Friday, August 8, 2008

Beijing haze

beijing birdsnest stadium in smogBeijing Olympics organisers have denied manipulating pollution statistics as thick smog worsens in the Chinese capital during the lead up to the opening ceremony. Climate change sceptics may quibble as much as they like, images like this one of the birdsnest stadium in Beijing are surely evidence enough for anyone that the environment is in a great deal of trouble.

While humidity has undoubtedly played a part in the recent build up of smog, air pollution levels have been more than twice the level considered acceptable. According to World Bank statistics, outdoor air pollution in China causes 350,000 to 400,000 premature deaths each year. (The World Bank also reports that 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China.) For a lifelong Beijing resident, to look at a building whose edges are blunted by smog is, in effect, to consider your own mortality. China and India, the only two countries to have a population greater than 1 billion, together possess more than a third of the world's population. China is now the world's biggest carbon emitter ahead of the US. Considering the booming economic growth of these countries, levels of pollution are hardly likely to decrease any time soon. Whether climate change is real or not, the fact remains that we are poisoning the planet at an alarming rate.

Climate change sceptics seem very reluctant to acknowledge their own scepticism. They are aware that considerable numbers of people are very concerned about damage to the environment. Environmentally sceptical politicians are all too aware that scepticism has become electoral poison and now couch their inaction and stalling tactics in terms such as 'getting things economically right'. John Howard described himself as a 'climate change realist' and didn't fare too well. In the longer term, no one will profit from a poisoned planet. People are now accepting that short term sacrifices are the price we must pay for future survival.

I doubt too many athletes are looking forward to competing in the Beijing haze. The whole world might soon be competing to catch a breath as it engulfs the planet.

8 comments:

iWalk said...

Tell you the truth, I never see a photo of birdsnest stadium with clear air. Even the background images which Olympic Channel of CCTV is using now.

Pollution is a very big problem, But their only standard is GDP and polity.

I have worked as a personal volunteer at disaster area of 512 magnitude-8.0 earthquake for two months, I believe the environment destroy is at least a part of reason of this disaster.

Liam said...

It's very interesting to hear from someone who actually works in this part of the world. The earthquake was such a tragedy and it's wonderful that you volunteered to help.

Pollution and environmental destruction seem set to be the next tragedy.

Learn2Flash said...

True the pollution in Beijing is very bad right now but compared with the air pollution leve now and back then when they promised they will make changes to the poluttion levels, you will have to admit that it has gone down a massive amount. They have shut down companies and industries as well as limiting transport to improve the pollution levels.

Liam said...

You're right; the Chinese have made an effort to reduce pollution. It was part of the deal in getting the Olympics. They seem to be doing it to make things look ok while the eyes of the world are on them. Will they continue to reduce levels when the games are over?

Learn2Flash said...

Well we all can't be sure if China will continue to reduce their pollution level once the olympics is over but you'll have to take account that China is a developing country and right now it needs to expand it's industries so that at least it will improve the status of those people still living in poverty in CHina

Liam said...

That's true; developing countries like China and India do need to expand industry to improve quality of life. They can easily use the argument that the west has polluted with impunity for the last century and now tell them they must not pollute as they industrialise.

The west has taken much from countries like these in the past, it must now take responsibility as they develop. Considering the percentage of the arth's population these counties account for, if effective action is not taken the result will be catastrophic.

Jeff said...

Climate change skeptics... Do they still exist? Even if so, the argument they have used is that climate change occurs naturally and that we humans are not aiding the process.

Geez, do you think they have an agenda?...

Liam said...

Unfortunately, there are still plenty of sceptics. The Herald Sun's Andrew Bolt is a particularly vocal (and bombastic) exponent.

I do think they have an agenda. Ignoring climate change is politically expedient; the short term costs will be painful and unpopular. The problem is that the long term cost of ignoring the environment will be much more painful and costly than anything we can imagine.