(Should a global climate agreement hold the US to a higher environmental standard
than the rest of the world?)
The argument could be made that it is now the turn of China and India to have their
time in the smog, degrading the environment but two wrongs do not make a right.
In the US, coal burning power plants in twenty-eight eastern and central states emit
a lot of pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide that causes acid rain.
Higher levels of soot have resulted in lung diseases that affect close to a million
people and greater levels of smog have contributed to increased deaths. Although,
the United States has been in the forefront of contributing emissions and pollutants
to the natural atmosphere as well as to the environment, it lags behind other nations
when it comes to adopting solutions to reduce its carbon footprints. Individual states
like California have taken the lead to do their part to adhere to global climate
agreements and are in the vanguard in the search for sustainable and non-polluting
sources of energy like solar, wind and fuel cell technology, among others.
China's amazing growth and productivity has resulted in amazing levels of pollution.
The negative side effects include acid rain, high levels of mercury and other pollutants
in the rivers, a coastline that has algal red tides, which have wiped out marine
life in the vicinity. There is a haze of smog that lingers over the major metropolitan
cities for days on end and there are rising rates of cancer for many people in the
vicinity as well as, cases of lead poisoning in children. The government of China
is taking drastic measures to reduce, if not eliminate, the pollution by the time
of the 2008 Olympics.
India's impressive growth has meant tons of wastes are released in the rivers. Many
rivers are dying if not already bereft of any life. Water borne diseases are the
major sources of mortality for children. Air pollution is on the rise as soot and
smog are created by unregulated emissions from many industrial areas. Temporary tenements
springing up next to building sites and new development zones add to the pollution
clogging the environment.