The downside of rapid industrialization

by: Ezra Marbach

According to Business Week, China is quickly becoming an ecological wasteland, home to some of the world's most polluted cities. China suffers from rampant water shortages, soil erosion, and acid rain. Most importantly, China's growth is taking a toll on public health. Some key points:

  • China leads the world in
    sulfur-dioxide emissions.
  • China needs
    to diversify from its heavy dependence on coal for energy -- or at
    least encourage investment in cleaner coal-burning technologies now
    common in the West and Japan.
  • China must improve energy efficiency
    across the country. There's huge energy waste, thanks
    to primitive coal-mining techniques, loose building-construction codes,
    and inefficient factories.
  • For every $1 of GDP
    produced, China spends three times the world average on energy.

Why should the Chinese government be concerned?

  • A World Bank
    study estimated that environmental damage costs China some $170 billion
    a year in lost productivity and associated health care.
  • Runaway economic growth with little thought of environmental side
    effects can provoke a societal backlash.
Conclusion: Even as rapid growth continues and living standards rise, one hopes that China doesn't commit ecological suicide along the
way. For if it does, China may be rich, but who will want to live
there?