Culture 3 min read

China's Environmental Pollution Problem is Declining

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

For decades, environmental pollution in China has increased with its economic growth. However, a new international study suggests that this connection has weakened in recent years.

With three decades of speed growth, China’s economy expanded enough to pull hundreds of millions of people from poverty. But, the economic growth came at a terrible price.

By becoming the factory to the world, the country suffered severe environmental pollution. There was untreated effluent in the water, heavy metals in the soil, and sulfur dioxide in the air.

“Here in this village, many people have cancer. Three people died in the space of as many months. They were all so young. It’s so toxic here,” a 68 years old farmer from Zhubugang, Yang Juqing had said in a 2015 BBC interview.

But that could change soon. According to a recent paper in the Science Advances journal, environmental pollution is now decreasing in China.

The team consists of five researchers from five countries, including Deliang Chen, a professor of physical meteorology at the University of Gothenburg.

In a statement about the research, Chen said:

“Our research shows that increased environmental awareness and investments in China over the past decade have produced results.”

According to the analysis, the weakening relationship between economic growth and environmental pollution in China began back in 1995.

The Decreasing Environmental Pollution in China

For the study, the researchers analyzed data that dates back from 1977 to 2017.

The studied statistics include economic growth, regional differences, environmental conditions, equality in education, and the gap between urban and rural areas. They also examined health care as well as the living standards in China during the period.

Chen, who is also the coordinating lead author of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted:

“In our study, we have looked at the data from all areas based on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As researchers, we normally tend to look at our data, but in this study, we have used existing data from many different sources.”

The findings suggest that China has improved in 12 of the 17 SDGs within the last 40 year. However, the country is still struggling with the other five, especially the emission of greenhouse gases.

While environmental pollution in China as a whole is on a decline, emission of greenhouse gases has continued to increase. According to a report, China’s climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions hit 12.3 billion tonnes in 2014, up 53.5 percent in just a decade.

In the end, the researcher emphasizes that economic progress doesn’t have to hurt the environment.

Many believe that economic progress and pollution have to go hand in hand. But our study shows that this connection has become weaker in recent years in China,” said Chen.

“And it provides a little more hopeful picture. This hope and the lessons learned in China can be interesting for other countries that also need to be developed.”

Read More: China’s Data Centers Will Consume More Energy by 2023

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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