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Economic Effects of Air Pollution

The shadows of two hikers ready to begin the Elephant trail at Big Bend National Park, Texas.
Park visitation is largely dependent on protection of natural and scenic resources that draw visitors to national parks in the first place.

Economics provides a means to compare the potential benefits of a policy with its potential costs.

Ecosystems in national park areas provide goods and services, such as air purification, nutrient cycling, and recreational experiences, that are vital to human health and livelihood. These goods and services are known as ecosystem services. Air pollutants including ground-level ozone, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and sulphur dioxide can all have negative impacts on ecosystem services. Recognizing ecosystems as natural assets with economic and social value can help promote conservation and more responsible decision-making.

Additionally, multiple studies have shown that people place an economic value on, or a “willingness to pay” for, improvements in visibility (What is a Clear View Worth? [pdf, 1.9 MB]). These monetary benefits are typically a part of the cost-benefit analyses for air quality regulations.

Economic benefits from visitation is largely dependent upon protection of park natural resources, including air quality. Visitor spending in communities surrounding national park sites was estimated at 11.9 billion dollars in 2009. Visitor surveys consistently report that visitors consider clean, clear air to be extremely important.

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Last Updated: January 10, 2013