New Report: Improving Air, Health, Climate in India Requires Public Action
Study shows the success of environmental policies is directly reliant on public demand and action, suggesting the creation of climate change policy is also dependent on citizen action.
Just weeks after the largest climate march in history descended upon the streets of New York City, new research shows that such public demand can have a direct impact on environmental improvements and associated health benefits. The study, published in the October issue of the American Economic Review, specifically looked at India and used the country as a baseline for similar developing economies that are dealing with extreme pollution concentrations and are significant greenhouse gas emitters.
In India, particulate matter concentrations – a deadly form of pollution – are five times that of the U.S. And according to a World Health Organization report released in May, Delhi’s particulates pollution was almost three times higher than Beijing’s between 2008 and 2013.
“Effective environmental regulations in India are vital for the hundreds of millions of Indians who are seeing their life expectancy cut short due to high air pollution. And if India chooses to regulate greenhouse gases, it will be important for the world as India increasingly becomes a major emitter of greenhouse gases,” says University of Chicago economist Michael Greenstone, an author of the study and the director of the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC). “We find that when it comes to enforcing its strong environmental regulations, India has a mixed track record.”
To perform the analysis, Greenstone and his co-author Rema Hanna, an associate professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, compiled first-of-its-kind city-level data in India on air and water pollution, environmental regulations and infant mortality over two decades – resulting in the most comprehensive developing country dataset ever gathered on the topic. They discovered from this data that environmental policies can be effective, but are not always. The air regulations, for instance those requiring new cars to have catalytic converters, reduced air pollution. In contrast, water pollution regulations were not associated with improvements in any of the available measures of water quality.