Health and Economic Damages of Air Pollution in China

Haikun Wang, Xiaojing He, Xinyu Liang, Ernani F. Choma, Yifan Liu, Li Shan, Haotian Zheng, Shaojun Zhang, Chris P. Nielsen, Shuxiao Wang, Ye Wu, and John S. Evans. 2020. “Health benefits of on-road transportation pollution control programs in China.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sept 2020, 201921271. Publisher's VersionAbstract
China started to implement comprehensive measures to mitigate traffic pollution at the end of 1990s, but the comprehensive effects, especially on ambient air quality and public health, have not yet been systematically evaluated. In this study, we analyze the effects of vehicle emission control measures on ambient air pollution and associated deaths attributable to long-term exposures of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and O3 based on an integrated research framework that combines scenario analysis, air quality modeling, and population health risk assessment. We find that the total impact of these control measures was substantial. Vehicular emissions during 1998–2015 would have been 2–3 times as large as they actually were, had those measures not been implemented. The national population-weighted annual average concentrations of PM2.5 and O3 in 2015 would have been higher by 11.7 μg/m3 and 8.3 parts per billion, respectively, and the number of deaths attributable to 2015 air pollution would have been higher by 510 thousand (95% confidence interval: 360 thousand to 730 thousand) without these controls. Our analysis shows a concentration of mortality impacts in densely populated urban areas, motivating local policymakers to design stringent vehicle emission control policies. The results imply that vehicle emission control will require policy designs that are more multifaceted than traditional controls, primarily represented by the strict emission standards, with careful consideration of the challenges in coordinated mitigation of both PM2.5 and O3 in different regions, to sustain improvement in air quality and public health given continuing swift growth in China’s vehicle population.
liu zhenya headshot


April 17, 2018

2018年4月17日,中国国家电网公司(SGCC)前董事长、现全球能源互联网发展合作组织(GEIDCO)主席刘振亚先生在哈佛大学法学院发表题为“能源创新之道:从特高压电网到全球能源互联网”的公开演讲。演讲探讨了建立全球智能电网的需求与潜力,通过全球能源互联网,用可再生资源生产的能源能够以更低的成本进入千家万户。本次活动由哈佛大学中国能源、经济与环境项目,哈佛法学院东亚法律研究项目,哈佛John A. Paulson工程与应用科学学院,以及哈佛环球学院联合举办。点击此处阅读有关报道。

Read more about 中国国家电网公司前董事长刘振亚就全球能源互联网在哈佛大学发表公开演讲
MEP meeting


August 30, 2017

2017年8月4日,中国气候变化事务特别代表解振华主任在其北京的办公室举行了研究和政策咨询会,会晤哈佛大学中国项目的Mike McElroy和Steve Wofsy教授、项目执行总监Chris Nielsen、前哈佛大学中国项目学者张红军博士(霍兰德奈特律师事务所),以及鲁玺教授(清华大学)。议题包括:中美处理气候问题的现状以及地区政府在气候问题治理中日益重要的作用;中国不同地区碳排放控制能力的差异;碳市场与碳税收政策各自的优势和混合碳定价政策的前景;以及尝试用地球工程来解决气候问题所带来的高风险。... Read more about 同解振华特别代表和李干杰部长进行高层次会晤


Clearing the Air

July 19, 2007

Check the reviews of Clearing the Air, a Harvard China Project book on the health damages of air pollution, and comprehensive costs and benefits of taxes to control pollutants and CO2. Reporting an interdisciplinary study by Harvard University and Tsinghua University engineers, economists, and health scientists, the book is edited by Mun Ho and Chris Nielsen:


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Read more about Clearing the Air
Jing Cao, Mun S Ho, and Dale W Jorgenson. 2009. “The local and global benefits of green tax policies in China.” Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 3, 2, Pp. 231-250. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This article describes a multidisciplinary study of market-based policies for controlling air pollution in China. While previous studies have examined the costs and benefits of pollution control separately, this approach determines them together using an economy–environment model for China. We employ air dispersion simulations and population maps to calculate health damages due to air pollution. This provides estimates of incremental damages for industry output and fuel use. Based on these marginal damages, we simulate the effect of “green taxes” on the economy and show that the environmental benefits exceed the aggregate costs, ignoring adjustment costs for individual sectors.
Clearer Skies Over China: Reconciling Air Pollution, Climate, and Economic Goals
2013. Clearer Skies Over China: Reconciling Air Pollution, Climate, and Economic Goals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A groundbreaking U.S.–Chinese inquiry into the effects of recent air pollution controls and prospective carbon taxes on China's economy and environment.

China's carbon dioxide emissions now outstrip those of other countries and its domestic air quality is severely degraded, especially in urban areas. Its sheer size and its growing, fossil-fuel-powered economy mean that China's economic and environmental policy choices will have an outsized effect on the global environmental future. Over the last decade, China has pursued policies that target both fossil fuel use and atmospheric emissions, but these efforts have been substantially overwhelmed by the country's increasing energy demands. With a billion citizens still living on less than $4,000 per year, China's energy and environmental policies must be reconciled with the goals of maintaining economic growth and raising living standards.

This book, a U.S.–Chinese collaboration of experts from Harvard and Tsinghua University, offers a groundbreaking integrated analysis of China's economy, emissions, air quality, public health, and agriculture. It first offers essential scientific context and accessible summaries of the book's policy findings; it then provides the underlying scientific and economic research. These studies suggest that China's recent sulfur controls achieved enormous environmental health benefits at unexpectedly low costs. They also indicate that judicious implementation of carbon taxes could reduce not only China's carbon emissions but also its air pollution more comprehensively than current single-pollutant policies, all at little cost to economic growth.

