Choking on China

The Superpower That Is Poisoning the World

China is the world’s worst polluter -- home to 16 of the 20 dirtiest cities and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Recent headlines have been shocking: 16,000 decaying pig carcasses in Shanghai’s Whampoa River, dire air quality reports in Beijing, and hundreds of thousands of people dying prematurely because of environmental degradation. Most recently, the country has been shaken by a mysterious virus, H7N9, which has already killed six people and has spurred health authorities to order the slaughter of thousands of pigeons, chickens, and ducks thought to carry it. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has begun work on an H7N9 vaccine.

The dangers of China’s environmental degradation go well beyond the country’s borders, as pollution threatens global health more than ever. Chinese leaders have argued that their country has the right to pollute, claiming that, as a developing nation, it cannot sacrifice economic growth for the sake of the environment. In reality, however, China is holding the rest of the world hostage -- and undermining its own prosperity.

<i>A garbage dump on the outskirts of Jincheng, in north China's Shanxi province, 2007. (Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"China is the world’s worst polluter -- home to 16 of the 20 dirtiest cities and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases."
<i>Smokestacks near a statue of Chairman Mao Zedong in Wuhan, Hubei province, 2006. (Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"Chinese leaders have argued that their country has the right to pollute, claiming that, as a developing nation, it cannot sacrifice economic growth for the sake of the environment."
<i>Cars drive on Jianguo Road on a hazy day in Beijing, 2013. (Jason Lee / Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"Carbon dioxide emissions from cars in China are growing exponentially, replacing coal-fired power plants as the major source of pollution in major Chinese cities. Deutsche Bank estimates that the number of passenger cars in China will reach 400 million by 2030, up from today’s 90 million."
<i>A woman wearing a mask rides her bicycle in Beijing, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"Such air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study."
<i>A journalist takes a sample of red polluted water from a river in Luoyang, Henan, 2011. (Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"Recent headlines have been shocking, including 16,000 decaying pig carcasses in Shanghai’s Whampoa River and dire air quality reports in Beijing."
<i>Fishermen row a boat in the algae-filled Chaohu Lake in Hefei, Anhui province, 2009. (Jianan Yu / Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"China’s own Ministry of Environmental Protection has concluded that 70 percent of the country’s major waterways are heavily polluted... The China Geological Survey now estimates that 90 percent of China’s cities depend on polluted groundwater supplies."
<i>A worker cleans away dead fish at a lake in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province, 2007. (Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"Eighty percent of the East China Sea, one of the world’s largest fisheries, is now unsuitable for fishing, according to Elizabeth C. Economy, a China and environmental expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. Most Chinese coastal cities pump at least half of their waste directly into the ocean, which causes red tides and coastal fish die-offs."
<i>A farmer works a desiccated paddy in the outskirts of Chongqing municipality, 2009. (Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"Acid rain, caused by emissions, has damaged a third of China’s limited cropland, in addition to forests and watersheds on the Korean Peninsula and in Japan."
<i>A street lamp in front of a coal-fired power plant, Shanxi province, 2009. (Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"China’s pollution problem is holding back its economy -- and poisoning its own people and the rest of the world in the process."

According to the World Bank, only one percent of China’s 560 million urban residents breathe air considered safe by EU standards. Beijing’s levels of PM2.5s -- particles that are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter and can penetrate the gas exchange regions of the lungs -- are the worst in the world. Beijing’s 2012 March average reading was 469 micrograms of such particles per cubic meter, which compares abysmally with Los

Log in or register for free to continue reading.

Registered users get access to one free article every month. Subscribers get access to the entire archive.

Browse Related Articles on {{search_model.selectedTerm.name}}

{{indexVM.results.hits.total | number}} Articles Found

  • {{bucket.key_as_string}}