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Archive for the ‘air’ Category

China covers up pollution deaths

Posted by Author on July 5, 2007


Mary-Anne Toy, Beijing, TheAge, Australia, July 5, 2007-

THE World Bank has reluctantly censored a report revealing that pollution-related diseases kill 750,000 people in China every year.

The bank acted under pressure from Chinese officials who feared the revelation would provoke “social unrest”.

Almost a third of the report, Cost of Pollution in China, produced in co-operation with several Chinese government ministries, was cut out, including a map showing where the deaths were concentrated.

China’s State Environment Protection Agency and the Health Ministry asked the World Bank to cut the calculations of premature deaths from the report, along with the map, when a draft was completed at the end of last year, London’s Financial Times reported, citing World Bank advisers and Chinese officials.

The environment agency’s role in the censoring is unusual given that it has aggressively used media exposure to campaign for public and political support for tougher action on pollution.

“The World Bank was told that it could not publish this information. It was too sensitive and could cause social unrest,” an adviser to the study told the Financial Times.

The report has yet to be officially launched, but the version omitting the most sensitive sections was released at a conference in Beijing in March. Chinese officials at the conference, however, mentioned the 750,000 premature deaths figure in their presentations, even after they had insisted on that data being removed.

The World Bank has previously reported that 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities were in China, with estimates of the number of deaths from pollution there around 400,000.

The new World Bank study found the figure is almost double that, with most deaths caused by air pollution in large cities. Indoor air pollution, mainly from fumes from coal-burning stoves and cooking oil, were responsible for about 300,000 premature deaths.

About 60,000 premature deaths were attributed to diarrhoea and cancers caused by polluted water, mainly in rural areas.

The published conference version of the report says the health costs of air and water pollution in China amount to about 4.3 per cent of its GDP.

“China’s poor are disproportionately affected by the environmental health burden,” it says, “and only six provinces bear 50 per cent of the effects of acid rain in the country.”

Yesterday, the World Bank’s Beijing office said it was negotiating with Chinese authorities on a final version of the report. “This is a joint research project with the Government and the findings on the economic costs of pollution are still under review,” it said. “The final report, due out soon, will be a series of papers arising from all the research on the issue.”

Responding to rising public anger about polluted waterways, soil and air, the legacy of often uncontrolled economic growth and international concern about global warming, Beijing has elevated environmental issues as a priority.

China launched its first national action plan for global warming this year. Although it was criticised for not going far enough and rejecting mandatory emission caps, the priority for the Government is to maintain economic growth to ensure social stability.

With fewer than 400 days to go to the 2008 Olympics, Beijing has just had its worst June since 2000, with 15 days of poor air quality last month. The International Olympic Committee said this week that Beijing authorities would withdraw a million cars from streets next month in a trial run to slash the city’s notorious smog.

original report from theage.com.au

Posted in air, Asia, censorship, China, Environment, Health, Life, News, Politics, Social, Speech, water, World | Comments Off on China covers up pollution deaths

Too sensitive to publish: 750,000 a year killed by pollution in China

Posted by Author on July 3, 2007


By Richard McGregor in Beijing, Financial Times, UK, July 2 2007-

Beijing engineered the removal of nearly a third of a World Bank report on pollution in China because of concerns that findings on premature deaths could provoke “social unrest”.

The report, produced in co-operation with Chinese government ministries over several years, found about 750,000 people die prematurely in China each year, mainly from air pollution in large cities.

China’s State Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) and health ministry asked the World Bank to cut the calculations of premature deaths from the report when a draft was finished last year, according to Bank advisers and Chinese officials.

Advisers to the research team said ministries told them this information, including a detailed map showing which parts of the country suffered the most deaths, was too sensitive.

“The World Bank was told that it could not publish this information. It was too sensitive and could cause social unrest,” one adviser to the study told the Financial Times.

Sixteen of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China, according to previous World Bank research.

Guo Xiaomin, a retired Sepa official who co-ordinated the Chinese research team, said some material was omitted from the pollution report because of concerns that the methodology was unreliable. But he also said such information on premature deaths “could cause misunderstanding”.

“We did not announce these figures. We did not want to make this report too thick,” he said in an interview.

The pared-down report, “Cost of Pollution in China”, has yet to be officially launched but a version, which can be downloaded from the internet was released at a conference in Beijing in March.

Missing from this report are the research project’s findings that high air-pollution levels in Chinese cities is leading to the premature deaths of 350,000-400,000 people each year. A further 300,000 people die prematurely each year from exposure to poor air indoors, according to advisers, but little discussion of this issue survived in the report because it was outside the ambit of the Chinese ministries which sponsored the research.

