide. The full report is available here: http://www.thelancet.com/commissions/pollution-and-health.
Before I summarise some of its main findings, it is worth noting that such an undertaking is, by definition, a difficult one and the one that involves a lot of assumptions, models, estimates and uncertainty around its findings. There will be debates and there will be those who disagree with the report findings. However, two things are clear:
- Pollution is costly in terms of health, life, quality of human capital (young age development, etc), and economically;
- Incidences of pollution impacts are bound to be concentrated in the areas where other factors (e.g. poverty, location of extraction industries, etc) are also at play.
Here are the key findings of the report:
- Pollution (in all forms: from water pollution to air pollution to soil contamination, from spills to accidental discharges to regular releases and so on) is linked to 9 million deaths in 2015 with pollution-linked diseases accounting for ca 1 in six deaths worldwide
- By one measure, pollution led to economic damages to the tune of USD 4.6 trillion or roughly 6 percent of global GDP
- In emerging economies, pollution related health and life costs are resulting in a labour productivity decline that accounts for the reduction in potential economic output of around 1-2 percent of GDP annually. And this is only due to productivity declines.
- Map below shows deaths from pollution:
- As the above map indicates, much of the impact of pollution in terms of deaths is concentrated in the emerging economies and Eastern Europe. Three countries with strong presence of extractive industries: Russia, Chile and Australia all have lower pollution-related deaths
- In China, almost 20 percent of all deaths are linked to pollution. And that is hardly the worst record. India and Bangladesh, two major population clusters, have the rates closer to 25 percent
- The likes of Ireland may be faring way better than that, but airborne pollution being the biggest killer, the idea of sticking an outright pollution intensive trash incinerator in the middle of the country largest city is clearly signaling and entirely wrong political agenda
Quoting from the report:
"Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today. Diseases caused by pollution were responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015—16% of all deaths worldwide — three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence. In the most severely affected countries, pollution-related disease is responsible for more than one death in four.
Pollution disproportionately kills the poor and the vulnerable. Nearly 92% of pollution-related deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries and, in countries at every income level, disease caused by pollution is most prevalent among minorities and the marginalised. Children are at high risk of pollution-related disease and even extremely low-dose exposures to pollutants during windows of vulnerability in utero and in early infancy can result in disease, disability, and death in childhood and across their lifespan."
This is a very important report, worth reading.