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NASA Data Shows Toxic Air Threat Choking Indian Subcontinent (bloomberg.com)
305 points by rhayabusa on July 7, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 209 comments

A related story : There's a mega mall in Chandigarh, India that wasn't given approval for a power connection for quite some time (politics / corruption).

Real estate is super expensive & the owners couldn't afford to sit idle and play games with the government so they decided to run the mall from morning till night on diesel generators. That's ~ $4500 of diesel each day, probably 6-8k litres. This is an example of a pollution source that's completely avoidable. I'm not sure for how many years this continued on.

What's worse is that there was no widespread public outrage. Why didn't people boycott the mall that's polluting their city and at the same time put pressure on the government to set things right ?

For a perspective, the city I'm talking about is a modern affluent city, close to Delhi (~ 160 miles). Home to a lot of politicians & celebrities, one of the most well planned cities in the world [1] & one of the cleanest in India [2]

[1] http://www.indiatimes.com/culture/travel/9-most-well-planned...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleanest_cities_in_India

[3] http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20130407/cth1.htm#5

Search for this quote. It is very relevant

> "Let me give you a lesson in practical politics. It is a mistake to suppose that the public wants the environment protected or their lives saved and that they will be grateful to any idealist who will fight for such ends. What the public wants is their own individual comfort."

Why would people boycot the mall? Why not instead the disfunctional gov? By boycotting the mall you would only make it easier for the gov to ask for a bigger bribe.

Why would anyone protest? India doesn't have enough electricity to waste on Malls and Movies theaters. Or big offices like tech parks in Bangalore!

What you have mentioned applies to every tech park in Bangalore, so should people now protest against their very source of employment?

India doesn't have enough electricity

There's something fundamentally broken about this statement, which suggests a deeper problem - why isn't the market for electricity working in India?

The grid in India is pretty broken. My dad had dreams of going back to India to retire, but on his last trip he told me housing was now super expensive, the pollution was still terrible, the air not fit to breath and the water still unsafe to drink.

In other countries we take a national grid for granted. In Europe, power can be bought and sold from country to country. India may be lacking in capacity, but even if they're not, the grid is fragile, unreliable and not a national one.

There are over a billion people living there too, in a land mass way smaller than their more populous neighbour to the north (and let's not forget all of China's trouble with pollution as well).

A huge chunk of china is basically uninhabitable.


PS: You can draw a strait line in China with 6% of the population on the larger half, and 94% of the population on the smaller half.


> You can draw a strait line in China with 6% of the population on the larger half, and 94% of the population on the smaller half.

America's most populous county, Los Angeles County, is approximately the same. The northeastern part is mostly very hot high desert or national forest land (severe building restrictions). By contrast, the southwestern part is coastal and much more suitable for human habitation.


In general, Californians live in the third of the state along the Pacific coast.

You could probably do the same in Canada fwiw.

Technically you could draw such a straight line in any country.

You could draw a straight line across any country that divides the population into 6%/94%, but I doubt there are many countries where the 94% side would be smaller than the 6% side for any line.

This is such an interesting idea! Lots of potential.

Given n (city,population, area) tuples for country C, find 2 cities, the line thru which slices C into two land masses M and N. M would then have k tuples and N would have n-k, such that the ratio of aggregate population of k tuples to the aggregate population of n-k would be 90+delta:10-delta, for delta in interval [1,9], whilst simultaneously you have the ratio of the aggregate area of the k tuples to the aggregate area of n-k working out to 1+nabla:1-nabla, for nabla in [0,0.5].

No idea what the optimal algorithm would be, short of brute force so O(n^2).

This is the sort of DS project a HuffPo would run - you can slice up countries not just based on 94:6 population but also crime rate, education, victims of homicide, what have you; all you need in tuples with larger arity.

"tuples with larger arity" is just computer scientist speak for "take more things into account".

Given the generality and popularity of sweepline algorithms in computational geometry, I'm wondering where the problem is here. Can't you just move a sweepline across a given territory in any direction and get a result? If you want maximum outrage (largest value of X in smallest area), I agree that's more complex and I'm not sure how you would prove an optimum result.

Given the city-local nature of most population density, I'd imagine a grow-out-from-cities + line fit model would work fairly well at lower computational complexity.

It'd be curious what different countries look like in terms of gradient decent difficulty on population density. I'd imagine most look fairly similar (densely populated regional urban areas surrounded by rural), but I imagine there are exceptions to some degree out there?

There are not that many city's in any given country so N^2 is probably not a big deal. However, you can get approximate results by drawing a line at every angle through a country and then moving that line up and down. Then just look for city's near any good candidate lines.

> drawing a line at every angle through a country and then moving that line up and down.

This part is quite messy. For every given (c1,c2) city pair, you'd get 1 straight line that connects c1 to c2. Then for every city ck, you need info on whether ck is above that line or below - you can compute that by point-slope geometry with the lat-long coordinates ( given point p(x,y) & line l with some slope, is p above l or below ).

If you want to poke around, the dataset is here: http://seer.cancer.gov/popdata/

Consider a country with utterly uniform population density. It is trivially false that you can draw "a straight line with 6% of the population on the larger half, and 94% of the population on the smaller half" in such a country. I would be very surprised if all countries in the world were far enough from "uniform population density" for your statement to apply to them.

But you couldnt draw a straight line that has half the land area on each side yet 94/6% split of population.

True enough. Though Canada has more land than China and less than 3% of China's population. So, it's not nearly as big a deal.

Is it really uninhabitable? The territories in the north maybe too harsh, but with global warming helping too I think the southern half is quite alright, which is huge. It's all forest, lots of lakes, no lack of water and not too high, and no desert.

On the western half:

The 'low' areas have minimal rainfall and are 1KM over sea level. http://www.chinamaps.org/china/china-map-of-precipitation-an...

The high areas get a little more rainfall, but are mostly 4-5+km over sea level. http://www.china-food-security.org/data/maps/dem/dem_h.htm

Combine them and you can see why the population map looks the way it does. http://www.china-mike.com/china-travel-tips/tourist-maps/chi...

Uhm... Canada, not China. I responded to the comment that said

    > You could probably do the same in Canada fwiw.
I would not ask about China, I've seen enough documentaries about their deserts and high plateaus. Some of them about the silk road, which was not an easy one because of that geography.

From what I see, there's a pretty good correlation between the population density map (https://www.britannica.com/place/Canada/images-videos/Popula...) and the portion of Canada at least sporadically covered by permafrost. (http://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/state-environment/13-permafrost)

In addition to the rather obvious climate this implies (eg, rather cold), from what I understand, building anything on permafrost is very challenging.

"sporadically covered by permafrost" - I think you're confused as to the permanency of permafrost.

It's no more uninhabitable than the uninhabitable areas of China. But it is non-arable.

Most of the eastern half of Canada north of a certain is "Canadian shield" and is granite shield rock with little if any topsoil.

The other half is boreal forest and some of it is indeed farmed to a fairly high latittude (central Alberta where I'm from) but once you get up high enough the growing degree days are not sufficient to grow a lot of crops. It's good for grazing if that. And also fairly arid in spots.

And the rest is mountains, or arctic.

Canada and China are roughly the same size.

