China’s Failure to Comply with Environmental Laws Contributes to Dangerous Air Pollution Levels

On Saturday, China’s air pollution levels were at a dangerous high for the second straight day, making it the worst air quality report in Beijing since the municipal government began to track the level of airborne particles in 2008. These hazardous levels are predicted to continue until Tuesday.

China is notorious for its air pollution problems. These problems are greater in areas that are highly populated like Beijing because of the country’s rapid pace of industrialization, reliance on coal power, growth in car ownership and disregard for environmental laws.

The air pollution in Beijing is monitored by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center who reported on Saturday that the level of PM 2.5 particles, which are tiny particles considered the most harmful to one’s health, reached 700 micrograms per cubic meter. In order to get a better idea as to how dangerous this level is, the air quality is considered good when the index level is at 50 or below and considered hazardous at a level between 301 and 500. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing also monitors the air quality level and reported a reading of 755 on Saturday. These authorities believe that the foggy conditions and lack of wind have contributed to this high concentration of air pollutants.

Authorities have warned citizens to stay indoors as much as possible, especially those who suffer from respiratory problems, in order to protect themselves from the smog. Such smog levels may also cause problems and delays for public transportation and flights out of China. Meteorologists report that a weather pattern Wednesday will cross over China bringing wind which will hopefully improve the air quality levels.

It seems as if the environmental laws in China are collectively being disregarded by the manufacturing industries or that these laws do not effectively stop those from breaking the law. What do you believe needs to be done in China to improve its air quality? What do you believe will happen if this environmental problem continues?




  1. The enforcement of laws and regulations in China seems to be a large problem, environmental or otherwise. For example, China’s copyright laws have been similar to ours for quite some time, and yet piracy in China, although declining, is still legendary. China needs to enforce the laws that they pass and hold corporations accountable. If nobody enforces the law, why follow it?
    It is frightening that China has allowed its air to become so toxic that they have to warn citizens with certain conditions to remain indoors. If this were the United States, there would be a class action lawsuit. If China wants to remain a major player in the world economy, these are things they need to address before they cause the country’s own economy to implode. Putting aside the humanitarian notion that poisoning your own citizens is bad, they should want to keep the residents of their major cities healthy so that they can keep working. The situation is abysmal and I hope the Chinese government addresses it sooner rather than later.

  2. Given the rate of industrialization in China it would make the most sense for the Chinese Government to make a better effort to promote 21st Century technologies in their industrialization process. Although the Chinese have not been a model for progressivism, I believe that for them to implement advanced technologies to reduce their carbon footprint would ensure that their competitive advantage will continue into the distant future. China’s environmental and business practices have been the subject of much debate, thus it would behoove them to alleviate the burden of a negative public opinion by making great strides to lead the field in carbon reduction.

  3. Interestingly enough, China is a world leader in investments in green technology. Unfortunately, they are also a world leader in coal use. As of 2009, according to a 2010 World Watch report, China surpassed the U.S. as the largest wind power market, accounting for 1/3 of installed wind energy capacity; in the same year, China doubled its solar PV capacity, and installed over 42 million square meters of passive solar hot water heaters, accounting for roughly 80% of the world’s market for solar hot water heaters. A large part of the problem as I see it, is that China is still in large part a developing country, with limited technology, low GDP per capita, and an economy based in heavy industry that utilizes outdated and inefficient technology. This situation is a double-edged sword, in a way, because China needs more money to meet its very ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy goals, but it also must keep emitting more dangerous particulate matter and carbon dioxide to make this money.

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