Increased environmental degradation in China

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Description:

China is fueling its frenetic economic expansion—a growth rate that has reached 8 percent per year, and is expected to rise even higher—with prodigious consumption of energy, including its own abundant supplies of coal, and, increasingly, imported oil and natural gas. In addition to the environmental impact, China’s voracious appetite for that energy is responsible for the lion’s share of the surge in demand that is driving up world crude oil prices. And, China’s rapid industrialization not only harms its own environment, but also takes a considerable bite out of its growth.

Enablers:

  • China increasingly is looking to add emission-free energy sources such as nuclear power and hydropower.
  • Kyoto Protocol contains a provision that allows companies in developed countries to meet their emissions limits by investing in new, clean factories in developing countries.

Inhibitors:

  • The World Bank estimates that environmental degradation costs China between 8 percent and 12 percent of its Gross Domestic Product(GDP).
  • Chinese planners worry that environmental degradation ultimately will serve as a source of social instability.China’s accelerating reliance on coal carries other costs, too. Coal mining causes extremely high mortality rates among Chinese miners. More than 4,000 were killed in the first nine months of 2004, making the nation’s mining industry the world’s most dangerous.
  • China produces about 13 percent of the world’s total CO2, making it the second largest emitter after the United States, which accounts for close to one-quarter of the world’s total.
  • In 2004, Chinese demand grew by 850,000 barrels per day and was the largest contributor to the surge in the world’s consumption. Crude oil prices have nearly doubled in the past two years as the strong growth in consumption has made it hard for the industry to keep up. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) lifted its output to a 25-year high last year in a bid to put as much oil on the market as possible and meet a surge in demand that few had anticipated. Yet, crude oil prices remained persistently high.

Paradigms:

The government official stressed that China does not yet regularly monitor and report some important classes of pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and air toxics. He called attention to the country’s increasing desertification problem and said that China’s deserts and desertified areas cover 2.42 million square kilometers, with an annual expansion of more than 3000 km2. More than 90% of usable natural grasslands in China, a total area of 135 million hectares, suffered varying degrees of degradation last year. China has managed to bring some sources of pollution, particularly coal smoke from power plants and industrial boilers, fairly well under control in areas such as Beijing and Shanghai. And, China has to meet the Kyoto Protocol that requires companies in developed countries to meet their emissions limits by investing in new, clean factories in developing countries.

Experts:

Timing:

  • Adopting the Kyoto Protocol in December 1997.
  • The Kyoto Protocol had gone into effect from Feburary 2005.
  • The first phase of Kyoto's implementation which runs through 2012.

Web Resources: