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Earth United States Science

Pollution From Asia Affects US Climate 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the almost-as-if-we-share-a-planet dept.
sciencehabit writes "China and India are some of the world's top polluters, with countless cars, factories, and households belching more than 2 million metric tons of carbon soot and other dark pollutants into the air every year. The pall hanging over the region has come to be known as 'the Asian brown cloud.' These pollutants aren't just bad news for the countries themselves. A new study reveals that they can affect climate thousands of kilometers away, warming the United States by up to 0.4C by 2024, while cooling other regions (abstract)."
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Pollution From Asia Affects US Climate

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  • by Nudeboy (2648555) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @07:25AM (#40127629)
    I'm European, but living long-time in Asia. I can't but laugh at USA and EU worrying about little things and having mundane pollution and trashing laws when I look around myself. Everything is packed in plastic (often multiple times), cars and mopeds fart tons of black gas and factories just dump their waste where they want.

    Interestingly, while everyone trashes, places do tend to stay really clean, as people make money by collecting all the trash from streets and bringing it to recycling.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Pollution and trash are NOT the same. Your streets can be sparkly clean and yet your air dirty as hell. That said, this article just reaffirms what we long known. Pollution is a global problem that affects everyone much like how cigarettes affects those next to you. That said, America is no saint either...

      • America is claiming that pollution from Asia (China and India) is affecting America

        What about the pollution that had been spewing off the chimneys / smokestacks in America and Europe since the industrial revolution?

        When America points a finger at Asia, 4 fingers are pointing back towards US of A

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          So, even though we've "been there done that" we shouldn't be offering up for easy the lessons we learned the hard way?

          No, Asia wants to say "you're not our daddy" and do things their own way, and learn it all the hard way unnecessarily.

    • by gsgriffin (1195771) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @08:41AM (#40127919)
      You're obviously not in India. Just got back from there myself. Never saw the sun directly in the five Weeks I was there and covered half the country. I can believe that a billion people cooking over wood burning fires everyday makes a difference. I've seen it.
      • by Kreigaffe (765218)

        He's not in China, either. I'd not be shocked if this guy was the same troll posting for the past several months an endless string of posts pointing out how novel and better everything in "Asia" is than in the West. Never any specific nation, simply "Asia", and always the dumbest drivel you could possibly imagine "only Asia has restaurants! only Asia invites friends over!".. It's less entertaining and humorous than the cleanmypc spam

        • by magarity (164372) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @09:40AM (#40128225)

          I think both of you might not be parsing his comment correctly. He says he's been living in Asia long term and looks around himself to see belching smoke and dumping factories. You've seen the "I'm European" part and connected it to looking around Europe to see smoke and factories. I spent a couple of years in China and saw nonstop belching smoke and dumping factories.

        • Whether the guy is an idiot, a troll, or just a dumbass doesn't change one simple fact...Free Trade DOES NOT WORK because it is just what we see in TFA, we are simply exporting our pollution to the third world!

          This is why i have been saying for years you just can't have free trade with countries like China and India which let corps dump toxins out the back and belch toxic clouds of filth into the sky because, and I'm sure the free market types will scream for me daring to point this out, but we live in a fishbowl folks and anything you dump on one side eventually affects everyone. all that crap dumped into rivers ends up in the ocean, all that crap in the air ends up carried over here or likewise settles in the oceans, it all comes around.

          This is why we should simply not allow trade with countries that don't have similar environmental regulations to us, because all that is happening is the mutilnationals are playing three card monty with the pollution and they enjoy higher profits the more they pollute.

          So frankly the "greenies" can stick it right in their ass, because as long as we allow multinationals to just pollute the third world while selling to the first all that green shit is fucking pointless. Its like simply throwing all the garbage in the basement and then bragging about how clean your house is, you're just putting the nasty shit out of sight, not actually doing anything about it. You can screw Americans with carbon credits and give huge tax breaks to electric cars but so long as damned near every thing in every store is made in pollution friendly countries then none of it will make a damned bit of difference, not a damned bit at all.

