30 thoughts on “China’s air pollution

  1. Kevin Adolph

    LA, while polluted, probably doesn’t even compare to China, which has 16 of the 20 most polluted cities.

  2. Ezequiel Martin Camara

    Re: GK: “Twelve hundred million Chinese emit more CO2 than three hundred million USAns”. Why would that be “inconvenient” for environmentalists? If anything, it would be inconvenient for USAns, who must either A) reduce emissions very substantially, B) cope -and the rest of the world with them- with roughly twice the global CO2 emissions as China eventually emits at the same level per capita -and why not China, Brazil, Angola… then we are talking 5 times-, or C) make up some reason why an USAn can contaminate four times as much as a Chinese.
    Environmentalism is not anti-USA. It is anti-pollution, anti-emissions, anti-destruction. It just happens that the USA is the biggest emitter. It does not mean that it is the only culprit, just the main culprit, and also the one for which reductions are the easiest.

  3. General Specific

    For the sake of clarity (or its opposite) I’m assuming the polution is not the healthy looking white clouds spread around most of this photograph but instead the light brown goo along the south-eastern coast.
    It would be interesting to compare this level of pollution with US cities at different times in history–not just LA with its automobile culture but major manufacturing cities as well, e.g. iron smelting in the mid-west or some of the logging related polution in cities like Portland. In the 1960s and 70s we literally held our breath while driving through that city. It stunk.
    I don’t see any reason to politicize this though–either it’s an externality, or it isn’t. Not pro or anti-american (that conversation is now extremely boring) but pro-or-anti sound development policy.

  4. GK

    Ezequiel,
    You have just proven my point. So-called environmentalists are really socialists. If you really cared about GLOBAL warming, a pound of CO2 should be equally worrisome whether it originated from the USA, China, or one of your orifices.
    As for the ‘per-capita’ argument, Canada, Norway, and Australia all emit more PER PERSON than the US. So the US is neither at the top of the total list (China tops it) OR the per-Capita list (Norway and Canada top it).
    This is why the ‘global warming’ movement has to purge the Kooks before it will permit the geniune thinkers to make a difference.
    “It just happens that the USA is the biggest emitter. ”
    Dead wrong – as I have proven. Go educate yourself.

  5. tom

    I thought pollution was something that reduced human welfare. I would say that that “pollution” is the best thing that has ever happened to the welfare of the Chinese people. It would be easy for me sitting in a 1500 sq. ft. house, with the latest technology and modern conveniences to tell 1.3 billion people that it would better for me (not them) if they all would stay in poverty. That indoor plumbing, automobiles, and fine food is not for them. Environmentalists should lead by example and go back to living in caves.

  6. KS

    You China sym-pathetic, communist, “environmentalist” scare the hell out of me! A true environmentalist uses common sense. You’re just a bunch of radicals looking for reasons to attack the core of America.

  7. General Specific

    Amazing how the comments on blogs spin out of control, usually into the well-worn trenches of tired ideas or misplaced arguments.
    My understanding: the chinese individual doesn’t have much choice about the direction of china’s growth. The chinese government commands where their profits go–a lot of it into US debt–and further growth–a way to stem instability, to detract from the lack of political and social freedom.
    In china, as a matter of fact, individuals who point out the extremely polluted state of their rivers and lakes are jailed.
    I certainly hope the freedom loving folks above aren’t hoping for that–here, or there.

  8. d_rumsfeld

    GK,
    CO2 emissions are long-lived in the atmosphere, with residence times of hundreds to thousands of years. If we count integrated emissions for each country over the last one hundred years, you can see that the United States has contributed the most greenhouse gases to the environment in absolute terms. For comparison, the US was emitting three times as much CO2 in 1980 as China was. Right now, the US and China are about on par. In the future, China will be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
    In integrated terms, however, it will be many years before China has emitted a comparable amount of greenhouse gases as the US. In per capita terms, it may never happen.

  9. GK

    “In integrated terms, however, it will be many years before China has emitted a comparable amount of greenhouse gases as the US. In per capita terms, it may never happen. ”
    Dead wrong. China has already surpassed the US in total GH Gas emissions. I know that socialists can’t be bothered with facts, but normal people will not sign up to the cause when it is based on bogus memes. This also exposes the fraud of you people, as a pound of CO2 does equal damage to polar bears, irrespecitve of whether it originated in the US or China.
    Furthermore, the US is not the highest in per-capita terms either. Canada, Norway, and Australia are all higher.
    Thus, the US is not at the top of either list, total or per-capita.
    The stunning defeat of socialism is the biggest story of the last 15 years.

  10. General Specific

    GK: You don’t seem to be listening to those trying to have a conversation with you. Did anyone mention per-capita? And I believe, up above, the point made was “in integrated terms.”
    Then again, I still wonder why it was necessary to burrow a path into well worn talking points in response to a simple chart showing polution in China.

  11. David Leitch

    China is opening one new coal power station every 4 days according to research I see regularly. Or at least they would if they and everyone else weren’t running out of coal in the short run. Spot coking coal has doubled this year to $200/t.
    If you believe in global warming then its happening quicker than you think. Its going out on a long, thin limb, but I like to say that coal shortages and CO2 issues could help to unhinge the chinese economy.