Tibetless China is still a lot bigger than India and doesn't have that 94% property. The spirit of the GP's comment holds, I think.


  ~94% of 1.357b = 1.28 billion population. 
  ~40% of 3.7 mill = 1.5 million square miles.
  = ~0.85 billion people per million square miles.

  1.252 billion people on
  1.269 million mi
  =~ 1 billion people per million square miles.
So, India is around 15% denser. Of course you can avoid the strait line cut and push China's density much higher, but the point is they are not that far off where people actually live.

Where are you getting the 40% figure from? Are you saying that Tibet(-ish) is 60% of the land area of China?

Eyeballing: http://www.undertheraedar.com/2012/06/population-of-china.ht.... Tibet is part of that side with 6% of the population, but rainfall is a major issue limiting population over a much larger area.

I'd be interested in knowing if all housing prices in India are going up or just for certain demographics. For example, I'd assume that there is a large burgeoning middle class based on tech / offshoring in places like Bangalore, Hyderabad, etc. And also, there are probably a lot of newly minted millionaires that are involved in politics, finance, etc. - a lot of investment money has gone to India in the last 20 years.

But are the rents even increasing for the majority poor that live in the very cramped areas surrounding most cities? How about the rural population?

I ask because, while it makes sense that places like London, SF, and Vancouver would have huge property price increases due to increases in demand (foreign wealth, start-up success, etc.) it seems very disturbing that more and more areas where wages have simply not risen at all for decades are also going through prices increases.

For example, the rents in the Midwest city I come from have gone up about 50% in the last 7 or 8 years, though housing itself has not. Wages have actually gone down, adjusted for inflation.

As far as I know real-estate prices in almost all of the cities are going up, even after adjusting inflation. Rents are low because of really high supply. Wages have gone down post inflation. Most people attribute the ever increasing prices of real-estate to illegal money/back economy, there are estimates that 23%-26% of Indian economy is unreported/black.

> a land mass way smaller than their more populous neighbour to the north

Is the huge amount part of the relatively uninhabited himalaya accounted for in that statement?

1. Most Indian power generation is Coal, there are hydel, and Nuclear is stuck in Gen2 (thanks to sanctions due to Nuke testing - the current Gen is 5)

2. There is scarcity of Coal, and Coal that is mined in India is high-soot

3. The demand for electricity outstrips Supply.

4. The supply never caught up with the demand because Transmission lines are owned by Government(state-level) and there is rampant theft

5. Because of theft and subsidies money is lost by government and the more the cost of generation the more loss the government will incur, so renewable is mostly costed out till recently.

There is hope though, Russia is building six nuclear power plants in India, more dams are coming online and investments in Renewables have increased.

Once distributed solar becomes affordable, the electricity owes in many parts of India would diminish or become tolerable.

I am afraid this picture is far from accurate. Power plants on the whole are running at a very low PLF for some time. Very cheap power is available in the short term markets[1]. The transmission system has also improved in the last two years and now prices are more or less uniform across the country[1].

Last mile distribution infrastructure is still a WIP in many places but the real problem is financial. Many distribution companies are owned by state govts. and unable to charge/recover for the electricity they distribute. This incentivizes them to procure/supply as little power as possible. Many states have now opted for a financial restructuring [2] and I expect demand will pick up sharply.

[1] http://www.vidyutpravah.in/ [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ujwal_DISCOM_Assurance_Yojana

#2 may be outdated. #3 can be debated, but there were brown-outs and black-outs during the summer.

Things have improved, but the pace is not something to write home about.

Complaining about pace is moving the goal posts here, and yes power shortages are a lot scarcer.

I sell gensets in the southern states and the market is shrinking.

Additionally what's being missed in this entire chain is that the new CPCB norms were released a few years ago and all gensets sold in india now conform to it one way or the other.

To still add to this - most gensets don't run as much as they are able to. For a majority of sets they run very little in the span of years.

The OP gave an example where power was not given to a mall due to corruption, not lack of power.

I'm not sure there is really a scarcity of coal. Market prices are low by historical standards and India is currently looking at ways to expand coal exports because of overproduction and record stockpiles at power plants.


India currently has sufficient electricity but the distribution system remains broken.

> why isn't the market for electricity working in India?

Electricity in India is a government monopoly. Even using a generator is illegal if you produce electricity above certain level. In very few cities government has allowed private players like Tata and Reliance to produce electricity and yet given them a complete monopoly over certain parts of the city.

Land acquisition in India is a big mess. People dont have proper property rights, clear land titles etc. It is illegal for a private company to buy land for commercial purposes if the land is not under particular zone. For example let us say I want to build my own power-lines over 100miles. I cant erect a pole in a farmland because erecting a poll is a commercial activity and the land is meant for farming only.

So the companies have to ask government to acquire land. It is a huge corrupt mess.

Electricity is unaffordable to vast mass of people without heavy subsidy. It is same with every infrastructure sector. One can say well phones are available and affordable to 1.1 billion Indian people. However ARPU for telecom companies is less than $2/month which might be one of the lowest in the world. Most companies are in heavy debt with not much to upgrade infrastructure as a result user count is getting very high but quality of network is getting lower.

Any infrastructure sector which requires heavy investment to produce but once there can be used by anyone will remain in bad shape. That is why India has many world class hospitals, 5-star hotels etc because they can be made exclusively available to those who can afford. While roads, piped water supply, sewage systems, public transport, education remain in terrible shape.

Exploding demand and insufficient supply. Annual growth in electricity usage is around 6%.

Investment into electric infrastructure is not sufficient. Coal provides almost 3/4 of the electricity.

I think you are missing the point. The protest should be against polluting the city to power a non-necessary activity by not going to the mall.

AND if the government purposely delayed an electricity connection by months or years, then you should protest against them too. The above problem doesn't seem to be an issue of supply & demand of electricity, but more of a power tussle between the builder & authorities for possible kickbacks.

Related, it seems like India is almost power surplus according to these sources : [1] [2] [3]

[1] http://www.businesstoday.in/magazine/features/we-can-tell-th...

[2] "By the end of calendar year 2015, India has become power surplus country despite lower power tariffs" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_India

[3] https://www.google.com/search?q=india+power+surplus

>>The protest should be against polluting the city to power a non-necessary activity by not going to the mall.

Nearly every major set up runs on diesel generators, where all would you stop going?

These sort of protests, bans etc don't scale well.

That is not true. India has sufficient electricity to meet its needs besides Malls and Movies indeed something that people want given their explosive growth.

India has only 2% electricity shortage.

The Irony !

When I went to India, I though to my-self the living standard in the villages were HIGHER then the cities.

The air in the villages were clean - it was much cooler weather due to not being trapped in the congested cities.

The village people though I was crazy to think that their village was a paradise, and everyone wanted to move to the city.

I think its a serious lack of education that India/Bangladesh will not learn easily. A large number of people need to die due to cancer for it be taken seriously, unfortunately.

We are talking about a country where chain smoking is really common !

And no I a person from the sub-continent so I am not being racist, just pointing out some of the terrible facts about why I am terrified of going back.

