Guojun He, Tong Liu, Maigeng Zhou; Journal of Development Economics

Key Takeaways:

  1. Straw burning on agricultural land can be a major source of seasonal air pollution in some parts of the world, particularly developing countries dependent on agriculture.
  2. The study investigates the impacts of agricultural straw burning on particulate air pollution and mortality in China, and finds that 10 additional straw fires within 50 km of a county center will lead to a 7.6 percent increase in monthly particulate pollution (PM2.5) levels and a 1.6 percent increase in mortality in Chinese counties. Two-thirds of the deaths are caused by cardiorespiratory diseases.
  3. Those who are more vulnerable and are more intensively exposed to the straw burning smoke are more likely to die due to straw burning. Straw burning impacts rural and poor populations the most, suggesting better socio-economic conditions can mitigate the impact of air pollution on mortality. Further, nearly 80 percent of the deaths were among people over 60 years old, and males account for around 58 percent of deaths.
  4. In evaluating China’s straw recycling subsidy policy, the study shows that providing subsidies to farmers incentivized them to recycle, which reduced airpollution by 7.3 percent and averted about 18,900 premature deaths.
  5. The benefits of subsidizing straw recycling—figured to be about 55 billion Chinese yuan (around 7.85 billion USD)—are substantially larger than the costs—at most 2.6 billion Chinese yuan each year (around 367.6 million USD).Other countries facing similar particulate pollution problems from straw burning may also benefit from a similar subsidy policy.
Areas of Focus: Environment
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Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.
Air Pollution
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Air Pollution
Air pollution from fossil fuel combustion poses a grave threat to human health worldwide. EPIC research is using real-world data to calculate the effects of air pollution on human health...
EPIC-China
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EPIC-China
China is indisputably critical to addressing the global energy challenge. China is one of the world’s biggest economies, its top carbon emitter, and among its most polluted countries. Yet, China...