Fuzzy Math
Chinese Polluters Still Fudging the Numbers

Beijing is trying to position itself as some global green leader, and in the wake of Donald Trump’s “energy independence” executive order earlier this week, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson claimed that “China’s plan, determination and policy to tackle climate change is resolute.” China’s “determination” may be immaterial, however, as a new exposé of fudged pollution numbers is illustrating how flimsy the CCP’s hold on local polluters really is. Reuters reports:

The Ministry of Environmental Protection said it checked more than 8,500 firms in six municipalities and provinces including Beijing and central Henan, and found that many were not implementing air pollution control measures strictly or were still violating environmental regulations. […]

China says it is winning its “war on pollution” after strengthening legislation, beefing up its monitoring capabilities and cracking down on hundreds of polluting firms, and says average air quality improved noticeably in 2016. However, official data published last week showed that air quality was markedly worse in the first two months of the year than the same period of 2016.

China’s own ministry of environmental protection isn’t the only one taking notice of this unreliable pollution data, though. Scientists based in Chengdu last year discovered that the megacity’s estimates for car emissions were off by as much as 59 percent. In fact, there’s a long history of China’s pollution numbers being exposed as unreliable.

Beijing has its own reasons for wanting to clear its skies and reduce emissions—reducing its reliance on coal will be climate friendly, but more importantly it will help improve the disastrous air pollution choking China’s biggest cities. But it’s become something of a tradition at this point for localities and provinces to massage the data they send to Beijing, and while in the past it might have been economic indicators that got the benefit of the finger on the scale, these days it’s environmental metrics.

Don’t be fooled—China’s not ready to take the global lead on green issues. On that front, the United States still reigns supreme, even with the new administration.

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