Air Pollution Podcast

by NewsCowboy43 on November 3, 2016 - 3:05pm

James Yaw

CMC 243-61 Radio TV Writing


James: Live from NPR news in Washington I’m James Yaw. Air quality is becoming a global

issue, as a recent report by Canadian news has found that China tops the World Health

Organization’s list for deadliest outdoor air pollution with a shocking 1 million deaths

last year, which accounts for one-third of total deaths worldwide. William Clarke,

biology major at Guelph University, has more.


William: Thank you, James. While China has the most pollution-based deaths with 76 per

                100,000 capita across their population, Eastern Europe also suffers with a higher rate of

death, particularly in the Ukraine, where there have been 120 deaths per 100,000 capita.

This means that while China has a much larger population, the Ukraine suffers fewer

losses than China every year, but happens to do so at a faster rate.


James: Thank you, William. What can be done? With global pollution levels on the rise, the

United States and Canada are ranked among the safer countries, however it has been

reported by the BBC that such patterns across Asia and Europe are most likely the result

of increased industrialization, and that the pollution, if allowed to remain unmonitored,

will have harmful long-term effects on the global ecosystem.


James: Recently, world leaders for the UN have spoken out; saying there needs to be a greater

effort towards environmental conservation, specifically a reduction in coal and oil use

along with deforestation. China has taken steps as a part of their most recent five-year

plan to reduce smog and improve air quality, and in a recent statement the Chinese

premier leader Li Keqiang has made plans to implement his strategy across the nation.


James: Keqiang believes in not only the introduction of green energies, but also the

reduction in resources needed to supply China over the coming decades. While official

figures show improvements in air quality, many people do not feel this is the case. It has

been found that ending smog will require a sustained effort over many years, and we will

have to look forward to the results of that.


James: James Yaw. NPR News. Washington.


Hello James.

I think it is great that you and William discuss the importance of understanding the difference between greenhouse gas emissions, and greenhouse gas emissions per capita. One of the largest issues in modern society is the implementation of laws and policies to prevent increasing emissions, especially in the developed world. Countries like Canada, the United States, and Australia have phenomenally high levels of greenhouse gas emissions per capita, which is often overlooked by the high national emissions of countries like China and India. This has led many people into believing that developed nations with low overall emissions do not need to contribute to efforts against climate change, but rather encourage higher emitting countries to make greater changes themselves.

As sovereign nations that are equally part of the global community as any other nation, we need to understand that we too have a role to play in fighting climate change. Though reductions in Canada and Australia may be minimal on the global scale, it would have huge impacts on reductions per capita, and would set precedents for other nations to follow our lead.

I was working on writing a really interesting news story, but I struggled to take my script to the next level. Certainly my home in Upstate New York has clean air, but other parts of the United States, South America, Europe and Asia struggle with completely different rules and the pollution issue needs some work.

Captivating podcast! I like how you used examples from around the world to emphasize that air pollution is a global issue. Indeed air pollution is one of the worst contributors to climate change and reducing global emissions can help to reduce the amount of harmful pollutants being released into the atmosphere. Renewable energy sources hold the most promising results to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Solar, wind and geothermal energy are technologies that have come a long way in terms of their efficiency and viability on bigger scales. However, there is yet to be a renewable energy source or a combination of renewable sources that can produce the same amount of electricity at the same price as current sources. Therefore, in the near future, investments should be focused on research into making the current renewable resources productive and cost efficient on a larger scale.

Indeed, I was traveling across Upstate New York this past weekend, and I saw a couple of farms and houses which had solar pannels around them, but the thing is the solar panels along with the wind towers do not produce enough reliable energy to replace our fossil fuels. The only thing I can think of is hydrogen car batteries which are still experimental.

Great podcast, I really liked your use of facts and numbers related to rates of death as a result of air pollution. Two points I wish you would have touched on would be illness related to air pollution and personal automobiles. While air pollution does lead to deaths it also leads to a reduction in quality of life, respiratory illnesses like asthma are linked to smog so while it does kill a large number of people there is an even higher number of people living with the discomfort caused by air pollution. Additionally, pointing out vehicles contributions to smog would have made for a stronger podcast. Personal automobiles are a large contributor to air pollution and transportation methods will need to be changed if air pollution is to improve.

Thank you, and that was something I struggled with - how to take the podcast one step further. I was reading that most people in China and India ride bicycles, but in many crowded parts of the world the number of cars is a serious issue.

I really like the topic. I would like to share with you a funny and totally weird thing regarding the air polution in China. Current, in China specially in Beijing, many people are ok to spend a lot of money to buy "fresh air bottles" from another contries. Bottled air started as a joke but now China can not get enough. However, I feel deeply sorry for them who are not only struggling with living in a big city like Beijing but also they have to concern about the air they breath.

Haha, I have heard of people in China buying fresh air from across the world, as well as purchasing oxygen tanks to combat their local air pollution. Geez.

This is a great podcast James! I found it very easy to read and you were very clear when talking about the environmental problem of air pollution. I am very interested in the topic of climate change, which is caused by event such as air pollution as you have mentioned. I am interested in this topic because climate change effects are not only localized but are also felt all over the world. Global average temperature has increased by ~0.5°C, thus concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere must be stabilized so as to prevent dangerous climate change. As you have stated, China is number one on the list for deadliest outdoor air pollution. A reduction in the amount of GHGs emitted in China can be achieved through means of mitigation and adaptation. However, a question that many people are asking is: Should China be liable for the GHGs that it produces or should the consumers of the products made by Chinese workers be responsible?

