What happens in China is so bizarre and outside the box that we can only call this ancient country “Planet China.” A case in point is the Chinese character Weiji (危机), meaning “crisis” which contains two parts. The first is “Wei” meaning “danger” and “ji” meaning “opportunity.” Today’s environmental crisis in China has become so dangerous that it is now a $29 billion opportunity.
The fact is that China currently has a yearly shortage of 50 billion cubic feet of water, and the only options are to put constraints on the use of water, use water more efficiently, and cease polluting water resources.
Reversing the Damage from the Past Two Decades
IndustryTap recently reported on Chinese buying cans of “fresh air” from Canada because of the air pollution crisis. A book, “The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future,” details China’s amazing economic growth during which its natural resources were ransacked. One example is the disappearance of 10% of China’s natural wetlands over the past decade.
As a result, China has been experiencing greater public health problems, mass migrations, economic turmoil, and a perpetual state of social crisis. China’s dubious history of polluting its waterways and the Chinese government’s duplicity in covering poisoning of wildlife and people seemed as though it would never end.
Dirty Water & Air is Big Business: Pollution and Scarcity
New reports, including “Towards a Water & Energy Secure China,” suggest China is getting serious about its ecological future not because of high-minded motives but because the possibility of total ecological collapse is real. The subtitle of the report referenced above is “TOUGH CHOICES AHEAD IN POWER EXPANSION WITH LIMITED WATER RESOURCES.”
To get on track to sustainability, China is expected to spend several billion dollars over the next few years to help clean up water resources. As might be expected, this will occur only in certain areas of China that are wealthier and can afford to begin fighting pollution and ecological damage. The Chinese government is beginning to institute policies including annual caps on water consumption, tough new regulations to limit pollution, and preserve precious resources.
Two trends that may help China deal with its environmental crisis are its involvement in manufacturing air pollution control equipment and services, and the fact that much of the industrializing world is facing similar problems. Another possible solution is the use of market-based instruments for water and pollution control if the Communist Party can see the light.
The following graphic shows China’s pollution rates versus the US: