Air pollution in northern China reduces life expectancy by five-and-a-half years, compared to those in the less polluted south, according to a new study.
The report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal, claims China’s free coal policy contributed to 500 million people losing more than 2.5 billion collective years of life expectancy during the 1990s.
It studies the consequences of China’s Huai river policy. From 1950 to 1980, the Chinese government began distributing free coal to homes and offices to provide heating during the winter.
However, this right was only extended to areas north of the line formed by the Huai river and Qinling mountain range. Today, indoor heating remains much more common in the north.
The report claims air pollution caused by burning coal is 55% higher to the north of the river than in the south. The combustion of coal in boilers releases pollutants that can be extremely harmful to human health.
The report concludes that residents in the north will continue to have shorter lifespans.
China is still the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide. However, Chinese authorities have recently announced serious measures to curb pollution. Courts have been given the power to sentence polluters to death in more extreme cases.
A recent study found that Asian nations were decarbonising their economies faster than European ones. Meanwhile, China was also recently named as the second most attractive country for renewable energy investment by Ernst & Young, after spending three yearsat the top of the ranking.