Another 60,000-odd premature deaths were attributable to poor-quality water, largely in the countryside, from severe diarrhoea, and stomach, liver and bladder cancers.

The mortality information was “reluctantly” excised by the World Bank from the published report, according to advisers to the research project.

Sepa and the health ministry declined to comment. The World Bank said that the findings of the report were still being discussed with the government.

A spokesperson said: “The conference version of the report did not include some of the issues still under discussion.” She said the findings of the report were due to be released as a series of papers soon.

– original report from Financial Times: 750,000 a year killed by Chinese pollution

Posted in air, Asia, censorship, China, City resident, Environment, Health, Life, News, People, Politics, pollution, Report, Rural, Social, Speech, water, World | 1 Comment »

China Overtakes US As World’s Biggest Air Polluter

Posted by Author on June 19, 2007


AFP, published on Independent Online, South Africa, June 19 2007-

China for the first time spewed out more carbon-dioxide emissions last year than the United States, a Dutch government research body said on Tuesday.

“China’s 2006 carbon dioxide emissions surpassed those of the USA by eight percent,” the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP) said.

In 2005 US emissions were up two percent compared to China. The MNP said the figures were based on its own preliminary estimates derived from recent energy and cement production data.

Industrial processes and the burning of fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – are the main causes of carbon-dioxide emissions. Of the industrial processes, cement production is one of the principal sources of greenhouse gas, the MNP said. In 2006 China had a 44 percent share in global cement production, it added.

According to the MNP figures, China’s emissions increased by nine percent in 2006 compared to its 2005 output. In the United States emissions rose 1.4 percent from 2005 to 2006. – AFP

– original report from  Independent Online: China beats US at pollution

Posted in air, Asia, China, Climate, Economy, Environment, News, pollution, USA, World | Comments Off on China Overtakes US As World’s Biggest Air Polluter

Air, Land, River Pollution and Social Unrest in China

Posted by Author on June 19, 2007


By John Boudreau, San Jose Mercury News, USA, 17 Jun 2007-

BEIJING – A pale orange sun hangs low over the evening rush hour, a brake-light procession of Mercedes, matchbox-size taxis and accordion-style buses that cuts through a canyon of skyscraper construction cranes.

On this spring evening, as on most days, this city of 15 million souls is wrapped in a churning brown gauze of foul fumes and gritty dirt.

“It’s a pretty strong cocktail of dust particulates, industrial and automotive pollution,” observed Jeremy Goldkorn, a 12-year Beijing resident and Internet entrepreneur. “It’s something a lot of expatriates, especially people from Northern California, find very difficult. You blow your nose and what comes out is black.”

For China, the 21st century holds boundless possibilities. The awakening economic giant could surpass anything that has come before it. But China is also an environmental time bomb.

Its polluted air is not only choking its citizens but also spreading 6,000 miles across the Pacific, giving Californians – even those with no other ties to China – a personal stake in that country’s exploding environmental crisis.

Microscopic soot particles belched from coal-fired plants across the ocean are settling in Sierra Nevada snowpacks. Low levels of mercury from those plants are showing up in soil and water. And dust from expanding deserts in China and elsewhere in Asia can be found in the air high above the state.

Pollution migration is not new – Europeans, for example, get it from the United States. And the current levels of pollutants from Asia do not pose an urgent health or environmental threat. But experts worry about the potential increase of emissions from China as the world’s fastest-growing economy continues to expand. At the very least, pollution from China will add to the cost and difficulty of cleaning up California’s skies.

For decades, the United States has been the world’s largest polluter, taken to task by other countries for its contribution to global warming. This year, however, China’s annual emissions are on pace to overtake those of the United States. Worse, China’s pollution is projected to be double that of all other industrialized nations combined in 25 years, according to the International Energy Agency.

“The concern about China is that it is going through such a rapid industrialization,” said V. Ramanathan, a scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. “It is setting up more coal-fired power plants. The number of cars are increasing.”

Hooked on coal: Plants and factories inadequately equipped

Twenty of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in China, and every year more than 300,000 deaths there are attributed to pollution, according to the World Bank.

Much of that pollution comes from the coal-fired plants that produce about 70 percent of China’s energy needs, compared with 50 percent for the United States and 16 percent for California.

But the problem in China is not just the amount of coal burned. Many of its plants and factories have inadequate pollution-control equipment, if any, and that is unlikely to change in coming years. Rising levels of sulfur dioxide from burning coal is causing acid rain.

