China is the Real Environmental Story

Worth A Look, Climate, Frontier Centre

Why does Mattel’s third recall of China-made toys in less than six weeks prove that concern over global warming is nothing but a luxury that only people in the developed world have the time and lifestyle to indulge?

Well, it proves that only indirectly. But it does show how easily elites in the West miss real threats by becoming preoccupied with fashionable (and meaningless) causes.

China is a mess. Its environment is one of the most hazardous in the world; not only to its own citizens, but increasingly to others as well.

This summer, there have been reports that Chinese toxins, carried aloft by prevailing winds and the jet stream, are beginning to show up in the air over North America’s west coast.

The World Bank estimates that air pollution — real air pollution like smog and chemical haze, not theoretical pollution like carbon dioxide released by SUVs and oilsands — kills 750,000 Chinese each year. Few rivers there are clean. Levels of airborne poisons are among the highest anywhere.

A new coal-fired electrical plant is being opened every five days in China.

You can bet they don’t have sophisticated “scrubbers” on their smokestacks, either, to catch and capture particulates and pollutants before they can escape into the atmosphere.

Construction of new plants is projected to continue at the current torrid pace for at least the next five years, too.

A friend who recently visited China for the first time wrote to tell me “the air is blue, brown, yellow. Take your pick.” Streams smell like rotting cabbage and in most a phosphorous foam floats on the top, whipped up from the waste chemicals that are dumped in the water as a byproduct of manufacturing.

Wednesday, the world’s largest toymaker, California-based Mattel, asked stores to pull nearly a million units from their shelves over fears that the Barbie doggie houses and toddler trains contain dangerous levels of lead.

This is in addition to nearly 20 million units the company recalled in two separate announcements in August.

Currently, 70 per cent of the world’s toys — including all the ones involved in Mattel’s actions — are made in the Chinese province of Guangdong.

It is nearly impossible to avoid made-in-China playthings. Louisiana mom Sara Bongiorni tried and failed to go 12 months without buying goods manufactured in China or containing Chinese parts. In the book she wrote about her experience, A Year Without Made in China, she described how she finally had to surrender. There were just too many Chinese products to avoid them all.

Toys were a particularly big problem. Nearly all the “hot” new models — the ones every kid has to have for Christmas — were sourced in Guangdong.

And it’s not just Chinese toys that are faulty, of course.

Pet foods have been fatally tainted, tires fatally faulty. Toxic toothpaste, blankets soaked with formaldehyde, flammable children’s pyjamas, disposable chopsticks coated with bacteria, dried apples preserved in carcinogens, frozen catfish laden with banned antibiotics, scallops and sardines tainted with salmonella , mushrooms sprayed with illegal pesticides, diet supplements full of stimulants, cosmetics full of impurities, counterfeit medicines and chicken, pork and fish full of contaminants have all been delivered to North America, Europe or Australia and New Zealand in just the past year and a half.

The environmental degradation and hazardous exports are directly related, of course.

China is expanding at any cost, even at the cost of three-quarters of a million of its own residents each year. The country’s dictators know that if they cannot grow the economy by eight to 10 per cent a year, they could face a rebellion for democracy. So they push and push and push all the environmental, ethical and safety limits to keep the economy roaring ahead.

If they need to strip mine to get the energy they need, if they need to spew hundreds of millions of tonnes of real pollutants into the air to keep costs low, if they need to expose workers — and now residents of other countries, too — to hazardous conditions to undercut production costs, so be it.

While China roils, oozes, percolates and drips with lift-shortening, health-ruining chemicals, effluent and waste, the Western world’s elites are running around fretting about a theory that claims a fractional increase in carbon dioxide will cause the Earth to burn up and end life as we know it.

Carbon dioxide makes up just 0.04 per cent of our atmosphere. It is essential for life, so much so that 95 per cent of what is found in the air is there by nature. Yet for reasons only historians of science will be able to decipher, elites at the beginning of the 21st century have talked themselves into a hysteria over the notion that CO2 is trapping dangerous amounts of solar energy near the Earth’s surface.

While pollution in China poses a tangible, real-world threat to health and the environment, most Western politicians are falling all over themselves to reduce “carbon footprints.”

Talk about missing the real problem.