China 2008: Environmental Crisis

This next article in the CDT series on important issues facing China in 2008 focuses on the Environment. See also previous posts on Nationalism, the Developing World, and the Global Financial Crisis. China’s environmental issues have increased in scale in 2008 as the country strives to maintain its economic growth and development. In particular, air pollution has worsened rapidly between 2007-2008 after a sharp rise in 2002. China’s total carbon emissions and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are estimated to have surpassed the United States, which has been the number one carbon emitter in the world. China’s increase in emissions is due to the burning of coal to generate the needed power for development. Air pollution is costing China alone $82 billion in economic losses this year. In addition to air pollution, China suffers from desertification, water pollution, soil erosion, indoor air pollution, and e-waste. In particular, air pollution, water pollution, and e-waste have sickened many and even claimed the lives of Chinese citizens. Besides the urban centers in China, according to the Chinese Environmental Aspect Bulletin, the rural areas are facing a major environmental crisis as well. How has the Chinese government responded to the gigantic environmental crisis that the country is facing? It has begun to invest in other energy sources in addition to coal. These energy sources include hydropower which requires building dams (such as the South Tibet dam), nuclear power, wind power, solar power, and even a more innovative solution such as burning straw. The government has also initiated large scale projects, such as forest rehabilitation, a ban on the use of plastic bags, reducing car traffic in Beijing and Shanghai, the construction of an eco-city in Dongtan, and rural environmental protection. Another recent innovative solution is the “smart grid” management of the electricity and information technology ...
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