Foul air is just one ingredient in the toxic stew that is China’s environment. Seventy percent of the country’s lakes and rivers are so polluted they would make humans sick. Every year, about 45 billion tons of industrial waste and raw sewage are dumped in rivers and lakes.

In late 2005, a chemical plant spill contaminated the Songhua River in northern China, forcing the city of Harbin to shut down its drinking water system. Earlier this month, more than a million residents of eastern China were left without drinking water when a fast-spreading, putrid-smelling green algae covered badly polluted Lake Tai.

The northern half of China is “drying out” as water tables fall, lakes vanish and rivers disappear, observed environmental analyst Lester Brown, founder of Washington-based Earth Policy Institute. Much of the water in the southern half of China, meanwhile, is growing ever more polluted.

The land also suffers.

The government recently reported that 10 percent of farmland has been destroyed by pollution and that heavy metals contaminate 12 million tons of grain a year. Toxic food scares have become common in China, and increasingly are a worry in the United States as food imports from China grow.

Rampant deforestation is expanding the country’s deserts and contributing to disruptive spring sandstorms so big they have shown up on NASA satellite photos as giant blobs of brown passing over Asia and California. About 27 percent of China’s land mass is now desert, or becoming desert.

The Gobi Desert in northern China expanded more than 20,000 square miles, about half the size of Pennsylvania, in just six years in the 1990s, Brown noted.

China also has become the electronic-waste garbage dump for the world. A recent report by the Beijing-based Science and Technology Daily, the official newspaper of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said most of the home electronics gadgets discarded by the developed world end up in China.

“The question of the century is: Can China industrialize in a way that does not crush the planet?” said Erik Straser, general partner in MDV-Mohr Davidow Ventures of Menlo Park and an expert in energy company investments who has consulted with Chinese officials.

China’s leaders finally have begun to wake up to the toll from the country’s environmental problems. The State Environmental Protection Administration and the National Bureau of Statistics estimated that environmental degradation, pollution-related health problems and lost work days in 2004 came with a $64 billion price tag, or 3.05 percent of the country’s $2 trillion gross domestic product that year. Some experts believe the cost is much higher.

Earlier this month, with pressure building to put a green face on Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, China announced a strategy to grapple with global warming and pollution, though much of it reiterated earlier goals. The plan included tough measures to cut pollution and promote renewable energy. But the government rejected mandatory emissions caps as unfair to China and other developing countries struggling to combat poverty.

“The environment is very, very much an issue,” said Lai Ming, general director of science and technology with the Ministry of Construction. “If we don’t deal with it now, it will definitely hurt the economy in the future.”

Fight against poverty: Balancing economic, environmental needs

But the challenges are daunting. The nation of 1.3 billion people, most of whom live in poverty, must continue to stoke its economic engine while working to avoid environmental disaster.

“Over the last 20 years, people just focused on GDP, GDP,” said Beijing-based Timothy Hui, chief China representative of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S. environmental advocacy group. “Now, China is looking at its economic growth and environment. But China has no experience at achieving this balance.”

Now, though, mounting evidence suggests China’s pollution poses problems beyond its own borders.

“It’s apparent there is a lot of pollution coming from Asia and that pollution is increasing,” said Steven Cliff, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California-Davis, whose research has detected matter he believes comes from China.

“A persistent Asian plume is evident in the air over California,” said Cliff, whose air-sampling equipment has been placed at Donner Summit, Lassen Peak and Mount Tamalpais. “It looks vaguely smoky. Generally, you see the type of pollution you might expect from large urban areas in Asia, that might be from a diesel engine or a coal-fired power plant for a cement factory.”

Much of the year, Asian pollution – including soot, ash and dust from farms, factories and coal-fired power plants – hovers high above the Golden State and is, on average, equal to a quarter of the state’s legally allowed concentrations of these particles, said Richard “Tony” VanCuren, a researcher with the California Air Resources Board.

China’s pollution drift is “not an immediate major concern” in terms of public health for the state’s major cities, he said, because California’s coastal areas are protected on most days by the so-called marine layer of air, which acts as a shield against pollution at higher altitudes. But VanCuren said the state is now closely tracking the pollution from Asia because “it will drive up the cost of air pollution control.”

The snow-embedded pollution from China adds to damage already being caused by local pollution, said Ross Edwards, associate research professor at the Desert Research Institute in Reno. “It absorbs sunlight from the atmosphere and melts the snow faster,” he said. “It impacts our ability to store water and contributes to global warming.”

Scripps scientist Ramanathan is embarking on a one-year state-funded study of the trans-Pacific pollution over the Golden State. Using unmanned aircraft and snowpack monitoring devices, he hopes to determine how much pollution is coming from China and what it is doing to local climates.

