The environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels are a dominant topic. The increasing changes in the climate have far-reaching effects across the globe and are a growing geopolitical crisis. But the climate effects of fossil fuel emissions are by no means the only problem they cause.
A new report by the Center for Research on Energy and Clear Air has, for the first time, attempted to quantify the global economic and health impacts of fossil fuel-caused air pollution. In total, the estimate is that the economic and health costs of air pollution from burning fossil fuels totaled $2.9 trillion in 2018, calculated in the form of work absences, years of life lost, and premature deaths. The cost represents 3.3 percent of global GDP, or about $8 billion per day.
The study focused on the health impacts of three specific types of pollutants: nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and fine particulate matter, which has the greater impact. Collectively, these pollutants cause about 1.8 billion days of missed work due to disease and $2.2 trillion in air pollution costs every year. Together, air pollution from these three pollutants is responsible for 4.5 million premature deaths around the world each year.
According to the report, the most premature deaths from fossil fuel-related air pollution in 2018 were in mainland China (1.8 million), India (1 million), and the United States (230,000). As a result, those three countries also faced the highest annual costs: $900 billion in China, $600 billion in the U.S., and $150 billion in India.
Photo, posted November 17, 2019, courtesy of Kristoffer Trolle via Flickr.