Assessing pollution from industry sectors

16 September 2019

According to a new study led by Carnegie Mellon University, we need a more comprehensive and targeted method to regulate pollution from industry sectors.

Tiffany Hionas

A group of researchers have found a novel way of assessing pollution from an economic point of view, in terms of GDP, and it has found surprising results in terms of which sectors are contributing more pollution in the US.

Professor Nicholas Z. Muller, the Lester and Judith Lave Associate Professor of Economics, Engineering, and Public Policy, states, 'we tend to think about air pollution as coming from smokestacks.’ 'But what we're finding is a transition from the utilities sector to the agriculture sector in terms of the most significant sources of damages from particulate matter.’

Researchers highlight that due to the very stringent regulations that have been implemented in the utilities and manufacturing industries, these sectors are no longer the main contributors to the economy-wide gross external damage. This is due to the fact that other sectors, such as agriculture, have less stringent regulations and are thus capturing a larger percentage of total impacts.

External costs caused by air pollution, such a healthcare costs, are not captured in terms of GDP. However, this could be reflected if tighter regulations and policies were in place to limit emissions, and therefore provide a long term economically stable solution. 

Subsequently, the researchers believe the net value of an industry such as agriculture could increase if such regulations were in place.

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