China's Annual Air Pollution Death Toll: Half A Million People

The admission is the first from a Chinese official that puts a human cost on the country's huge air pollution problem, largely stemming from coal-burning power plants. But Shanghai had good news this week too. Rain brought blue skies and clean air.

2 minute read

January 11, 2014, 5:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

In introducing this [downloadableMarketplace radio report, Kai Ryssdal states this stunning revelation from China's former health minister: "Half a million people die each year in China because of air pollution." New coal plant emissions targets have been set, "but how will they meet them?", he asks.

"After a month of some of the worst smog on record, it rained in Shanghai this week, making today one of the cleanest-air days this winter," states Rob SchmitzMarketplace’s China correspondent based in Shanghai.

(China’s government) aims to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants around Beijing and Shanghai by up to 25 percent within the next three years. Job promotions for local officials will reportedly be dependent on whether these goals are met.

Malcom Moore of The Daily Telegraph writes in The Province on Jan. 8 that the former health minister, Chen Zhu, "is the most senior government official to put a human cost on the smog that regularly clouds Chinese skies. Until recently, any mention of deaths relating to pollution was strictly censored."

Schmitz ends his report with the disheartening news that "the government announced this week that China produced a hundred million tons of coal this past year – six times more than the previous year, ensuring that China continues to burn more coal than the rest of the world combined." 

Earlier, we noted that "China will account for nearly 60% of new global (coal) demand over the next five years" which in turn helps to explain why "growing coal consumption (has) caused 60 percent of the increase in global carbon dioxide emissions since 2000."

Thursday, January 9, 2014 in Marketplace

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Ice fishing tents surrounded by fence in Safe Outdoor Space for unhoused people in parking lot in Denver, Colorado.

An Affordable Housing Model for Indigenous Americans

Indigenous people make up a disproportionately high percentage of the unhoused population, but many programs designed to assist them don’t reach those most in need.

March 1 - High Country News

An electric bicycle is shown with the legs of a human who is riding the e-bike.

Oregon Bill Would Ban E-Bikes for Riders Under 16

State lawmakers seek to change Oregon e-bike laws following the death of a 15-year old last summer.

March 1 - Oregon Capital Chronical

Aerial view of canal cut into beach in Charlestow, Rhode Island with boats parked in sand.

Northeastern Waterways More Polluted After Wet Year

Intense rains washed more runoff into local bodies of water, while warmer temperatures contributed to the growth of an invasive bloom.

March 1 - University of Rhode Island

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.