Cleaning the air with China
This year, China broke a 161-year-old temperature record. The environmental consequences of the country’s breakneck growth are evident, says Orville Schell, and coal is at the heart of the crisis.
In 2000, the U.N. Development Program reported that air pollution was already causing about 400,000 premature deaths a year. It is hardly surprising, as China is home to 16 of the 30 cities with the worst air pollution in the world.
China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) estimates that sulphur-dioxide (SO2) emissions alone are causing China's GNP an annual loss of 12%, which is about equal to its impressive growth rate.
Last November, China did commit itself to deriving 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and to cutting the energy consumed per unit of GDP by 20% over five years. But during the first half of last year, Beijing not only failed to meet these targets but had an increase of 8% in energy consumption per unit of GDP. Initial reports from China's massive hydropower facility at the Three Gorges are also underwhelming; it appears that the Yangtze River isn't yet flowing fast enough to keep the turbines turning.