Health and Economic Damages of Air Pollution in China

Chris P Nielsen and Mun S Ho. 2013. “Atmospheric Environment in China: Introduction and Research Review.” In Clearer Skies Over China: Reconciling Air Quality, Climate, and Economic Goals, Pp. 3-58. 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.
Hong Wang and John Mullahy. 2006. “Willingness to pay for reducing fatal risk by improving air quality: A contingent valuation study in Chongqing, China.” Science of the Total Environment, 367, Pp. 50-57. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In China, 76% of all energy comes from coal consumption, which is the major cause of air pollution. One of the major barriers to developing sound policies for controlling air pollution is the lack of information related to the value of the health consequences of air pollution. We conducted a willingness-to-pay (WTP) study using contingent valuation (CV) methods in Chongqing, China to estimate the economic value of saving one statistical life through improving air quality.

A sample of 500 residents was chosen based on multistage sampling methods. A face-to-face household interview was conducted using a series of hypothetical, open-ended scenarios followed by bidding game questions designed to elicit the respondents' WTP for air pollution reduction. The Two-Part Model was used for estimations.

The results show that 96% of respondents were able to express their WTP. Their mean annual income is $490. Their WTP to save one statistical life is $34,458. Marginal increases for saving one statistical life is $240 with 1 year age increase, $14,434 with 100 yuan monthly income increase, and $1590 with 1 year education increase. Unlike developed country, clean air may still be considered as a “luxury” good in China based on the estimation of income elasticity.

Chris P Nielsen and Mun S Ho. 2007. “Summary for policy.” 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.

China's historic economic expansion is driven by fossil fuels, which increase its emissions of both local air pollutants and greenhouse gases dramatically. Clearing the Air is an innovative, quantitative examination of the national damage caused by China's degraded air quality, conducted in a pathbreaking, interdisciplinary U.S.-China collaboration. Its damage estimates are allocated by sector, making it possible for the first time to judge whether, for instance, power generation, transportation, or an unexpected source such as cement production causes the greatest environmental harm. Such objective analyses can reset policy priorities.

Clearing the Air uses this information to show how appropriate "green" taxes might not only reduce emissions and health damages but even enhance China's economic growth. It also shows to what extent these same policies could limit greenhouse gases, suggesting that wealthier nations have a responsibility to help China build environmental protection into its growth.

Clearing the Air is written for diverse readers, providing a bridge from underlying research to policy implications, with easily accessible overviews of issues and summaries of the findings for nonspecialists and policymakers followed by more specialized, interlinked studies of primary interest to scholars. Taken together, these analyses offer a uniquely integrated assessment that supports the book's economic and policy recommendations.

Chris P Nielsen, Mun S Ho, Jing Cao, Yu Lei, Yuxuan Wang, and Yu Zhao. 2013. “Summary: Carbon Taxes for 2013-2020.” In Clearer Skies Over China: Reconciling Air Quality, Climate, and Economic Goals, Pp. 103-157. 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.

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.

Ying Zhou, Jonathan I Levy, John S Evans, and James K Hammitt. 2006. “The influence of geographic location on population exposure to emissions from power plants throughout China.” Environment International, 32, 3, Pp. 365-373. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This analysis seeks to evaluate the influence of emission source location on population exposure in China to fine particles and sulfur dioxide. We use the concept of intake fraction, defined as the fraction of material or its precursor released from a source that is eventually inhaled or ingested by a population. We select 29 power-plant sites throughout China and estimate annual average intake fractions at each site, using identical source characteristics to isolate the influence of geographic location. In addition, we develop regression models to interpret the intake fraction values and allow for extrapolation to other sites. To model the concentration increase due to emissions from selected power plants, we used a detailed long-range atmospheric dispersion model, CALPUFF. Primary fine particles have the highest average intake fraction (1 × 10− 5), followed by sulfur dioxide (5 × 10− 6), sulfate from sulfur dioxide (4 × 10− 6), and nitrate from nitrogen oxides (4 × 10− 6). For all pollutants, the intake fractions span approximately an order of magnitude across sites. In the regression analysis, the independent variables are meteorological proxies (such as climate region and precipitation) and population at various distances from the source. We find that population terms can explain a substantial percentage of variability in the intake fraction for all pollutants (R2 between 0.86 and 0.95 across pollutants), with a significant modifying influence of meteorological regime. Near-source population is more important for primary coarse particles while population at medium to long distance is more important for primary fine particles and secondary particles. A significant portion of intake fraction (especially for secondary particles and primary fine particles) occurs beyond 500 km of the source, emphasizing the need for detailed long-range dispersion modeling. These findings demonstrate that intake fractions for power plants in China can be estimated with reasonable precision and summarized using simple regression models. The results should be useful for informing future decisions about power-plant locations and controls.
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.

China's historic economic expansion is driven by fossil fuels, which increase its emissions of both local air pollutants and greenhouse gases dramatically. Clearing the Air is an innovative, quantitative examination of the national damage caused by China's degraded air quality, conducted in a pathbreaking, interdisciplinary U.S.-China collaboration. Its damage estimates are allocated by sector, making it possible for the first time to judge whether, for instance, power generation, transportation, or an unexpected source such as cement production causes the greatest environmental harm. Such objective analyses can reset policy priorities.

Clearing the Air uses this information to show how appropriate "green" taxes might not only reduce emissions and health damages but even enhance China's economic growth. It also shows to what extent these same policies could limit greenhouse gases, suggesting that wealthier nations have a responsibility to help China build environmental protection into its growth.

Clearing the Air is written for diverse readers, providing a bridge from underlying research to policy implications, with easily accessible overviews of issues and summaries of the findings for nonspecialists and policymakers followed by more specialized, interlinked studies of primary interest to scholars. Taken together, these analyses offer a uniquely integrated assessment that supports the book's economic and policy recommendations.

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.

China's historic economic expansion is driven by fossil fuels, which increase its emissions of both local air pollutants and greenhouse gases dramatically. Clearing the Air is an innovative, quantitative examination of the national damage caused by China's degraded air quality, conducted in a pathbreaking, interdisciplinary U.S.-China collaboration. Its damage estimates are allocated by sector, making it possible for the first time to judge whether, for instance, power generation, transportation, or an unexpected source such as cement production causes the greatest environmental harm. Such objective analyses can reset policy priorities.

Clearing the Air uses this information to show how appropriate "green" taxes might not only reduce emissions and health damages but even enhance China's economic growth. It also shows to what extent these same policies could limit greenhouse gases, suggesting that wealthier nations have a responsibility to help China build environmental protection into its growth.

Clearing the Air is written for diverse readers, providing a bridge from underlying research to policy implications, with easily accessible overviews of issues and summaries of the findings for nonspecialists and policymakers followed by more specialized, interlinked studies of primary interest to scholars. Taken together, these analyses offer a uniquely integrated assessment that supports the book's economic and policy recommendations.

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.

China's historic economic expansion is driven by fossil fuels, which increase its emissions of both local air pollutants and greenhouse gases dramatically. Clearing the Air is an innovative, quantitative examination of the national damage caused by China's degraded air quality, conducted in a pathbreaking, interdisciplinary U.S.-China collaboration. Its damage estimates are allocated by sector, making it possible for the first time to judge whether, for instance, power generation, transportation, or an unexpected source such as cement production causes the greatest environmental harm. Such objective analyses can reset policy priorities.

Clearing the Air uses this information to show how appropriate "green" taxes might not only reduce emissions and health damages but even enhance China's economic growth. It also shows to what extent these same policies could limit greenhouse gases, suggesting that wealthier nations have a responsibility to help China build environmental protection into its growth.

Clearing the Air is written for diverse readers, providing a bridge from underlying research to policy implications, with easily accessible overviews of issues and summaries of the findings for nonspecialists and policymakers followed by more specialized, interlinked studies of primary interest to scholars. Taken together, these analyses offer a uniquely integrated assessment that supports the book's economic and policy recommendations.

Y. Zhou, Jonathan I Levy, James K Hammitt, and John S Evans. 2003. “Estimating population exposure to power plant emissions using CALPUFF: A case study in Beijing, China.” Atmospheric Environment, 37, 6, Pp. 815-826. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Epidemiological studies have shown a significant association between ambient particulate matter (PM) exposures and increased mortality and morbidity risk. Power plants are significant emitters of precursor gases of fine particulate matter. To evaluate the public health risk posed by power plants, it is necessary to evaluate population exposure to different pollutants. The concept of intake fraction (the fraction of a pollutant emitted that is eventually inhaled or ingested by a population) has been proposed to provide a simple summary measure of the relationship between emissions and exposure. Currently available intake fraction estimates from developing countries used models that look only at the near field impacts, which may not capture the full impact of a pollution source. This case study demonstrated how the intake fraction of power plant emissions in China can be calculated using a detailed long-range atmospheric dispersion model—CALPUFF. We found that the intake fraction of primary fine particles is roughly on the order of 10−5, while the intake fractions of sulfur dioxide, sulfate and nitrate are on the order of 10−6. These estimates are an order of magnitude higher than the US estimates. We also tested how sensitive the results were to key assumptions within the model. The size distribution of primary particles has a large impact on the intake fraction for primary particles while the background ammonia concentration is an important factor influencing the intake fraction of nitrate. The background ozone concentration has a moderate impact on the intake fraction of sulfate and nitrate. Our analysis shows that this approach is applicable to a developing country and it provides reasonable population exposure estimates.
James K Hammitt and Ying Zhou. 2006. “The economic value of air-pollution-related health risks in China: A contingent valuation study.” Environmental Resource Economics, 33, 3, Pp. 399-423. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The economic value of preventing adverse health effects related to air pollution is estimated using contingent valuation in three diverse locations in China. Values are estimated for three health endpoints: cold, chronic bronchitis, and fatality. Alternative statistical models are tested to study their impact on estimated willingness to pay (WTP) and on the relationship between WTP and respondent characteristics. Using the official exchange rate, the sample-average median WTP to prevent an episode of cold ranges between US$3 and US$6, the WTP to prevent a statistical case of chronic bronchitis ranges between US$500 and US$1,000, and the value per statistical life ranges between US$4,000 and US$17,000. Estimated mean values are between two and thirteen times larger. Our estimates are between about 10 and 1,000 times smaller than estimates for the US and Taiwan using official exchange rates. Indoor air quality, measured for a subset of respondents, shows no consistent relationship with WTP.

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