Yu Zhao, Michael B. McElroy, Jia Xing, Lei Duan, Chris P Nielsen, Yu Lei, and Jiming Hao. 2011. “Multiple effects and uncertainties of emission control policies in China: Public health, soil acidification, and global temperature.” Science of the Total Environment , 409, 24, Pp. 5177-5187. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Policies to control emissions of criteria pollutants in China may have conflicting impacts on public health, soil acidification, and climate. Two scenarios for 2020, a base case without anticipated control measures and a more realistic case including such controls, are evaluated to quantify the effects of the policies on emissions and resulting environmental outcomes. Large benefits to public health can be expected from the controls, attributed mainly to reduced emissions of primary PM and gaseous PM precursors, and thus lower ambient concentrations of PM2.5. Approximately 4% of all-cause mortality in the country can be avoided (95% confidence interval: 1–7%), particularly in eastern and north-central China, regions with large population densities and high levels of PM2.5. Surface ozone levels, however, are estimated to increase in parts of those regions, despite NOX reductions. This implies VOC-limited conditions. Even with significant reduction of SO2 and NOX emissions, the controls will not significantly mitigate risks of soil acidification, judged by the exceedance levels of critical load (CL). This is due to the decrease in primary PM emissions, with the consequent reduction in deposition of alkaline base cations. Compared to 2005, even larger CL exceedances are found for both scenarios in 2020, implying that PM control may negate any recovery from soil acidification due to SO2 reductions. Noting large uncertainties, current polices to control emissions of criteria pollutants in China will not reduce climate warming, since controlling SO2 emissions also reduces reflective secondary aerosols. Black carbon emission is an important source of uncertainty concerning the effects of Chinese control policies on global temperature change. Given these conflicts, greater consideration should be paid to reconciling varied environmental objectives, and emission control strategies should target not only criteria pollutants but also species such as VOCs and CO2.
Xiaoqi Guo and James K Hammitt. 2009. “Compensating wage differentials with unemployment: Evidence from China.” Environmental and Resource Economics, 42, 2, Pp. 187-209. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We estimate the economic value of mortality risk in China using the compensating-wage-differential method. We find a positive and statistically significant correlation between wages and occupational fatality risk. The estimated effect is largest for unskilled workers. Unemployment reduces compensation for risk, which suggests that some of the assumptions under which compensating wage differentials can be interpreted as measures of workers’ preferences for risk and income are invalid when unemployment is high. Workers may be unwilling to quit high-risk jobs when alternative employment is difficult to obtain, violating the assumption of perfect mobility, or some workers (e.g., new migrants) may be poorly informed about between-job differences in risk, violating the assumption of perfect information. These factors suggest our estimates of the value per statistical life (VSL) in China, which range from approximately US$30,000 to US$100,000, may be biased downward. Alternative estimates adjust for heterogeneity of risk within industry by assuming that risk is concentrated among low-skill workers. These estimates, which are likely to be biased downward, range from US$7,000 to US$20,000.

This study developed a new approach to the valuation of health risk in China, for monetizing health damages of environmental degradation.

Shuxiao Wang, Jiming Hao, Yongqi Lu, and Ji Li. 2007. “Local population exposure to pollutants from the major industrial sectors.” In Clearing the air: The health and economic damages of air pollution in China, edited by Mun S Ho and Chris P Nielsen. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
An interdisciplinary, quantitative assessment of the health and economic costs of air pollution in China, and of market-based policies to build environmental protection into economic development.
Mun S Ho and Dale W Jorgenson. 2007. “Policies to control air pollution damages.” In Clearing the air: The health and economic damages of air pollution in China, edited by Mun S Ho and Chris P Nielsen. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
An interdisciplinary, quantitative assessment of the health and economic costs of air pollution in China, and of market-based policies to build environmental protection into economic development.
Jonathan I Levy, Scott K. Wolff, and John S Evans. 2002. “A regression-based approach for estimating primary and secondary particulate matter intake fractions.” Risk Analysis, 22, 5, Pp. 893-901. Publisher's VersionAbstract
One of the common challenges for life cycle impact assessment and risk assessment is the need to estimate the population exposures associated with emissions. The concept of intake fraction (a unitless term representing the fraction of material or its precursor released from a source that is eventually inhaled or ingested) can be used when limited site data are available or the number of sources to model is large. Although studies have estimated intake fractions for some pollutant‐source combinations, there is a need to quickly and accurately estimate intake fractions for sources and settings not previously evaluated. It would be expected that limited source or site information could be used to yield intake fraction estimates with reasonable accuracy. To test this theory, we developed regression models to predict intake fractions previously estimated for primary fine particles (PM2.5) and secondary sulfate and nitrate particles from power plants and mobile sources in the United States. Our regression models were able to predict pollutant‐specific intake fractions with R2 between 0.53 and 0.86 and equations that reflected expected relationships (e.g., intake fraction increased with population density, stack height influenced the intake fraction of primary but not secondary particles). Further analysis would be needed to generalize beyond this case study and construct models applicable across source categories and settings, but our analysis demonstrates that inclusion of a limited number of parameters can significantly reduce the uncertainty in population‐average exposure estimates.
Ying Zhou and James K Hammitt. 2007. “The economic value of air-pollution-related health risks in China: A contingent valuation study.” In Clearing the air: The health and economic damages of air pollution in China, edited by Mun S Ho and Chris P Nielsen. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
An interdisciplinary, quantitative assessment of the health and economic costs of air pollution in China, and of market-based policies to build environmental protection into economic development.