Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: July 2014

6 - Other impacts



In this chapter we address several further impacts sometimes considered in environmental assessments:



Traffic congestion,

Depletion of non-renewable resources,


Of these only loss of visibility is due to air pollution. Nevertheless we will comment briefly on the other impacts, because they can be relevant as ancillary benefits for the cost–benefit analysis of some pollution abatement measures.

The chapter begins with a brief discussion of the loss of visibility due to air pollution, an impact that has been found to contribute several percent to the cost of air pollution in the USA, but that has not yet been evaluated in Europe. For noise and congestion we cite some typical values. Noise and traffic congestion clearly impose external costs. For some of the other categories it is not clear to what extent they are external costs. We do not discuss the question of externalities related to employment or energy supply security. But we do have a section on depletion of non-renewable resources, because that category is important in most LCA methods.


The most visible impact of air pollution is a loss of visibility. Three indicators are in common use for measuring visibility: standard visual range (SVR), light extinction and deciviews. Light extinction states what fraction of light is lost per meter due to absorption and/or scattering. Standard visual range is inversely proportional to light extinction. Since these two quantities are directly related to the absorption and scattering properties of the constituents of the atmosphere, their change due to air pollution can be calculated from atmospheric models. However, a change in SVR is not what matters for human perception, because perception is a nonlinear function of the light received by the eye. Like the ear, the eye perceives relative changes rather than absolute changes.

ABT Associates (2000), Out of Sight: The Science and Economics of Visibility Impairment. Report prepared for Clean Air Task Force, Boston, MA.
Babisch, W. 2008. Road traffic noise and cardiovascular risk. Noise and Health 10 (38): 27–33.
CE Delft 2008. Handbook on estimation of external costs in the transport sector. Produced within the study Internalisation Measures and Policies for All external Cost of Transport (IMPACT), Version 1.1. CE Delft, February, 2008.
CE Delft 2011. External Costs of Transport in Europe: Update Study for 2008. CE Delft, Oude Delft 180, 2611 HH Delft, The Netherlands.
Chestnut, L. G. and Dennis, R. L. 1997. Economic benefits of improvements in visibility: Acid Rain Provisions of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association 47(3): 395–402.
EEA 2010. Good practice guide on noise exposure and potential health effects. EEA Technical report No 11/2010. European Environment Agency, Kongens Nytorv 6, 1050 Copenhagen K, Denmark
ENSAD 2013. ENSAD – Energy-Related Severe Accident Database. Paul Scherrer Institut, Switzerland.
ExternE 2005. ExternE: Externalities of Energy, Methodology 2005 Update. Edited by Bickel, P. and Friedrich, R.. Published by the European Commission, Directorate-General for Research, Sustainable Energy Systems. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. ISBN 92-79-00429-9.
Hartwick, J. M. 1977. Intergenerational equity and the investment of rents from exhaustible resources. American Economic Review 67, December: 972–974.
Hotelling, H. 1931. The economics of exhaustible resources. Journal of Political Economy 39(2): 137–175.
Landrieu, G. 1997. Visibility impairment by secondary ammonium, sulphates, nitrates and organic particles. Draft note prepared for the meeting of the Task Force on Economic Aspects of Abatement Strategies. UNECE Convention on LRTAP, Copenhagen 9–10 June 1997.
Livernois, J. 2008. The empirical significance of the Hotelling rule. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 2008: 1–20
Madisson, D. 1997. The Economic Value of Visibility: A Survey. CSERGE, unpublished.
Muller, N. Z. and Mendelsohn, R. 2007. Measuring the damages of air pollution in the United States. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 54: 1–14.
NRC 2010. Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use. National Research Council of the National Academies Press. National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001.
Rabl, A. and Rabl, V. A. 2013. External costs of nuclear: Greater or less than the alternatives?Energy Policy 57: 575–584.
SAUNER 2000. SAUNER: Sustainability And the Use of Non-renewable Resources. Summary Final Report, November 2000. Prepared by University of Bath, UK, IER, Universität Stuttgart, Germany, and Montanuniversität Leoben, Austria. European Commission DG Environment. Environment and Climate Programme, Contract ENV4-CT97–0692