Various countries, including the United States, have been choking under China’s air pollution which is circling the globe. While China has steadily diminished the health of its own people with a disastrous priority on production at any cost, it is now affecting not just the pollution levels of other countries but, according to a new report, weather in the United States. New data released on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that Chinese pollution is altering weather patterns in North America and causing the recently intense weather patterns from cyclones, heavy rains, and other erratic weather events.
The computer models tracked the interaction of clouds and fine airborne particles known as aerosols. Much of this pollution came from Chinese vehicles and coal-fired power plants. While the authoritarian government is just now moving to make the environment “a priority,” it has stood by and watched its people die from soaring environmental related illness for decades.
While the government insists that it is now going green, I have my doubts. Over a decade ago, I participated in a conference on those environmental hazards in Beijing. While Chinese academics were well aware and alarmed by the statistics, I found the government officials to be dismissive and adamant that they only cared about production and economic growth. With China showing the lowest growth in years, the Chinese politburo is facing unrest over both jobs and pollution. I have always viewed China as an economic house of cards. People are forced to retire around 50 in the country. This means a huge population of pensioners sustained by the government. When production falls, the costs can skyrocket. With the increased pollution, medical costs skyrocket. The result could be very destabilizing for the regime — as well as the increasingly jarring appearance of the class of super-rich within the self-described Communist nation.
In the meantime, little has changed. China continues to arrest environmental activists and dissidents. This week, a court threw out a lawsuit from residents in Lanzhou who sought to recover for damages caused by the release of the carcinogenic chemical benzene were detected into the water supply. In my paper published in China ten years ago, I argued that such private lawsuits would be essential for China in deterring environmental abuses. [“Siren Zong Jianchaguan Zai Huanjing Fa Zhixing Guocheng Zhong de Zuoyong” (The Role of the Private Attorney General in the Enforcement of Environmental Law) Chinese publication 2009.]
The effect of Chinese pollution on the United States foreshadows potential international conflicts as the regime’s ruinous policies begin to impact other nations — causing killer storm and both economic and infrastructure damage. This is a new externality being shifted to other nations as China cashes in on high production industries. Moreover, for cities (particularly in California) to meet ambient air quality standards, they may have to tighten controls on U.S. companies even further to address Chinese pollution. Ironically, that could lead to a downward spiral as companies move to avoid the tighter abatement costs to countries like China that then increase the pollution moving over to the United States — leading to tighter controls and so on and so forth.