Saturday, September 20, 2014

China: extent of pollution and policies to address the problem

An article in the The New York Times a few days ago presents the acute pollution related problems China faces as well as the responses that the Chinese government has started to adopt.

'Why this budding environmental consciousness now? The answer is simple: 2013 was, by any accounting, one horrific year for the environment....'

...In March 2013 pig carcasses came bobbing up and down the Huangpu River, a major source of Shanghai’s drinking water...

... In 2013 the Beijing government acknowledged what environmentalists had long suspected: some villages in the countryside had become so-called cancer villages, communities where cancer cases “cluster” and far exceed the norm. These villages are usually just downstream from an industrial plant that discharges hazardous waste into rivers that villagers use to drink and to irrigate their crops.

...People living in northern China were informed by a team of American, Chinese and Israeli researchers that they should expect to live much shorter lives — a full 5.5 years shorter — than their countrymen to the south. The reason: Heavier coal dependency in the north makes the air they breathe that much more toxic…
But officials in Beijing have started to respond with a variety of tools/ policies. The article's title is illustrative: China's Environmental Awakening.

The article seems very useful as a source of examples for IB Economics SL and HL paper 1 essays. It relates to several sections/ topics and sub-topics of the syllabus, such as:

  • Explain, using diagrams and examples, the concepts of negative externalities of   production, and the welfare loss associated with the production of a good.
  • Evaluate, using diagrams, the use of policy responses, including market-based policies (taxation and tradable permits), and government regulations, to the problem of negative externalities of production.
  • Discuss, using negative externalities diagrams, the view that economic activity requiring the use of fossil fuels to satisfy demand poses a threat to sustainability
  • Evaluate, using diagrams, possible government responses to threats to sustainability, including legislation, carbon taxes, cap and trade schemes, and funding for clean technologies.
  • Explain the meaning and significance of “green GDP”, a measure of GDP that accounts for environmental destruction.
  • Discuss the possible consequences of economic growth, including the possible impacts on living standards and sustainability.
Seems both interesting and useful!

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