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Blowin' in the Wind, Issue #067 More about China Climate Change - June 1, 2009
May 27, 2009
A bit about China climate change
We have recently seen China climate change become more of a concern.
As a large country with a booming economy, a population of over one billion, and an electrical grid largely supplied by dirty, coal-burning power plants, China has been a focus in recent years in international discussions about the forces driving global warming and climate change.
Not as well known is this: China does not just get blamed as the source of many of the ongoing causes of climate change, but it displays many of the planet's prominent indicators of global change in climate.
The trendsIn 2006, China surpassed the United States as the world's leading emitter of carbon emissions. While American emissions are slowly declining, China's are growing in step with their economy.
China's air pollution drew international attention as the opening of the Beijing Olympics were blighted with smog, and there were several reports of the Chinese government muzzling international scientific studies and journalists from collecting air pollution data.
China's air pollution is due in large part to the heavy reliance China places on coal-fired power plants, which traditionally have been dirtier than other energy sources. Statistics indicate that China builds two new power plants a week, and 70 percent of their electrical output comes from coal.
A secondary contributor is the pollution stemming from China's construction industry. While China's per capita air pollution remains quite low (3.5 tons of CO2 vs. 20 tons for each American), the aggregate figure is very high because of their much higher population.
So what?The result is a substantial contribution of gases believed to cause global warming and consequent climate change. Summer temperatures in Southern China have been on the rise every year, with 2008 supposedly the hottest on record.
2007 saw 200,000 people short of drinking water in Northwestern China due to changes in weather patterns. China is experiencing the same trend towards more frequent and extreme storms, while low precipitation amounts cause the glaciers in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau to shrink at the dramatic rate of 7 percent a year.
The eventual outcome of their response to Beijing's air pollution shows what the Chinese government can do when they are truly committed. However, they regularly produce plans to contain or cut China's air pollution, and the extent to which these plans are implemented and make progress seems unclear. We hope for the best.
It also seems certain that as long as China remains heavily dependent on coal, and if they use old power plant technologies, the increasing power demands spurred by their growing economy could be expected to increase the amount of CO2 and pollutants put into the air.
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