By Steven Kennett, January 24, 2014
A study by UC Irvine is the first to quantify how much of the pollution reaching the West coast of the US is from the production in China of consumer goods that end up being imported there.
Los Angeles experiences at least one extra day a year of smog that exceeds federal ozone limits because of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide emitted by Chinese factories making goods for export, according to the analysis found. On other days, as much as a quarter of the sulfate pollution on the US West Coast is tied to Chinese exports.
“We’ve outsourced our manufacturing and much of our pollution, but some of it is blowing back across the Pacific to haunt us,” said UC Irvine Earth system scientist Steve Davis. “Given the complaints about how Chinese pollution is corrupting other countries’ air, this paper shows that there may be plenty of blame to go around.”
However, China is not responsible for the majority of pollution in the US. But powerful global winds, known as ‘westerlies’, are pushing airborne chemicals across the ocean, causing dangerous spikes in contaminants, with dust, ozone and carbon accumulating in valleys and basins in California and other Western states.
“When you buy a product at Wal-Mart, it has to be manufactured somewhere,” added Davis. “The product doesn’t contain the pollution, but creating it caused the pollution.”
He and his fellow researchers conclude: “International cooperation to reduce transboundary transport of air pollution must confront the question of who is responsible for emissions in one country during production of goods to support consumption in another.”
- Also of interest
- China’s carbon emissions: A global dilemma