Global mercury emission cuts ‘will double US economic benefits’

Global action on reducing mercury emissions will lead to twice the economic benefits for the US. That’s according to a new study which compared the benefits of domestic regulation and an international policy […]

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By Jacqueline Echevarria

Global action on reducing mercury emissions will lead to twice the economic benefits for the US.

That’s according to a new study which compared the benefits of domestic regulation and an international policy to reduce mercury globally.

The MIT Energy Initiative researchers found global policy would lead to $339 billion (£223bn) and $104 billion (£68.4bn) in lifetime and economy-wide savings in the US by 2050.

That’s compared to $147 billion (£97bn) and $43 billion (£28.3bn) respectively as a result of domestic action.

Mercury pollution comes from coal-fired power plants and other sources which travel around the world through the atmosphere and settles in oceans and waterways, gradually accumulating in fish, according to MIT researchers.

They added consumption of mercury-contaminated seafood leads to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairments.

The researchers also found consumption of mercury is estimated to be 91% lower under the global treaty compared to 32% under the nation’s policy alone during the same period.

However, those who consume locally-caught freshwater fish rather than seafood from the global market will benefit more from domestic rather than international mercury regulations, the study stated.

Professor Noelle Selin at MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society said: “There are a ton of uncertainties here but we know that mercury is a dangerous pollutant. When you put in a policy, how do you think about its ultimate environmental and human effects? We think this method is really a way to try and move that forward.”