Revisiting Chinese pollution

In: Uncategorized

25 May 2008

Last year the New York Times ran a series of articles on pollution in China entitled “Choking on growth”. Today Nicholas Kristof, a regular Times columnist, has a comment headlined “Where breathing is deadly”. No prizes for guessing which country he was talking about.

Kristof refers to one of the earlier articles which estimates that between 300,000 and 400,000 Chinese die prematurely every year as a result of pollution. These estimates could well be accurate but, as is often the case with statistics, they can be misleading in isolation. No doubt a rugged statistical model could be constructed to show that many millions of Chinese die every year as a result of poverty. If China had living standards and infrastructure on the same level as the richest countries no doubt its people would live longer and healthier lives.

To be fair to Kristof he does add some balance to his article: “China has been better than most other countries in curbing pollution, paying attention to the environment at a much earlier stage of development than the United States, Europe or Japan. Most impressive, in 2004, China embraced tighter fuel economy standards than the Bush administration was willing to accept at the time.”

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