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The Impact of Winter Heating on Air Pollution in China, Article Critique Example

Pages: 2

Words: 554

Article Critique

Introduction

Being exposed to fine particle matter over a long period of time has been linked to adverse health outcomes for many people in China. The exposure to t his pollutant has been known to cause heart disease and untimely death. Coal is the primary source used to heat homes and businesses in China during the winter months. Coal is the only government supported heating system that is widely used for central heating. The government uses coal in large capacity boilers in heating stations and power plants across the country.  In 2010, about 168 million tons of coal was used for central heating in China.          

Research Problem

The objective of this study is to examine the long-term impact of winter heating on regional particle pollution levels in China. It is unfeasible to analyze the long-term spatial trend of PM2.5 because ground observations covering major cities in China have only been available since 2013 and this is where remote sensing techniques open the door to analyzing long-term historical spatial trend of PM2.5 in China”.

Procedures

The study took place over the eastern part of mainland China from 1981-2000. The areas of Tibet and Qinghai were excluded from the study because their low temperatures require a heating source year round. The study included 294 municipalities, each representing an area of 20,000 km2. The researches defined the heating and non-heating areas based upon spatiotemporal coverage of central heating. The heating season is defined and controlled by local government and usually lasts from November 16 through February

Flaws in Procedures

This study had two major flaws.  First, the air quality data they used came from only one of the several major cities in the study, and the data was not collected for the entire time frame of 1981-2000, but for a much shorter unspecified time. In order to fill these gaps, the researchers had to estimate the amount of pollution for the other cities based upon the data collected from the one large city. Another flaw was the fact that it was not clearly distinguished between central heating and individual heating choices. Some individuals used stoves or electric heaters.  Another limitation was that the areas were grouped according to their relative location to the Qin Mountains and Huai River- these two markers are considered geographical dividers of north and south China, yet they do not divide between heating and non-heating areas.

Analysis of Data

The data conveys that there is a difference between the amount of pollution in northern and southern China. However, it is unclear as to which region is using more of the government heating or individual heating methods. If this was known, it could be inferred which system is adding to the pollution problem.  Also, if more accurate data had been used, a more accurate depiction would have been represented. Yet, the data does show that winter heating adds to pollution and is significantly higher in heating areas than non-heating areas.

Conclusions

The study provided a snap shot of how winter heating impacts the pollution problem in China. The PM2.5 levels increased during the heating season by three times over the entire area, not just the heating area. So regardless to the domain, the overall pollution rate increases during the winter months.

References

Xia, Q., Ma, Li, S., & Liu, Y (2015). The Impact of Winter Heating on Air Pollution in China. Plos ONE, 10(1), 1-11.

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