Tuesday, July 24, 2012

$1,061 per person

That's the social cost of air pollution, according to the latest study from the Ministry for the Environment [PDF]. Air pollution causes 1,175 premature deaths, 607 hospital admissions, and 1.49 million "restricted activity days" a year, for a total cost of $4.29 billion. Which is almost five times the social cost of drunk driving.

Drunk driving is a good comparator, and the government rightly spends tens of millions a year on reducing its social cost (a program which has been quite successful over the past few decades). So what is it doing to reduce the cost of air pollution?

That's right: delaying implementation of even weak standards, statistically murdering 635 people over the next decade.

The government needs to get serious about this. Air pollution kills people. It costs our society. It deserves the same care and attention paid to reduce those costs as we do for drunk driving and other social harms. The fact that the government is refusing to do this speaks volumes about their priorities, and the value they place on people's lives.