News Release

China and Pollution: Global Impacts


* Polluting a Country, Polluting the World
* Beijing Olympics

A cover story in the current issue of Mother Jones magazine — “The Last Empire: Can the World Survive China’s Rush to Emulate the American Way of Life?” — documents the grim realities and the global environmental impacts of China’s economic boom. The article, written by reporter Jacques Leslie, is a combination of exhaustive research and firsthand reports of the country’s staggering rates of natural resource consumption and contamination. Among his findings:

* China consumed more coal in 2006 than the United States, Russia, and India combined and opens a new coal-fired power plant every four to seven days.

* Sulfur dioxide and other pollutants from coal-fired power plants account for the premature deaths of more than 400,000 Chinese each year and cause acid rain not only in China, but also in Korea, Japan, and the Pacific Ocean.

* Thanks to both coal and cars, China’s nitrogen-oxide emissions have climbed 48 percent in five years, enough to help continuously raise respiratory-system-inflaming ozone levels along the U.S. West Coast.

The writer of the article is available for interviews.

Leslie’s latest book, Deep Water: The Epic Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award and was named one of the top science books of the year by Discover magazine.

He writes in the new Mother Jones piece: China has steadily maintained that the developed countries bear primary responsibility for global warming and must be the first to counter it. The argument has some merit: After all, the United States alone is responsible for a quarter of the man-made greenhouse gases pumped into the earth’s atmosphere over time, while China’s cumulative contribution is still less than a third as much. And even today, China’s per-capita carbon dioxide emissions are less than a fifth of America’s. Yet China’s refusal to curb emissions could single-handedly wipe out reductions made elsewhere, crippling the international effort.”

The United States passed up the opportunity it had at the beginning of China’s economic transformation to guide it toward sustainability, and the loss is already incalculable. All that is left is the one option that would have served Americans (and the world) best all along, which is to model environmental sanity. Stop buying products made from illegally cut wood. Stop building coal-fired power plants. Instead of subsidizing oil companies, invest government funds in research on sustainable-energy technologies. Build effective mass-transit systems in every city. Cut greenhouse gas emissions. Show China the benefits of responsible behavior.”

Complete text of “The Last Empire: Can the World Survive China’s Rush to Emulate the American Way of Life?” is available online.

For a comprehensive list of statistics drawn from the article, visit
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167