Environment: China's Challenges from pollution to severe storms

Dale Wen, writing on China Dialogue looks at the myth that high income lifestyles in the west come with a clean environment; noting that China needs to rethink its development model

The (impossible) American dream: “Exporting pollution”

In the past few decades the environmental movement has achieved a number of local successes in western countries. Air and water pollution have been brought under control, and green areas are conserved, but this is still largely in middle-class areas of these countries. Most problems are not solved, but transferred to other areas. For example, polluting industries are often moved to poor areas of the country, and waste from electrical appliances is (sometimes illegally) exported to countries like China and India.

We have to ask if problems can really be solved by externalising pollution. Greenhouse-gas emissions are a global phenomenon and cannot be exported: we all live on the same planet. In the first half of 2007, for example, Beijing moved 200 factories to the outskirts of the city or other cities entirely. Many cities, rather than controlling water pollution, are bringing in water from further and further away, and extending channels so that polluted water is deposited further away. As one rural resident put it to me: ‘If it’s pollution in the city, it’s still pollution in the countryside.

Understanding extreme weather in China: “What are the potential lessons to be learned for China from extreme weather events that seem to be increasing in frequency?”

The most important lesson China can take from this event is that climate change has real and potentially severe costs. It is true that the US and Europe are responsible for most of the greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere. However, given its current path of development, China will be the largest single contributor to greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere in the future and will therefore be the largest contributor to those impacts that can still be avoided in the future. It is important, therefore, for China to understand the trade-offs that are inherent to any path of future economic development. Today a carbon-intensive economy may seem to be the most expedient path to economic growth, but the real and unpredictable costs to the economy of future climate change could be debilitating.

Tim Hurst of ecopolitology posts a short Video: State of Resolve
“this short pbs video highlights California's relatively progressive environmental policy and juxtaposes it with *our (lack of) federal policy. The well-produced piece also does a good job of linking our drive for material wealth as a contributor to environmental pollution in China”

*United States

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