I do not think it is crazy for people of villages to think moving to the city is a good idea. It might seem pristine and like paradise to a person from a city visiting a village but for a person living in a village its a different story. It's not the environmental paradise they are trying to escape from, its mostly lack of opportunity. Most villages in India are agriculture based, and most of central and southern India does not have perennial rivers and solely depend on monsoons for irrigation. So, if monsoon fails (less or more than expected), so does their income for he year. Not to mention lack of education, transport, banking etc. I have been to villages where even now if you need education beyond middle school, you need to leave the village for a neighboring town. Not to mention the social pressures such as not having equal opportunities for women in villages where as in a city, it is common place and generally socially accepted for women to have jobs and careers.

I agree about smoking though, and specially the prevalence of the cheap cigarettes called "beedis", these are simply tobacco rolled over in a tobacco leaf and do not even have filters. Being very cheap, it is consumed by the poorer people and when coupled with lack of education, I assume does contributes to lot of smoking related diseases.

I strongly agree with you.

Since my source of income was built due to being in global cities and the only infrastructure I need is the Internet and my ability to think. My source of income is not disrupted due to being in the village.

But I think if your work doesn't allow you to do things remotely, yes there is a lack of opportunity in the village.

I was just thinking of the fact that my main income drain is rent in a global city. So moving to the village eliminates my biggest expense.

It also eliminates any opportunities for personal development and expanding social circles that are critical for both career and personal growth. There is a reason why rents are so high in the cities: they are desirable places to live because of the opportunities they offer for recreation and personal and professional progress.

Edit: Also I think its hard for anyone (including myself) to relate to kind of lifestyle that most Indian villagers face. Lack of education, illiteracy, importance of superstitions and so on can greatly hinder the progress of any people.

Vehicular pollution, construction dust, diesel generators are a common problem in almost all big cities in India.

However you are looking at the advantages of villages as a visitor with a point of view towards being closer to nature. There are other problems in villages that you probably won't encounter unless you live there on a day to day basis. Finally, grass is always greener on the other side (holds true for both villages & city dwellers).

> A large number of people need to die due to cancer for it be taken seriously

Cancer isn't uncommon in villages and city pollution isn't the only cause.

True, I think if you lived in the village it would be hard for you to escape it and get highly educated.

For that you prolly need to move to a big city, but from my immediate reasoning, I could work remotely from the village for the rest of my life as a programmer and could have a higher standard of living then being in the city.

But I guess that is due to the nature of my job, rather than anything.

Amenities !

You may not get your favorite loaf of bread, although you'll get fresh organic eggs. You may not be able to watch the latest movies in a theater. A good gymnasium probably won't exist, but you can always run in a grass field. There are countless other differences. People are materialistic & not everyone can make that compromise :)

>>I though to my-self the living standard in the villages were HIGHER then the cities.


>>The village people though I was crazy to think that their village was a paradise, and everyone wanted to move to the city.

Well this is because 'standard of living' these days in India is largely measured through a proxy of wealth you own. Not on the factors you mentioned.

I think the city/country thing can also be somewhat attributed to the grass is greener/star bellied sneetch effect.

Clean air and pollution comes far behind to nutrition.

Poor people move to cities because they want to escape malnutrition.

As an Indian when I come back from overseas this the very first problem I notice, especially when I return from a long trip. The problem is far deep than one can imagine.

A city like Bangalore has almost an impossible amount of scooters on roads. Almost every house has at least one, and most homes have easily 1 for every two people staying in the home. And its not like US where there are laws on building homes. People take a 1200 sqft plot and build 4 floors, with 4 families, so at least 6 two wheelers for a small plot of land. This is even possible because auto rickshaws and buses have gotten expensive. Public transport of any kind is expensive, unpredictable and not worth when you look at the overall comfort and economics of having our own scooter.

At the other hand trees are being cut at an alarming rate. The area where I stay, around 15 years back, had a drive where students from an agricultural campus plotted a tree per home. In the time since a countable few trees remain. People cut trees for various reasons, some which are down right stupid. Reasons go like- A big tree will attract birds who will in turn crap on our cars/scooters, or that chirping birds disturb their morning sleep to impossibility of cutting the tree if grows too high.

The garbage landfill are full. So the government often doesn't collect garbage on time. Sometimes even a whole month passes before the garbage is collected. So you have massive piles of trash(Medical and all other toxic waste included) piling right at the corner of the lane. This causes mosquitoes to breed, and then diseases like dengue spread. The most obvious solution people around the place work to is burn the trash, causing all this toxic fumes to now mix in the air and reach almost everyone's lungs in the area.

On top of this comes industrial pollution. Rivers and lakes are being polluted, encroached and destroyed almost everywhere. Bangalore's lakes have almost disappeared. Many remaining are now cesspools. There was a lake which caught fire recently.

India needs something on the lines of Clean air act, and clean water act urgently. Feasibility of implementation remains a problem though.

Are most of those scooters 2-stroke or 4-stroke? At that scale, the efficiency and emissions differences could make a big difference.

They're two-stroke. Small engines in the developing world are typically terrible - very dirty, very noisy ... and also cheap and easy to fix.

Don't think so, India is typically 4 stroke because of pollution norms and 4 strokes are more fuel efficient which we're very sensitive to.

Frankly, India's problem can only be fixed by population control. If Sanjay Gandhi hadn't been an idiot and forever poisoned the idea of population control, India would be much better off, especially if we can get the population to around 300M - 500M

I agree pop growth is an issue... But asking the pop to drop by two thirds is out of bounds. You cannot get that drop without natural decline over many generations or some kind of dreadful calamity. Natural decrease will happen but over generations, with the expected economic consequences of fewer people contributing to an economy. Maybe Japan can show the way, but so far, they are still basing their economy on growth which is incongruous with their demographics and it hasn't worked out too well and seems to be headed towards deterioration, barring external changes (like importing young people).

Unfortunately, resource war may likely force this to happen. It is not environmentally feasible to support such a large population with a high standard of living and being environmentally friendly.

Frankly, the whole world is going to have to get in line.

I find strange this whole idea that economic growth requires population growth. Why can't each person, aided by automation, simply produce and consume more?

why not both?

some decade of this pollution and will happen either way

>>India's problem can only be fixed by population control.

And with tax accountability.

>>If Sanjay Gandhi hadn't been an idiot and forever poisoned the idea of population control, India would be much better off, especially if we can get the population to around 300M - 500M

Wrong solutions lead to mistakes from which it is hard to recover. The ideal solution was industrialization and planned urbanization. Urban population levels today have largely stabilized, and in places steadily falling.

Most couples these days don't have more than one kid. So really we will see a decline in population levels as standard of living, and urbanization levels increase. This is a long term solution, there is no short term solution.

I hope you're right and I'd really love for it to happen.

Btw, can you explain the tax accountability part, I'm not really sure I understand what you're trying to say there?

Fixing tax accountability mandates fixing income accountability. Once that is done corruption will become impossible.

Best bet currently is cashless transactions. The more we have them, the better. If some one has more than explainable income in the bank they will be forced to show that up in tax returns, if its legal they will have to pay taxes, if its illegal then they face action.

Cash transactions are at the core of why everyday corruption is even possible. Liquid cash is easy to exchange without traceability.

Makes a lot of sense. I complete agree. Thanks for the explanation.

