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China Successfully Combated Air Pollution By Implementing Three Crucial Components

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China Successfully Combated Air Pollution By Implementing Three Crucial Components

Air Pollution

When any substance—chemical, physical, or biological—changes the atmospheric properties, we say this is air pollution, whether it’s inside or outside. Air pollution can be caused by a variety of sources, including combustion devices in the home, cars, factories, and wildfires. 

Air pollutants such as particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide pose a significant threat to human health. Polluted air, both indoors and out, is a leading cause of illness and death, particularly in the respiratory system.

Air Pollution, What Is It?

Air pollutants, which are detrimental to both human health and the environment, refer to toxic substances released into the atmosphere, leading to this issue. 

Nearly seven million people die every year as a result of air pollution, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, says the WHO. 

  • At now, 99 percent of the world’s population breathes air that is polluting, with the most affected being those in low- and middle-income nations. 
  • To protect the public health, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is authorised to regulate emissions of these dangerous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, which was established in 1970.

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How Does Air Pollution Come About?

Energy usage and manufacturing are the main contributors to air pollution. Burning fossil fuels releases toxic chemicals and gases into the air in every scenario: driving a car on petrol, heating a house with oil and running a power plant on fracked gas.

Over the past half-century, the Clean Air Act has been instrumental in enhancing the quality of the air we breathe in the US. Pollution limits are in place to protect people’s health, but according to Walke, climate change will make it more difficult to maintain these criteria in the future.

Air Pollution’s Consequences

Air Pollution

As of recently, air pollution ranked as the fourth leading cause of premature death globally. Outdoor air pollution exposures were associated with 4.5 million fatalities in 2019, while indoor air pollution was responsible for another 2.2 million, according to the 2020 State of Global Air study. 

  1. This research summarises the latest scientific understanding of air pollution worldwide. 
  2. According to Vijay Limaye, a senior scientist in the Science Office of NRDC, “this report also serves as a sobering reminder that the climate crisis threatens to worsen air pollution problems significantly,” even if there have been steps taken to reduce the average global mortality rates from air pollution.
  3.  As an example, when the weather is hot and there’s more UV radiation, smog forms and becomes much more intense. More allergenic air pollutants are being produced as a result of climate change. 
  4. This includes mould, which is a result of the moist conditions brought about by harsh weather and greater flooding, as well as pollen, which is a result of a longer pollen season. “Additionally, dangerous wildfires are being facilitated by droughts and dry conditions that are fueled by climate change,” Limaye adds.
  5. “”Wildfires can cause air pollution that can travel long distances and persist in the atmosphere for several days.”
  6. Individual health risks, the cumulative effects of several pollutants or stresses, the amount and duration of exposure, and the kind of pollutant all play a role in how air pollution affects humans.

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1. Filth and Dust

The two main forms of air pollution are these. When pollutants from burning fossil fuels react with sunlight, a phenomenon called smog (sometimes called ground-level ozone) is produced. 

Soot is a sort of particulate matter that consists of airborne particles of soil, dust, allergens, smoke, and chemicals. Smog and soot originate from the same places. 

  • The two types of emissions are produced by various sources, including vehicles, factories, power plants, incinerators, engines, and anything else that burns coal, petrol, or natural gas, according to Walke.
  • Smog is particularly harmful to the lungs, eyes, and throats of youngsters, the elderly, and anyone who spends a lot of time outside for work or exercise. 
  • Those already suffering from allergies or asthma may find their symptoms worsened or possibly set off an asthma attack due to the increased pollution.
  •  Particles as small as soot in the air can cause serious health problems, including bronchitis, heart attacks, and even death if they enter the circulation and lungs. In 2020, researchers from Harvard’s T.H. 
  • Chan School of Public Health found that the fatality rates from COVID-19 were greater in regions with higher levels of particulate matter pollution compared to regions with even slightly lower levels. This finding suggests a link between the timeliness of the virus and prolonged exposure to air pollution.
  • These results also shed light on a critical matter of environmental justice. People of colour and low-income neighbourhoods have historically been disproportionately affected by pollution due to the location of polluting facilities and highways in or near these areas.

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2. Poisonous Particles In The Air

Air Pollution

Even minute concentrations of some air contaminants can cause serious illness or even death. Mercury, lead, dioxins, and benzene are among the nearly 200 that are legally restricted.

