The Promise of Beijing: Evaluating the Impact of the 2008 Olympic Games on Air Quality

Yuyu Chen, Ginger Jin, Naresh Kumar , and Guang Shi , Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 66(3) , 424-443 , November 2013.

To prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games, China adopted a number of radical measures to improve air quality. Using the officially reported air pollution index (API) from 2000 to 2009, we show that these measures improved the API of Beijing during and a little after the Games, but a significant proportion of the effect faded away by October 2009. For comparison, we also analyze an objective and indirect measure of air quality at a high spatial resolution – aerosol optimal depth (AOD), derived using the data from NASA satellites. The AOD analysis confirms the real but temporary improvement in air quality, it also shows a significant correlation between air quality improvement and the timing and location of plant closure and traffic control. These results suggest that it is possible to achieve real environmental improvement via stringent policy interventions, but for how long the effects of these interventions will last will largely depend on the continuation of the interventions.

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