China’s Pollution Everybody’s Problem

China's pollution unprecedentedChina's over-population driven pollution frenzy [ark] threatens the entire planet. Frankly, the fault extends to the already over-developed world which exported their pollution to benefit from cheap labor. In the process a global despoiler of unprecedented magnitude has been created; which says a lot, give Europe and U.S. history of ecological imperialism [search].
China is an environmental disaster [search]. China is now a fourth desert and water scarce, most forests are gone so it imports illegal timber, it goes through 200 million tons of coal annually causing soaring carbon emissions [ark], and increasingly it brings these problems to the region and World with an insatiable appetite for resources. And China is a brutal totalitarian dictatorship; an enemy of not only global ecological sustainability, but equally of freedom and justice.
Destroying the Earth is not a poverty alleviation program. In China we see the end of the world as over-population and demand for cheap consumer crap overwhelms the world's faltering ecosystems. Given the world consumes its products and is faced with a wave of Chinese pollution, China's pollution is everybody's problem. Global ecological collapse starts in China.

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15 Responses

  1. Dave Moore says:

    How about some good links to China/Walmart boycotts, activism, US govt response,etc?
    Biejing Olympics is a good opportunity to raise the coal and Asian Brown Cloud issue which threatens even US West Coast air and water quality.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Dr. Glen Barry — The piddley 200 million tons of coal is just the estimated underreporting. The reported (revised) figure for 2004 CE is 2,032 Mtce (million tons of coal equivalent).

  3. david becher says:

    Agree. China, and other developing economies pose a severe dislocation to the developed economies and therefore the world -; not just climate and environment, but also energy, trade, jobs, economy, financial markets, Look closely and see how these are all related.
    I am not clear how China's large population is the blame. China's economically active population is not a billion people but around 400 million… something like 650 million are in the central and western hinterland.
    The US and EU undertook extended negotiations leading to formal agreements with China on China's entry into WTO that focused on trade and intellectual property but did not address the links to economy and environment and human rights, i.e., labor conditions, although those would have been most difficult. Problem is there is just no single world organization that stands up for the broader good of our world and people.
    China's jump start to prosperity – following Deng's early “xiaokang” program -;set up special enterprize (SEZ) zones providing investment incentives, tax priveleges, etc. E.g., half of the factories in Guangzhou are foreign enterprises (though many are now leaving for lower cost Vietnam and Cambodia so expect more of the same in those countries in the future). You can compare also with the “maquilladoras” in Mexico. Result is unrestrained economic growth that provides lower cost goods based on cheap labor and limited controls in order to supply our rich countries' consumption. But this is damaging to jobs and the environment. FDI and trade based on uncontrolled capitalism is disruptive and harmful to everyone, and that is different from rapid economic growth to supply a growing domestic middle class. Eventually the piper must be paid, and we are seeing that in the current financial correction, affecting you and me and all of us.

  4. ewoc says:

    Much of China's export-driven economic growth in the last several decades has occurred in response to Western demand, and with Western investment. What do you think they are making in all of those thousands of coastal factories, and for whom? Without demand from the US, the EU, Australia, and New Zealand much of that production would disappear. So the canard that the Chinese are ultimately responsible for the world's carbon and other environmental problems is a half-truth, at very best.

  5. Dr. Glen Barry says:

    Hmm… Ewoc, did you read the post? This very point is acknowledged in the second sentence, and second to last sentence. Regardless of how it came about, this unsustainable resource use is hammering the region's and the Earth's ecosystems. This highly concentrated human population producing at fantastical rates has never before been seen in the history of the world. The Asian brown cloud and huge sand storms emitting from the area are scientific representations of this truth.
    Continuing to exempt “developing” countries from climate rules is nonsensical given the huge amount of environmental damage being done by the Chinese economy (and India, Brazil and of course good old USA). This is not an excuse for the U.S. to not negotiate and reach an agreement. However, it is clear there is no way the atmosphere, biosphere and terrestrial ecosystems can survive the Chinese juggernaut.
    And it is just as nonsensical to say that because America and Europe have destroyed half the globe China has a right to destroy the rest. And this is the full truth, despite any lack of political correctness.

