Monday, November 7, 2011

Extreme Pollution in China

Photo: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

I've never been to China, but I've heard stories from those who have.  There are places where people wear surgical masks just to walk around on the street to filter the air they are breathing.  The New York Times published an unsettling series of articles on the topic, including this one: As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes.  The NYT also published this chilling slideshow of pollution in China.

The article states, "Only 1 percent of China's 560 million urban dwellers breathes air considered safe by the European Union."  Like so many families, in the photo above, a "family of migrants moved to Ningxia Province from Inner Mongolia so that the father could work at a nearby factory."  While the already developed world is beginning to rein in its carbon spewing excesses, China is just hitting its stride.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Consumption in China

The NYT article was published in August of 2007.  It speculated that China might lead the world in carbon emissions by the end of the year.  Several sources say that China had already taken the lead at that time, and by 2008 they were definitely the leader in emissions (not by per capita, however.)

There has got to be a better way.  The planet cannot handle developing nations following this model.  Greenpeace has a website describing the solutions available for mitigating air pollution disaster: The Solutions.  To summarize their ideas, the most important step is weaning off of coal, China's main power source, and instead developing renewable energy technologies.  Next is strict regulation of pollution.  On a more positive note, China is one of the world's leaders in solar technology, producing something like 23% of the world's photovoltaic products.  I hope that they find a way to make solar power take over very, very quickly. 

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