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Source: www.asiaecon.org |


China is the third largest economy in the world, and has achieved great success the past thirty years due to its expansion of heavy industry and urbanization. Coal is the leading culprit of the country’s pollution. Currently, China burns more coal than the United States, Europe and Japan combined. China was the second biggest greenhouse gas emitter after the United States but research signals that it might now have the lead.

The Ministry of Health has said that cancer is currently China’s leading cause of death, and ambient air pollution alone is blamed for “hundreds of thousands” of deaths annually. Only about 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air that is considered safe by the European Union, according to a World Bank study of Chinese pollution published earlier this year. The EU postulates that any level above 40 micrograms is unsafe while the U.S allows 50 micrograms. The Chinese National Bureau of Statistics reported that in 2006, Beijing’s level was 141, well above the accepted level by two of the leading gas emitters. The wide use of coal is responsible for the “toxic gray shroud” that pollutes the air in Chinese cities and that poisons water and ultimately humans.

Experts once believed that China might surpass the United States as the world’s leading producer of greenhouse gases by 2010, but recently, the International Energy Agency has said that China may become the emissions leader by the end of 2009.

China Addresses the Issue

China has already has been investing heavily in using alternative, cleaner energy. Despite the global economic recession, investment in clean energy in 2008 improved by 5 percent from 2007.  China, along with other countries like Japan and South Korea are setting aside some funds in their stimulus packages to invest in “green new deals”. It was reported that China led the new investment in Asia, with an 18 percent increase over 2007 to $15.6 billion, mainly in new wind projects and biomass plants. It now devotes about $67 billion to greener economic development.

By 2008, China was the world’s second largest wind market by newly installed capacity and the fourth largest by overall installed capacity. Between 5GW and 6.5GW of new capacity was installed and commissioned in 2008, bringing total capacity to 11GW to 12.5GW.

China became the world’s largest PV manufacturer in 2008, with 95 percent of its production for the export market.

Some 800MW of biomass power was added in 2008, bringing the total installed capacity for agriculture waste-fired power plants up to 2.88GW. Development of biofuels has all but ground to a halt, mostly due to high feedstock costs.

Nuclear Energy

Lately, researches have praised nuclear energy as a low-cost, low-emission alternative to fossil fuels. Nuclear energy’s popularity has increased significantly since its introduction back in 1970. As of July 2008, there were more than 430 operating nuclear power plants and combined, they provided an estimated 15 percent of the world’s electricity in 2007. About 104 nuclear power plants supply 20 percent of the United State’s electricity. In fact, with about 59 reactors online, France supplies almost 80 percent of its electrical grid with nuclear power and earns lucrative profits from exporting electricity and nuclear technology. About 77 percent of the electricity in France comes from nuclear power (How Stuff Works).

An MIT report about nuclear power stated, “nuclear power off [is] a viable alternative” to allow the global community to “[achieve] long-term gains in the control of carbon dioxide emissions”.

Currently, mainland China has eleven nuclear power reactors in commercial operation, 14 under construction and about 10 more to begin construction in 2009. Because its electricity demand has been skyrocketing the last decade, China has started to rely heavily on imported uranium to fuel its nuclear power program.

The World Bank estimates that the economic loss due to pollution is about 6 percent of GDP.

Source: www.asiaecon.org |



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