  •  The EPA has designated benzoene as a carcinogen; it has both short- and long-term effects on the body, including irritation of the eyes, skin, and lungs as well as blood problems. Dioxins, which are another type of carcinogen, are primarily present in food but can also be detected in the air in small amounts.
  •  They have short-term effects on the liver and long-term effects on the immunological, neurological, and endocrine systems, as well as on reproductive processes. 
  • Mercury specifically affects the central nervous system.
  •  Lead can harm children’s kidneys and brains in high doses, and even low levels of exposure can impact their intelligence and learning capacity.
  • Vehicle emissions and smoke from wildfires are sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), another class of harmful chemicals. 
  • There is evidence that when consumed in excessive quantities, they might cause irritation to the eyes, lungs, blood, liver, and possibly cancer. 
  • One study found that children whose moms were exposed to PAHs while pregnant had more severe ADHD symptoms and slower brain processing speeds.

3. Gases That Contribute to Global Warming

The health risks posed by these climate pollutants are real, even if they don’t manifest in the same way that other air pollutants, such as smog or dangerous chemicals, do.

 Rising sea levels, more severe weather, heat-related fatalities, and the increased transmission of infectious illnesses are the characteristics of climate change, which is caused by greater temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. 

These gases trap Earth’s heat in the atmosphere. More than 11% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 came from methane, while about 79% came from carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide and methane are both produced when fossil fuels are burned.

 Natural and industrial sources of methane include the vast quantities released during oil and gas drilling, according to Walke. “

When compared to carbon dioxide, another type of greenhouse gas, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), traps heat thousands of times more effectively.

 More than 140 nations committed to reducing their use of these chemicals—found in refrigerators and air conditioners—and gradually developing more environmentally friendly alternatives in October 2016 when they signed the Kigali Agreement. 

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4. Mud, Pollen

Air Pollution

Airborne allergens and moulds from plants including grass, weeds, and trees are becoming more common as a result of climate change and pose a threat to human health. Even if they aren’t controlled, they nonetheless contribute to air pollution. 

  • According to Kim Knowlton, an ex-NRDC scientist and current professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, “When homes, schools, or businesses get water damage, mould can grow and produce allergenic airborne pollutants.”
  •  “Some moulds can even produce toxins that would be harmful for anyone to inhale, and exposure to mould can trigger allergic reactions or asthma attacks.”
  • An exacerbation of pollen allergies is one of the ramifications of climate change. “Climate change is causing the ragweed pollen production season to last longer, and certain studies suggest that the pollen itself may be becoming a more potent allergen.” 
  • This could result in a surge in instances of symptoms such as nasal discharge, elevated body temperatures, and irritated eyes.
  • “And for those who suffer from asthma and allergies, pollen peaks can trigger asthma attacks, which are significantly more dangerous and even fatal.”

From the Olympic Dome to the Everlasting Change

Beijing has a history of being one of the world’s “dirtiest” cities. The 2008 Summer Olympics were the catalyst that finally turned the tide. For weeks, the world would be staring at China’s censorious and envious capital.

 China spent ten billion US dollars on extreme steps in an attempt to make the Games more environmentally friendly. They removed half of Beijing’s automobiles from circulation and shut down companies in the surrounding area.

What Was The Outcome?

 The worldwide media went ballistic over the effects on the health of the competitors and spectators, and the Games remained one of the most polluted ever.

Unfortunately, this failed to address the main point: pollution levels during the games dropped by 29.6 percent compared to the previous year, exposing a cleaner reality that was nearly a third cleaner than the city’s regular air. A moniker that stuck: “the largest natural experiment in air cleaning.” It was an overnight sensation.

In 2022, after being declared “almost uninhabitable,” Beijing played host to the Winter Olympics. The disparity was striking. 

The norm had shifted to better air quality, clear skies, and no haze. However, this was not an interval performance for foreign guests, as was the case in 2008. The people of the city wanted this change, and they got it. It would stay.

So, How Did China Manage To Get Over a Crisis That Seemed Impossible to Overcome?

Air Pollution

The air quality in Beijing plummeted after the 2008 Olympics and hit a record low in 2013. In Beijing, the average levels of PM2.5,

  •  or particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, 
  • were nearly 2.4 times the national standard 
  • and an astounding 17 times the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline, 
  • according to data from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). Expectedly, life expectancy took a major hit.

As more and more individuals requested reliable data and monitoring of air quality, the public’s wrath grew. 

The terrible smog that spread over China’s cities, including Beijing, was even covered by the country’s official state media. The catastrophe was so catastrophic that it was dubbed a “airpocalypse.”

In 2014, the Chinese government responded by declaring a “war on pollution,” with an emphasis on long-term and sustainable remedies.

