Clearing the Air

Clearing the Air

The Health and Economic Damages of Air Pollution in China

Edited by Mun S. Ho and Chris P. Nielsen

An interdisciplinary, quantitative assessment of the health and economic costs of air pollution in China, and of market-based policies to build environmental protection into economic development.





An interdisciplinary, quantitative assessment of the health and economic costs of air pollution in China, and of market-based policies to build environmental protection into economic development.

China's historic economic expansion is driven by fossil fuels, which increase its emissions of both local air pollutants and greenhouse gases dramatically. Clearing the Air is an innovative, quantitative examination of the national damage caused by China's degraded air quality, conducted in a pathbreaking, interdisciplinary U.S.-China collaboration. Its damage estimates are allocated by sector, making it possible for the first time to judge whether, for instance, power generation, transportation, or an unexpected source such as cement production causes the greatest environmental harm. Such objective analyses can reset policy priorities.

Clearing the Air uses this information to show how appropriate "green" taxes might not only reduce emissions and health damages but even enhance China's economic growth. It also shows to what extent these same policies could limit greenhouse gases, suggesting that wealthier nations have a responsibility to help China build environmental protection into its growth.

Clearing the Air is written for diverse readers, providing a bridge from underlying research to policy implications, with easily accessible overviews of issues and summaries of the findings for nonspecialists and policymakers followed by more specialized, interlinked studies of primary interest to scholars. Taken together, these analyses offer a uniquely integrated assessment that supports the book's economic and policy recommendations.


$57.00 X ISBN: 9780262083584 405 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 65 illus., in color and black & white


Mun S. Ho

Mun S. Ho is Visiting Fellow at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

Chris P. Nielsen

Chris P. Nielsen is Executive Director of the Harvard China Project in Harvard University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


  • [I]mpressively integrated...[A]ccessible...The multidisciplinary framework...allows for a total picture to emerge....At a time when Beijing should be considering not only its local pollution problem, but also its global greenhouse gas emissions, Messrs. Ho and Nielsen's suggestions are a welcome addition to the debate.... Far Eastern Economic Review

    Far Eastern Economic Review

  • In contrast to the World Bank report Cost of Pollution in China: economic estimates and physical damages (2007), which caught the attention of the mainstream mass media..., this edited volume by Mun Ho and Chris Nielsen stands as a solemn, solid, and scholarly defence of the same alarming message—air pollution causes significant damage to the Chinese population and economy...Reader-friendly...This book is a methodological breakthrough in the research on the environment-health nexus in China.

    Asian-Pacific Economic Literature

  • [Should] appeal to a broad readership...The first three chapters...provide an easily understandable synopsis...perfect for readers...or for faculty teaching a broad survey course on China...This volume is to be commended as a very accessible presentation of an ambitious and thorough research undertaking.

    The China Quarterly

  • [T]he most comprehensive report on economic costs and human health impacts of air pollution ever undertaken in China.

    China Review International

  • The encouraging—indeed politically crucial—observation is that such 'green taxes' would yield a double dividend: reducing environmental and health damage while enhancing economic growth. That last win-win finding should be an offer that a government cannot refuse.

    The Lancet


  • Clearing the Air is essential for anyone seriously interested in China's environment. Well researched and well written, the book documents what is known – and not known – about air pollution damage in China. Despite its serious theme, it optimistically concludes that it is possible to reduce air pollution at an insignificant cost to economic growth. That conclusion, and the premises on which it is based, deserve to be read and discussed widely.

    Haakon Vennemo

    Director, ECON, Norway

  • There is no such detailed, comprehensive analysis of this topic. All in all, a commendable effort.

    Vaclav Smil

    University of Manitoba