It’s no secret that China has a major pollution problem (as do many countries in the world) but according to a study released on Monday, those who live in northern China live an average of 5.5 years less than their southern Chinese peers. These findings mark the first that attempt to connect the dot between life expectancy and air pollution, as China’s highest levels of air pollution can be found in northern China.
“Using data covering an unusually long timespan – from 1981 through 2000 – the researchers found that air pollution … was about 55% higher north of the river than south of it,” the MIT Energy Initiative said in a statement. “Linking the Chinese pollution data to mortality statistics from 1991 to 2000, the researchers found a sharp difference in mortality rates on either side of the border formed by the Huai River. They also found the variation to be attributable to cardiorespiratory illness, and not to other causes of death.”
According to Time Magazine, China is burning as much coal as the rest of the world is cumulatively burning. What’s the problem with this? Time reports: “Coal already accounts for 20% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, making it one of the biggest causes of man-made climate change. Combine that with the direct damage that air pollution from coal combustion does to human health, and there’s a reason why some have called coal the enemy of the human race.”
As we recently reported that China’s air pollution levels are breaking records and reaching dangerous levels. So much so that the Chinese media has taken a stand on air pollution in China by calling on the government to take action against pollution, which according to the media, have reached dangerous levels in the capital city, which is home to around 20 million people.
According to the media, the air quality in Beijing reached 755 on an index measuring particulates of matter in the air. For an idea of how bad 755 is, know that the World Health Organization recommends a daily level no higher than 20 and a level of 300 is deemed to be dangerous. According to Zhou Rong, climate and energy campaigner at Green peace, 755 is the worst recorded air pollution in Beijing.
“How can we get out of this suffocating siege of pollution?” asks the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, in a front-page editorial, according to Reuters. ”Let us clearly view managing environmental pollution with a sense of urgency.”
The media’s sense of urgency is apt, as the the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found that a particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers can cause cardiopulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infection.
More recently, on Monday, the capital of China was forced to cancel flights due to poor visibility and temporarily shut down factories due to the high levels of smog. The Associated Press wrote: The capital was a colorless scene. Street lamps and the outlines of buildings receded into a white haze as pedestrians donned face masks to guard against the caustic air. The flight cancellations stranded passengers during the first week of the country’s peak, six-week period for travel surrounding the Chinese New Year on Feb. 10.
Time Magazine shares:
The EIA’s chart also shows how limited President Obama’s ability to deal with climate change really is. The reality is that the vast majority of the carbon emissions to come will be emitted by developing nations like China — and much of that will be due to coal. As we’ve reported, the U.S. has reduced coal use and cut carbon emissions in recent years, even in the absence of comprehensive climate legislation, thanks to tougher air-pollution regulations and cheap natural gas from fracking. Yet even as coal has waned in the U.S., it’s still being burned by the gigaton in other countries. We won’t beat climate change until we’ve beaten coal, but I’m not sure there’s much the U.S. can do to persuade China or India to quit cheap energy — no matter the cost.