There are still a lot of older two-stroke engines in use. Four-stroke engines from local and Chinese manufacturers are typically crude air-cooled carbureted designs with very high emissions. A modern European motorcycle might produce 20x lower emissions than a typical Indian bike thanks to much stricter regulations.

Any references on this? I think most engines are Indian manufactured and India uses emission norms based on European regulation [0] Would be interested to see any data. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bharat_Stage_emission_standard...

The regulations are almost meaningless because of corruption.

A majority of drivers in India never took a test - they simply bribed an official to receive a license. Only a fool would pay the Rs 20,000 fee for a commercial vehicle roadworthiness test when the certificate can simply be bought for Rs 1,500. It's easier and cheaper to pay bribes than to work through the official bureaucracy.

http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/marianne.bertrand/research/p... http://siteresources.worldbank.org/PAKISTANEXTN/Resources/Ur... http://thewire.in/16474/why-swacch-bharat-type-schemes-will-...


While I agree on the point of vehicles made pre norms, but vehicle manufactured after their adoption are all mostly going to be compliant (although with the VW scam, I'm sure there are going to be significant doubts about whether the vehicles stay that way).

Can't argue on the emission check though, that I definitely believe. One can only hope newer vehicles don't have significant degradation in emissions over time.

I guess the main takeaway is that the Indian government has to enforce the rules more than anything.

You are right in general, but note that for instance there are still many 2 stroke auto rickshaws: http://www.autocarpro.in/news-national/karnataka-ban-polluti....

Typically, the game goes as follows: new laws get drafted, local groups such as auto rickshaw unions get together and demand time/cash incentives to move to more expensive, cleaner equipment, local governments grant extensions, and the cycle repeats.

Then there are the general issues plaguing enforcement in India, which are listed in the wikipedia article.

It's easy to believe there's a lot of room for improvement- we've been improving the design of four-stroke engines for decades- but at least they are a huge step-function better than two-stroke.

All bikes and scooters manufactured in India are 4 stroke,that is so for a decade. Only exception is TVS50, it has some exemption.

No, almost all two wheeler sold in india are four stroke

Even so, small air-cooled engines typically have no emission controls and rudimentary carburetors and are quite dirty.

There is a PUC (Pollution under control) certificate that is required to be current (valid for 6 months) and has to be under the prescribed limit. Traffic cops check on this regularly. Systems are in place. Vehicles beyond 12 years are being banned. i think assumptions are dangerous.

4-stroke, but this is anecdotal.

> This is even possible because auto rickshaws and buses have gotten expensive. Public transport of any kind is expensive, unpredictable and not worth when you look at the overall comfort and economics of having our own scooter.

When I lived in Bangalore, and whenever I visit there, BMTC (the public bus transport provider) has buses at least every few minutes along the main corridors during the day.

They are often crowded, but I don't think I could call the service "unpredictable", beyond the general variations that apply to all means of vehicular transport in Bangalore. Last mile connectivity though is often painful.

The service is indeed expensive, especially when one is sharing a commute with another person.

This said, I really like your summary of Bangalore.

>>BMTC (the public bus transport provider) has buses at least every few minutes along the main corridors during the day.

Actually definition of city has changed. Bangalore has gotten so big to a point, not all go to the core city for work these days. Plus it takes a lot of time negotiating traffic.

Underground metro is the best bet Bangalore has currently.

It's good that the government isn't allowing google street view access to the country's streets otherwise the world would see and understand the unmitigated hell that the country has become.

That satellite image of the haze is scary. Scarier still is how the deterioration of air quality in the cities is affecting health. (The WHO estimates ~15 million bronchial asthma patients in India.)

You haven't experienced air pollution if you haven't breathed in the evening air in Mumbai or Bangalore during the rush hour.

Thank god for the US EPA.

And that’s why environmental regulation – and other regulations dealing with external factors – are so important, and why treaties that try to prevent that are dangerous.

But the EPA can only exist in the context of a country that's relatively wealthy. In countries where hunger is a problem, you can't ask people to accept a lower standard of living in exchange for a better environment, because a lower standard of living means starvation.

They're useful trailblazers, but I'd love to see more free-market solutions tried and developed.

The free market solution to environmental issues has always been "dump it right here", because it completely ignores externalities.

You'd have to be insane to even consider that it could be otherwise.

That it always has been some way does not mean that it cannot be otherwise.

What does that even mean? Do you have any examples where the so-called free market has successfully solved this problem?

Why don't you start with a simple demonstration or example of the free-market working for any public good.

there's absolutely no incentive in the free market to care about pollution.

There technically is an incentive, though it might not be recognized as being enough to move the needle (mentioned later): if pollution is not taken care of in some way, the costs associated with supplying (producing) some thing (good or service) or things is likely increased as a result of the pollution.

The incentive to care about pollution, then, is the potential to save money when producing some thing or things by reducing the levels of pollution. That is, if it would cost less money to reduce pollution than the pollution causes the costs of production to increase, then you have an opportunity to save money by reducing pollution and possibly an opportunity to produce more (incentive to reduce pollution).

Problem is, the incentive might not be recognized as being enough to move the needle because the increase in costs of producing is likely distributed across many producers and its effect might be too minimal on a per-producer basis for them to either recognize that it exists or too costly to do anything at the level that they experience its effects.

Really? What about removing BPA from plastic water bottles? I know it's not pollution in the strict sense. Companies did that before the gov't ever stepped in and forced it. Why? Consumer demand.

The market cares about whatever customers care about.

Was BPA removed from all plastic water bottles? I remember when BPA-free was trending. All the expensive designer water bottles slapped stickers all over saying they were BPA free. The cheaper bottles made no such assurances.

The Clean Water Act applies to everyone equally. The market cares only about customers with money.

That's not quite a valid analogy in my books, because either you have BPA in a water bottle or you don't. In contrast, "customers don't want pollution" isn't quite accurate - it's better described as "customers don't want pollution near them". To this end, you just dump the pollution elsewhere, where your customers aren't.

Pollution is a global problem though, so this isn't a solution that works yet it's absolutely what the free market would decide.

>> You haven't experienced air pollution if you haven't breathed in the evening air in Mumbai or Bangalore during the rush hour.

Economically, it may be a good sign that 1,400 new cars are added to Delhi's vehicle population every day.

According to the Centre for Science and Environment, the number of passenger cars in Delhi has gone up from around 75,000 in 2005-06 to more than half a million today.


The pollution makes sense when you start to understand how many cars they are putting on the roads every day with no sign of letting up. They have recently said they want the whole country to have nothing but electric cars by 2030.

>...how many cars they are putting on the roads every day

That, and the fact that abysmal city planning has created unhealthy environments, such as locating chemical plants in suburban Mumbai, where a massive population resides.

Bhopal was a one-time disaster. But the cities of India are a continuous, on-going, everyday disaster.

Take every car off the road and those satellite images look almost exactly the same.

You haven't experienced air pollution until Diwali night in a metro

Or Independence Day in Texas.

Can't decide whether it's ironic,sad or just plain unfortunate. The WHO offices in New Delhi are on the banks of a sewage drain running foul. https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/28%C2%B037'19.2%22N+77%C...

