Term Paper: Environmental Policies and Problems in China

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Environmental Policies and Problems in China: Air Pollution

From all appearances the economic success of China is secured, as China's economy is the fastest growing in the entire world however, unfortunately, China also has the highest annual incidence of early deaths stated to be attributed to air pollution. The National Geographic report entitled: "Chinese Air Pollution Deadliest in World" states that a World Health Organization (WHO) report "estimates that diseases triggered by indoor and outdoor pollution kills 656,000 Chinese citizens each year, and polluted drinking water kills another 95,600." (Holder, 2007) Pollutants which damage the air quality are inclusive of sulfur dioxide, particulate matter - a mixture of extremely small particles and water droplets- ozone, and nitrogen dioxide." (Holder, 2007) According to Holden's (2007) report: 'China accounts for roughly one-third of the global total for these pollutants..."

ATMOSPHERIC POLLUTION IN CHINA

The work of Juli S. Kim entitled: "A China Environment Health Project Fact Sheet: Transboundary Air Pollution - Will China Choke On Its Success?" relates difficulty in understating the affect of the atmospheric pollution of China on the Asia Pacific region and beyond." (Kim, 2007) The pollutants, including ozone, fine particulate matter, and mercury, are carried on prevailing winds:."..from continent to continent, and in this case, from Asia to North America." (Kim, 2007) According to Kim (2007) the motherload of the domestic and transboundary air pollution in China "originates from the country's heavy dependence on coal, which makes up about 70% of its energy mix. " Kim, 2007) Even in consideration of the efforts for diversification of energy sources it is expected that China's dependence upon coal will remain intact, at least "for the foreseeable future." (Kim, 2007) Because of China's dependence on coal as well as the very low quality of the coal, "the lack of widespread coal washing infrastructure and scrubbers at industrial facilities and power plants, and plans for building nearly 100 new coal-fired power stations each year until 2012 -..." (Kim, 2007) state that China faces increasing costs in terms of both health and problems relating to the environment in the East Asia/Pacific region and beyond." (Kim, 2007) China follows second only after the United States in consumption of energy and emission of greenhouse gas (GHG). China is additionally "expected to surpass the United States in GHG emissions by 2009." (Kim, 2007) Kim states the following negative economic and human health trends from China's Air Pollution:

The average decrease in China's crop yield attributable to the combined effects of acid rain from SO2 emissions and black carbon soot was 4.3% in the mid-1990s.

Climate experts link greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation to the rising incidences of natural disasters witnessed between January and September of 2006, which forced the evacuation and relocation of 13.2 million people and killed more than 2,300, causing direct economic losses of $24 billion.

According to recent estimates by Qin Dahe, director of the China Meteorological Administration, air pollution is driving some extreme weather events, which hamper China's economic growth by between 3 to 6% of GDP, or $70-130 billion, annually.

Coal burning in China emits 25% of global mercury and 12% of global CO2.

2006 SEPA survey found that 41% of fish species in water bodies in eastern Jiangsu Province, where there is a high concentration of manufacturers, contained various heavy metals transmitted through polluted air fall-out.

SEPA estimates that nearly 200 cities in China fall short of the WHO standards for airborne particulates. (Kim, 2007)

Kim states that desertification of China is taking place at an annual rate of 1,300 square miles resulting in destruction of farming lands and pushing rural individuals into the city. Cropland in China is further being destroyed by acid rain, which results from the combustion of coal and fossil fuel. Recent studies are reported to have examined the problem with black carbon (BC) soot in China. Black Carbon is the "active ingredient in haze produced by burning crop residues household coal stoves and vehicles - is potentially the second most potent global warming gas after CO2." (Kim, 2007) China emits more black carbon than any other country in the world. Black carbon particles are smaller than "one micron in diameter and cause hundreds of thousands of premature deaths from respiratory illnesses each year in China." (Kim, 2007) Even worse is the fact that black carbon blocks the light from the sun and results in lowering crop yields for both wheat and rice crops in China by approximately 30%.

