After reviewing reports of air pollution from a bunch of big cities in China, the two researchers found some suspicious discrepancies – which they said some local governments in China were correcting their data. As published in the PLoS One Journal, Jesse Turiel of Harvard University and Robert Kaufman of Boston University looked at data from monitoring stations run by local governments and compared it to data from stations run by US embassies in five major Chinese cities.
The data per hour measurement of air density of fine particles known as PM2.5 collected between January 2015 and June 201 in Beijing, Shenyang, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu are included. Between these two data sets, researchers observed significant discrepancies between suspended particle layers with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5) for a few hours – for example, local Chinese stations reported lower levels than PM2.5 at US stations.
A statistical analysis of the inconsistencies showed that they were not too regular to take a chance. The researchers acknowledged that their entire study was based on the assumption that US data was accurate. While this limitation should be borne in mind, it is noteworthy that in the past China has complained about its air pollution data with incorrect information.
Several cities in China have previously been synonymous with fog, but the East Asian powerhouse has been trying to clear its work with some success over the past few decades. Even this study noted that local data does not invalidate the results, which suggests that urban air quality in China has improved significantly in recent years. As part of the pressure to keep their city dwellers away from the fog, the government introduced multiple policy reforms in 2012 that could reduce the prevention of misinformation on pollution data. This study, however, argues that these reforms were not intelligent.
Local environmental organizations face a huge amount of political pressure to report polluting concentrations that continue to decline each year, with substantial fines if local authority jurisdictions do not meet targets. For any pen working on behalf of this local authority, it is easy to misinterpret the data. “Our findings of ongoing air quality data scams in China are not surprising, as government reforms since 2012 have not removed the incentive for local officials to cheat,” the survey said.
“This pressure is further intensified by the fact that the central government has increased fines for local cadres in failed cities, without increasing the flow of centrally supported resources or financial aid. Thus, in the face of increasingly difficult achievement targets and a constant lack of resources, some local officials have resorted to minimal resistance by continuing to provide inaccurate information on air quality data, ”they explain.