Tag Archives: pollution

Stick A Dome On It

3 Feb

Couple Wearing Cute MasksHaving a skyline one can taste, or living in a city where no one can distinguish the smoke from a burning building and human-generated smog, is bad enough. Spending ridiculous amounts of money to sidestep the issue of overuse of coal due to industrialization is so very western.

The biggest ticket item is a huge dome that looks like a cross between the Biosphere and an overgrown wedding tent. Two of them recently went up at the International School of Beijing, one with six tennis courts, another large enough to harbor kids playing soccer and badminton and shooting hoops simultaneously Friday afternoon.

The contraptions are held up with pressure from the system pumping in fresh air. Your ears pop when you go in through one of three revolving doors that maintain a tight air lock.

The anti-pollution dome is the joint creation of a Shenzhen-based manufacturer of outdoor enclosures and a California company, Valencia-based UVDI, that makes air filtration and disinfection systems for hospitals, schools, museums and airports, including the new international terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.

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Mutual De-Carbonizing

29 Dec

There are opportunities in economic crisis, to avert climate change.

Economically, the US and China are mirror images, opposite sides of a massive global imbalance. Americans spend too much and save too little, leaving a $250 billion trade deficit financed by other countries. Much of this credit comes from China, where firms and citizens save too much and consume too little, leaving a surplus of both goods and capital that flows abroad.

This macroeconomic imbalance is reflected in the two countries’ carbon footprints. In the US, more than 70% of CO2 emissions come from consumer-related activities, whether gas-guzzling SUVs or power-hungry McMansions. In China, more than 70% of emissions come from industry. Steel production alone consumes 18% of the country’s energy resources, nearly twice as much as all Chinese households. The chemical industry consumes more energy than all private transportation, and aluminum production rivals the commercial sector in terms of electricity demand.

In terms of brokering a climate deal, this imbalance is good news. It suggests a framework for reducing emissions that respects the development needs of China’s households, addresses US firms’ competitiveness concerns, and adheres to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” embedded in international negotiations.

In recognition of its outsized historic and per capita emissions, the US should agree to economy-wide emissions reductions in line with domestic climate legislation currently being considered. China should be excused of consumer-related obligations for the time being, but assume commitments on industrial production based on the recognition that effectively reducing emissions in these sectors requires coordinated international action.

China’s leaders are already eager to rein in energy- and pollution-intensive industry for reasons of national security, air and water quality, and simple economic efficiency. Production of steel, cement, chemicals, paper, and aluminum alone account for nearly half of China’s energy needs and generate nearly half of the air pollution that claims over 300,000 lives and costs the economy close to $100 billion each year.

Yet these five industries combined employ only 14 million people out of a total labor force of 770 million and fewer people than they did a decade ago. For a country in an employment crisis, investing in energy-intensive industry is a losing strategy. Using climate policy to discipline these industries would help rebalance the economy while taking a bite out of China’s emissions. If China imposes a carbon price for its energy-intensive manufacturing industries, the US won’t need to do so at its border, lowering risks to the international trading system on which both countries rely.

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“Toxic Linfen”

16 Aug

VBS-TV has another of its “guerrilla” reports on Linfen in the Shanxi province of PRC. The series will include 5 installments, and I have embedded the second one of the current four posted. This episode highlights the debilitating health effects of living in the “second” dirtiest city in the world (via TNR’s The Vine: “Journey To The Dirtiest City On Earth“).

But for those seeking good news, it can be found even in China. Linfen is trying to clean up. By the end of this year, the city aims to close 160 of 196 iron foundries, and 57 of 153 coking plants. By replacing small, dirty and dangerous plants with large, cleaner and more carefully regulated facilities, the local government in Linfen plans to drastically reduce emissions. Central heating will be provided by gas instead of coal.

The changes are being driven by business (nobody wants to invest in such a polluted place), bureaucratic self-interest (local officials find it difficult to be promoted) and shifting political priorities.

“We have more power than before,” said Yang Zhaofen, director of Linfen’s environmental bureau. “The mayor says we can sacrifice economic growth in order to improve air quality. That used to be unthinkable.”

There are already small signs of change. Last year, Linfen’s residents breathed 163 days of unhealthy air, 15 days fewer than in 2005. Many factories have already been closed – not a wisp of smoke emerges from their chimneys. Thanks partly to such measures, Linfen lost its bottom spot in China’s latest pollution rankings to the far-flung western city of Urumqi.

Other episodes discuss illegal coal-mining and the destruction of agriculture.

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