5.4.4 Social well-being

Beyond the impacts on human and ecosystem health and food security, changes in the atmosphere have negative impacts on social well-being, or welfare.

Air pollution degrades materials and coatings, decreasing their useful life and generating costs for cleaning, repair and replacement. When the materials affected are structures or objects of cultural significance, the damage can be priceless (Watt et al. eds. 2009). In Europe, visible pollution damage to cultural heritage sites and artworks was highlighted as a justification for air pollution control policies (Di Turo et al. 2016; Maas and Grennfelt eds. 2016). In India, the government has taken steps to protect, in addition to public health, the white marble Taj Mahal, which has become discoloured over time due to high levels of PM, possibly from the open burning of municipal solid waste (Bergin et al. 2015; Raj et al. 2016).

Sand and dust storms, fires and extreme weather events all create disruptions to society, transportation and economic activity. Such events can be a drag on a local economy and may also drive dislocations and migration (Hanlon 2016). In the short term, increased pollution levels affect worker productivity. These effects are not limited to outdoor workers or to extreme pollution levels (Chang et al. 2016; Zivin and Neidell 2018). In the longer term, elevated pollution exposures have been associated with poor educational and labour-market performance, creating a long-term human capital deficit (Zivin and Neidell 2018).