Coal-Burning Shortens Lives in China, New Study Shows
A new study shows the deadly toll of air pollution from burning coal. China's social policy created a lingering north-south disparity in deaths from heart and lung disease.
Drawing on what they said was the most comprehensive data set ever compiled in the developing world, the researchers aimed to provide a yardstick that public policymakers can use as they consider the implications of decisions now being made on energy. The findings come at a time when coal is on track to surpass oil as the world's top energy source and 2.8 billion people rely on wood, crop waste, dung, and other biomass to cook and heat their homes. (See related: "Five Surprising Facts About Energy Poverty.")
"We can now say with more confidence that long-run exposure to pollution, especially particulates, has dramatic consequences for life expectancy," said Michael Greenstone, economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of