          • by 0111 1110 (518466)

            I'm not sure it's possible to force China to stop polluting. Nor am I sure that it's possible to just stop buying Chinese products. They make almost everything now. They are the manufacturer for the world. It's just not realistic to boycott them. It also may not always be fair. I doubt if every Chinese manufacturer actually creates pollution. To be fair you'd really have to investigate each company and only boycott the ones who are actually polluting. Punishing every Chinese company solely because they are

            • Punishing every Chinese company solely because they are located in China is obviously wrong.

              Not really, no. Think of it not as punishing the company, but as punishing the country. If they want free trade, they're welcome to it - just enact solid environmental protection laws.

      • by oiron (697563)

        Who said anything about wood fires? I'd say that a large proportion of the population uses Kerosene, and a smaller minority uses LPG (basically methane, IIRC)...

        I think most of the pollution per se comes from the millions of vehicles on the roads; inefficient roads designed for much smaller loads - mostly pedestrians and the occasional bullock cart. A good portion comes from industry, and a (very) small percentage from people cooking, whether over wood or otherwise.

        Anyway, reading TFA (yeah, I know), it see

        • I keep hearing alot about "clean coal energy", could its application be applied in India, and China?
          • by riverat1 (1048260)

            "Clean coal" is an oxymoron.

          • It would be more accuratly termed 'cleaner coal.' It's still polluting, but not as much. It means things like the use of filters and electrostatic precipitators to reduce particulate pollution, and chemical processing to turn the really nasty stuff like sulphur dioxide into less nasty stuff. Think of it as like a giant catalytic converter from a can: Really nasty polluting gasses go in, moderatly polluting gasses come out. The ideal goal is to capture and store the carbon dioxide produced and then put it so
      • by mikael (484)

        You haven't seen what happens to a single street when their is an "air inversion" on a cold day and someone decides to light a fire in one of their chimneys. All the smoke just remains at ground level.

        Edinburgh used to be called "Old Reekie" because there was so much soot that it actually stained all the yellow standstone buildings black.

    • I think the hope is that pollution standards will (continue to?) rise along with living standards in Asia, and at that point the West will already have developed certain practices and technologies that the newly developed countries can adopt. E.g. the price of PV panels has dropped significantly in the past years (along with the energy required to build them), fueled by an increase in demand in the Western countries. If it drops a bit more, it'll be cost effective enough to at least be a part of the strategy dealing with the rapidly increasing energy needs of the Asian countries. That's just the general argument and you don't need to "believe" in PV power generation to buy the argument itself.

      Of course that's just one part of it, there's also the fact that despite much better environmental regulations, our per-capita emissions are still much worse (even you don't consider "exported" emissions via product manufacturing) and of course the fact that we've been emitting for a much longer time than the newly developed countries[0]. Those are moral arguments, the first one is more utilitarian -- e.g. even if you don't think per-capita emissions should be the important figure, the argument holds water.

      [0] We have been emitting since the industrial revolution, that is. I wonder, though, considering the growth of both population and world economy -- 28% of the human hours lived [economist.com] were lived in the 20th century and, incredibly, "over 23% of all the goods and services made since 1AD were produced from 2001 to 2010" --, if the (CO2) emissions of the past 10 or 20 years don't exceed all emissions made prior to that.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @07:25AM (#40127631)
    And all the pollutants created in the USA gets dispersed on the wind to other places - as does the pollution from Europe and everywhere else on the planet. It's not that america is therefore suffering unduly - it's just that we should recgonise the world is a closed system and it's not a good idea to crap on each others doorsteps.
    • This isn't news. There is already strong evidence indicating that circa 1970's/80's US pollution played a key part - if not the cause of - the 1980's Ethiopian Famine. I think people forget that we live in a fish bowl. Excuse the expression but what I shit you eat...and vice versa.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by argStyopa (232550)

        I'd love to see a link to that "strong evidence".
        The only thing I've seen suggesting this are CSIRO "reports" whose basis is essentially "laws were put in place in the west to reduce aerosol pollution in the 1990s, and the drought in the Sahel ended at the same time".

        By that level of intellectual rigor, a decrease in world ninja populations directly caused WW2.

        The idea that pollution in one area of the globe effects others isn't novel or even particularly new; the 'tragedy of the commons' has been a long-te

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "There is already strong evidence indicating that circa 1970's/80's US pollution played a key part - if not the cause of - the 1980's Ethiopian Famine."

        It's nice to post citations.

        • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @10:48AM (#40128627)
          This is not Wikipedia. If you want a citation just ask for one. Before you do that you are expected to do a bit of searching. However, since you are probably just going to go on whining, here's your citation [bit.ly]. I'm not a qualified climate scientist so I can't tell you if it's true or not. However the same is certainly true of all the people who are going to come running in to tell us how it is completely made up.
      • by Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @12:12PM (#40129087)

        This isn't news. There is already strong evidence indicating that circa 1970's/80's US pollution played a key part - if not the cause of - the 1980's Ethiopian Famine.

        The Ethiopian Famine ran from 1983-1985, and was mainly caused by a civil war [wikipedia.org] that ran for 17 years, and by disastrous government food policies in the wake of the "Red Terror" [wikipedia.org] of the late 1970s and the construction of a Marxist state that poured all of its resources into its military. Sort of like a much less extreme version famine-prone North Korea. Wikipedia has a fairly weak article on the famine [wikipedia.org]. It's worth noting that the famine began in 1983, but the major drought started in 1984. With a stable society and a reasonable government there would have been food shortages in 1984, but no more, and there definitely wouldn't have been mass starvation before the crops started failing.

        Listen, I'm a bleeding heart environmentalist and sympathetic to the idea that the US has historically shit in its own bed, and continues to do so in certain ways. But citing any old thing as caused by US pollution makes environmentalists look like kooks. It's very bad for the cause.

      • by khallow (566160)

        There is already strong evidence indicating that circa 1970's/80's US pollution played a key part - if not the cause of - the 1980's Ethiopian Famine.

        More important than local deforestation and third world farming techniques? Not a chance.

    • You miss the point. Spreading half-wit semitruths like this will actually get the Republicans behind domestic pollution control!

      Just say the Chinese will ruin America and people will support it; even the people who thought it was un-American to fight for a better environment a decade ago.

    • by sjames (1099)

      It's another case of TANSTAAFL. Corporations decide they don't like the cost of environmental regulations in the U.S. so they try to 'export' the pollution to China. The rest figure it's OK as long as it's just Chinese people getting poisoned, so it's allowed (rather than requiring goods sold in the U.S. to be manufactured cleanly wherever it happens). Guess what?

  • by aliquis (678370) <dospam@gmail.com> on Sunday May 27, 2012 @07:36AM (#40127685) Homepage

    Rather pollution from US consumption affect the global climate.

    Whatever it's pollution or animal slaughter it is the consumer who make the demand and got the power to choose.

    The people in the US (and hence you could say the US) is the biggest polluters by far. And it make no sense to compare countries with differences in population size (I'm from Sweden so we never have to worry about pollution because we're such a small nation anyway?) but rather per capita.

    If the Chinese and Indian people would live as the average person in the US I assume we would more than doubled the pollution? But they don't. And why should they who are far behind restrict themselves then people in the US doesn't?

    I hate these kind of posts. The US consumers are the filthiest and they are the one who order all (well, not all..) that crap from China for instance. Stop complaining on people in China and India damnit.

    You don't want global warming, pollution, ecological disasters and what not? Consume less. (Or rather just what nature provides on a local scale and take care about how you do it.)

    • So the producer is forced to sell cheap stuff while creating a lot of pollution? Sure the consumer shares the blame, but the producers are the ones that can see the process first hand. And don't talk about the poor people in India and China. If they have too high populations for the resources they have, that's not the fault of the rest of the world. If they had shown some restraint in the past they'd be living better lives now.

      • by thej1nx (763573)
        Perhaps you should stop being a twat and read about, you know, those nuclear sanctions that USA had been so fond of putting on India in order to appease Pakistan. India wants to have clean nuclear power plants. Having cheap power would be the end of pollution in India, what with electrical hybrid cars becoming popular and affordable. But apparently the country with the biggest nuclear pile on the planet wants to ensure no-one else gets to have them, while actually giving billion dollars in aid to the known
    • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @08:28AM (#40127869) Homepage

      You cannot blame the supply. You cannot blame the demand. Those two things operate as they do and as they should. Almost no one acts out of conscience but rather out of self-interest.

      The only way to fix such problems is "across the board," unilaterally, all at once. Regulation.

