Monday, November 25, 2013

What Is the Answer to China’s Continuing Air Pollution Problems?

Clearing the Air in China(Chris P. Nielsen and Mun S. Ho, New York Times, October 25, 2013)

 Also discussed here: Clean and Dirty: China’s Energy Binge(New York Times, Oct. 26, 2013)

And here: (37 sec You-Tube video) 

Today we review an OP-ED from the New York Times which assessed China’s progress in the use of renewable energy and on curbing air pollution which, for sulphur dioxide, is “one of the most swiftly effective air pollution policies ever implemented anywhere”. At the same time, however, double digit GNP industrial growth over the last few decades has produced an even greater overall increase in emissions and a deadly level of pollution in cities located near industrial centres, such as Harbin and Beijing. A modest carbon tax ($10/ton) could prevent close to 90,000 premature deaths each year and bring in much needed revenue to further accelerate the use of non-polluting energy sources.  

Electricity from Renewable Sources Ann. Growth (%) (hydro, nuclear, wind, solar) (Brown-US; Red-USA) china-electricity

 Carbon Fuels Consumed (coal, oil, nat. gas)  

Key Quotes:

 “its forceful regulation to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants may be one of the most swiftly effective air pollution policies ever implemented anywhere. Those emissions fell sharply from 2006 to 2010..preventing as many as 74,000 premature deaths from air pollution in 2010."

“Last January, Beijing’s level of fine particles, 2.5 microns in diameter or under and known as PM 2.5, reached at least 20 times the level recommended by the World Health Organization for a 24-hour period.”

“reducing sulfur dioxide emissions can even increase fine particle levels in north China in winter, because it frees another pollutant, ammonia, to react instead with nitric acid to form PM 2.5.”

“its record on carbon dioxide. Those emissions have risen by about 8 percent a year since 2007 and increased from nearly 14 percent of global emissions in 2000 to 27 percent in 2011.”

 “Focusing on one key pollutant from one major industry, as China’s planners did from 2006 to 2010, is beneficial but insufficient, because growth in emissions from other sectors and of other pollutants overwhelms the gains”

“a modest tax on carbon dioxide, starting small and rising to about $10 per ton in 2020, could sharply lower the growth of emissions with little effect on G.D.P. growth and consumption over the long run. In the short run, some energy-intensive industries and segments of the population would incur losses, but the tax revenues offer a source for compensating them during an adjustment period.”

 “the same tax would prevent as many as 89,000 premature deaths a year from pollution by 2020, and even improve crop productivity. A larger tax, of course, would bring greater benefits.”
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