‘The River Runs Black’: Polluted water sparks protests and riots

Although China’s pollution may be a growing worry for other countries, the brunt of the harm falls on the Chinese.

“One hundred ninety-million Chinese are drinking water that is making them sick,” observed Elizabeth Economy, director of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future.”

Growing health concerns from environmental calamities, such as industrial waste dumped into rivers that provide drinking water to rural communities, have triggered thousands of riots and protests across the countryside.

“It could undermine our social stability,” said Ma Jun, a Beijing-based environmental crusader who heads the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. “The pollution is way beyond our environmental capacity, and it’s increasing,” he added.

Yet China’s growing middle class – estimated to be about 125 million – wants the kind of lifestyle enjoyed by those in the car-loving West. That is evident on Beijing’s wide streets and in auto dealerships that dot the city. China is now the world’s second-largest market for automobiles, and the third-largest car producer.

Every year, about 300,000 new vehicles hit Beijing’s streets, adding to the nearly 3 million already crowding the city.

“Money is no problem,” said car shopper Zhang Qiang, 23, who had grown tired of his 1-year-old Buick and was ready for a new set of wheels.

Chinese such as Zhang want to live like middle-class Americans, said Douglas Ogden, director of the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation’s China Sustainable Energy Program. But he warned that if China reaches current American levels of consumption, it will be disastrous for the planet.

“If each Chinese were to consume the same amount of energy as the average American does, China would be adding 150 percent more carbon dioxides into the atmosphere than does the rest of the world,” he said. “The clock is ticking. We are getting to five minutes before midnight.”

Contact John Boudreau at jboudreau@mercurynews.com or (408) 278-3496

– original report from San Jose Mercury News: Shadow over China’s boom – ECONOMIC PROGRESS COMES WITH A PRICE

Posted in air, Asia, Beijing, China, Climate, Economy, Environment, Food, Health, Life, medical, News, Report, River, Social, water, World | 4 Comments »

1000 Unlicensed “black” Mines in 1 Province: China Shanxi

Posted by Author on June 13, 2007


Jin Ying, reporter from Democracy and Legal Times (Minzhu yu Fazhi Shibao), translated and edited by China Labour Bulletin, Hong Kong-

THE northern province of Shanxi is the centre of China’s ever expanding coal industry, and deep in the very heart of Shanxi are the mountainous rural county of Fenxi and the smoke enveloped city of Linfen, officially the most polluted place in China.

Air, land and water pollution are so bad in Fenxi and Linfen that local clinics have seen a dramatic rise in cases of bronchitis, pneumonia and lung cancer over the last decade. And with the privatisation of China’s health system, this has placed an intolerable financial as well as medical burden on the region’s already impoverished population. Very often the only way the people of Fenxi and Linfen can pay their family medical bills is by working in the very industry responsible for the environmental degradation and pollution all around them. With an ample supply of labour, the county has seen a rapid growth in the coal mining industry, especially small unlicensed mines producing poor quality, highly polluting coal in hazardous and all too often life-threatening conditions. There are nearly a thousand unlicensed mines in Fenxi, which, despite numerous clampdowns, continue to operate covertly with the connivance of local officials.

In April, 2007, Jin Ying, a reporter from Democracy and Legal Times (Minzhu yu Fazhi Shibao), investigated the operation of illegal mines in Fenxi, known locally as “black mines,” and exposed an elaborate network of official corruption and collusion that creates lethal working conditions for miners.

His report, translated and edited here, is important not only because of the story about the mining industry it tells but because it demonstrates the determination of many journalists in China today to report the ugly truth, even at considerable risk to their own safety.

Shanxi Province’s 1,000 unlicensed mines:
Owners collude with officials over “black” pits

There are nearly a thousand unlicensed coal mines operating in Fenxi County. These “black” pits are the result of years of unbridled expansion, defying repeated banning orders, with new mines opening after every batch of closures.

One of the many local labourers attracted to this illegal industry was named Liu Wei. In mid-March this year, Liu was working in a “black” pit in Fenxi County‘s Dianping village. He was crushed to death when the underground roof of the mineshaft he was working in collapsed.

Because he was working in a “black” pit, Liu’s death was completely ignored by officialdom until Liu’s brother, in desperation, turned to the legal support centre of the Judicial Bureau of Ziyang County. From late March to early April, Yang Pei of the legal support centre repeatedly took members of Liu’s family to Dianping village to seek a settlement.

