The cost of air pollution in South Africa

ERC researchers, Dr Katye Altieri and Samantha Keen analysed the impacts of energy-related air pollution using the environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP) model that they developed for South Africa.


The high cost of air pollution

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) reported in 2012 that three million people die prematurely each year around the globe due to ambient air pollution (WHO, 2012), with low- and middle-income countries suffering the worst effects. Developing countries, that have a heavy reliance on fossil fuels, like South Africa and China, face the bulk of the health and productivity losses as well as mortality associated with high concentrations of air pollution.

The associated economic costs can also be high. For China, which relies on coal for 75% of its primary energy, the economic burden of air pollution is estimated at 3.8% of their GDP (World Bank, 2007). The WHO estimates that air pollution costs European economies US$ 1.6 trillion a year in mortality and morbidity (WHO European Region, 2015).

The South African case

South Africa relies on coal for 97% of its primary energy. The costs of air pollution on human health and economic growth in South Africa are as of yet unknown. Fine particulate matter (PM) is one of the most lethal pollutants, and higher concentrations are known to cause increased mortality.

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