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Canadian smog costs $1 billion, 2,700 lives: CMA Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, August 13, 2008 The Canadian Medical Association estimates that by 2031, more than 4,900 Canadians, mostly seniors, will die prematurely each year from the effects of polluted air.Dean Bicknell/Canwest News ServiceThe Canadian Medical Association estimates that by 2031, more than 4,900 Canadians, mostly seniors, will die prematurely each year from the effects of polluted air. OTTAWA -- Smog this year will contribute to the premature deaths of 2,700 Canadians and put 11,000 in hospitals, costing the economy and health-care system $1 billion, Canada's doctors say. A report by the Canadian Medical Association calculates that deaths linked to air pollution will rise over the next two decades, claiming nearly twice as many lives each year and costing $1.3 billion annually in health care and lost productivity. The study estimates that by 2031, more than 4,900 Canadians, mostly seniors, will die prematurely each year from the effects of polluted air. Ontario and Quebec will bear the brunt, with smog-related deaths soaring among aging baby-boomers and the chronically ill. In Ontario, the number of premature deaths could double, to 2,200, from 1,200 per year, while hospital admissions over the same period could jump by as much as 70%. The annual health-care and economic costs could rise by as much as 30%, to $740 million, from $570 million. Quebec's mortality rate could rise by 70%, from 700 a year to 1,200, while hospital admissions could spike by 50% annually, costing the province 10% more, or up to $290 million a year. While smog can trigger lung problems, accounting for up to 40% of hospital visits, heart attack and stroke are the real problems, responsible for more than 60% of all air-pollution-related hospital admissions, the study found. Pollutants such as nitrous oxide damage the heart by harming blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis, a disease that makes people susceptible to heart attack and stroke. Besides the direct costs to the economy and the health system, the study tries to put a price on the poor quality of life and loss of life caused by smog-related deaths. With those estimated costs included, this year's total bill -- in addition to the $1 billion estimate for economic and health-care costs - would amount to more than $10 billion. That figure would rise to $18 billion a year by 2031, with nearly $16 billion of that the price the doctors' association puts on lost lives. But Gordon McBean, a renowned climatologist at the University of Western Ontario, questioned the accuracy of such estimates. While he praised the report and called most of its data sound, he said the attempt to put a price tag on lost life is problematic. "Health-care costs you can do a reasonably good job quantifying, but quality of life and the actual value of life is a bit difficult," said Mr. McBean, co-author of a recently published Health Canada report on the impact of climate change on human health. As a Canadian representative to the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Mr. McBean said the world's top experts have tried unsuccessfully to come up with similar estimates for the human cost of climate change. "That became very controversial because the people who did it said, 'Well, a North American is worth so many thousand dollars and an African is worth a small fraction of that.' And people like me didn't think that was acceptable," he said. Given that climate change likely will lead to more smoggy days, the report does not exaggerate the level of anticipated deaths caused by air pollution, said Mr. McBean. "They're not overstating the problem. If anything, these are lowball estimates."
Stockton’s bankruptcy California’s Greece A city of nearly 300,000 goes bust. How many more will follow? Jun 30th 2012 | LOS ANGELES | from the print edition IN 2010 the demoralised police of Stockton mounted a roadside sign warning visitors that they were entering the state’s second most dangerous city. “Stop laying off cops!” the billboard urged. The fiscally troubled city of 290,000, in California’s depressed Central Valley, was slashing spending and cutting services in order to meet pension and health-care obligations. Violent crime had soared. Two years later, with crime still sky-high and city services even leaner, Stockton has given up. On June 26th, after months of closed-door negotiations with its creditors failed, the city council endorsed a budget plan to file for bankruptcy. The biggest municipal insolvency in American history will hit bondholders as well as former public workers whose health-care costs the city had covered. At the budget meeting former city workers with chronic medical conditions made heartfelt pleas to find another way out. But there were no more options. “Stockton is a cautionary tale about what happens if you don’t make dramatic fiscal changes to react to the broader economic picture,” says Chris Hoene of the National League of Cities, a think-tank in Washington DC. In the mid-1990s house prices soared and taxes flooded in. The city accumulated obligations to its workers and made rash spending pledges. When the market went sour in 2007-08 Stockton was left more exposed than most. Revenues dried up. As unemployment climbed above 20%, its foreclosure rate became one of the highest in the nation, where it remains. How many more Stocktons will America see? Perhaps fewer than some expect. “A great untold story is that a lot of cities are making dramatic decisions to bring their long-term fiscal solvency into line”, says Mr Hoene. Most municipalities were not as badly hit as Stockton, and so have more time to act on employee and retirement costs. Recent votes to cut pension benefits in San Jose and San Diego point to a growing reformist mood among some citizens. But in some respects Stockton is not alone. Like many Californian cities, notes Kevin Klowden of the Milken Institute in Los Angeles, it handed management of its pensions to CalPERS, a statewide fund. This locked it into obligations that reduced its budgetary autonomy. Even now it has no plans to cut pensions, for fear of incurring costly lawsuits. Other cities face similar difficulties, and demography is not on their side. Like Greece in the euro zone, Stockton represents a difference of degree, not of kind. http://www.economist.com/node/21557768