Finally, with three mine accidents in Linfen this March alone, and a province-wide campaign underway to clean up local mining and end unsafe and uncontrolled extraction, local officials and police launched an investigation. After many setbacks and delays, on April 10, Liu’s family were paid RMB 250,000 in compensation.

In Fenxi County, the local view is that Liu was lucky: his death generated a hefty compensation payment. With nearly 1,000 “black” mines in the area, they say there is no way of knowing who might have died underground, adding that many accident victims get no compensation at all.

In the town of Heping, a former “black” mine boss, who we shall call Yiming (One Light) told Democracy and Legal Times; “Believe it or not, we have over a hundred black mines in this one town here, and the whole county has a thousand. I heard personally from Deputy Mayor Ma, that Heping has altogether 167 unauthorised mines. In fact, it’s a lot more than that. My understanding is that the real number is at least 200.” ( …… for more details click here)

Posted in air, Businessman, Central China, China, Company, corruption, Economy, Environment, Law, Life, mine accident, News, Official, People, Report, Rural, Social, water, Worker | 1 Comment »

2/3 of China Cities’ Water, Air Polluted

Posted by Author on June 12, 2007


Reuters, Mon Jun 11, 2007-

BEIJING (Reuters) – Nearly two-thirds of Chinese cities suffered from air pollution last year and had no centralized sewage treatment facilities, state media reported on Tuesday.

Only 37.6 percent of 585 cities surveyed had air quality “indicating a clean and healthy environment,” down 7.3 percentage points from 2005, the China Daily said, citing a report by the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

Thirty-nine cities, many scattered across the northern coal-rich province of Shanxi and China’s northeastern rustbelt province of Liaoning, suffered “severe” air pollution, the paper said.

“The report also found that the ratio of quality water in the major urban areas, either for drinking or industrial use, had dropped by 7.24 percent,” the paper said.

Two hundred cities had no “centralized sewage management system” and 187 had no garbage disposal plants, it said.

The government planned to have at least 70 percent of sewage and at least 60 percent of garbage treated effectively by 2010, but “the environment issue remains of serious concern and there is difficulty realizing the goal,” the paper quoted the report as saying.

The report comes as the capital Beijing on Tuesday was shrouded in thick smog, which local media said was exacerbated by smoke blown into the city from crop burning in neighboring provinces.

On Monday night, an index measuring air pollution from Beijing’s southern Daxing county read over 850 particles of “particulate matter” per square meter, which was eight times the norm, the Beijing News said.

original report from  Reuters

Posted in air, China, Environment, Health, Life, News, water | Comments Off on 2/3 of China Cities’ Water, Air Polluted

China About To Become Top Carbon Emitter

Posted by Author on April 21, 2007


The Financial Times, April 19 2007-

China will overtake the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) either this year or next, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.

The estimate is much firmer than the IEA’s previous forecast, last November, that on current trends China would overtake the United States before 2010.

”Either this year or next year,” IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol told Reuters, in answer to the question of when China would overtake the United States.

The IEA is energy adviser to 26 rich nations and Birol is a key author of the Paris-based agency’s annual World Energy Outlook report.

China is set to become the world’s top carbon emitter just as serious talks start to extend the U.N.-sponsored Kyoto Protocol on global warming beyond 2012, potentially heaping pressure on Beijing to take more action on climate change.

A copy of a so-far unpublished Chinese government global warming report, seen by Reuters, rejects binding caps on carbon emissions until the country’s modernisation, by the middle of this century, opting instead to brake emissions growth.

The United States, which pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, would not join a new climate change regime unless it also applied to China and India, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union said on Wednesday.

”There will be no comprehensive global warming legislation coming out of the United States… that does not include limits or a programme for China, India and the rest of the developing world,” Ambassador C. Boyden Gray told Reuters in an interview ahead of an April 30 U.S.-EU summit.

Few Western climate negotiators expect China to accept caps from 2013 but do want to see a timeline for that. …… ( more from Financial Times’s report )

Posted in air, China, Climate, Environment, News, pollution, World | Comments Off on China About To Become Top Carbon Emitter

North America Weather Affected by China and India Air Pollution

Posted by Author on March 8, 2007


By Robert Lee Hotz, Los Angeles Times, CA, USA, March 6, 2007-

Asia’s growing air pollution — billowing plumes of soot, smog and wood smoke — is making the Pacific region cloudier and stormier, disrupting winter weather patterns along the West Coast and into the Arctic, researchers reported Monday.

Carried on prevailing winds, the industrial outpouring of dust, sulfur, carbon grit and trace metals from booming Asian economies is having an intercontinental cloud-seeding effect, the researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study is the first large-scale analysis to draw a link between Asian air pollution and the changing Pacific weather patterns.

