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China’s pollution in comparative perspective

China is heavily polluted. You will immediately know that by just looking at the sky of Chinese cities. But sky-looking can be deceptive. This NBER research offers some startling evidence on how China's CO2 emissions compare to the US.

The Greenness of China: Household Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Urban Development

NBER Working Paper No. 15621

China urbanization is associated with both increases in per-capita income and greenhouse gas emissions. This paper uses micro data to rank 74 major Chinese cities with respect to their household carbon footprint. We find that the “greenest” cities based on this criterion are Huaian and Suqian while the “dirtiest” cities are Daqing and Mudanjiang. Even in the dirtiest city (Daqing), a standardized household produces only one-fifth of that in America’s greenest city (San Diego). We find that the average January temperature is strongly negatively correlated with a city’s household carbon footprint, which suggests that current regional economic development policies that bolster the growth of China’s northeastern cities are likely to increase emissions. We use our city specific income elasticity estimates to predict the growth of carbon emissions in China’s cities.

link to the paper

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