The Geography of Carbon Emissions

The American Thinker (Bellevue, WA), May 23, 2009
Climate Change Fraud, May 23, 2009
Carbon Offset Daily, May 23, 2009
Lux Libertas, May 23, 2009

No American city is among the top 50 cities in the world for air pollution according to the World Bank. (1) Another list, ‘The Top Ten of the Dirty Thirty,’ compiled by the Blacksmith Institute of New York compared the toxicity of contamination, the likelihood of it getting into humans and the number of people affected. Places were bumped up in rank if children were impacted. No US or European sites made the list. Sites in China, India and Russia occupied six of the top ten spots. Some examples: at Linfen in Shanxi province-the heart of China’s coal industry-industrial and automobile emissions put the health of 3 million people at risk. At Sukinda in the state of Orissa in India, 2.6 million people face the hazards of one of the world’s opencast chromite mines. And in Dzerzhinsk, Russia, 300,000 people are exposed to toxic by-products from chemical weapons. (2)

Have you heard about this? Probably not. But there’s more. Another report states that seven of the world’s ten most polluted cities are in China. Of the ten cities in the world with the highest levels of air pollution, three are in India. (3). There are more reports but by now you probably get the point. Note that no US city has been mentioned. Steven Hayward in discussing the Blacksmith report makes an observation that could well apply to all of these documents: “Not surprisingly the media and green campaigners in the United States completely overlooked this report.” (4)

China has some of the worst pollution problems in the world. Nearly two-thirds of China’s 343 major cities currently fail to meet the nation’s air quality standards. Pollution levels in China’s major cities are 10 to 50 times higher than the worst smoggy day in Los Angeles (5). The twenty fastest growing cities in the world are all in China.

China is adding 100 gigawatts of coal-fired electrical capacity a year. That’s another whole United States’ worth of coal consumption added every three years, with no stopping point in sight. Much of the rest of the developing world is on a similar path. (6)

As Fareed Zakaria notes,

“The combined carbon dioxide emissions from the 850 new coal-fired power plants that China and India are building between now and 2012 are five times the total savings of the Kyoto accords. So you can put in all those curly light bulbs and drive all the Priuses you want: India just ate that for breakfast and China will eat the next round of conservation for lunch.” (7)

Jane Orient adds this on the futility of reducing emissions; “In a symbolic gesture, the Forces of Darkness, which are trying to end an age of enlightenment and reason, urged people to turn off their lights for an hour between 8:30 and 9:30 PM local time. Bjorn Lomborg calculated that if 1 billion turned off their lights for 1 hour, it would have been the equivalent of shutting of China’s emissions for a full 6 seconds. (8)

Although China receives the most attention, it is not the only Asian nation where this concern is present. India is also growing rapidly, and its major cities experience particulate levels often eight to ten times higher than the worst American cities. India is the fourth-most coal dependent country in the world and has enough reserves to last for the next 100 years. Carbon emissions in India are rising faster than nearly every other country on the planet. Between 1980 and 2006, India’s carbon output increased by 341%, compared to 321% for China, 103% for Brazil 238% for Indonesia and 272% for Pakistan. (9)

Peter Huber sums this up quite well:

“Cut to the chase. We rich people can’t stop the world’s 5 billion poor people from burning the couple of trillion tons of cheap carbon that they have within easy reach. We can’t even make any durable dent in global emissions-because emissions from the developing world are growing too fast, because the other 80 percent of humanity desperately needs cheap energy, and because we and they are now part of the same global economy. What we can do, if we’re foolish enough, is let carbon worries send our jobs and industries to their shores, making them grow even faster, and their carbon emissions faster still.” (6)


1 Steven F. Hayward, Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2009, (San Francisco, Pacific Research Institute, 2009), 3
2 “The Top Ten of the Dirty Thirty,” New York, Blacksmith Institute, September 2007
3 Norman Myers and Jennifer Kent, The New Consumers, (Washington, DC, Island Press, 2004), 77 & 90
4 Steven F. Hayward, Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2009, (San Francisco, Pacific Research Institute, 2009), 10
5 Steven F. Hayward, “China Comes Clean,”,pubID24262/pub_detail.asp
6 Peter W. Huber, “We Cannot Make a Dent in Global Carbon Emissions,”
7 Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World, (New York, W. W. Norton & Co., 2008), 90
8 Jane Orient, “Earth Hour Celebrates Darkness,” Civil Defense Perspectives, 25, 2, March 2009
9 Priyanka Bhardwaj and Robert Bryce, “India Chooses Coal, Not Kyoto,”

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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