“The pollution transported from Asia makes storms stronger and deeper and more energetic,” said lead author Renyi Zhang at Texas A&M University. “It is a direct link from large-scale storm systems to [human-produced] pollution.”

Satellite measurements reveal that high-altitude storm clouds over the northern Pacific have increased up to 50% over the last 20 years as new factories, vehicles and power plants in China and India spew growing amounts of microscopic pollutant particles into the air.

The resulting changes have altered how rain droplets form and helped foster the creation of imposing formations over the northern Pacific known as deep convective clouds.

The clouds create powerful updrafts that spawn fiercer thunderstorms and more intense rainfall, particularly during the winter, the researchers said.

Only a decade ago did scientists in the University of California’s Pacific Rim Aerosol Network help discover that the pollution crossing the Pacific from Asia was worse than suspected, with millions of tons of previously undetected contaminants carried on the wind.

In fact, on any spring or summer day, almost a third of the air high over Los Angeles, San Francisco and other California cities can be traced directly to Asia, researchers said.

“More stuff starting up over there means more stuff ending up over here,” said UC Davis atmospheric scientist Steven Cliff.

Usually, dust and industrial pollutants take from five days to two weeks to cross the Pacific to California.

Zhang and his colleagues conducted their three-year study by comparing satellite imagery of the Pacific region taken from 1984 to 1994 with imagery of the same area from 1994 to 2005. The study, funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, found that deep convective clouds had increased between 20% and 50%.

Convective clouds include cumulonimbus clouds, which can be many miles thick with a base near Earth’s surface and a top frequently at an altitude of 33,000 feet or more.

The research team, which included atmospheric scientists from Caltech, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UC San Diego, linked the changing cloud patterns to the increasing pollution through a series of computer studies.

The scientists also examined satellite data from the Atlantic region during the same periods, since pollution from North America follows the prevailing winds to Europe. But they did not find any similar pattern of cloud changes or increase in storm intensity.

The Pacific pollution also may affect other pervasive patterns of air circulation that shape world climate.

“If the trend to intensified storms in this region persists, it will likely have profound implications on climate change,” said Robert McGraw, a senior atmospheric chemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, who was not involved in the study.

Among other consequences, the more energetic Pacific storm track could be carrying warmer air and more black soot farther north into the Canadian Arctic, where it may accelerate the melting of polar ice packs, the researchers said.

The researchers emphasized that it would take much more sustained study to understand the international climate ramifications.

Until recently, most scientists believed that, with its adverse effects on health and plant life, such aerosol pollution was mostly a local problem. If anything, it helped rather than hindered the climate — at least in terms of global warming — by offsetting the heat-trapping effects of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

At low altitudes, the haze of aerosol particles reflects the sun’s energy back into space, cooling Earth’s surface slightly. At the same time, the particles help form brighter low-altitude clouds that also shield the surface from solar heat.

But once these tiny particles reach the upper atmosphere, they generate fierce downpours from super-cooled droplets and ice particles instead of gentle warm showers.

At monitoring sites along the U.S. West Coast, scientists have been detecting pollutants that originated from smokestacks and tailpipes thousands of miles to the west.

Recently, researchers at the University of Washington have captured traces of ozone, carbon monoxide, mercury and particulate matter from Asia at monitoring sites on Mt. Bachelor in Oregon and Cheeka Peak in Washington state.

Cliff and his colleagues have been picking up the telltale chemical signatures of Asian particulates and other pollutants at several monitoring sites north of San Francisco and, during the last year, around Southern California.

The pollutants, however, are suspended at high altitude. It is unclear how much of them reach ground level or what their direct effect on local weather might be.

“The air above Los Angeles is primarily from Asia,” Cliff said. “Presumably that air has Asian pollution incorporated into it.”

original report from  Los Angeles Times

Posted in air, Asia, China, Economy, Environment, News, pollution, Social, World | 2 Comments »

China: People Concerned About Food Safety, Environmental Quality

Posted by Author on January 30, 2007


Worldwatch Institute, DC, USA, Jan. 30, 2007-

Chinese bodies have been put at risk for decades. Twenty years ago, people were afraid to speak out against the government. But today, they are expressing growing concern about the contamination of their food, water, and air.

A recent survey shows that four out of ten Chinese have eaten unsafe food, while eight in ten are worried about food safety. Heavy pollution of soil and water, much of it damaged by extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides, has led to a situation of rising food insecurity.

A week ago, a cell phone message circulated among Beijing citizens claiming that the pork sold in local markets contained a deadly virus. Residents spread the warning quickly to their friends and discouraged them from buying the meat.

