Air Pollution from China Caused by Other Nations?


Air pollution originating from China is a major environmental concern. With well over a billion citizens, China is the most heavily populated country in the world. The nation is also becoming more industrialized. In the past Westerners often pictured the Chinese riding around on bicycles, but automobiles are becoming more common as a method of transportation. Industrial production has also been increasing steadily over the years. The amplified industrialization of such an enormous country obviously brings with it a great deal of pollution. Indeed, China is the largest contributor of air pollution in the world, and that pollution does not stay in China. Much of it is transported to other countries by the wind. A great deal of that air pollution makes its way to the United States. Many Americans might be quick to blame the Chinese for that, but Americans may actually be responsible for a great deal of this pollution. A new report suggests that a large amount of air pollution from China is caused by other nations.

According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 12 to 24 percent of the daily sulfate concentrations present in the Western United States are the result of Chinese exports. For years companies throughout the world have had products manufactured in China, for reasons such as low labor cost. The United States has a great demand for such products, along with Western European countries, so much of the air pollution from China is caused by other nations.

Jintai-Lin, professor at Peking University’s School of Physics, led the study, which determined that a great deal of American air pollution is the result of the United States outsourcing manufacturing jobs to China. Between 2000 and 2007, Chinese exports increased by 390 percent. This growth rate has declined as a result of the poor economic climate, but Chinese exports have increased again. At one time China mainly imported goods, but as its economy has grown the Asian country is now a net exporter of industrial products. Many of these items require a great deal of energy to produce, and therefore cause large amounts of pollution. The Chinese have been relying on coal as the main source of manufacturing energy, which has been a major contributor to the worldwide increase of carbon dioxide emissions over the years. Additionally, the relatively low combustion efficiency and limited emission control measures have also contributed to the problem. In other words, the technology and equipment utilized in Chinese factories are often not very advanced; therefore more energy is needed to produce items in China. Also, the Chinese government is not as strict as most Western countries when it comes to setting regulations to reduce carbon emissions.

In addition to the discoveries made regarding sulfate pollution, the report also concluded that in 2006 17 to 36 percent of Chinese air pollution was related to manufacturing goods for export. Since a great deal of air pollution from China is caused by other Western nations, trade relations with China will probably be examined if such pollution is to be reduced. The state of California, especially Los Angeles, has severe issues with air pollution; therefore curbing Chinese air pollution is an important part of reducing pollution on the American West Coast.

By Jean-Paul Gauthier


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