What happens when a country depends far too heavily on fossil fuels and far too little on energy efficiency and renewable power? Basically, you get this.
Outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, nearly 40 percent of the global total, according to a new summary of data from a scientific study on leading causes of death worldwide.
Figured another way, the researchers said, China’s toll from pollution was the loss of 25 million healthy years of life from the population.
Last week, an official Chinese news report said the cost of environmental degradation in China was about $230 billion in 2010, or 3.5 percent of the gross domestic product. The estimate, said to be partial, came from a research institute under the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and was three times the amount in 2004, in local currency terms. It was unclear to what extent those numbers took into account the costs of health care and premature deaths because of pollution.
A few statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration tell us clearly what's causing this problem: 1) "China is the world's second-largest consumer of oil"; 2) "China is the largest producer and consumer of coal in the world, and accounts for almost half of the world's coal consumption."; and 3) "China's electricity generation continues to be dominated by fossil fuel sources, particularly coal." The answer? A switch to energy efficiency, solar, wind, and other forms of clean energy as rapidly as possible.