Air Pollution in China

by Sabrina on Monday, 27 November 2006 Comments
- China’s air pollution is one of the worst in the world: The country is leader in sulfur emissions and ranks as the second largest producer of greenhouse gases

- 70% of Chinese monitored cities are moderately to severely polluted (i.e., they do not meet the World Health Organization Air Quality Standards).

- According to the World Bank (2004) Chinese cities make up 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted. (A 1998 World Health Organization report on air quality in 272 cities worldwide concluded that seven of the world’s 10 most polluted cities were in China.)

- 33% of urban dwellers breathe toxic air, equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

- According to various estimates, air pollution is responsible for 100,000 to 400,000 premature deaths a year. Restricted activity caused by illness, cost China 25 billion US$ a year, 8 to 12% of its annual GDP. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease occurs at a rate twice the average for other developing countries.

- The main factors causing air pollution are (a) China’s breakneck development ; (b) the fact that 70% of China’s industry and domestic energy is supplied by coal-burning; (c) construction industry that generates suspended particles, soot and dust.

- Polluted air also causes less rainfall in mountainous areas, with direct effects on big rivers, which receive much of their water supply from mountainous precipitations.

- Private car ownership in Chin rose from one million vehicles in 1994 to 16 million in 2004. The continuation of the trend would mean 170 million private cars on China’s roads by 2020, requiring 100 million tons of oil equivalent (MTOE) per year and producing 102 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2005, China had 32 million operative vehicles of four or more wheels, plus 57 million two- and three-wheelers . According to the Asian Development Bank, over the next 20 years, China’s vehicles will grow to 183 million, plus 194 million two- and three-wheelers. By 2010, China’s cars will consume 138 million tons of oil each year, and this will grow to roughly 430 million tons by 2030

- If present trends are not reversed, "China will overtake the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of CO2 before 2010." (The International Energy Agency, 2006, November)

- Reliance on coal poses a special problem. China is using 42 per cent of the world’s thermal coal for power and 48 per cent of its coking coal for steel. Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi, where much of the country’s coal is mined, has the world’s worst air pollution. Presently, China accounts for almost half of world production and consumption of coal. In 2002, the Chinese government vowed to cut sulfur emissions by 10 percent by 2005. Instead, they rose 27 percent. 2.2 billion tons of coal were extracted in 2005 , and the central government’s (conservative) estimate puts the output at 2.6 in 2010. Private analysts estimate that this figure will already be reached in 2007.

- The average American still consumes more energy and is responsible for the release of 10 times as much carbon dioxide as the average Chinese. While China now generates more electricity from coal than does the United States, America’s consumption of gasoline (which also releases carbon dioxide) dwarfs China’s.
Detailed analysis of the nature of the relationship between China’s industrial growth and atmospheric pollution in

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