As someone who grew up in New Delhi, I think the government has taken quite a few steps like passing laws that require all public transport to run only on CNG, mandating industries to be positioned outside the city and more recently having policies to curb number of cars on the road. But the problem of pollution never seemed to improve. Optimistically I've told myself that if those measures weren't taken we would have been in a worse position much earlier. Though that does little good in the long run. Unless action is taken to effect negative growth to pollution I think anything you do won't quite cut it.

To be fair though, like in any Indian metropolitan, there is immense pressure on the infrastructure that takes solving such problems to the next level. The sheer growth in population(primarily due to immigrants from other parts of India) on a daily basis would put any government in a quandary.

Why doesn't the Indian government speak to Tesla Motors/Solar City? They can help you zero down on traffic/power generation related pollution completely.

Indian engineers are smart people and given that much of EV technology is now proven and even open source!, I think it will make sense for the people there to adopt alternative tech. Have you tried talking to Tesla to open up R&D center with Tatas/Mahindras/whoever?

I do sense that corruption and its acceptance among citizenry is still going to be a major impediment but then it might just work. The only challenge would probably be to manufacture at scale and keep the car costs low to fit the average budget there.

But then India does get more than its fair share of tropical sun! :-)

Cost, most cars sold in India are less then 8000 USD. Tesla won't make any sent here. Solar is now coming up motivated by poor infrastructure, particularly in remote/rural areas

Oh that's a lot of money! New Delhi should explore this idea then!

I can distinctly remember the air quality in Delhi improving drastically when the public transportation moved to CNG and the metro started operating in the early 00s. Over time though, the policy of building more roads rather than focussing on public transport has led to both congestion and pollution problems worsening. I am optimistic that once the peripheral highways are completed and metro phase 3 is operational, air quality will improve.

Having been to Delhi that does not seem to be enforced or effective. There are still petrol stations all over. And the pollution is still appalling.

Petrol station are still there and they are legal. Only the public transport like the government run buses and the private taxis/auto rickshaws are those required to run on CNG. And I would venture to say that 100% of them do, mainly because it is less than half the cost of petrol. In fact, a number of car owners are moving to CNG too for the same reason.

I am from India. Especially from Bangalore. I commute daily 30kms up and down. I am facing breathing polluted air issues. In fact I was looking for good pollution filter masks. But I am unable to get the good one. Since the reviews of them are unsatisfactory

I am trying to come out of this issue at all. At the same time I don't want to leave my lovable tech job.

Anybody experienced the same issues? Any advise ?

For outside, I use a 3M rubbery mask (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008MCUT86) along with P100 filters (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007STCT00).

You could also use any of 3M's N95 disposable filters. They look a bit better, but you have to be more careful about getting a good seal when you put them on.

For home, you need to ensure your windows and doors have good seals. Then you need an air purifier (and to regularly change its filters). If you are on a budget, consider this one: http://smartairfilters.com/in/en/product-category/diy/

If money is no object, then get the IQAir Healthpro 250.

Per http://hariharan-ramesh.com/sports.html, it seems like your options are sadly limited, though you could give the linked Respro a shot.

I hear good things about HEPA filters.


I'd recommend getting cheap disposable surgical masks as a backup strategy. They won't prevent the air being polluted but they will still filter the tiny particulates in the air that cause so many problems.

> cheap disposable surgical masks as a backup strategy. They won't prevent the air being polluted but they will still filter the tiny particulates in the air that cause so many problems.

This is such a common misconception. Surgical masks are meant to prevent the transmission of diseases by blocking blood droplets etc. from entering your mouth. They are NOT[1] intended nor capable of filtering particles from the air (except perhaps if they are visible to the eye). I see so many individuals in Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and some in China wearing them, but the only role they can play is to (i) keep you warm, (ii) fit in with the locals, (iii) avoid spreading disease, (iv) keep bugs out of your mouth when riding with a moped down the street.

If you want to filter PM2.5 you need proper respirators[2] or activated charcoal masks that can do the job.

[1] https://www.osha.gov/Publications/respirators-vs-surgicalmas...

[2] https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/respiratoryprotection/index.html

I see! HEPA filters are still a good idea I presume.

If you can have plants at work/home that should help. I don't normally like TED talks but this guy seemed to have interesting information on the right kinds.


I think the main challenge isn't how to filter air at home, but when you are traveling outside, e.g., buying groceries, going to work, etc.

Filtering air at home has a big impact, because:

- You have a lot of control over your home's internal environment

- You probably spend 1/3 to 1/2 your time at home

It's also challenging:

- All windows and doors must be sealed from draughts to minimise pollution coming in

- Filter machines must be regularly maintained, and filters replaced

- Windows must be opened for short periods (e.g. 20 mins) a couple of times per day, to let bad gases out, and let oxygen in

Sure, you can wear a mask in other environments, but you probably take the mask for many functions (talking with people, eating).

This is really bad advice. Surgical masks don't filter much of the air you breathe. They don't make a seal, so incoming air takes the easiest path: around the mask, rather than through the mask.

Thanks for the explanation, I was wondering.

I remember traveling through Delhi and washing my face afterwards at the hotel. The amount of black sooty dirt that came off was startling!

I was born and brought up in India as a teenager after which my family moved to USA.

Now whenever I go back to India with my family, someone always will end up getting sick. If you go out during the day time you can feel a layer of sticky stuff starting to cover your face and eventually more dust and air pollutants stick to your body. After you get back indoors if you take a white towel and just rub it gently on your face you will see amount of black dirt that comes off. I hope India takes steps to move forward with clean and renewal energy sources because they can have serious consequences on health of all Indian Citizens.

If I take the tops and doors off my Jeep and drive for any length of time, this happens to my hair and skin even here in California. I keep a supply of Lava on hand, because regular soap does not even begin to clean my hands after a day of driving like that. I recently discovered that sunblock makes the soot "stick" (logically) so now I have to scrape my skin for about ten minutes in the shower. Washing my hair looks like I'm rinsing off a palette of black paint on particularly bad days or days where I spent a lot of time on the freeway to get to where I was going.

Counterintuitively, I get far dirtier traveling to the trail with my Jeep stripped than I do actually running the trail. Even dusty ones. I tend to keep it buttoned up now.

Pollution sucks everywhere. I'm not making a claim whether it's better or worse anywhere or disagreeing with your comment, just making an observation. (And yes, I'm aware the hobby I'm mentioning in this comment contributes. I offset it when I can.)

Traveled to India ~2+ years ago. Landed in Delhi - couldn't make out the city at all from the air due to pollution. We drove to Agra (3 hr drive) and there was smog pretty much the entire way there.

This seems like a promising opportunity for startups to tackle...I wonder if there are any out there, would love to hear more.

Startups can provide symptom relieve to those able to pay - they can't solve the problem. You presume too much of private enterprise. Here's an example for a huge commercial success story often attributed to private enterprise - Silicon Valley - but here is its real history: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTC_RxWN_xo (TL;DL: very big government spending on electronics R&D laid the foundation, only then could private capital start to work). This is a big policy issue first of all. Unless a miracle comparable to life itself happens and somebody discovers how to create energy from nothing requiring pretty much zero infrastructure (that has to be build all over the country), and how to create transportation that also doesn't require much infrastructure (that has to be build all over the country), same with clean water (India has a big lack-of-clean-water problem, and increasing).

