The Start of China's 'Green' Cycle

The Start of China's 'Green' Cycle
By Ashley Kindergan, Journalist, The Financialist
 
China is about to embark on a decade-long period of improvement that will see emissions plummet and soil and water pollution improve. Driving the change? Outcries about air pollution, in particular, have galvanized the Chinese public on social media. The government is desperate to reduce outrage about issues like these.
 
The Start of China's 'Green' Cycle
In the last four years, China has surpassed the United States to become the world's largest manufacturer and relieved Japan of its bragging rights as the world's second-largest economy. But those economic strides have come at a cost. On some days, the air pollution in major Chinese cities is severe enough to shut schools and ground airplanes. In the first half of 2013, 38 percent of China's 456 cities experienced acid rain. Nearly 30 percent of the groundwater and 60 percent of the country's surface water was ranked either "poor" or "very poor" quality in a 2012 government report. Citizens are so frustrated that they've taken to registering half their complaints on social media, an expression of individual rights that isn't exactly taken lightly in an autocratic country obsessed with maintaining order.
 
40 Years ago US & Japan in Similar Position
Such pollution has had serious ramifications for China's public health, with one recent study showing air pollution alone having caused 1.2 million premature deaths. The more developed economies of the world may think of looking down their noses at China for such lax environmental policies, but that would be hypocritical, especially since the United States, for example, was in a very similar position just four decades ago. As recently as the 1970s, air pollutants such as sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and tiny, lung-clogging particulates were present in the air of both the United States and Japan at the same levels they are in China right now. Japan's first air pollution controls in 1968 and the 1970 passage of the landmark Clean Air Act in the US marked the beginning of a multi-decade period of tighter pollution regulations – and the policies have been effective, to a degree. Emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides fell by 15 percent and 50 percent, respectively, in the US between 1970 and 2000, and the air concentration of those pollutants has fallen by 40 percent over the same time period. Likewise in Japan, where between 1971 and 1979, concentrations of sulfur and nitrogen oxides fell by 35 percent and 50 percent, respectively, and have continued falling since.
 

on February 17, 2014