This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Air Pollution a Huge Cost of Development in Beijing

The Economist's reporter in Beijing this week has posted a story about the incredibly bad air pollution that has hit Beijing. The pollution readings are literally off the chart, and are routinely publicized, as it turns out, by the US Embassy, which keeps a measuring device on its roof. However, the Economist reports that many people have phone apps that allow them to keep track of the day's air pollution level. These readings obviously put a bit of pressure on the Chinese government to report the actual, rather than fictitious data.
But on a day like Saturday, the discrepancy between official readings and independent ones hardly seemed to matter; you didn't need a weatherman to know which way the ill wind blew. Or failed to blow, as the case may have been. One expert quoted by Chinese media attributed this spike in pollution to a series of windless days that allowed pollutants to accumulate.
But wind can be a problem when it does blow, too. In the outlying provinces that are part of Beijing’s airshed, there is a great deal of heavy industry. Pollution regulations are much harder to enforce there. And, in this colder-than-average winter, people have been burning more coal and wood than usual.
Cleaning this up will clearly be expensive, and will raise the cost of living in Beijing, and the cost of doing business with China, which is probably why the government has moved slowly. But, at some point, the real environmental costs of China's economic "miracle" will have to be dealt with.

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