PM2.5 Concentrations Across China In 2013 and 2017 (µg/m3)
Note: Data are from the China National Environmental Monitoring Center. “All China” refers to the 204 prefectures for which the balanced sample of monitors has available data. “BTH” refers to Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei; “PRD” refers to the Pearl River Delta; “YRD” refers to the Yangtze River Delta. The cities shown in this figure are the ten most populated prefectures in our sample.
This year, China marked its four-year anniversary of declaring “war against pollution.” To coincide with the anniversary, EPIC’s Director Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics, conducted an analysis using data from more than 200 government air quality monitors throughout the country. He and his co-author, Patrick Schwarz, found that air pollution decreased across the board in China’s most populated areas. Cities on average have cut particulate pollution by 21 to 42 percent in just four years.
The most populated cities saw some of the greatest declines: Beijing cut air pollution by 35 percent; Shijiazhuang, the Hebei Province’s capital city, cut pollution by 39 percent; and Baoding, China’s most polluted city as of 2015, cut pollution by 38 percent. If China sustains these reductions, Greenstone finds that residents would see their lifespans extended by 2.3 years on average. The roughly 20 million residents in Beijing would live 3.1 years longer, while those in Shijiazhuang and Baoding would add 5.1 years and 4.3 years onto their lives, respectively. These improvements in life expectancy would be experienced by people of all ages, not just the young and old.
Notably, while China has seen a marked improvement in air pollution, their levels in many parts of China still exceed global and national standards. Bringing the entire country into compliance with its own standards would increase average life expectancies by another 1.6 years, in the areas where data is available. Complying with WHO standards instead would yield 3.9 years.