How much worse is the air pollution in New Delhi compared to a relatively polluted US city such as Los Angeles?

You can compare the maps for e.g. PM2.5 in New Delhi and LA quite easily:



Quite a lot worse, as you can see!

Thanks, however I think an overall picture/summary that took into account seasonal differences would also be interesting in this context in addition to that type of real time information.

I don't have a link to such seqsonal information but I can tell you that right now is in the ball park of worst case for Los Angeles. We've been hit by some brutal forest fires due to the drought and air quality for the last couple of weeks has been much worse than usual.

Not surprised. The last time I was in Delhi, 4 years ago, I couldn't breathe outside the home.

This reminds me of London's Great Smog of 1952 (Dec). It finally pushed the country and city to deal with the air pollution. Hopefully this does the same for the millions living each day in this current mess.

The NASA data shows particulate matter. The real pollutants are CO2 and other invisible gases. Why concentrate on the visible particulate matter? The real concern is 400 ppm CO2 in air.

The effects due to particulates are local and short term. The effects due to CO2 are global and long term. 400 ppm CO2 is indeed a real concern, but it does not follow that locally high levels of toxic particulates are not a real concern.

You know this kills people right?

I'm surprised the article doesn't mention density of cattle farming. I know it's a complicated issue, but my understanding is that industrial animal production affects climate more than transportation does.



Because this article isn't about greenhouse gasses? The article is about particles in the air, mainly from vehicle emissions.

Do auto-rickshaws still have dirty two-stroke engines?

Most autos in metros run on CNG now

They should spend a few billion dollars greening the Thar Desert. They need it.

So I'm not really sure what happened, but I couldn't read the article because the page ate up more than 1.5GB of RAM on Firefox and caused it to peg an entire core at 100% utilization http://i.imgur.com/j3q686E.png

And if I scroll down a bit more you'll find a web worker spawned by the same page consuming another 120MB of RAM. This is a lot of stuff happening on what is suppose to be just a news article.

Memory usage is also annoyingly high in FF for me, but with 380 MB not as high.

NASA doesn't have anything else to do ? Why do they waste money to tell something which none listens ?

Dare we suggest that air pollution (the old-fashioned kind) is more important than global warming?

Air pollution is killed with known measures, and it goes away as soon as these are enforced.

Climate change? We have literally changed the climate for the entirety of humanity's future unless we devise a system, whose energy requirements would overshadow practically anything we have ever invented and whose workings we still don't understand, and even so its impact would take decades, at the very least, to be felt.

I read once about an idea: to stimulate the growth of algae in the oceans by seeding them with iron. It would lead to an algae bloom which will die and settle on the ocean floor, trapping the carbon.

Yep, found it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_fertilization

Yes, ideas that have been widely suggested as being extremely bad by adding even more uncertainty to already chaotic systems that are becoming destabilized.

If history is any indication, fertilizer runoff from rivers causes anoxic events in the ocean. That is shit is not to be fucked with; you can trivially destabilize an ecosystem and destroy it, as has already happened in many places.

Actually, it has been tried.

Researchers from the GEOMAR Institute of Marine Biology have seeded the oceans in the southpolar sea with iron in large amounts.

Yes, a huge algae bloom happened – but also a huge growth of animals eating the algae, etc.

The end result was no CO2 being trapped, but fishers in South Africa had a good year.

Climate change is a long-term threat that requires global action. Old-fashioned air pollution is an immediate threat, one which kills millions of people a year right now, and which can be helped with local action near the affected people.

So yes, air pollution is not only more important, but also easier to fix.

If anyone disagrees, go visit one of these cities. A few days of burning nasal passages and you probably won't be able to pay much attention to the decades-distant consequences of climate change.

Seems like both of them might be worth fixing and at least part of the solution is the same.

Definitely, and I certainly wouldn't argue against taking action against CO2 emissions because local air pollution is a bigger problem. Fight both, and where possible find solutions that help both.

The tradeoffs tend to be in smaller fixes anyway. With diesel engines, there's a point where you may have to choose between more CO2 and fewer particulates, or more particulates and less CO2. But obviously both will be improved greatly if you replace that with an electric motor and batteries charged by CO2-neutral energy.

The trade-off in diesel engines is between more CO2 and more nitrogen oxides. Burning lean mixtures with lots of excess oxygen tends to reduce both particulates (since they are more completely burned) and CO2 (since combustion is more efficient) at a cost of nitrogen-oxygen side reactions.

I look at as as Climate change being caused by air pollution (of CO2 & certain other gasses). The old fashioned air pollution is more localized, but isn't completely localized - acid rain was/is a regional air pollution issue for example. Some of the particulates generated on the other side of the world certainly do travel here on air currents, not in high amounts, but if they carry potent pollution items, it may have some effect.

Another issue is that agricultural and sea food products sourced from polluted nations may carry the pollution with them, needing increased monitoring of imports.

A better way to phrase the parent's comment, which doesn't deliberately obscure the point: "Dare we suggest that particulates are more important than CO2?"

The question poses a false dichotomy. We should regulate both as appropriate, with understanding of the science of how the pollution affects us. Doing so doesn't make one more important than the other.

> > "Dare we suggest that particulates are more important than CO2?"

> The question poses a false dichotomy.

Eh.. assessing relative importance does not present a dichotomy, false or otherwise.

The solution to both is essentially the same - burn less fuel, more efficiently. The old environmentalist motto "think global, act local" is quite apposite.

The US and Western Europe burn far more fuel today than they did in the 1960s, but have vastly cleaner air than they did then. Efficiency and reduction of use are not sufficient to improve air quality. In fact, big diesel engines and big coal fired power plants can be some of the most efficient methods of using energy while still being tremendously polluting. The problem is primarily particulates, sulfur, NOx, and carbon monoxide, all of which can be controlled if the proper systems are used.

We have known about global warming for over 100 yrs now... I think it qualifies as "old-fashioned" by now.

We can pass all the air regulations in America, but it won't matter one bit until China and India get their act together. China has 100% 24/7/365 smog cover along their population centers. So sick of people pushing overbearing regulation in the USA without even holding these countries accountable!

As someone living in the US who visits China every couple of years, I would really love to see China clean up their act (the pollution has become by far my #1 dislike), but I would really hate to see the US loosen pollution regulations because of some weird idea that we shouldn't bother cleaning up our air unless everybody else does too.

I love the fact that when we have air quality warnings, I can't even tell the difference. I hate the fact that half the time I'm in Beijing, I can't comfortably breathe outside. I would hate to see the air quality here made worse just because China hasn't made theirs better.

I don't think his point was that we should loosen our restrictions, but re-direct our attention on the biggest abusers. Right now that's China. And it's not even close.

You would need to combine the emissions of the U.S, India and the entirety of the European Union to equal China's annual CO2 emissions. See for yourself: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_di...

Basically, China emits as much CO2 as the next 3 countries. And they do nothing to curb it. Oh, they have regulations on books (Hey look, see, we have laws too!) but there is virtually zero enforcement unless something big is coming to town, like the olympics. And then they only focus on the relevant region, not the whole country. Oh, and they tell the factories to turn off completely rather than adding scrubbers or filtering.