As a result, business at Beijing’s pork markets nearly froze in the capital’s chilly winter, with sales plummeting as much as two-thirds. Although the government refuted the rumor, suspicions remain.

This is not the first such scare in Beijing. Several months ago, news came out that the city’s markets were selling “poisonous” rice (moldy rice that can be harmful to health), causing panic among residents.

According to Pan Yue, vice president of China’s State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), some 150 million mu (10 million hectares) of land nationwide is contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins. And across China, villages have piled an estimated 150 million tons of garbage in the open air, posing risks to residents, wildlife, and the local environment.

A new survey released January 15 reflects the rising public concern about food safety and the environment. In it, 86 percent of respondents agree that environmental pollution has had a significant impact on modern life, while 39 percent think the worsening environment has had big effects on themselves and their families.

The survey, titled The Chinese Public’s Awareness of Environmental Protection and Livelihood Index 2006 , was conducted by the China Environmental Culture Exchange Association and led by SEPA’s Pan, who calls it a “weathervane” of public awareness of environmental protection.

The survey also reports that four out of five Chinese are concerned about drinking water quality, and 34 percent have encountered water contamination problems.

Four in ten Chinese have experienced air pollution problems, and 70 percent are not satisfied with the current air quality. Respondents report suffering daily from the increased health burden caused by “dirty” air and noise pollution.

Pan notes that China faces a deteriorating environmental situation, with about 400 million citizens under threat from serious air pollution, and 15 million burdened with respiratory disease as a result. According to cancer experts, 70 percent of the 2 million deaths from cancer each year in China are linked to environmental pollution.

Jianqiang Liu is a senior investigative journalist with China Southern Weekend and a visiting scholar at Peking University.

———-
original report from  Worldwatch Institute

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Airports closed, thousands stranded by China fog

Posted by Author on December 27, 2006


Reuters, Dec. 26, 2006-

BEIJING, Dec 26 (Reuters) – Thousands of passengers across eastern, northern and central China have been stranded after heavy fog closed airports and hundreds of flights were cancelled, state media said on Tuesday.

Highways were also closed and in some cities, such as Lanzhou in the northwest, authorities issued pollution alerts and warned people not to go outside as smog had worsened the situation, Xinhua said.

“In some provinces, people are advised to wear masks as the heavy smog contains pollutants like carbon monoxide,” Xinhua said.

Airports in Nanjing, Hangzhou and Hefei in China’s east and Jinan in the north either closed completely or cancelled most flights, it said, stranding around 20,000 people.

“No flights have taken off since this morning,” an official at Nanjing airport said by telephone, adding he not know when the situation would return to normal.

The fog is expected to dissipate as freezing air from Siberia moves across China, Xinhua said, though temperatures would fall by up to 10 degrees Celcius (50 degrees Fahrenheit)

Two people died in road accidents caused by the poor weather, the official Xinhua news agency said.

original report here

Posted in air, Anhui, Central China, China, East China, Environment, Gansu, Hangzhou, Health, Hefei, Lanzhou, Life, Nanjing, News, North China, People, pollution, Social, travel, Zhejiang | Comments Off on Airports closed, thousands stranded by China fog

China struggles to cap leaking gas well

Posted by Author on December 27, 2006


Reuters, Dec. 25, 2006-

BEIJING, Dec 25 (Reuters) – Chinese authorities struggled on Monday to cap a leaking gas well in the southwestern province of Sichuan that prompted 12,000 people to flee their homes, state media reported.

The leak began on Thursday at the Qingxi Number 1 Gas Well, operated by Sinopec Corp. <0386.HK>, in Sichuan’s Xuanhan county, prompting emergency workeres to set fire to four sites around the well to burn off the gas.

But a first attempt to plug the leak was unsuccessful, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

“About 300 cubic metres of mud was infused into the well in the first capping, but no effect was achieved,” Xinhua quoted He Shenghou, deputy chief of the emergency headquarters at the site, as saying.

There were still 20-30 metre (65-98 foot) flames around the well but tests concluded there were no toxic chemicals in the air and some residents were being allowed to return home, the report said.

Gas leaks are not uncommon in China.

In March, a leak at a well in the southwest forced the emergency evacuation of 15,000 and in July, toxic chlorine gas leaking from a rusting pipe in the northwestern region of Ningxia sent 164 people to hospital.

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Thick fog envelops Beijing, much of north China

Posted by Author on November 20, 2006


Reuters, 20 Nov 2006-

BEIJING, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Heavy fog enveloped the Chinese capital and much of north China on Monday, forcing the closure of highways across an area as large as Britain.

