Big Pharma emits more greenhouse gases than the automotive industry

nationalpost | May 28, 2019

Rarely does mention of the pharmaceutical industry conjure up images of smoke stacks, pollution and environmental damage.Yet our recent study found the global pharmaceutical industry is not only a significant contributor to global warming, but it is also dirtier than the global automotive production sector.It was a surprise to find how little attention researchers have paid to the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. Only two other studies had some relevance: one looked at the environmental impact of the U.S. health-care system and the other at the pollution (mostly water) discharged by drug manufacturers.Our study was the first to assess the carbon footprint of the pharma sector.More than 200 companies represent the global pharmaceutical market, yet only 25 consistently reported their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions in the past five years. Of those, only 15 reported their emissions since 2012.One immediate and striking result is that the pharmaceutical sector is far from green. We assessed the sector’s emissions for each one million dollars of revenue in 2015. Larger businesses will always generate more emissions than smaller ones; in order to do a fair comparison, we evaluated emissions intensity.We found it was 48.55 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per million dollars. That’s about 55 per cent greater than the automotive sector at 31.4 tonnes of CO2e/$M for that same year. We restricted our analysis to the direct emissions generated by the companies’ operations and to the indirect emissions generated by the electricity purchased by these companies from their respective utilities companies.The total global emissions of the pharma sector amounts to about 52 megatonnes of CO2e in 2015, more than the 46.4 megatonnes of CO2e generated by the automotive sector in the same year. The value of the pharma market, however, is smaller than the automotive market. By our calculations, the pharma market is 28 per cent smaller yet 13 per cent more polluting than the automotive sector.

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This video describes the journey of a vaccine from development through post-licensure monitoring.  Learn about the three phases of clinical trials, vaccine licensing and manufacturing, how a vaccine is added to the U.S. Recommended Immunization Schedule, and how FDA and CDC monitor vaccine safety after the public began using the vaccine.

Spotlight

This video describes the journey of a vaccine from development through post-licensure monitoring.  Learn about the three phases of clinical trials, vaccine licensing and manufacturing, how a vaccine is added to the U.S. Recommended Immunization Schedule, and how FDA and CDC monitor vaccine safety after the public began using the vaccine.

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