Globetrotting: news and views from around the world — January 2018

New Delhi is the most polluted city in the world, while climate change is having a negative impact on manufacturing.



New Delhi is the most polluted city in the world at the moment, according to the Brookings Institute. The problem stems not only from industrial sources such as construction and power plants, but also from the burning of crop residues and desert dust in neighbouring provinces.


According to World Health Organization guidelines, the acceptable level of fine particulate matter — known as PM2.5 — is 25 micrograms per cubic metre over the short term. In Delhi, recent levels have topped 1,000 micrograms.


The smog is so dense, reports The Guardian, that smog-fighting helicopters can’t fly — because of the smog. A Delhi doctor complains that half his patients suffering from lung cancer don’t even smoke.


Dire as the situation may be, reports CBS News, it has not stopped thousands of runners from competing in a recent marathon, even though the Indian Medical Association initiated a court action to have it postponed.



Unhealthy heat


Chinese manufacturing

Climate change is having a negative impact on manufacturing, according to a report in the International Business Times.


Looking at the impact of warmer temperatures on half a million Chinese manufacturers from 1998 to 2007, researchers found that a day of heat exceeding 90 F (32 C) results in a drop in output of a half percentage point, or approximately US$10,000 for that day. When you multiply this relatively small amount by the total number of Chinese manufacturers, you arrive at a total yearly cost of US$47 billion by the middle of the century.


The study does not say how climate change will affect other industries, such as agriculture, real estate or tourism.



Taxed to the max

Taxation levels in OECD member countries have hit an all-time high, with the average tax-to-GDP ratio ringing in at 34.3% for 2016, reports The Fiscal Times. That total has inched up inexorably every year since 1965, when it stood at 24.8%.


Denmark is the currently at the top of the list with a tax-to-GDP ratio of 45.9%. Mexico is the lowest, at 17.2%.


With a ratio of 31.7%, Canada ranks below the OECD average, but still much higher than the US, which comes in at 26%. However, The Fiscal Times says the light tax burden hides other charges that are higher than in any other country — notably in higher education and healthcare.



Coffee gets a better rap


Coffee maker

The latest verdict on coffee is that “it may have health benefits,” reports the BBC. Proviso: it must be consumed in moderation (three cups a day, as little milk and sugar as possible).


After collecting data from 200 studies, researchers at the University of Southampton concluded that coffee drinkers who consume three cups a day on average have a lower risk of getting heart problems or dying of heart disease than noncoffee drinkers do. They also have a reduced risk of liver disease.


There is a big “but”: researchers could not determine if these benefits resulted from coffee intake. The fact that people did not smoke or exercised could have skewed the results.