China could reduce its emissions by orders of magnitude if they could get these factory owners and coal plants to put the bare minimum filters/scrubbers in play. But that cost money, and factory owners/government need every penny. Regulations you say? I must have forgot my monthly bribe money. Here you go sir. That's how it plays out, and will continue to play out until there is a massive systemic change to China's culture. The corruption is simply to high for anything else. They rank 100 on corruption, with 1 being the least corrupt. The U.S? Usually between 13 and 17. Source: http://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results

We're not talking about CO2 emissions here, we're talking about local pollution such as fine particulates and ozone.

I've noticed that discussions about pollution frequently mix up CO2 and other types of pollution. It's weird.

If you want to combat climate change, then yes, efforts should be directed at China. But if you want clean air in the United States, then efforts should be directed at the United States, and possibly parts of Canada, Mexico, and Cuba. (Although I doubt Cuba contributes much.)

If the US buys only great for the air products - anyone that sells in US must make them. Once you have the infrastructure in place - it may be cheaper to produce all clean instead of half clean/half polluting.

Why should the US put all that effort into cleaning up the air in China?

For something like CO2 it makes perfect sense. That has global impact, so emissions anywhere are essentially the same.

But when it comes to particulates and air quality, it's mostly a local problem. Polluting Chinese factories and cars hurt people in China. The Chinese government and people should be the ones making the effort to clean it up. There's no reason for the US to take it on, unless you're suggesting that we do it as some sort of massive charity scheme.

>Why should the US put all that effort into cleaning up the air in China?

1) For altruistic reasons: help people who suffer.

2) For selfish reasons: block from markets industrial competitors who are gaining an advantage by applying much poorer environmental norms and therefore take market share.

For additional selfish reasons: there's only one atmosphere. ruining it anywhere ruins it everywhere

i'm sort of surprised that would need to be pointed out, though

Bad air quality in China has very little effect on air quality here, so that's not really true.

It is true for CO2, but it's not true for many other pollutants.

This was specifically about other pollutants than CO2. Those have local impact, so bad air in China doesn't show up in America or Europe.

It does. Diluted but it does. I think that 20% of the LA smog could be traced to be of Chinese origin. Sources - probably a guardian article an year ago.

That is clearly not feasible. Just think about it:

Right now, air quality index in central San Francisco is 15 [0]. That's "good". In central Los Angeles, it is 84, a "moderate" day [1]. Those figures are on linear scale [2].

The cities are about on an equal distance from China, and the figure for San Francisco is 18 % of that in LA.

If 20 % of Los Angeles pollution would be from China, then 110 % of San Francisco air pollution would be from China. Hey, it could only be 100 %. You took a bait.

Advice: don't believe everything in Guardian.

[0] https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_city&zi...

[1] https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_city&ci...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_quality_index#Computing_th...

It was nytimes. Sorry.



Link to the paper. Abstract:

tmospheric modeling shows that transport of the export-related Chinese pollution contributed 3-10% of annual mean surface sulfate concentrations and 0.5-1.5% of ozone over the western United States in 2006. This Chinese pollution also resulted in one extra day or more of noncompliance with the US ozone standard in 2006 over the Los Angeles area and many regions in the eastern United States. On a daily basis, the export-related Chinese pollution contributed, at a maximum, 12-24% of sulfate concentrations over the western United States. As the United States outsourced manufacturing to China, sulfate pollution in 2006 increased in the western United States but decreased in the eastern United States, reflecting the competing effect between enhanced transport of Chinese pollution and reduced US emissions. Our findings are relevant to international efforts to reduce transboundary air pollution.

"3-10 % of annual mean surface concentration over Western USA" of a single pollutant is quite a different thing from "20 % of LA smog". By several orders of magnitude.

Yes, some pollutants are measurable over Western USA, at least in areas where there are no local pollutant sources.

Your own link shows that China's per-capita CO2 emissions are half that of the US. It is rank hypocrisy to say that a Chinese person has less right to pollute than an American.

Per-capita is nonsense. It doesn't matter how much pollution is being released per person, we all live on the same rock.

Though if you want to go that route, India trounces China on C02, despite having more people.

Yup, exactly my point!

China emits all of this CO2, because the US and the EU moved most of their manufacturing to it. This cooks the greenhouse gas books, but at the end of the day, the planet doesn't care.

You can't have a non-polluting China, and cheap crap at Wal-Mart.

So you're trying to blame the west? As if China cannot simply decide to clean the air before it leaves their factories? Are western businesses putting guns to the Chinese factory-owner's heads? I think not. They're in it for the profit and know full well what they're doing.

China is a country capable of deciding what it wants for itself. If it wants to be a factory, then that's what it will be. It's "grown up" enough to make its own decisions and be held accountable for them. Blaming the west is just that; trying to redirect the blame.

I say good, let manufacturing move back to the countries they came from. Let them operate under actual regulations. It will be slightly more expense, maybe, but the air will be cleaner. That would require China to do its job and enforce environmental regulations. Which they're not willing to do because profits... So no, the west gets none of the blame here. It's 100% China. If a gang war broke out over drug dealing spots, would you blame the drug user for the violence? Of course you wouldn't. The dealers are the ones responsible. They have free will and can choose to be violent, non-violent, or not deal at all.

Not blame - just point out that our lifestyles are only possible because China is a large CO2 emitter. We can't have one without the other.

Yep, that's exactly what I was saying. But it's ok, a good downvote every once in awhile is good for the soul.

I think it's safe to say human activities is the biggest cause of carbon emission increase in the last few hundred years.

Given that, let's get the facts straight:

- China has 1.382 billion people, India is a close second with 1.327 billion people and United States is a distant 3rd with 324 million people [1]

- Since human activities are the major factor of carbon emission increase. Let's talk a look at the emission by capita data as it's a better metric to proportionally tells the whole picture. According to 2013's data[2], US is ranked at #7 with 16.5 ton per capita. The first 6 countries are mostly middle east oil producers with the exception of Australia. That's more than 2x of China's per capita rate or almost 10x of India's.

So it's hypocritical for someone from developed countries to criticize developing countries because if China and India were emitting CO2 at the rate of United States', the total emission would have been A LOT WORSE! (I'll leave the math for you to calculate how many times worse :-)

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_populatio...

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_di...

Except India's CO2 emissions are less than a third of China's, despite having more people. End of story really. Per capita is a nonsense argument by someone trying to win on technicalities. Unfortunately, "the earth" doesn't care how many people a particular country has, it makes no difference to the environment.

It might make a difference if they were actually using the C02 to do something worthwhile, instead they're using it to make goods to sell for a profit. It's about profit and has nothing to do with China being an developing/industrial country new to the game.

    Except India's CO2 emissions are less than a third of China's, despite having more people.
That's categorically false! India still has less population than China's despite of getting real close in recent years. It's in my previous post's references. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_populatio...

Per capita is a common sense rather because more people further developed hence more industrialization and more CO2 emission.

Along the same lines, smogs and air pollution are also part of the emission that had happened badly for the major industrial hubs in the western world like London[1] and Los Angeles[2] in the early 20th century. Although most developed countries has realized the environmental impact of industrialization and the cost of repairing it.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Smog [2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_pollution_in_the_United_St...

