It may seem hard to believe, but China, the country thatused to be one of the world’s leading polluters, now wantsto play a leadership role in cleaning up the environment.For instance, a few years ago, it was estimated thatpollution from fire extinguishers manufactured in one partof China was responsible for a large percentage of thedepletion of the ozone layer. Because the country has somany people, everything it does has a huge impact, so ifChina decides to save the environment, it will have a majoreffect on the world.
Geoffrey Lean writes in the Independent that China hasstopped construction on 22 power plants and dams that wereenvironmentally unsound. In order to decide which projectsto curtail, the Chinese government asked the opinions oftop scientists around the world.
China may have come late to the environmental movement, butenvironmental groups there are now influencing governmentpolicy there in a big way. The Bush government says thatChina’s refusal to join the Kyoto treaty is one of the majorreasons that we won’t sign it, but soon we may no longerhave this excuse. Prime Minister Tony Blair, who just wonelection toa second term, has praised China for taking “a real lead” incombating global warming. One of the biggest projects thatwas stopped was the controversial Three Gorges dam on theYangtse River. As the Chinese quickly trade in theirnon-polluting bicycles for automobiles, we should bethankful they are also becoming concerned about the environment.
Although China’s carbon dioxide emissions (CO2 is one of themain causes of global warming) rose rapidly between 1978 and1996, due to the drastic clean-up measures taken there, theydropped by 17% between 1996 and 2000, at the same time thatthe Chinese economy grew by 36%. During the same period, CO2emissions in the U.S. INCREASED by 5%.
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We’ve had somebad newslately about climate change. But if a huge, self-involvedcountry like China can change, maybe there’s hope that therewill really be aday aftertomorrow.
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