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😷 2.8B At Risk From Pollution. Student-Teacher Ratios. Forest Cover.

Chart of the Day #94 looks at Student-Teacher Ratios, Air Pollution Risks, and Forest Covers.

Zdravo 🍷

Dozens of wildfires are raging across Canada, with unhealthy smoke drifting across the border into the Northern part of the United States, deteriorating air quality and raising air quality alerts. Delhi's air quality has fallen to 'poor' levels due to dry weather and dust caused by stubble burning and forest fires in neighboring states. Communities, with the aid of AI, are restoring Madagascar's ancient Baobab forests.

Today's Topics

📉 Student-Teacher Ratio. Africa and South Asia student-teacher ratios 2x the US
😷 Air Pollution. 2.8B people exposed to hazardous air pollution levels
🌲 Forests. Russia accounts for one-fifth of the world’s forest cover

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📉 Africa and South Asia Student-Teacher Ratios 2x the US

Sub-Saharan Africa has encountered notable challenges in its education sector, as reflected in its consistently high student-teacher ratio, which has exceeded 40 students per teacher over the past two decades, gradually declining after 2012. This can be attributed to insufficient government funding, which directly impacts teacher salaries, thus contributing to a shortage of qualified educators. Inadequate educational infrastructure compounds these issues, with limited classrooms and resources contributing to overcrowded learning environments. South Asia faces comparable challenges due to rapid population growth, which strains the education system and complicates efforts to maintain low student-teacher ratios.

Conversely, North America, Europe, and Central Asia have maintained student-teacher ratios twice as low over the same period. This disparity can be attributed to greater resource availability and a commitment to investing in education. 

😷 2.8B People Exposed to Hazardous Air Pollution Levels

Globally, approximately 2.8B individuals are exposed to hazardous air pollution levels, posing a significant health risk, particularly in industrializing middle-income countries. This issue affects marginalized communities, who not only face exposure to pollutants but also struggle to access adequate healthcare. Fossil fuel consumption stands out as a primary contributor to this crisis. As of 2021, global subsidies amounted to $577B in policies or direct fiscal expenditures aimed at artificially reducing the prices of polluting fuels such as oil, gas, and coal. These subsidies create incentives, encouraging the excessive use of fossil fuels and worsening air pollution levels.

The South Asian region, emerged as one of the most heavily impacted areas in terms of air quality in 2023. Bangladesh faces numerous sources of pollution, including 8,000 brick kilns, illegal industrial activities, plastic waste incineration, vehicular emissions, and agricultural burning. India, particularly North India and cities like Delhi, face a similar condition, struggling with poor air quality attributed to biomass burning, coal combustion, and vehicle exhaust. The annual practice of crop burning further worsens air pollution levels, with neighboring countries like Nepal and Pakistan contributing to cross-border smoke during this period.

🌲 Russia Accounts for One-Fifth of the World’s Forest Cover

Over half of the world's green cover is spread across the boreal forests of Russia and Canada, the Amazon in South America, and China’s coniferous and broad-leaved forests. Russia possesses the largest forest cover globally, spanning 8.15 million square kilometers (M km²), accounting for nearly 50% of the country's land area and roughly one-fifth of the world's forest cover. Brazil ranks second with 4.95M km², largely due to the Amazon rainforest which covers nearly two-thirds of the country's forested area. Despite its significant forest resources, Brazil has experienced substantial deforestation, losing a net of half a million square kilometers of forest between 2001 and 2021. The primary drivers of this deforestation include agricultural expansion for beef and soy production, mining, and infrastructure growth, which consequently led to periodic fires in the Amazon.

Forests play a crucial role in purifying the air, filtering water, preventing soil erosion, and mitigating climate change. They act as a net carbon sink, absorbing an estimated 7.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually; equivalent to over 1.5 times the annual CO₂ emissions of the United States and approximately 30% of global carbon emissions. As such, forests are indispensable in regulating temperature and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

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