  6. zephyr says:

    This is going to be off-the-cuff as it's late and I'm tired.
    I would like to see the title of the lead post here modified to read, “Global Pollution Everybody's Problem”.
    While I sympathize with the focus of Dr. Barry's commentary in the original post, I must admit that it makes me cringe.
    Please don't misunderstand, Dr. Barry. I just think it's perhaps a bit ill-advised at this juncture to facilitate what I've observed to be an already fulminating hostility toward the Chinese contribution to global atmospheric pollution loading. In particular, the Climate Change Denier Contingent is all too happy to amplify and utilize this hostility to full political advantage.
    As is mentioned by others here (and as we know you know) the recent rapid escalation of emissions from China is directly tied to the relocation of a large chunk of the U.S. manufacturing base to their country.
    We must all take responsibility for supporting this state of affairs and do what we can to withdraw that support.
    I completely agree with you that if the current situation continues indefinitely it could well overrun the ability of our life-support systems to deal with it. I, too, find this possibility unnerving to contemplate.
    But consider this: I hung out in Pittsburgh for six months in 2005 on my way back up to Boston from three years in Arizona. During that time period I temped in the graduate school of engineering at one of their major universities. At least 60% of their applicants were from China and I had the opportunity to read many of their Application for Admission essays.
    Almost without exception, these 25-to-35-year-old students expressed deep concern regarding emerging environmental crises in their country along with a strong commitment to returning home upon completion of their graduate studies in order to apply their knowledge in the service of cleaning things up.
    I think we on THIS end need to make a commitment to withdrawing support for what's going on over there by, among other things, not buying so damned much STUFF.

  7. R. Gates says:

    China is simply acting as all humans have for centuries, only in a more rapid manner. People everywhere want what they perceive as a better life style, and their creature comforts come at the expense of the consumption of the planet.
    Human locusts are the same everywhere, and singling out the Chinese misses the bigger issue of what are ALL HUMANS going to to do change their ways of living so as to stop the rape and destruction of the earth…In my estimation, they will do very little and Mother Earth will have to rebalance the human locust population in her own way.
    But I am an optimist…for I fully believe that she is healthy enough and able to do just that!

  8. david becher says:

    I tend more to agree with R. Gates and remain optimistic about China and India entry into the global economy. We are seeing something like 40% adddition to the economic world + active labor force. What would you propose, to ship them to the gulags in central China? China and India each in their own way are moving rapidly up the value curves faster than anything we have seen in the past – why ? because we have encouraged them and technology is availabe. The USTR and EU negotiated for several years and the agreements included provisions by industry on dumping and safeguards. We need to pressure China and India on protection of the environment but we need additional levers. Not talk about their “overpopulation” … China for one has serious longer term problems because of its slow population growth due to its family policies in the past, that will be serious issue for the labor market and pension funding. Yes the developed countries have benefited from China's low cost labor, but that is what Adam Smith and David Ricardo informed. Let's get the right job safeguards in place and I don't mean going bonko overboard in protectionism. You might get what you asked for. Expect our grandchildrens' world to be a lot different.

  9. Naman rastogi says:

    its true that china is developing at rapid rate but this is not a hidden fact thatt it is doing this on the expense of its natural resources.china ought to be ashamed of its growing population.pollution caused by chinese will ultimately affect the whole world,because we have one of the most important natural resource the himalyas nearby.rising temperature levels aroung the area will ultimately reach to the melting of glaciers in the himalyan valley and also leave an impression on the vast induan population residing on the indian gangetic plains.will china take the responsibilty to guarantee food,water employent etc to all these never…i dont think china got to stop this race for developement before it is too late..

  10. David Mann says:

    How is the world going to combat global warming, without China and it's huge population and eco practices on the same side?

  11. Does INACTION by economic powerbrokers and their bought-and-paid-for politicians regarding the scientific consensus on climate change threaten Earth, its environs, biodiversity, life as we know it and the future of our children?

  12. david becher says:

    Is anyone in the discussion advocating INACTION?? Rhetoric is not the answer to complex problems. China has GDP/capita of around $2,000 and population of 1.3 billion. China and India together represent nearly 40% of the world's population and contribute around a third of the annual increase in world population. India's population growth is a bigger problem.
    China already had population control measures before Deng's one child policy in 1979 – to address overpopulation and social issues (and environmental issues)… today China's population growth is more in line with developed countries (0.6%), less than the US (0.8-.9%)(although the US has a large component from immigration). China growth is faster than developed Japan, Korea and EU, but only half of India's. From the comments it sounds like some people would like to shut down population growth which is a component in the more labor based economies – this might force the undeveloped to just remain undeveloped.
    We need sustainable development. Problem with population control is you create unsustainable distortions – China's population planning is really screwing up its GINI (age distribution) and female reproduction ratio which has serious implications on its future labor supply, population aging and social funding. Korea and Japan are there already. I think for China this results from pushing rapid econ dev along with its huge population – results in “unnatural” solution to the math … We need to find workable solutions to push China and other economies to address environmental issues and be responsible players – we were involved in creating the problem (by offshoring our emissions) we should be part of the solution … I am still thinking this could require developed nations to step up, e.g., under a WB or UN based progam …. This needs informed advocacy and policy making.

  13. Michael Powell says:

    I don't know how the athletes will be able to compete in this environment. Maybe wear masks????

  14. Zn says:

    Nothing is usefull in talking on paper!
    Come to China,and take a breath~

  15. Anonymous says:

    I'm doing my homework and needed this artical-thanks!

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