TIME: The Scariest Environmental Fact in the World

“The enemy of the human race”?

“As the data shows, China is now burning almost as much coal as the rest of the world—combined. And despite impressive support from Beijing for renewable energy and a dawning understanding about the dangers of air pollution, coal use in China is poised to continue rising, if slower than it has in recent years. That’s deadly for the Chinese people—see the truly horrific air pollution in Beijing this past month—and it’s dangerous for the rest of the world. Coal already accounts for 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the biggest causes of man-made climate change. Combine that with the direct damage that air pollution from coal combustion does to human health, and there’s a reason why some have called coal the enemy of the human race.” [TIME]

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4 responses to “TIME: The Scariest Environmental Fact in the World

  1. The real enemy is the fact that the Chinese have failed to implement well proven simple technologies that significantly reduce pollution from power stations that most advanced countries implemented many decades ago.

    The fact that the Chinese endure such poor air quality is a reflection on the Government of China – major emissions of noxious fumes and particulates can be overcome with appropriate technologies.

    CO2 is more difficult but it is a non-toxic by-product of combustion that constitutes less than one gram of every cubic metre of atmosphere – at least that is what I get when I multiply 0.06% by weight by 1.205 kg air per cubic metre at sea level – 1205 g x 0.06/100 = 0.723 g.

    Am I wrong to think less than 1 gram per cubic metre is negligible ?

    • Howdy Roscoe
      You neatly illustrate one of the dilemmas of my own libertarian view — the US implemented cleaner coal technology via legislation and regulation. China’s government hasn’t done much about that, even with the well-established technology that’s available. So there is a role for regulation; the trick is keeping the beast on its leash.
      1gm/m3 can be a significant threat or a negligible element, depending on what that gram is. In terms of CO2, that gram is negligible as a toxic hazard and just as negligible as a climate forcing. If it were CO, that level might be toxic.

    • To compare, dioxins and furan emissions are measured in nanograms per cubic meter, and emission limits are significantly less than 1.

  2. Nothing TIME mag prints is credible, 10-22.

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