Causes, Results and Solutions to China's Air PollutionResearch Paper

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The purpose of this project is to determine the causes of, damages by and possible solutions to China's air pollution problem. Due to China's global importance, not only as an economic power but also as one of the world's worst polluters, there are many studies regarding various aspects of China's air pollution. There is some disagreement about statistics; however, this appears to be the result of different analysis standards. The result of all the studies is nevertheless of a nation with a dramatic air pollution problem that has made some strides toward sustainability but must do much more to safeguard its people, its economy and the world.

The research methods used for this assignment are quantitative and qualitative studies. The quantitative research is statistical analysis of the sources, effects and possible solutions to China's air pollution. The qualitative research is multidisciplinary examination of the sources, effects and possible solutions for China's air pollution. The studies analyzed include: "The China Project" (Ho & Nielsen, 2007); the 2010 "Global Burden of Disease Study" conducted by the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning (Chen, Wang, Ma, & Zhang, December 14, 2013); a 2010 study by the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning (Wang, Lei, Yang, & Yan, 2012); the 2007 Bali Climate Change Talks (Muldavin, 2007); a 2011 study of air pollution health impacts on the Chinese economy (Matus, et al., February 2012); a 2014 study of the impact of winter heating on China's air pollution (Xiao, Ma, Li, & Liu, 2015); and a 2014 analysis of polluted haze afflicting China (Li & Zhang, 2014). The combination of studies, analysis and opinions gives a comprehensive picture of China's air pollution.

3. Body

China's prominence as a major global power has resulted in numerous studies about the causes, effects and solutions to the nation's air pollution. Perhaps the most notable is the "China Project," an ongoing research venture shared by Harvard University's Center for the Environment, the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, several other Harvard departments, Chinese universities such as Beihang, Hong Kong Polytechnic, Peking and Tsinghua, and some of China's governmental leaders (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, p. x). Participants come from fields as diverse as natural, applied, and health sciences, economics, law and public policy (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, p. ix). The China Project analyzed outdoor and indoor pollution separately.

a. Causes of Air Pollution

The China Project found that in 2002, China's energy was generated: 56% by coal; 20% by petroleum; 15% by biomass fuels; and 10% from hydropower and nuclear power (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, p. 12). Within 5 years, coal production was doubled to more than 1 billion tons per year and 2 new coal-fueled power stations started up every week (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, p. 210). Outdoor pollution is the most commonly considered type of air pollution. In China, using the fact that coal is the largest contributor to outdoor pollution by far, the China Project then analyzed which sectors used the most coal in their business. The study found that the electricity industry burns the most coal and is therefore the biggest source of outdoor air pollution emissions. It also found that industrial production of cement was the second greatest burner of coal, and transportation and chemicals were the next greatest burners of coal (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, pp. 17, 26). Though a number of industries contribute to the outdoor air pollution, those four industries contributed the most in terms of coal burning contributions to outdoor air pollution. That outdoor air pollution consists of greenhouse gases, increase in ozone, particulate matter pollution that easily imbeds in the lungs (Matus, et al., February 2012) and a frightening, carcinogenic haze chiefly made of industrial and vehicle emissions (Li & Zhang, 2014; Xu, Chen, & Ye, December 21, 2013). China also suffers from indoor air pollution. Many of China's rural households depend on solid fuel for cooking and heating (Xiao, Ma, Li, & Liu, 2015), using crop wastes for 80% of energy and coal for 13% of energy (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, p. 28). China's indoor air pollution is also quite deadly, accounting for premature deaths of many rural people.

b. Damaging Effects of Air Pollution

China's air pollution has a number of damaging effects, some of which overlap. First, premature deaths are certainly an obvious statistic of air pollution (Chen, Wang, Ma, & Zhang, December 14, 2013): all in all, outdoor and indoor pollution in China is deemed to cause nearly 400,000 annual premature deaths (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, p. 30). Secondly, China's air pollution increases health costs. Measuring the costs in terms of "willingness-to-pay to avoid death or disabling disease," China's air pollution costs approximately 370,000 Yuan per life (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, p. 60) or $59,645.67 USD per life (X-Rates, 2015). Third, air pollution also noticeably damages China's Gross Domestic Product (GDP): according to Worldwatch Institute, air pollution costs the Chinese economy $63 billion USD or 3% of China's GDP (Worldwatch Institute, 2015). Fourth, the greenhouse gas emissions and secondary pollution such as acid rain, haze and increased ozone affect China's crops: a 2006 study estimates that by 2050, China's national crops yield will be reduced by 37% due to air pollution (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, pp. 30-8). Fifth, as China's industrialization has increased, its greenhouse gas emissions have risen until China contributes about 1/5 of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, significantly contributing to the global climate changes and making China one of the world's greatest polluters (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, pp. 30-8).

c. Possible Solutions

Solutions can be difficult due to the blindness of political leaders who claim that protecting the environment harms employment and the economy in general. In answer to this argument, experts assert that the economy and human health both depend on protecting and sustaining the environment (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, p. 332). First, one solution would be national "green taxes" on output and fuel in proportion to the damages they cause to the environment, health and the economy (Ho & Nielsen, 2007, p. 28). These green or "Pigovian" taxes would help the situation in two ways: by reducing damages caused by pollution by penalizing high use of harmful fuel; and by providing some economic growth through tax revenues. Secondly, the nation should invest in technology creating and enhancing sustainable fuel sources. One example that has already been implemented is China's end-of-the-pipe technology, which reduced sulfur dioxide emissions (a byproduct of coal use) by 14% from 2005 -- 2010 despite a 35% in coal use (Wang, Lei, Yang, & Yan, 2012). Nevertheless, as one of the world's largest polluters, China must continue to refine its technology to further reduce harmful emissions. The nation still requires fuel for industry, food, heating, etc.; consequently, affordable and sustainable alternative fuel sources must be developed. Experts are encouraged by China's revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards, consisting of plans, laws, regulations and policies that promote improvement of public health, focus on the analysis of health effects and sharpen policies to make them more effective for the environment and public health (Chen, Wang, Ma, & Zhang, December 14, 2013). Third, and also stemming from China's revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards, the nation must encourage the use of sustainable fuels just as it discourages the use of fossil fuels. This can be assisted by rewarding the usage of environmentally favorable fuels through tax reductions, rebates and grants. Finally, the nation must agree internationally to pursue environmentally sustainable policies. In fact, China has done so through its most recent agreement with the United States: here, the two greatest polluters in the world agreed in November 2014 to limit their greenhouse gasses. The U.S., which had pledged to cut emission of heat-trapping gases up to 17% by 2020 further pledged to reduce its emissions 26 -- 28% by 2025 compared to its 2005 levels. In exchange, China agreed to at least cap its emissions: though China has not committed to a specific percentage, the nation pledged that its emissions would reach their highest levels by 2030 and that China will increase the use of non-fossil fuels. This was a giant step in its own right and it also looking toward the final global treaty on climate change that will be negotiated in Paris in 2015. The agreement is also considered historic because it will encourage other reluctant nations, such as India, to cooperate in globally reducing emissions (Landler, 2014). While China certainly contributes to world pollution, other countries such as the United States, India and others are all part of the problem and solution (Muldavin, 2007). Consequently, China's and the U.S.'s example is important for the necessary worldwide focus on sustainability.

4. Conclusion

The research methods used for this assignment are quantitative and qualitative studies of statistics and multidisciplinary analyses of China's air pollution problem. China's prominence as a major global power has resulted in numerous studies about the causes, effects and solutions to the nation's air pollution. China's… [END OF PREVIEW]

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