2019-09-25 | Hongyan Zhao
On September 25, the MEIC group published a research article entitled “Inequality of household consumption and air pollution-related deaths in China” in Nature Communications online. This research provided quantitative relationship between household consumption and air pollution-related premature deaths, by coupling the bottom-up MEIC inventory with the China multi-regional input-output model, atmosphere transport model and residential consumption statistic data. The results provided a good data support for quantification of residential emission responsibility and associated impact.
According to WHO estimation, outdoor air pollution in China has caused more than 1 million premature deaths per year in recent years. Direct emissions from households (i.e., fuel combustion for home cooking, and/or independent heating, and traveling) contributed substantially to the PM2.5 pollution-related premature deaths in China. Yet household consumption may also indirectly impact human health via air pollution virtually embodied in goods and services consumed. Moreover, residents from different regions and/or income groups may also bring different PM2.5 related mortality due to their diversity in consumption volume and consumption structure.
In this study, we coupled MEIC inventory model, China multi-regional input-output model, air quality model and health impact model, and combined residential income and consumption data to investigate income- and region-specific differences in consumption and air pollution deaths. Our results show that, direct and indirect air pollutant emissions arising by residential consumption contributed to 20% and 24% of the anthropogenic PM2.5 related premature deaths in China in 2012, separately. The mortality contributed by urban consumers were dominated by indirect emissions through product and service consumption, which is strongly associated with household income. And consumers in the highest income bracket of urban areas account for 3.3 times more deaths than consumers in the lowest income group. Mortality contributed by rural consumers were dominated by their direct emissions from solid fuel (coal and biomass) combustion, which has no significant correlation with income. Despite a larger and wealthier urban population in China, the number of deaths related to rural consumption (24%) is higher than that related to urban consumption (20%). Our results provide quantitative relationship between household consumption and air pollution-related premature deaths, and emphasize the great importance of mitigating emissions from direct emissions of rural households. To mitigate the impact from rural residents, promote the energy transformation and include more clean fuel is necessary. Allowing for the higher cost of clean energy and the unequal economic development among rural and urban areas, short term price allowance would be a feasible scheme. Moreover, our results indicate that income and thus the scale of household expenditures are closely related to the air pollution-related deaths related to the consumption of urban households in China, and encourage more sustainable consumption behaviors among the urban wealthier groups to reduce their consumption related health impact.