> I would really love to see China clean up their act (the pollution has become by far my #1 dislike)

Since no one has mentioned the Kuznets curve yet, the Environmental Kuznets Curve is a bell-shaped curve that posits that before a certain point, the environment is sacrificed for economic growth. After that inflection point where citizens demand better environmental stewardship, the environment improves.

However, in China, the problem is that economic growth is how the ruling party maintains power. The break-even for political stability economic rate in China is said to be around 6-7%. Under that, the economy cannot sustain the migration of rural workers to urban centers.


It would probably be much more cost effective for the US to pay Chinese firms to reduce emissions (say, by paying for the installation of more advanced filtering equipment) than it is to try and wring further reductions out of US firms.

I don't see how. Particulates don't persist in the atmosphere that long. I understand a little bit of this stuff makes it across the Pacific, but not a whole lot. Living on the east coast, I'm basically unaffected by it except when I go to China, and most Americans don't do that.

If we're talking about reducing CO2 emissions, then yes, further cutting emissions in the US is probably not going to do much good compared to putting similar effort into China. But CO2 is just one piece of the puzzle, and it's one which can even be at odds with combating other types of pollution in some cases (as we saw in the VW emissions scandal).

CO2 emission per capita (2013): USA 16.5 t China 7.6 t

So better turn off your electronic devices etc. NOW.

We are not talking about CO2 emissions here....

You did write If we're talking about reducing CO2 emissions, then yes, further cutting emissions in the US is probably not going to do much good compared to putting similar effort into China.

I think it's fair to point out that the US cutting emissions could have a larger impact than China limiting increases (at least on a per capita basis).

The only relevant question for that part is: for each dollar spent (or other measure of wealth/effort), how much reduction do you get in each place?

I'd wager that you get much more bang for your buck in China. The US is much more efficient at generating wealth from CO2 emissions: our emissions are about half, while our GDP is somewhat larger. China still has a lot of low-hanging fruit when it comes to cutting CO2 emissions.

In any case, per-capita doesn't matter at all unless you want to come at it from a moral angle.

Per capita is a FOOLISH measure here. China's population is more than 4x ours and rapidly growing AND urbanizing.

I disagree. It's a good way of evaluating what someone in the US is asking of the Chinese when they say that the Chinese should do more to limit emissions. They are asking the people in China to do with less than they have.

It certainly shouldn't be the only measure that gets discussion.

> I don't see how. Particulates don't persist in the atmosphere...

You said

> I would really hate to see the US loosen pollution regulations because of some weird idea that we shouldn't bother cleaning up our air unless everybody else does too.

which, to me, only makes sense for types of pollution that are shared. Why would anyone think that China's position one way or the other on a strictly local pollutant should influence the corresponding US policy?

But in any case, my comment is true regardless. Even for local pollutants, there will be more low hanging fruit in China.

I assumed we were talking about local pollution since that's the topic of the article. As certain commenters elaborated, it became clear that they were focused on CO2 instead, but given the context of the conversation it took some time to make that shift.

Polluted air is a symptom of a system which has little regulation over industrial and commercial waste. This means that while we suffer from the air, they will suffer from all kinds of water and soil pollution. They are inflicting grave health wounds upon themselves (like we did to ourselves earlier). We can hope the people will demand a cleaner environment from the government and industry.

Polluted air is a symptom of being poor, and making the reasonable trade off between cost and long-term health risks. China doesn't pollute now because they somehow have to learn valuable lessons in democracy; they pollute because they can't afford the same luxuries we have in the US.

That may be the case sometimes, but I doubt it's the case in China, at least not always. Beijing is fairly wealthy these days, yet is still polluted like crazy. The health impacts are enormous. The reason it persists is because the the costs of cleaning it up are concentrated on a few, while the costs of being exposed are distributed among many, and there's no mechanism to push those costs back onto the responsible parties.

India may well be a different story. Either way, polluters should be made to bear the costs of their pollution. Then the correct course of action just falls out naturally. If the pollution is still worth the cost, it will continue. If it's not, it will stop.

>Beijing is fairly wealthy these days, yet is still polluted like crazy....The reason it persists is because the the costs of cleaning it up are concentrated on a few, while the costs of being exposed are distributed among many, and there's no mechanism to push those costs back onto the responsible parties.

I don't know the details, but I suspect my explanation is better. Chinese per capita GDP is $6.8k, which is the equivalent of 1910 USA. Beijing is $10k, which is 1940 USA. Parts of the US had similarly bad or worse smog up into the '40s.


According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Beijing, Beijing's per-capita GDP in 2013 was $15,000 nominal and $22,000 PPP. It's probably a fair bit higher today. That's more like 1990 USA, not 1940.

OK, but I think major cities in the US had much larger GDP per capita than the nation as a whole too, both in 1940 and 1990. It's also not clear to me that PPP is the relevant metric here; low cost of consumer prices does not necessarily translate into cheap factory cleaning tech even if it does mean folks will be willing to pay more for clean air. Furthermore, it's not surprising that factory technology may lag economic growth more in China since China is growing faster than the US.

I agree with disincentivising pollution, but I'm a bit pessimistic it could work in India, if only because India is less centralized than China and there is a lot more local corruption (not that China doesn't have local corruption, but the central gov can bring things to bear when it wants).

It's not a symptom of being poor. It's more a symptom of growth transitioning away from being poor but not skipping the pollution stage. They could very well grow with modern technology now that it is available and proven --something countries which industrialized earlier didn't have. Not only technology but the knowledge of the effects. Nowadays people don't experiment with radioactive elements in their basement labs the way people did in the early 20th cent. because we know more about those substances and their effects on health.

It's also a symptom of corrupt communist governments.

Air regulations have an immediate, local effect too. But you're right, we should subsidize clean air in developing countries too. [..Ducks..]

Well given that a lot of the Industrial Revolution came at the expense of forceful colonisation, I would say this subsidy would be a great way to structure reparations to India from the UK. [..Ducks lower..]

I would have no problem with that whatsoever and gladly pay even more taxes - if I didn't know that all I would pay for is corruption. People spending money have to be accountable - and that using an actually working system, not just on paper - to those who pay. Foreign tax payers are in the worst position possible, because not even their own government would care much and hide behind "higher level policy and diplomacy" before risking trouble. "You vote for me in the UN and I'll overlook your corruption" - every day in "realpolitik".

Implement carbon tax over any product - no matter if imported or domestically made. That would force them to make their act cleaner. And it will trickle down to their cities too.

How exactly do you want to hold them accountable? The best thing I can come up with is force restrictions on the sales - you have to prove the production met the known standard. But you can't do that if there are no local alternatives meeting that standard.

Tariffs on products imported from nations with low environmental standards. This taxes the externalities. This doesn't shut off the flow, but it gives protections for companies setting up in the US with those regulations.

It seems like mother nature will take care of that, if you look up "Indian heatwaves", she is already hard at work.

I predict the country will cause the biggest climate-induced migration in the early 2020's... there will be deaths and outbreak of war too.

You are confusing issues. Air quality regulation in the US affects pretty much only the US, and the same goes for China.

The issue you are probably referring to is Global Warming ... in which case what the US does still matters a great deal.

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