In the recent decade, climate change has received a lot of attention from world leaders due to the destructiveness of natural catastrophes in various locations causing the loss of billions of dollars’ worth of property and human lives. For instance, India is currently experiencing flash floods in Maharashtra state. At least 20 people have lost their lives, and hundreds of others are missing after Pune and other adjacent localities were hit with heavy storms. More than 30,000 people have been evacuated from their properties and are being sheltered in camps on high grounds. China is the current export leader in the world market. The superpower’s economic prosperity has been achieved at an enormous cost: 28% of the world’s greenhouse emissions came from this Southeast Asian country in 2013 (Tiezzi).
Air pollution has enormous economic implications on the former communist state of China, claiming over one million lives annually. Furthermore, air pollution costs the country over 30 billion dollars in lost food production, healthcare costs, and human resources. A think tank based in Hong Kong derived this vast number by calculating social expenses associated with reduced agricultural production and public health. Over 20 million tons of soybeans, maize, and rice are lost due to the loss of ozone cover (Wang). China’s environmental pollution, water ecological damage, shortage of water, and drought disasters are serious problems. So, is China signing the world’s death warrant?
The photo of a farmer from Wang, Xiaocheng. Impacts of Climate Change on China by City. 2 Nov 2018.
During the summer of 2013, the country’s largest city, Beijing, found itself engulfed with dense clouds of smoke and fog. The city was at the center of a pollution crisis that threatened to disrupt its economic and social activities. Pollution with impunity has always been an open secret in the country. The government was forced to act due to high profile world coverage of the reported “apocalypse”, strengthened with the outrage of the inhabitants suffering from the poor air conditions. After a highly publicized closed-door meeting, the Chinese government declared war on pollution by revising its environmental laws to better support inspection campaigns and to punish offenders. However, as it is customary in China, implementation lags behind the benchmark set by the new regulations. The aforementioned delay coupled with the seriousness of the problem imply that China’s “war on pollution” has had mixed results so far (Linares).
According to Damien Ma, a contributor for MacroPolo Institute, the most crucial action that China has taken so far is reducing its coal consumption (Tiezzi). Renewable sources of energy, such as solar farms and natural gas, are increasing their share in the energy mix of the nation. Per Ma, using renewable resources has made apparent improvements on the quality of air. Furthermore, shifting away from pre-industrial fuels such as coal should be on the administration’s priority list. Ma’s research states that the average particulate measurements have dropped by 30% in most cities in China. Early this year, the Chinese Environment Secretary announced that over 100 cities had met the national air quality metrics in the first quarter: this represents an increase of 20 cities from 2018. He further reported that over 300 cities enjoyed air quality that was above the national air quality metrics. The average particulate measurements in the country were 44g/cm3, which was above the World Health Organization benchmark of 10. Cities like Hebei were poor performers during the environmental audit in 2018. However, in 2019, for the first time in 15 years, the city announced that it met China’s national average (Linares).
Usually, May is the start of a good period of good air quality because there is no need to use non-renewable sources of energy, such as coal, to heat businesses and homes as is done during the winter. In fact, air pollution is persistent from January to April before the beginning of spring. Hebei’s air pollution likewise spikes from year to year during the first four months of the year. Hebei is not the only city experiencing inconsistency in its effort to cap air pollution. Most provinces in the country follow a notable trend of “four steps forward, three steps back” in their attempt to achieve long-term good air quality throughout the year. I believe the overall situation is better off. However, there is usually a spike of heavy air pollution during the first four months of the year in certain cities, especially those with a concentration of heavy industries (Wang).
Another impressive way that China is combating air pollution is by using a hundred- meter purification tower that was constructed in 2018. The tower is financed and operated by China’s Academy of Science. It works by sieving polluted air through its multiple filters and monitoring systems that are based inside the tower. This tower is an improvement over the one that was commissioned in 2017 that ran on electricity generated from coal stations. The new tower requires little power to run and can clean larger volumes of air per second than the old one. As a student, I believe that it is necessary for the Chinese government to incorporate technology and big data in its fight against air pollution. Technology has revolutionized many aspects of people’s lives. Using the latest technology to gather data will assist the Chinese administration in its quest to make Beijing and other cities cleaner and safer.
Linares, Angel. China’s War Against Climate Change & Air Pollution with Purification Tower Solution by City Tech Blogger Angel Linares. 12 May 2019. https://climateyou.org/2019/05/chinas-war-against-climate-change-air-pollution-with-purification-tower-solution-by-city-tech-blogger-angel-linares/. 13 October 2019.
Tiezzi, Shannon. Is China Winning Its War on Pollution? 4 July 2019. https://thediplomat.com/2019/07/is-china-winning-its-war-on-pollution/. 11 Oct 2019 .
Wang, Xiaocheng. Impacts of Climate Change on China by City. 2 Nov 2018. https://climateyou.org/2018/11/impacts-of-climate-change-on-china-by-city-tech-blogger-xiaocheng-wang/. 11 Oct 2019.