Since the fog started late on Sunday, police have shut down parts of six highways near Beijing and a ring road on the outskirts of the city, Xinhua news agency said.

“Downtown traffic has not been greatly affected,” it added. The foggy conditions were exacerbated by pollutants in Beijing, known for its chronic poor air quality and where coal-fired heating systems compound exhaust from millions of automobiles in the winter months.

The semi-official China News Service said the fog had hit an area of 218,000 square km (84,170 square miles), spanning across seven provinces in the country’s north and east.

Visibility in parts of the provinces of Liaoning, Shandong and Jiangsu had been a mere 200 metres, delaying more than 40 flights at the airport in Liaoning’s capital city Shenyang on Sunday, Xinhua said.

The fog was expected to ease in the capital and in the nearby port city of Tianjin, where airports have maintained normal operations, on Monday evening when a cold front and strong winds are forecast to arrive, it said.

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China’s Pollution and the Threat to Domestic and Regional Stability(3)

Posted by Author on September 11, 2006


By Nathan Nankivell, Japan Focus, January 3, 2006– (cont’d)
China’s environment is edging closer to a condition of crisis with each passing day. Pollution and environmental degradation have already left scars and will continue to create problems as the situation worsens. While it may be possible for China to mitigate the impact of environmental damage through coordinated policies, effective spending, and sound future planning, Beijing is unable or unwilling to prescribe such measures. As an undeniable fact on the ground, it is imperative for prudent policymakers to consider the geostrategic implications of not just a superpower, but of an environmentally-ravaged China as well.

There is little disagreement that China’s environment is a mounting problem for Beijing. The country produces as many sulphur emissions as Tokyo and Los Angeles combined but with only a fraction of the vehicles; China is home to 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities; water pollution affects as much as 70 percent of the country; air pollution is blamed for the premature death of some 400,000 Chinese annually; crop returns are steadily decreasing in quantity and quality because of polluted land and water; and solid waste production is expected to more than double over the next decade, pushing China far ahead of the U.S. as the largest producer (The Economist, August 19, 2004).

While the general accessibility of this information is creating greater awareness, trends indicate that pollution and environmental degradation will worsen. Chinese consumers are expected to purchase hundreds of millions of automobiles, adding to air pollution problems. Despite pledges to put the environment first, national planners still aim to double per capita GDP by 2010 (China Daily, October 20, 2005). Urban populations are expected to continue expanding, leading to the creation of slums and stressing urban sanitation and delivery systems. Steadily richer Chinese will be able to purchase more goods and consume more resources. The nation lacks a powerful national body able to coordinate, monitor, and enforce environmental legislation: the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) is under-staffed, has few resources, and must compete with other bureaucracies for attention. The devolution of decision-making to local levels has placed environmental stewardship in the hands of officials who are more concerned with economic growth than the environment. Finally, the deficiency of capital and the lack of will to promote massive spending on environmental repair necessary to reverse more than two decades of destruction are perhaps most indicative of the fact that environmental restoration will not occur: estimates on the final cost of environmental repair range into the tens of billions of dollars (Canadian Security Intelligence Services Division; The Economist, October 20, 2005). (to be cont’d…)

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Related:
Rising unrest in China(3): Pollution , VOA News

Posted in air, Asia, China, Economy, Environment, Health, Life, People, pollution, Report, Social, Special report, water | Comments Off on China’s Pollution and the Threat to Domestic and Regional Stability(3)

Photo: Thick smog hung over Beijing, China

Posted by Author on September 9, 2006


NASA-

Thick smog hung over Beijing, China, in early November 2005. Weather conditions worsened the concentration of pollutants.

China has one of the world’s fastest growing economies. While economic growth increases income and wealth, the associated increase in environmental pollution from the burning of fossil fuel and biofuel is a rising concern.

One of the gases emitted during incomplete combustion processes is carbon monoxide (CO). CO has a lifetime on the order of weeks and is therefore a well-suited tracer for pollution. This image shows the total CO column density (in molecules per square centimeter) over China averaged for October 27-to November 7, 2005. High CO levels (indicated in red) are detected over large regions in China.

The data were collected by the Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) instrument on board the EOS Terra satellite, which has been retrieving CO concentrations in the troposphere since the beginning of 2000. Missing data due to clouds are color-coded in gray.

Thick smog hung over Beijing, China

Credit

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data provided by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University of Toronto MOPITT Teams.

Metadata

  • Sensor: Terra/MOPITT
  • Start Date: 2005-11-07
  • Event Start: Date 2005-11-04

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