II. AIR POLLUTION'S EFFECT ON HEALTH

Approximately 300,000 to 400,000 individuals die each year in China due to respiratory illnesses that air pollution triggers. Kim (2007) states that scientific researching is globally "illuminating the clear linkages between not only air pollution and respiratory complications, but also to heart disease. According to Kim a study published in the 'Heart' journal, which is among the largest studies ever which has focused on the links between heart diseases, stroke and air pollution is one that was conducted with a focus on women, state findings that air quality is "...a strong predictor of risks of stroke and heart diseases. While researchers are quite certain that fine particle air pollutants endanger health it is not understood in full yet whether "it is the chemical composition, size or ability to transport other pollutants deep into the lungs that is responsible for the effect." (Kim, 2007) Pollution is, according to the Chinese government's 'Green National Accounting Study Report', is cutting 3.1% of the GDP and some economists believe the real number is as high as 10%. (Kim, 2007; paraphrased)

III. INVISIBLE EXPORT OF CHINA

Kim (2007) relates that China has an invisible export and that the contribution of China to global warming and regional mercury fallout states indications that: "...53% of the world's natural and human caused mercury emissions come from Asia, while Africa is distant second with only 18%." There have been high levels of mercury deposition in the United States and research has shown that "...one-fifth of the mercury entering the Willamette River in Oregon comes from abroad, mostly from China." (Kim, 2007) Mercury in China is in its elemental form and therefore, insoluble however, "by the time it reaches the U.S. west coast, it has been transformed into a reactive gaseous material that dissolves in Oregon's web climate - falling onto the Willamette River's watershed and slowly building up toxic levels of mercury in the local wildlife." (Kim, 2007) Furthermore, the cement kilns in China, producing approximately 40% of the cement production annually and worldwide "are a major source of dioxin and furan - pollutants that can be transported airborne across long distances." (Kim, 2007)

IV. GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

The work of Alex Wang entitled: 'The Downside of Growth: Law, Policy and China's Environmental Crisis" relates that the Chinese government has "made a number of major policy pronouncements concerning the environment since the beginning of the reforms in 1978. In 1983, the government 'declared environmental protection a basic national policy.'" (Wang, nd) A broad plan for achieving sustainable development was made by China in 1994. The State Council, for the first time issued a "five-year plan on environmental protection." (Wang, nd) During this period the policy pronouncements stood as representation of the shift that had been made in China "...away from a single-minded focus on economic development to an approach that balances development and environmental protection." (Wang, nd) The problem has been one in which the opponents of environmental protection "were only assuaged by Communist party leadership's assurance that environmental protection would be phased in only to the extent that China's economy could handle. In practice, this has meant that enforcement of environmental regulations has been stronger in the most economically robust industries and regions, and weaker in areas with under-performing economic growth." (Wang, nd) While the environmental problems of China are critically serious, without the environmental reforms, China would certainly be in a worse predicament. In the past twenty years the energy consumption of China has been "only half that of its rate of economic growth..." (Wang, nd) This has been accomplished through a reduction in China's energy intensity by 50% since 1980. The following table lists the developments of China's installed power capacity and power generation in recent years.

Development of China's Installed Power Capacity and Power Generation in Recent Years

Source: Energy Futures and Urban Air Pollution: Challenges for China and the United States (2007)

V. SOLUTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The work entitled: "Energy Futures and Urban Air Pollution: Challenges for China and the United States" relates the GDP in the United States and the energy use per capita are both several times higher than those for China. These comparisons reflect the cumulative effects of an enormous range of historical activities that contributed to building the U.S. economy. China has embarked on the same path in just the last 25 years and, as economic development has run ahead of pollution control, already is experiencing the adverse health, agricultural, environmental and quality of life effects largely ameliorated in the U.S. In… [END OF PREVIEW]

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