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Worsening Climate and Environment Lead to Health Crisis
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"The latest investigation by my students and me shows that the ecological and environmental deterioration caused by global warming has been gradually changing China's monsoon climate," said Qi Ye, a professor with the Tsinghua University. The findings are contained in an academic report delivered in Beijing on June 13 and reported by the Public Science News on June 26. However, the issue hasn't aroused people's interest yet, according to Prof. Qi.

Qi cited the fact that the humid oceanic air no longer reaches Chinese inland areas the way it used to. The reduction in the force of monsoon weather has led to flooding in the south and drought in the north. Over the past 20 years the financial losses caused by the weather have equaled 3-6 percent of the country's gross domestic product annually.

According to Qi, there is a hypothesis that as air pollution has weakened the light intensity which the sun radiates to earth, therefore reducing the ground temperature. This in turn affects the growth and reproduction of plants, furthering leading to ecological and environmental deterioration.

Qi spoke of another phenomenon which is possibly easy to be neglected by people. "Urban pollution, serious as it is, is only a 'point' source of pollution. Rural ecological pollution has much greater impact on environment. The fertilizers and pesticides used in farming aggravate the situation. Livestock waste has caused water, air and soil pollution," he said.

A survey of 343 cities in 2002 showed that only one third of them met the national second-level air quality standard. Dioxin-like substances had been found in breast milk and milk sold in some local supermarkets. The mercury content in vegetable plantation soil in some areas was well above the acceptable standard.

As a result, health problems have become increasingly prominent, according to Qi. He gave a series of statistics to support his views: The annual death toll from air pollution has exceeded 50,000 in 11 large Chinese cities with the number of patients who suffer from respiratory complaints increasing alarmingly; the lung cancer death toll in air polluted areas is 5-9 times higher than that of other areas.

Qi observed that Japan, the United States and European countries had all encountered severe environmental problems before, but the legal system in these countries had played a great role in the improvement of environment. He stressed that harnessing the environment is not only a scientific and technological issue. China lacks policy, law and management support when dealing with the environmental issues, he said.

( by Li Jingrong, June 29, 2006)


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