Chapter 12. Air Pollution


Category Description

Air pollutants negatively affect ecosystem integrity and function. Both sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) can cause acidification, which can degrade soil and water quality. NOX deposition can further cause eutrophication, the excessive enrichment of nutrients. The addition of reactive nitrogen to a system can further trigger a cascade of ecological effects that reduce plant biodiversity. As a result, these pollutants are very harmful to both natural vegetation and agricultural crops. Acidification and eutrophication driven by atmospheric pollutants can be difficult or impossible to reverse, persisting long after emission reduction policies are implemented. It is therefore imperative, especially in industrializing nations, to reduce emissions of long-range air pollutants to protect the health of global ecosystems.

Indicators Included

The two indicators used for air pollution are NOX and SO2 emission intensity. The 2018 EPI uses data from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR)v4.3.1 global anthropogenic emissions inventory of gaseous and particulate air pollutants.

Air pollution Indicators

Sulfur dioxide


Nitrogen oxide