How China's Economy Affects The Environment

China’s economy is growing rapidly as the country transitions from an agrarian society to an industrial revolution. As a result, China became one of the world’s largest manufacturers and exporters around the world. Coal is plentiful and is used to make steel which is then used to make vehicles, microwaves, ovens etc. to be sold to other countries. It is also a cheap way to produce electricity, powering factories, houses, and streets. However, the pollution from coal as well as the factories are very devastating to the health of its citizens. It is imperative that China implement a cleaner method of generating electricity to prevent further damage.

China has some of the largest industrial plants in the world that spreads heavy metals including mercury, lead, cadmium, copper, nickel, chromium, and zinc. These metals contaminate agricultural land, destroying billions of food supply ever year. According to the research group Berkeley Earth, China’s air pollution contributed to over 1.6 million deaths in 2015. It also raises concern for other countries like Korea because it can spread as far as Mongolia to the Yellow Sea. As of now, China’s government has resulted to strict green laws in prohibiting the distribution of plastic bags for grocery shopping and have demanded the use of electric vehicles over gas-powered vehicles. Studies show a 10 percent decrease in plastic bag disposal. There has been an imbalance with clear skies and polluted skies throughout the years, with 2013 being the worst. It was the highest coal production creating the most nitrogen dioxide levels the country has ever seen. The issue as seen in these studies is that as soon as China’s economy recovers, they result back to industrial production.

Like many societies, the poor population are the ones heavily affected. 600 million people use wood and coal for stove cooking, however more people are concerned of industrial pollution, but don’t realize that burning wood and coal itself constitute the same dangers. More people in rural, poor areas spend most of their time indoors where the pollution is produced. The people who suffer even more are the ones who live in what they call ‘cancer villages.” A cancer village is a small community that settles near pollution-producing factories where cancer rates have soared far above the national average.

The negative impact of these pollutants is evident in global climate change, in the environment of China, and in the health of people in China. As we’ve seen and heard on the news, ocean levels are rising, animals are migrating to new territory or going extinct, trees are flowering sooner, fewer and fewer ice in Antarctica - home to many species of animals.

China’s primary issue is their failure to recognize their growing economy and implement environmental laws. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, outdoor pollution accounted for 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010. One type of air pollution in China is known as Particulate Matter (PM), microscopic solid or liquid droplets that suspend into the air. Inhalation can cause serious heart or lung disease. PM10, is less than 10 microns in diameter and it can come from coal combustion and diesel engines. Another type, PM2.5 can come from coal-fired power plants and motor vehicles. It contains soot, NO2, and SO2 and is less than 2.5 microns in diameter (Greenpeace East Asia), way deadlier than PM10. Emily Rauhala, Associate Editor at the Hong Kong TIME, reports that, even with “Lung-cancer rates jumping 60% in a period of 10 years,” China has only announced a new blueprint for cleaning the pollution and no other actions have been made (Rauhala).

03 December 2019
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