  12. d_rumsfeld

    GK,
    I’m sorry I wasn’t more explicit. By integrated, I mean that the total emissions are summed over time. Yes, China and the U.S. have almost identical emissions of CO2 in 2008. But go back to 1980 and it is a very different story. To spell it out for you, the U.S. has emitted a much larger amount of CO2 since 1900 than China has, because our emissions were much larger than China’s even 10 years ago.
    This is relevant because CO2 can stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Our emissions from 1980 are just as important as our emissions from 2008 because the CO2 sticks around.
    According to the Earthtrends website, the U.S. emitted 303 billion metric tons of CO2 from 1900 to 2002 while China emitted 80.8 billion metric tons of CO2 from 1990 to 2002.
    http://earthtrends.wri.org/searchable_db/index.php?theme=3
    From 2003 through the present, the US has emitted about 6 billion metric tons of CO2 a year and China emitted went from 3.5 billion metric tons of CO2 to over 6 billion metric tons in 2007 taken from this chart.
    http://images.wri.org/chart_chinachart2.gif
    Adding up the most recent emissions I count the 1990-2007 total emissions to be-
    US: 327 billion metric tons of CO2
    China: 100.8 billion metric tons of CO2
    The US is currently ahead by a little bit. Assuming China can get up to half the US per-capita energy emissions, they’ll double our rate of CO2 emissions. Assuming we maintain our emissions at 6 billion metrics ton per year, they’ll catch up to the US in integrated emissions in about 40 years give or take a few years.

  13. John Doyle

    In case you didn’t know, China has one of the worlds largest deserts within it’s borders. Each year, due to seasonal weather patterns and the coriolis effect massive amounts of “yellow dust” is swept not only through China, but Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. It is a commonly known and understood phenomenon in Asia. A picture may say a thousand words, but you should do some research just to be sure.

  14. hb

    And don’t forget that a lot of the China emissions are from subcontractors, subsubcontractors, subsubsubcontractors … of U.S. companies.

  15. dean

    I disagree with the “integrated” arguement and the statement that reductions in emissions are the easiest for the US to make. From 1900 until at least the 1970′s most people didn’t understand the impact of polution. The resultant clean air and water acts spurred advancements in technology but almost all of the deadlines were overly optimistic and difficult to reach.
    So now if there is common knowledge of the problem along with technology to reduce it (at least to our current levels), why should we give other countries a pass and allow them to emit polution at pre-1970 levels until they catch up with us for the past 108 years? Secondly any incremental reductions in our emissions require significant investments and face diminishing returns. So why is it easiest for the US to make all the worldwide reductions?

  16. General Specific

    “Each year, due to seasonal weather patterns and the coriolis effect massive amounts of “yellow dust” is swept not only through China, but Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.”
    True, but I can’t imagine we’re looking at this phenomenon in the above photograph. The brown puffy clouds are centered on the coastal cities. Seems to be human polution.

  17. blabbinit

    The “yellow dust” seems like a pretty interesting phenomenon. My sister used to live in South Korea and mentioned that it was one of the most interesting things that she has seen in her life.

  18. Josh V

    China vs the US really isn’t the issue. HB had the correct point that despite the pollution coming out of China, United States Companies are funding a majority of it.
    The only way I (as an American) can really do about it is to discontinue buying products from China in favor of domestically produced green products and to discourage the exportation of factory jobs to China in favor of domestic factory jobs (which may pollute, but follow more stringent environmental laws and provide jobs for Americans).

  19. General Specific

    “The only way I (as an American) can really do about it is to discontinue buying products ”
    There is actually another way: create trade agreements that take into account externalities and labor. In other words, regulation.

  20. E. Poole

    Excellent point John Doyle. In other parts of the world, seasonal burning can choke the skies for weeks on end.

    Pasted:

    In case you didn’t know, China has one of the worlds largest deserts within it’s borders. Each year, due to seasonal weather patterns and the coriolis effect massive amounts of “yellow dust” is swept not only through China, but Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. It is a commonly known and understood phenomenon in Asia. A picture may say a thousand words, but you should do some research just to be sure.

    Posted by: John Doyle at February 11, 2008 06:49 PM

  21. d_rumsfeld

    -dean,
    If you run the numbers from 1970 to 2007, you will find that the bulk of the US emissions occurred in this period. US emissions have been increasing about 3% per year since the 1970s. It doesn’t really change the conclusion that the US is responsible for the largest fraction of emissions for all countries.
    -john doyle,
    As pointed out above, the pollution in the above picture is mostly gray and is indeed haze. Gobi dust storms are most prevalent in April and are distinctively yellow in color. There is some dust in the image towards the top of China, but that isn’t what we are seeing here.
    China today is about equivalent to Los Angeles in the early 1970′s in terms of air pollution. China doesn’t have the excuse of poor topography though. As China gets wealthier, I anticipate many business opportunities to help them clean up their air.

  22. HVE

    “China today is about equivalent to Los Angeles in the early 1970′s in terms of air pollution. China doesn’t have the excuse of poor topography though. As China gets wealthier, I anticipate many business opportunities to help them clean up their air.”
    China does have the excuse of being far poorer than LA in the early 70s though. The new purchasing power figures from the World Bank shows that China has a GDP per capita of $5000. That’s about the level the US was at by the end of the 19th century. Sure some few regions of the country on the coast is richer than that, just like some areas of the US were richer than other by the end of the 19th century, but overall, China is a really poor country, this is hard to forget sometimes when China is discussed.

  23. Marshalx

    hello,everyone!
    I’m chinese,I think your discussion is limited to your country,in order to find the truth I think I should communicate with you,from my heart,or I would not gnaw myself with my poor English.
    If you have some questions or need some non-official but Closer to reality,email me.

  24. nutty

    how many people posting here have actually travelled to more than a handful of countries and spoken to people when THEY are the odd one out?
    instead of finger pointing and denial, at some point, politicians will be forced to adopt policies that aren’t so self-serving to their own countries’ needs.
    the richest countries on earth have already failed the starving and the war-torn. are we about to witness the next episode of human bickering, all in the name of progress and wealth, with apparently little consequences for the planet as a whole?

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