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Fear the Airpocalypse
China's Toxic Smog Problem Is Getting Worse

China has pushed through a number of high-profile, anti-air pollution policies in recent months, but the country’s skies are more choked with toxic smog now than they were last year. Reuters reports:

The 74 cities struggled with pollution on 26.9 percent of the days in July, up from 19.5 percent a year ago, data on the Ministry of Environmental Protection website said…The air was worst in northern China, where Beijing, Tianjin and seven cities in Hebei province made the list of the 10 worst cities. Air pollution was judged high on 57.4 percent of the days in July, up from 51.4 percent last year. […]

Tuesday’s government data showed that coal-reliant China is not making much of a dent in pollution levels despite closing down thousands of heavy-polluting facilities across the nation.

The causes of China’s “airpocalypse” are myriad. The smog hovering over the country’s megacities comes from coal plants, manufacturing facilities, and car tailpipes, to name just a few sources. China has already begun to address its air pollution problem, but may not begin to see results for at least a few months. Meanwhile, coal is one of the cheapest ways for China to heat its homes and power its cities, though greens and Chinese urbanites will be loathe to hear it. Replacing coal as a baseload power source with lesser-polluting sources like nuclear energy or natural gas will only be done gradually, and coal will play a major role in the country’s energy mix for decades to come.

There’s no magic solution that will instantly clear Chinese skies, but thanks to public pressure Beijing is taking this environmental hazard more seriously than it has in the past. If the country’s central planners were really serious about cutting down on smog, however, they’d be looking at ways to hasten China’s transition into an information economy. There’s no rule anywhere that says one must first industrialize, and there’s no reason why China must follow the Western development model.

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  • LivingRock

    “There’s no rule anywhere that says one must first industrialize, and there’s no reason why China must follow the Western development model.”

    Isn’t that part of the reasoning deployed to get China to sign a Global Climate Treaty? They don’t seem to be receptive.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “but may not begin to see results for at least a few months.”

    I have to ask, are you mental? The trend is for more pollution not less, as you stated in the facts leading up to this idiotic statement. This isn’t the US we are talking about, but a big government monopoly that doesn’t answer to anyone. The level of waste, incompetence, corruption, and lies in China is unimaginable to us in the west (the top 50 officials in China are worth a combined 100 billion dollars, and that doesn’t include their family’s). The only thing we can state with assurance is that until we actually see any changes, then the trend is the reality.

  • Duperray

    “however, they’d be looking at ways to hasten China’s transition into an information economy”. Info-economy is more a bubble of foam rather than a solid industrial economy. Indeed, if western economies – well developed – succeeded (so far, no grant for future) to add info-eco development, this does not mean it is THE solution. The most advanced team of software developers can actually drag much money from abroad by selling their soft as services. But the Planet does not become more rich at all for that, it is just money move from point A to point B, alike stock exchange moves. The basics must be very solid, ore transformation, farming, industrial production. Remember other foam bubbles like 1929 and 2008 subprimes…..

  • Enemy Leopard

    Chinese urbanites are not Western greens. Part of me suspects that the author, in trying to empathize with a people he doesn’t know all that well, is projecting certain attitudes onto them. They aren’t loathe to hear that coal is the cheapest energy source around. They know it well already. They’re also not naive utopians; they may complain about pollution, but they don’t really expect much to improve in the short term, as they’re much more cognizant of the trade-offs involved. A common attitude is, well, at least we’re not all starving like we were fifty years ago.

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