Learn More - Air Pollution Around the World
The economies of several nations, including India and China are growing very quickly. Unfortunately, increasing pollution emissions often accompanies growing economies. India and China separate themselves from the other nations due to the massive numbers of people who live in those countries, 2.4 billion combined. Although the average Chinese or Indian person generates less pollution per person than several western countries, it is the multiplication effect that creates air quality issues, plus a dependency on burning coal - still the source of 75% of its energy.
As a result, China now has the top ten most polluted cities in the world. Most of the pollution is caused by burning of coal as an energy source, and inadequate emissions controls in cars and trucks. China and India are exploring the use of renewable energy, however their tremendous need for energy leaves them with few options. The Natural Resources Defense Council's China Clean Energy Program estimates that China will need to add the equivalent of 300 mega-watt power plants every week for the next 45 years just to satisfy current demands (Time Magazine, April 3, 2006). Many are worried of another "great smog" occurring in China or another country dependent on coal.
"It's like London in the 1950's - once you stop coal use the problem is solved." Li Teijun, Beijing environmental official. (Duncan Hewitt, BBC, 11/17/2000)
Another problem for one city in China - Beijing - is its geographic location. Beijing is located in a basin surrounded by hills, over 60 miles from the coast, and subject to dust filled winds sweeping in from the Mongolian planes.
However, after years of uncontrolled economic development, Chinese officials and citizens are finding it hard to ignore the chronic air pollution. Not only has the poor air quality led to visibility problems, respiratory diseases have become one of the country's biggest health risks, and there are billions of dollars in crop losses each year.
And the most alarming issue is that many citizens of China and India now aspire to create an American-style energy-intensive life. Something needs to happen, and happen fast.
The following news articles are great resources:
Forbes Magazine - America's Most Polluted Cities - March 22, 2006
Time Magazine - The Impact of Asia's Giants - April 3, 2006
Time Magazine - The Climate Crusaders - April 3, 2006
Time Magazine - Global Warming Heats Up - April 3, 2006
The Economist - Good Things Come in Tiny Packages - March 25, 2006