Tuesday, January 7, 2020

From Fog to Smog: the Value of Pollution Information


During 2013-2014, China launched a nation-wide real-time air quality monitoring and disclosure program, a watershed moment in the history of its environmental regulations. We present the first empirical analysis of this natural experiment by exploiting its staggered introduction across cities. The program has transformed the landscape of China's environmental protection, substantially expanded public access to pollution information, and dramatically increased households' awareness about pollution issues. These transformations, in turn, triggered a cascade of behavioral changes in household activities such as online searches, day-to-day shopping, and housing demand when pollution was elevated. As a result, air pollution's mortality cost was reduced by nearly 7% post the program. A conservative estimate of the annual benefit is RMB 130 billion, which is at least one order of magnitude larger than the cost of the program and the associated avoidance behavior. Our findings highlight considerable benefits from improving access to pollution information in developing countries, many of which are experiencing the world's worst air pollution but do not systematically collect or disseminate pollution information.
Beijing air on a 2005-day after rain (left) and a smoggy day (right) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollution_in_China
by Panle Jia Barwick, Shanjun Li, Liguo Lin and Eric Zou
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) www.NBER.org
NBER Working Paper No. 26541; Issued in December 2019

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