While smog is yet one of the many problems afflicting Los Angeles, this blog entry points out that some of LA’s famous air pollution comes all the way from China. According to this report, some days have a third of the air over San Francisco and Los Angeles coming from Asia, and along with it, up to three fourths of black carbon particulate air pollution, among other pollutants. Just how does Chinese pollution get to the US? Is it just the fault of the Chinese?
Some of this pollution begins as naturally occurring dust plumes from the Gobi desert, whipped up by storms every spring and summer. As the dust travels west, it picks ups pollutants as it travels through heavily industrialized parts of China. Those pollutants include the end products of coal burning, a common source of power in China.
While the US may complain about the pollution, it does contribute to the problem. Various loopholes and subsidies are driving up the export of coal from the US and Canada to China, which gets burned and exported back through the atmosphere. The US demand also drives production in some of those Chinese factories.
To me this shows how much the world is shrinking – what happens in one part of the world can unintentionally affect other parts. Our atmosphere is something we all share. While Beijing’s “airpocalypse” may seem far away, it really isn’t. Not only can that pollution reach my family and me here in the Bay Area, but conditions were not much different here some 50 to 60 years ago.
(Photo Credit: Norman Kuring, SeaWiFS Project, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)