Global Trends in PM2.5 Concentrations, 2000-2020


Over the past two decades, particulate pollution levels have remained largely unchanged for most of the world. But global average pollution has declined in recent years. That global decline is due entirely to China. Since declaring a “war against pollution” in 2013, pollution has declined by about 40 percent (as chart #4 explains). Meanwhile, pollution has increased in industrializing countries of the developing world such as in South Asia. India, for example, accounts for 44 percent of the world’s increase in pollution since 2013. This has been the case as developing countries are burning high amounts of fossil fuels without the policy safeguards China and developed countries have imposed.

The improvement in air quality in some locations, and the spike in others, points to the fact that air pollution is globally a stubborn problem. In 2020, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic was soon followed by lockdowns and travel restrictions across the globe, leading to improved environmental quality in numerous localized regions for a short period of time. Yet, at the global level, there was virtually no change in average particulate pollution levels, declining from 27.7 µg/m3 in 2019 to 27.5 µg/m3 in 2020—more than five times the WHO’s revised guideline of 5 µg/ m3. This pollution takes 2.2 years off global average life expectancy, relative to a world that met the WHO guideline (5 µg/m3).

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Areas of Focus: Environment
Definition
Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.
Air Pollution
Definition
Air Pollution
Air pollution from fossil fuel combustion poses a grave threat to human health worldwide. EPIC research is using real-world data to calculate the effects of air pollution on human health...
AQLI
Definition
AQLI
Particulate air pollution is one of the most serious risks to human health globally. To help communicate those risks, the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) converts particulate air pollution into...