  1.  Industrial plants were subject to stringent controls. 
  2. Old vehicles were removed from circulation. 
  3. The city’s coal plants were decommissioned and gas boilers were installed in their stead. 
  4. The startling amount invested was 1.7 trillion yuan, or around $277 billion.

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1. Revised Findings?

According to the research conducted by Greenstone et. al., the pollution levels in Beijing are projected to fall by 55 percent between 2013 and 2020. 

The overall decrease was 40% in China, which is more than 70% of the worldwide decrease in airborne pollution. Yes, worldwide. There has been a remarkable 4.6-year increase in the average life expectancy in Beijing.

Residents of Beijing can now enjoy much longer and healthier lives due to the air quality being much improved compared to the last Olympics. 

Michael Greenstone, a professor at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), stated that the rate of these decreases is unprecedented in global history.

China has changed its environmental image by the time the 2022 Winter Olympics came around. As soon as the haze lifted, the journalists turned their attention to the brilliant blue skies.

 A defunct steel factory, a victim of the so-called “war on pollution,” served as the backdrop for the ski resort, symbolising this change.

2. Reason Being, Things Tend to Deteriorate Before They Improve.

Air Pollution

A country’s pollution trajectory can be predicted. At first, pollution rises as they escape poverty; getting electricity is the main concern, and nobody cares about how clean it is. As more people get vehicles, access to energy, and the means to heat or cool their homes, the pollution levels rise. 

When the country is experiencing an industrial boom, the trade-off doesn’t seem so bad.

The emphasis, however, moves to environmental issues as living standards rise. 

When the economy hits a critical mass, citizens will no longer put up with air pollution and will demand that their governments do something about it.

Thus, air pollution hits its maximum and begins to fall according to the Kuznets Curve. You can use the ups and downs of air pollution levels to gauge a nation’s economic development.

As we have shown, China has already exceeded its pollution peak, but India is about to hit it. Countries are accelerating their transition through this curve due to new technology; in fact, the poorest nations may be able to skip it altogether.

However, the startling reality is that air pollution kills at least 9 million people annually. In comparison to smoking and far outpacing the yearly mortality toll from road accidents, terrorism, or war, the toll from air pollution is comparable.

 Only in 2020 did a 9-year-old girl named Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah make history by listing “air pollution” as the reason for her demise on her death certificate.

Between 1980 and 2020, pollution caused by fine particulate matter (PM2.5) was responsible for 135 million fatalities, highlighting the critical need for a…

3. An Unprecedented Triple Play

A huge issue is air pollution. One out of ten deaths on a global scale are caused by it. The worst may have passed, though.

The reason behind this is that, despite a growing population and an ageing population that is more susceptible to linked diseases, the death toll worldwide has remained relatively unchanged for many years. 

Air Pollution

  • This indicates a significant decrease in the typical person’s risk. Since 1990, the death decreased by half.
  •  Even in pollution hotspots like Beijing, we may soon see air pollution deaths surpass their high as a result of a combination of declining population growth and an increase in clean technology that improve air quality.
  • There is just one simple rule that can be applied to end air pollution: stop. Chaos. Fire.
  • However, the pollution levels of the things we burn can vary. In terms of quality, wood is lower than coal, which is lower than kerosene, which is lower than gas. Climbing this “energy ladder” is the name given to this development.
  • Wood is still the primary fuel for the majority of Puerto Varas‘s homes, as it is for the world’s poorest people. 
  • Considering that over three billion individuals, or almost 40% of the global population, are forced to endure this, it is quite shocking. 
  • Clean fuels for cooking and heating must be readily available before we can address the other major contributors to air pollution, which include farming, manufacturing, and transportation.
  • The most common ways that people of different economic levels cook and heat their homes.
  • At the same time as we appear to be setting “unprecedented,” “uncharted,” and “unpredictable” records, the pace at which renewable energy capacity was added increased by 50% in the previous year.
  •  Wind and solar power are outpacing the growth of all other electricity sources, including fossil fuels, according to a recent analysis. For the first time since 1966, coal-generated electricity in India fell below 50%. 
  • The expansion of renewable energy sources suggests that the world’s emissions peaked around 2023.
  •  At now, PM2.5 concentrations are 1.2 times the yearly air quality guideline value set by the World Health Organisation.

 It shows how fast we can move when all the necessary ingredients are there: demanding citizenship, financial resources, and political commitment, so we would be foolish not to call it a beacon of hope. 

That is the perfect combination that can change the game. Even when faced with an apparently impossible task.

 

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