bad news on pollution

The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health has released a “landmark study” on health and economic effects of pollution worldwide. You can read it after going through a free but somewhat annoying registration process. There is also a pretty good summary in this Guardian article.

I find the results disturbing. Among them are that pollution causes an estimated 9 million premature deaths worldwide each year, with over 90% in low-income and middle-income countries. The Guardian article has a good Infographic showing that this is significantly more than deaths caused by other major causes like smoking, AIDS, and road deaths. (Although, you could think of smoking as a form of intentional pollution, and I believe tobacco countries are still up to their old immoral marketing tricks in developing countries. I also see a link between pollution and road deaths, with land use patterns and lifestyles centered around motor vehicles being the root cause of both, again with immoral practices by the auto, fossil fuel, and construction industries playing a role.) Other statistics are that pollution reduces GDP in low- and middle-income countries by 2% per year and global economic output by around 6% per year. (I don’t quite get how those last two statistics go together – even though the health impacts are primarily in lower-income countries, that somehow affects the economies of higher-income countries disproportionately? I guess maybe because people in higher-income countries spend money on medical care to partially offset the effects of pollution, while people in the poorer countries just die? But don’t we add medical spending to GDP, even though we should consider some of it a cost to society rather than a benefit?) One implication here is that the idea of accepting pollution for a period of time while your country develops may not be a very good strategy, even thinking in hard-nosed economic terms and neglecting the moral dimensions of allowing your people to suffer in exchange for the supposed longer-term gain.

They make a few more links I find interesting (not in a fun way). One is that we don’t really know how much of health care spending is offsetting the effects of pollution, because there is a lot we don’t know about links between pollution and health. And this is not just heart attacks, cancer, and asthma we are talking about, there are disturbing concerns about impacts on the fertility and intelligence of our species from both the small number of everyday chemicals we have good information on and the enormous and growing number we don’t. Finally, there are the somewhat obvious links between fossil fuel pollution and climate change.

Here is where I should probably draw some link to the Trump administration’s immoral policies to actually increase pollution. But it’s so obvious I’m not sure it even needs to be said. He is clearly one of the evil lizard people who eats babies and puppies and is trying to kill us all off as quickly as possible.

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