Skip to main content

Chinese coal pollution has cut life expectancy by at least five years, study finds

Chinese coal pollution has cut life expectancy by at least five years, study finds


New research puts the costs of economic development in stark relief

Share this story

china coal plant (wikimedia)
china coal plant (wikimedia)

Heavy pollution in northern China has cut average life expectancy there by at least five years, according to a study published Monday. The report, authored by American, Israeli, and Chinese researchers, found that people in southern China live, on average, 5.5 years longer than the 500 million living in the north, and that northern mortality rates are higher across all age groups. The findings are based on official Chinese data on pollution levels and health indicators, dating from 1981 to 2001.

The study attributes much of this discrepancy to the widespread use of coal north of the Huai river. Beijing has provided northerners with free coal boilers since the 1950s, to help heat homes during the winter. Those living south of the Huai did not receive coal boilers, resulting in a significant gap in coal particulates.

"public health costs are larger than we thought."

According to the researchers, the concentration of coal particulates in northern China was 55 percent higher than in the south, which has contributed to higher death rates — primarily from cardiorespiratory diseases. The study also found that an increase of 100 micrograms of particulates per cubic meter correlates to a three-year drop in life expectancy at birth. North of the Huai, particulate concentrations were 184 micrograms higher than in the south.

According to the New York Times, this week's study is the first to exclusively rely on official Chinese figures. The Chinese government has long maintained that burning coal is necessary to the economic livelihood of those in the north, despite protests from environmental and health advocates. Recent data from the US Energy Information Administration show that as of 2011, China was burning nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined. Experts hope that this week's study may finally push the government to change its policies.

"It highlights that in developing countries there's a trade-off in increasing incomes today and protecting public health and environmental quality," said Michael Greenstone, MIT professor of environmental economics and one of the paper's authors. "And it highlights the fact that the public health costs are larger than we had thought."

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.

A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.