      You can't blame people for being stupid. It is what we are. It is why government and regulation are simply necessary. Think about it. No one would voluntarily stop at an intersection without a stop sign or a stop light would they?

      • by 0111 1110 (518466)

        Do you live in Southern Italy? I'm not sure why you guys even bother with stop signs or traffic lights. Totally pointless.

      • The only remaining question is, where do we get the meta-government to regulate governments?

        (UN ain't it - it doesn't have teeth)

        • by erroneus (253617)

          In the US, it's built into the structure of the thing. However, the players in their arenas have been rendering those protections useless. We have the Freedom of Informaiton Act which is still in wide use today, but it's being heavily denied where it shouldn't be. We are supposed to have all manner of accountability and transparency, but somehow important things remain concealed. And the government is supposed to be representative of the will of the people but also address the needs and interests of the

          • Even if US somehow got its shit together, it still doesn't explain how that would help with, say, China. If you want compliance, you need a guy with a stick. We don't have such a thing on international level - or at least the stick is not big enough to deal with everyone.

    • Good data is hard to find, but even if you adjust for population size, it looks like US is pretty good on pollution [guardian.co.uk].

      When comparing this sort of thing, it's important to remember that CO2 is not the only thing that is considered pollution, or even the worst thing. There are many things that are far, far worse than carbon dioxide, by any measure.
      • by thej1nx (763573)
        Toxic wastes are pretty much history(unless you count the toxic wastes produced by USA's nuclear power plants). CO2 pollution is what matters today.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 27, 2012 @07:38AM (#40127699)

    There's always a misconception from people in the U.S. that China and India are the polluters of the world. Please understand that they are the ONLY countries left that can manufacture all the stuff we need at bargain basement price. They are the reason why we can have a RC car for $24.99 or $5 for a 4GB USB flash drive. The majority of the factories and cars in these countries are used to make stuff and deliver for us. The average citizen of these countries use about 1/10 of the energy and resources of any developed countries. If only that the rest of the world stops consumerism and start paying more, please don't bitch about the pollution. We made it happen.

    • by gsgriffin (1195771) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @08:48AM (#40127953)
      The cheap products aren't because they are allowed to pollute. There cheap because labour and materials are cheap. If forced, they could reduce their emissions and add little to no cost to consumers. Their governments don't care. Anyway, the brown skies of India are caused by a billion people cooking over wood burning fires a couple times a day. Been there a lot. Seen it with my own eyes.
      • Actually, the products are cheap both because of labor abuse, and because of environment abuse. Green is not free.

    • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @08:56AM (#40128009)

      Actually.... no.

      That RC car, if produces in America, would still be 25 bucks.
      Yeah, you heard that right.

      When has anything ever decreased in price by moving production to China? Don't be silly. Moving production to China doesn't lower prices, it increases profits.

      • by 0111 1110 (518466)

        Have you actually ever purchased goods? Have you ever gone to a store of some kind and bought a product? It sounds like you haven't.

      • Only true if there is no competition. When the competition exists the prices start dropping towards the cost of manufacturing. I doubt there is a monopoly on RC Cars.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @07:42AM (#40127711)

    Just like it wasn't forseeable that trading with China (read: getting cheap labor in exchange for IP and quasi-building up their infrastructure closer to 1st world standards) would mean we're just making our own competent competitors for resources and business in the next generation.

    Next up: Captain Obvious Reports that Invading Iraq has not been a cost effective means to reducing terrorism.

  • Passing the blame (Score:4, Interesting)

    by galadran (1099427) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @07:54AM (#40127751)
    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/env_pol_car_dio_per_cap-pollution-carbon-dioxide-per-capita [nationmaster.com]

    Per person, the USA is the worst country in the world for air pollution, whereas China and India are among the best. Even if you ignore population and compare absolutely, the USA produces 5x the pollution of India and roughly equivalent to the pollution of China.

    If there is a smog cloud over North America, I would be looking much closer to home to find the source...
    • by arisvega (1414195)

      Per person, the USA is the worst country in the world for air pollution [..]

      Not only that, but the USA is the only country not intending to ratify the Kyoto Protocol [wikipedia.org]

      .

