It’s no secret that Chinese cities have some of the worst air pollution on the planet. Many citizens of Chinese metropolises are forced to wear masks when they go outside, and Chinese life expectancy has suffered as a result. This crisis prompted the Chinese government to declare a “war against pollution” in 2014, and according to recent data, the country appears to be winning.
Over the past four years, pollution in China’s major cities has decreased by an average of 32 percent, with some cities seeing an even bigger drop, according to professor Michael Greenstone of the Energy Policy Institute. This decline comes after several aggressive policies implemented by the Chinese government, including prohibiting the building of new coal plants, forcing existing plants to reduce their emissions, lowering the amount of automobile traffic, and closing down some steel mills and coal mines. The result has been a dramatic reduction in fine particulates in the atmosphere, which is the primary source of air pollution.
Some cities, like Beijing, have achieved even greater reductions in air pollution. Beijing has seen a 35 percent drop in particulates, while the city of Shijiazhuang saw a 39 percent drop. China has prioritized pollution reduction in these cities, with the government spending over $120 billion in Beijing alone.
According to an analysis published in the New York Times, if China can keep up this pace, it could extend the lifetimes of its citizens by about 2.4 years on average. In cities with above-average reductions on their atmospheric particulates, that could translate into five years or more of life.