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Sunday, December 29, 2013

China's air pollution could affect America's West Coast


December 29, 2013

 China's air pollution could affect America's West Coast

The New York Times reports that the air pollution, originating in China, can affect the air quality in Korea, Japan and even the United States.

According to the new research quoted by the NYT, fin-particle pollutants from China have been found in other countries and, depending on the city, between 40 percent and 60 percent of pollution found in Japan originated in China. It is estimated that China's emissions also contribute to ozone layer depletion in the neighboring countries.

Although the distance between the US and China acts as a form of protection, the people living on the West Coast can still be exposed to pollutants coming from China with the transpacific air currents. The risk of exposure grows with altitude of the residence, but it is still quite small. Scientists are concerned that the problem will become more serious in the future and therefore it should be tackled now, before it becomes a major ecologic threat.

China is the world biggest market for coal, relies on coal-fired power plants for most of its growing energy production and has very lax environmental standards. Attempts at imposing higher standards have been met with fierce resistance, because higher environmental costs will have a negative influence on the country's economy that needs to grow at least 7 percent per year in order to maintain social stability. Paul Harris, the chair professor of global and environmental studies at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, told the New York Times in an email that other countries have very limited possibilities in regard to changing the pollution situation in China.

One of the options would be to pay China for upgrading its environmental standards, but most Americans would reject such a solution. Threatening China is useless, while starting a "commercial war" with China may be dangerous for the US economy. Sadly, the only viable option is to wait until the levels of pollution in mainland China become highly uncomfortable forcing Beijing to enact tougher environmental regulations for the good of the Chinese citizens.