The European Environment Agency published a report recently stating that air pollution cost the EU up to $235 billion for the year 2012. Most of this air pollution is generated by coal-fired power plants. (In the US, the cost of coal-based pollution has been estimated to be $500 billion, but that goes beyond air pollution.)
Air pollution impacts human health, resulting in extra healthcare costs, lost productivity, and fewer work days. Other impacts are reduced crop yields and building damage. Particulate matter and ground-level ozone are two of the main pollutants that come from coal.
90% or more of Europeans living in cities are exposed to harmful air pollution. Bulgaria and Poland have some of the worst pollution of the European countries.
An estimated 400,000 premature deaths in European cities were linked to air pollution in 2011.
London is one of Europe’s most visited cities and yet it also has high levels of harmful air pollutants. Over 3,000 people living there in 2012 probably died from air pollution according to one estimate. Death from heart attacks and strokes can be increased by exposure to air pollution. (4,000 Londoners died in the Great Smog of 1952.)
Europe is a major global tourist destination, so it might be advantageous to that industry if coal-based air pollution is decreased.
An analysis of sustainable tourism in Europe wrote, logically, that improving environmental conditions has many benefits. “Many of these measures help a business to save costs, improve its competitiveness, stimulate the regional economy and improve sustainable development – and to fulfill the guests‘ expectations in this respect. Being able to do this, the business needs clear and reasonable aims, practical instruments and assistance.”
The number of premature deaths due to air pollution is outrageous, but somehow over the years it has become normalized to the point that we don’t respond too much, or simply don’t know what to do. Expanding clean energy sources such as solar and wind is definitely going to be part of the overall solution.
Image Credit: Alfred Palmer
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