Asia's Other Export Boom — "Second-Hand Smog" To California

It’s no secret that China has a pollution problem and as we outlined last month, smog may indeed end up near the top of the scapegoat list when it’s time to explain why GDP growth fell woefully short of the official 7% target (a target which, thanks to a contraction-territory PMI print and a horrendous drop in rail freight looks even more unrealistic than it did before). When it comes to estimating the economic impact of President Xi’s “war on pollution” (which we hope is more effective than America’s “war on drugs”), Bloomberg thinks industrial production may take a 20% hit if Beijing hopes to hit even its own clean air targets — the figure is much higher if China wants to match international standards. Fortunately, China is especially adept when it comes to exporting things and new research suggests the Chinese economy may be hard at work shipping pollution overseas. Here’s more from UC Davis:

Approximately 10 percent of ozone pollution in California’s San Joaquin Valley is estimated to be coming from outside of the state’s borders, particularly from Asia, according to preliminary research presented today, March 31, by the University of California, Davis.


Secondhand smog from Asia and other international sources is finding its way into one of the nation’s most polluted air basins, the San Joaquin Valley. UC Davis atmospheric scientist Ian Faloona shared his research with air quality regulators and scientists today at a transboundary pollution conference near Yosemite National Park. The issue serves as an example of how air quality is a global — not just local — problem.


“To me, it’s an exciting new chapter of how we think of air pollution,” Faloona said. “How do we deal with this not just as an air district of a couple of counties, but as a nation and a global citizen of the planet? Traditionally, air pollution has always been considered an issue to be handled locally, ‘It’s your backyard, it’s your problem.’ But we’re going to have to treat air pollution to some extent how we treat greenhouse gases.”

And here’s the sound bite:


Meanwhile, a study by researchers from Cambridge and several Malaysian universities suggests a similar dynamic. Here’s the abstract

Anthropogenic emissions from East Asia have increased over recent decades. These increases have led to changes in atmospheric composition as far afield as North America under the prevailing westerly winds. Here we show that, during Northern Hemisphere (NH) winter, pollution originating in East Asia also directly affects atmospheric composition in the deep tropics. We present observations of marked intra-seasonal variability in the anthropogenic tracer perchloroethene (C2Cl4) collected at two locations in Borneo (117.84° E, 4.98° N and 118.00° E, 4.22° N) during the NH winter of 2008/2009. We use trajectories calculated with the Numerical Atmospheric-dispersion Modelling Environment to show that the observed enhancements in C2Cl4 mixing ratio are caused by rapid meridional transport, in the form of "cold surges", from the relatively polluted East Asian land mass. In these events air masses can move from ~35° N to Borneo in 4 days. 

...and a bit more from RT:

Another study by UK and Malaysian researchers, published the same day in Europe, showed air pollution from China could travel as much as 1000 kilometers a day during the “cold surges,” swiftly reaching the tropics. From there, it would be swept up into the stratosphere during the winter thunderstorms.

So we suppose the question is this: if we count pollution exports towards GDP, is it possible to get to 7% this year? 


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