China, the world’s second-largest economy, has been struggling over the last 12 months. But a dip in manufacturing activity and volatility in the market are just the tips of the iceberg. The Asian nation is also fighting a war against pollution – a war it’s losing.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that China’s pollution problem is pretty bad, but do you know how bad? Here are 6 things you need to know:
1. Yes, the Pollution Really Is as Bad as You’ve Heard
China’s air quality is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. What’s causing all this pollution? Coal.
Mass industrialization boosts demand for power, and China relies on coal for that power. The country is single-handedly responsible for half the world’s usage of this resource.
It’s estimated that 4,000 people die every day from the pollution. That equates to roughly 17% of the population each year. Those that venture outside without any protection will reduce their life by 20 minutes per hour of exposure.
2. The Air Isn’t the Only Thing That’s Polluted
While China’s air quality is the main topic of conversation, other vital resources are being polluted as well, like the water.
China’s waters and rivers are highly polluted with garbage and chemicals that make their way into local water supplies – all of which are dumped illegally.
The land is becoming polluted as well, with landfills creating mountains of trash. And these tremendous piles of garbage emit large amounts of methane, which further contributes to the air pollution problem.
3. The Pollution is So Bad, It’s Choking the Chinese Economy
Pollution is bad for business. In December 2015, city officials were forced to shut down Beijing after issuing its highest-ever warning for smog.
According to World Bank estimates, China’s pollution problem costs the country 6% (around $11 trillion) of its GDP every year. These include health costs and damages to the country’s natural resources. It’s not uncommon for crops to become ruined due to acid rain.
Tourism has taken a hit because of the country’s extreme pollution, and now, even foreign companies are staying away from the Asian nation. More than half of the firms already in China are struggling to fill executive roles.
4. A Large Percentage of the Pollution is Manufacturing-Related
Reports estimate that 17%-36% of China’s pollution in 2006 was manufacturing-related, and those goods were being exported out of the country. Approximately one-fifth of that pollution was related to trade between the U.S. and China.
About a third of the country’s greenhouse gases are from export-related businesses, says Worldwatch Institute.
5. The Pollution is Becoming a World Problem
China’s pollution doesn’t just stay put – it travels to other neighboring countries. South Korea and Japan have both been impacted by noxious clouds from China. That pollution is also making its way back to the U.S., hitting the West coast and affecting the air quality there.
6. China’s Economy is Making a Shift, Which Will Impact World Industry
With China’s economy and manufacturing activity showing signs of slowing, experts say the country will be making a shift toward a more service-based economy. The shift will naturally lower emissions. China’s service economy is quickly outgrowing the manufacturing sector.