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Air Pollution Working Group


The health effects of China’s serious air pollution are an issue of enormous public concern and the government has rolled out a series of policies to grapple with it. But the scientific complexity of air pollution and the difficult tradeoffs associated with different policy options to address it are not often fully understood.

People often use the term “air pollution” as if it describes a single environmental hazard, with an obvious solution: controlling the pollution at the source. Unfortunately, the nature of air pollution is much more complex and its prevention far more difficult than this. It is more useful to understand it not as a single environmental hazard, but as a combination of distinct, if often coinciding, hazards that share a common medium of transmission: the air.

The great variation in the sources of air pollution and its evolution over time means that solutions that may be effective in one location cannot be simply transferred to another location with the same result. Clean air is also a moving target. Air quality problems, and associated public health risks not only evolve year-to-year, but also vary with the seasons and even day-to-day, as the many factors that influence them change: the size and structure of the economy, the energy mix, technologies of both combustion and control, settlement patterns, lifestyle choices, and much more.

Ensuring clean air in any region is a therefore a puzzle that can only be solved through an understanding of very specific local characteristics. These include human factors relating to the structure of the economy and consumption patterns, but also critical natural ones, such as topography, meteorology, and the local ecology. Each local air quality puzzle typically has links to adjoining puzzles upwind, and sometimes to puzzles even thousands of kilometers away. 

In 2017 FORHEAD gave a series of small grants to researchers from a range of disciplines to explore the interaction between natural and human systems in the context of air pollution.

To download the FORHEAD report, Air Pollution in China: An interdisciplinary Perspective, click here

Air Pollution Working Group Members:

Chris Nielsen, Harvard University, China Project
Denise Van der Kamp, City University of Hong Kong
Fan Jie, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS
Jennifer Holdaway, School ofGlobal and Area Studies, University of Oxford
Kathinka Furst, Duke Kunshan University
Mu Aiying, Hebei University of Finance and Trade
Nie Chengjing, Hebei University of Finance and Trade
Wang Li, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS
Wang Wuyi, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS
Wang Yuesi, Institute of Atmospheric Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Yang Lichao, Beijing Normal University, School of Social Development and Social Policy
Yu Wenhao, Central University of Economics and Trade, Law School
Zhang Shiqiu, Beijing University, School of Environmental Science and Engineering
Zhang Xinmin, Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences
Zhao Peihong, Hebei University of Finance and Trade
Zheng Rui, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Zhu Tong, Beijing University, School of Environmental Science and Engineering

FORHEAD Air Pollutions Small Grants Recipients:

Yang Lichao

Yu Wenhao

Jiang Chulin

Zhao Peihong