Is China Worsening the Developing World’s Environmental Crisis?
By Jonas Gamso
The developing world is in the midst of an environmental crisis. Simply breathing the air is a leading cause of death.
One recent study found that pollution is to blame for a fifth of sub-Saharan Africa's infant deaths. Another showed that exposure to toxins or other dangerous substances in the air killed more than 9 million people in 2015 alone, with 92 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries—this is more people than were killed by AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined in that same year. In Latin America, more than one-third of deaths from lung cancer, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were estimated to stem from air pollution in 2012.
There are many reasons behind these troubling trends, but one looms especially large: China's booming economy. Not only has this created an environmental crisis in China itself, but the nature of its trade with developing nations threatens their air, water and soil as well.
Over the last decade, China has become the biggest trade partner to continental Africa and to several countries in Latin America, homes to some of the world's poorest people. At the same time, air pollution has surged in many of these countries, especially in Africa.
The map shows the level of air pollution across the world based on annual mean emissions of microscopic atmospheric particulate matter. Green signals low levels of pollution while dark red reflects very high levels. World Health Organization
The Environmental Cost of Trade
Most economists agree that trade helps generate economic growth and development.
Unfortunately, these benefits often come with costs, such as environmental degradation. Developing countries are especially susceptible to this side effect because they often export pollution-intensive goods like fossil fuels and metals and have weak environmental regulations.
Western governments have increasingly been pushing developing countries to protect their environments via trade agreements. NAFTA, for example, was the first U.S. trade agreement to include legally binding environmental conditions—something that is now a standard element. A similar trend occurred in Europe, where binding environmental provisions became fixtures in trade agreements around 2006.
In contrast, China does not push its partners to strengthen environmental protections. For this reason, trading intensively with China is especially likely to generate high levels of pollution in developing countries.
Links Between China's Trade and Pollution
Against this backdrop, I investigated whether trade with China affected sulfur dioxide emissions and environmental illnesses in 58 Latin American and sub-Saharan African countries from 2001 to 2010.
To capture how intensively they trade with China, I measured sample countries' trade volume in U.S. dollars as a share of their gross domestic product. I then conducted statistical tests to determine whether this measure of trade correlates to two relevant indicators of pollution: sulfur dioxide emissions and a measure of environmental public health developed by researchers at Yale. I also controlled for a series of other variables to isolate the relationship between trade and pollution.
My findings show that pollution levels of many developing countries rose in tandem with trade to China—but not all of them.
Interestingly, the environmental impact of trading with China appears to depend on characteristics of countries' governments. Those countries with high quality of governance, as measured by researchers at the Quality of Government Institute, did not experience heightened air pollution or environmental illness when they traded at high levels with China.
In countries with strong governance, such as Chile, Gambia and Tanzania, which scored near the top of my sample, trading with China had little impact on sulfur dioxide emissions and environmental public health.
On the other hand, trading intensively with China worsened the air quality in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Paraguay, which all ranked among the worst in governance.
Two Ways to Fix This
The good news is that my research shows that China's impact can change. In two ways.
One is by finding ways to improve governance in the developing world. Governance quality encompasses bureaucracy, law and order and transparency. Countries with stronger bureaucracies can manage a multipronged policy agenda that promotes trade while protecting the environment. Governments capable of ensuring law and order are able to enforce environmental rules and regulations. Transparent institutions reduce opportunities for corruption that undermine efforts to protect the environment, such as bribery of public officials.
Collectively, these features of good governance protect countries' environments and offset negative impacts that would otherwise be generated by trading intensively with China.
At the same time, China could change its ways and do more to push for stronger environmental laws abroad. Western countries tend to do this already because of lobbying efforts by both environmentalists and producers that compete with Mexican firms, who fear being at a competitive disadvantage if developing countries have weak environmental laws.
As wages continue to grow in China, the Chinese government will face similar pressures from domestic producers to do the same. It is perhaps telling that China recently signaled its interest in global environmental leadership.
Until there's a change, however, China's growth will continue dirtying the air in many of the countries that trade with it most, and their environmental crisis will worsen.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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