The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Saturday, February 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

China's gas mask future is worrisome for us all

Is it already too late for China to clean up its fast-blackening skies?
For all the lip service about green growth, investments in renewable energy and sprawling windmill farms, China's pollution woes are spiraling out of control. The nation's capital is a case in point. Beijing's air, which has exceeded the World Health Organization's healthy limit every day this year, is similar to that in an airport smoking lounge.
The city's leaders closed factories, ordered some cars off the roads and recommended that its 20 million residents stay indoors as much as possible as pollution levels stayed in the range of hazardous for a fifth straight day. Mind you, this isn't a script from some apocalyptic movie churned out by Hollywood. It's the political center of an economy that's poised to surpass the United States's within a couple of decades.
Yet China is literally choking on its economic success. It has reached its environmental limits, and the blind pursuit of gross domestic product isn't possible anymore. If Beijing's air is bad now, consider how China's skies will look when 500 million people own one or more cars. That's on top of factories maximizing profits amid rising labor costs by burning more and more coal. This will lead to more health risks, slower growth, less foreign investment, increased government debt and higher bond yields.
It will lead to deaths, too. The issue is high concentrations of PM2.5, the airborne particulate matter that raises risks for lung and heart diseases. According to estimates by Peking University's School of Public Health, PM2.5 exposure contributed to 8,572 premature deaths in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi'an in 2012.
The problem is political will. China's next president, Xi Jinping, will have his hands plenty full consolidating power, maintaining social stability, improving relations with neighboring governments and dealing with the U.S.'s pivot toward Asia. Amid so many challenges, China's dual needs to reduce emissions and boost domestic demand are in direct conflict as never before. Unless China acts immediately and boldly, it's main growth industry will be gas masks.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.


Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor:

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer:

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor:

Josh O'Connor, Publisher:

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at or 425-339-3472.