      • Not only that, but the USA is the only country not intending to ratify the Kyoto Protocol [wikipedia.org]

        Oh please. There are a few others. And Kyoto was so flawed from the start that some countries are actively withdrawing (Canada, Japan, Russia)
      • That might have meant something if any of the countries that did ratify it, actually fulfilled their obligations under it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      CO2 isn't smog. Smog is composed of CO, NO2, O3 and various particulate matter, all of which are substantially more dangerous than CO2 is.

    • by DaveGod (703167)

      Per person, the USA is the worst country in the world for air pollution, whereas China and India are among the best. Even if you ignore population and compare absolutely, the USA produces 5x the pollution of India and roughly equivalent to the pollution of China.

      While the metric has some validity, it's only part of a complex picture.

      Consider, for example, that USA consumes rather a lot of goods that cause pollution when being made in China. Depending on the specific issue/point you are trying to consider, you may have to attribute to the USA some pollution generated in producing those goods. The amount to be attributed would be the standard (i.e. normal) amount of pollution generated from such production, while China should take the credit or blame for being more o

    • Only if you believe that CO2, which only causes health problems in humans or other animals at much higher levels than anyone is talking about ever coming to be, is a pollutant in the same class as nitrogen dioxide or sulfur dioxide and similar pollutants.
  • Go on (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Swampash (1131503) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @07:58AM (#40127763)

    Someone post a chart showing the world's oil consumption by country.

  • How do you defeat oil indistry propaganda that climate change isn't real for the faux news set?

    Appeal to their nationalism and xenophobia:" China is forcing climate change on you and your beautiful country"

    Now there is no question climate change is real: it's a dastardly Chinese Communist plot to destroy Amurrica!

    The power of low IQ tribal paranoia.

  • by dragisha (788) <dragisha AT m3w DOT org> on Sunday May 27, 2012 @08:17AM (#40127833)

    If, by any criteria, US does not top such charts, it's only because of outsourcing of manufacturing. Meaning - most of second-hand "smoke" is because of US consumption too.

    Also, see this. Just for example, additional llustration:

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/44781282/World_s_Most_Polluted_Countries [cnbc.com]

  • by Progman3K (515744)

    Amazing, it's almost like we live on the same planet and what we do in one place can affect people in other places...

    Seriously, it's refreshing to see stories like this. Back in the 1970s, I remember everyone's attitude (and mine) as being "the world and its resources are infinite", seeing people litter and pollute without a second thought was the mainstream idea.

    It's good that attitudes are changing, maybe there is hope for us.

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @08:56AM (#40128005)
    We are after all essentially paying them to produce it.
  • Interesting how they pay attention to pollution they can't control but ignore pollution they can control [thegrio.com]

    .

    • Interesting how they pay attention to pollution they can't control but ignore pollution they can control [thegrio.com]

      Interesting link.

      So, they've had an "epidemic of cancer since the early '80s".

      The nuclear power plant they're blaming it on didn't exist until 1987.

      The nuclear weapons facility they mention has been there since 1952.

      So, they started getting cancer from a nuclear plant before it was built, while at the same time living next to another nuclear plant for 30 years without a cancer problem.

      W

  • Keep this in mind the next time you hear about how nothing from Fukushima could possibly have gotten here to cause us any problems. They're called clouds, and it's called a jet stream.

  • by Osgeld (1900440)

    they discovered wind

  • ... that's the sweet smell of the free market!
  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @01:47PM (#40129625)

    The only US city I've lived in that had pollution you could smell and see was Los Angeles and that's at least partly because of the inversion layer. The last Asian country I lived in had a very different kind of problem. Because trash pickup was infrequent and unreliable and possibly expensive for some people most residents would burn their trash in their yard in plastic bags. The smoke and the scent of burnt plastic would permeate the air for hours nearly every evening. It was so bad that that was the reason I left. I just couldn't take it anymore. I was sick of the nearly constant smell of burning plastic. There were many nights when I tried to fall asleep while wearing a respirator. Yes, it was that bad.

  • by pbjones (315127) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @06:26PM (#40131059)

    the US outsourced manufacturing to Asia and Asia returns the goods and the pollution that resulted from it's manufacturing. Nice to see that Canada and Mexico are not affected, else they would have got a mention in the original post.

Economists state their GNP growth projections to the nearest tenth of a percentage point to prove they have a sense of humor. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

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