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  • Aug 31, 2014
  • Updated: 6:22pm

Beijing air pollution

The Chinese capital has for many years suffered from serious air pollution. Primary sources of pollutants include exhaust emission from Beijing's more than five million motor vehicles, coal burning in neighbouring regions, dust storms from the north and local construction dust. A particularly severe smog engulfed the city for weeks in early 2013, elevating public awareness to unprecedented levels and prompting the government to roll out emergency measures. 


China’s pollution altering US weather, claim scientists

Computer modelling showed intensification of US-bound Pacific storms, driven by fine aerosols from coal power plants and traffic

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 11:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 6:10pm

China’s air pollution could be intensifying storms over the Pacific ocean and altering weather patterns in north America, according to scientists in the US.

A team from Texas, California and Washington State has found that pollution from Asia, much of which arising in China, is leading to more intense cyclones, increased precipitation and more warm air in the mid-Pacific moving towards the north pole.

According to the team’s findings, which were released earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these changes could ultimately contribute to erratic weather in the US.

The authors used advanced computer models to study interactions between clouds and fine, airborne particles known as aerosols, particularly manmade ones, such as those emitted from vehicles and coal-fired power plants.

“Our work provides, for the first time to the authors’ knowledge, a global multi-scale perspective of the climatic effects of pollution outflows from Asia,” says the study’s abstract.

One effect, the study says, is an “intensification of the Pacific storm track”, a narrow zone over the ocean where some storms which pass over the US begin to gather.

“Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the US,” said Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading.

“The particles in this model are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms."

Watch: A view of Beijing's smog from atop the Forbidden City

China, where much of the landmass is perennially shrouded in a thick layer of noxious smog, is fighting to contain the environmental fallout from 30 years of unchecked growth.

Of 74 Chinese cities monitored by the central government 71 failed to meet air quality standards, the environmental ministry said last month.

China’s top leaders are aware of the extent of the problem. Beijing will soon revise an important piece of legislation and give environmental protection authorities the power to shut polluting factories, punish officials, and restrict industrial development in some areas, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

The changes to the China’s environmental protection law, the first since 1989, will legally enshrine oft-repeated government promises to prioritise environmental protection over economic growth.

Cao Mingde, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the newswire that upholding environmental protection as a fundamental principle was a huge change. “It emphasises that the environment is a priority."

Although the legislation’s fourth draft is nearing completion, it is still short on details, according to the report. China’s legal system is often hostile to pollution-related litigation.

On Monday, a Chinese court rejected a lawsuit by five residents of Lanzhou, a city in the country’s north-west, over an incident last week when dangerous levels of the carcinogenic chemical benzene were detected in the city’s water supply. The residents demanded damages, a public apology and water quality data from the city-owned water company.

According to a local newspaper, the court claimed that under the country’s civil procedure law, the litigants were unqualified to sue; in pollution-related cases only “agencies and organisations” could press charges, and they needed official authorisation to take action.


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This article is now closed to comments

I Gandhi
If China’s pollution is altering US weather, it is indeed a good thing.
I do think there is credence to the claim that China has been exporting goods, and essentially importing pollution as it manufactures for others what they might not want to make themselves given the environmental cost. The science of pollution blowing from one place to another is what it is, but for the US and other countries the impact is far less than if they did a lot of the producing that China is doing for them. For China's part, it is a sovereign country with good environmental laws it has chosen not to enforce to gain market share, among other reasons.This will change. But environmental fixes will not come about by recrimination of China by the US and other countries affected by pollution that blows their way. There are bug shared interests in addition to the individual ones.
You are right up to a point. However, bear in mind that if a lot of the producing that China does now, would be done in Europe and the US, the impact on the environment would be far less because production which is polluting would simply be illegal.
Producing in China and other countries without a proper legal system and no consideration for the environment is cheap, because there manufacturers can do what they like, and they will.
Looking for a possible excuse to invade China?
US pollution is far worse. Why don't the US stop using fossil fuels?


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