OK, so I didn't come up with that title myself: It's the title of an article in today's Independent UK, about China's environmental problems. (And for those of you who don't remember or don't care to remember, China Crisis is also the name of an 80s British pop band who achieved modest success with a single called "Arizona Sky," which, now that I read the lyrics, is kind of lame, but I always liked the lines praising the vast, brilliant blue sky of Arizona.)
Anyway, this article makes some truly dire predictions, which I have no problem believing are very, very likely. For instance:
deforestation is only one of the threats to the planet posed by an economy of 1.3 billion people that has now overtaken the United States as the world's leading consumer of four out of the five basic food, energy and industrial commodities - grain, meat, oil, coal and steel. China now lags behind the US only in consumption of oil - and it is rapidly catching up.
Because of their increasing reliance on coal-fired power stations to provide their energy, the Chinese are firmly on course to overtake the Americans as the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, and thus become the biggest contributors to global warming and the destabilisation of the climate. If they remain uncontrolled, the growth of China's carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years will dwarf any cuts in CO2 that the rest of the world can make.
The article then discusses population growth in China and other parts of Asia, and quotes an expert who offers this opinion:
The bottom line of this analysis is that we're going to have to develop a new economic model. Instead of a fossil-fuel based, automobile-centred, throw-away economy we will have to have a renewable-energy based, diversified transport system, and comprehensive reuse and recycle economies. If we want civilisation to survive, we will have to have that. Otherwise civilisation will collapse.
I lived in Shanghai for several months in 1991. It was the most polluted place I had ever been, though Kaohsiung, a filthy port city in southern Taiwan, ran a close second. I can only imagine how much worse it it is now, with more cars and more people and even more people who can actually afford to heat their homes in the winter. (It was also very poor.) And supposedly Shanghai isn't nearly as bad as Beijing, which becomes particularly polluted each winter.