Countries like the United States are able to do most of their manufacturing in China where the cost of labour is much lower. However, this negatively contributes to environmental standards in China. You have stated that China has taken steps as part of their most recent five-year plan to reduce smog and improve air quality. I believe that the responsibility should be placed in the hands of those multinational corporations who invest in China and those who consume Chinese products in more developed countries. China should not have to take full responsibility for reducing its GHGs as other countries have contributed to it. What are your thoughts on this?

Thanks for your input. I think China should take responsibility for its environmental conditions, and not the people China sells to. The buyers are mistakenly searching for a quality product. The problem is China's buyers are looking for cheap labor and cheap products. American made goods are both better quality and twice the price. Ouch. So what China struggles with is safety conditions in their production, they do not have any kind of safety standard for the workers or the facilities. They use cheap chemicals in their factories. These steps are irresponsible yet they save money.

Hi James,

Thanks for covering this topic in your story. This issue is an important and difficult one to discuss as it really does involve the whole world - there are no borders dividing the atmosphere. The post above my own, "Should China Take All the Blame" asks a valid question for this reason. That question is also valid because there are no borders dividing economic influence either. As the author discusses, the manufacturing economy in China is largely driven by US demand. Now because of this high demand and the respondent supply, the Chinese government is tasked with regulating an industry that has enjoyed explosive growth and little restriction. These two factors may make a command-and-control approach less effective. Since the Chinese government ended up with this problem due to economic drivers, I believe that strategy is the most effective one to mitigate the problem. This strategy can include the USA; since its consumer demand drives production, if demand for products manufactured in facilities and by companies that are actively practicing air pollution control increases, supply is likely to follow.

Much like complex natural systems, the economy has some degree of uncertainty to it. Perhaps this common feature makes consumer demand and economic incentives the best strategy to manage air pollution from industry. My belief here is that because we unsuccessfully manage the uncertainty of the environment with policies and strategies that require certainty, maybe managing the environment with an uncertain approach will prove more successful.

Wow, you have left me speechless.

Evening James,

Thanks for tackling such an important issue in today's climate; I really like how you emphasized this being a major problem by providing figures all over the world to compare their rates to, because once you actually put a number on these things people generally lend their ears more readily. I also really like that you touched on the air pollution having an effect on the global ecosystem, but I feel like it was a little underplayed. While I know it's important to stay on topic for the podcast since we took our topic from a specific news article, I think it'd reinforce your message of the need to pay attention to air quality if you made sure the listener knew that this form of pollution effects everyone since the air is a common resource and the situation of the tragedy of the commons that can result from it. Sure, these places like the Ukraine and China have larger deaths per 100,000 capita than we're comfortable with, but it really doesn't end there since this pollution doesn't just hang over China (The polluter in this case). There's wind patterns that spreads it everywhere else that can cause pollution from China or the Ukraine to reach us here in Canada and the US, so it could potentially effect our figures as well and therefore they have a responsibility to our well-being as well. That all being said, I enjoyed the quick, and to-the-point nature your podcast took and what I said truly is a nitpick. Sorry to be that guy. Good stuff.

Disregard until it's taken down, please.

Great post James,

You did a good job at explaining the issue as well and expanding of the elements of greenhouse emissions as well as the relation to gas emissions per capita. One thing that might have been beneficial to add in is why these emissions are so high in certain places. For example, one reason why China’s might be so high is because they produce and manufacture a lot of items that are sent and consumed here in North America. I think it would be interesting to highlight the significance of China’s role in the manufacturing market and what is represents to other countries. In North America, because we are able to import a large amount of products from China, means our production emissions will not be as high because we are importing items from China.

In addition, I also thought it was good that you incorporated what China’s plan is in dealing with emission rates, such as the five year plan. It would be interesting to know what this means for other countries as well in the fight for lessened emissions as well and how production practices could alter. I like how you pointed out the efforts that need to be made to help this issue, such as more effort towards environmental conservation and reduction of deforestation and coal and oil use incorporated in the five year plan, however it would be interesting to know how exactly China plans for enforce these efforts exactly. You mention the introduction to green energies and reduction in resource supply, but how exactly will these be implemented?

Overall, I enjoyed your post as it provided us a brief snapshot into the issues while keeping our attention and without getting into too complex terms.

Hi James,
Your podcast brings up good points about China's energy production and the problems that they are left experiencing in their air quality/ A million deaths a year is a massive loss, especially when it is an environmental issue which can be improved. Moving forward, reducing or banning the use of coal and other highly polluting energy types could be one way that they can look improve their air quality for the people living in the country.

Interestingly, during the Beijing Olympics of 2010, one of China's cities with the worst air qualities was able to drastically improve on this environmental issue through the use of some strict policies which controlled and limited high polluting industries and activities. A lot of these efforts were undertaken as a result of international athletes threatening to boycott the games if the air quality was not improved, and not as much a self motivated change. However, despite what motivated the changes, the results were that air quality was drastically improved and gives an example that China could make similar successful efforts in the future if they choose to. 'Choose,' being the key word here.

Hi James,

I was interested in your podcast as I wrote a blog post titled "Air Pollution the cause of 3.3 million deaths" a few weeks ago, and was interested to see what information your podcast included. I liked how you distinguished between deaths from air pollution and deaths per capita. I knew that air pollution levels were very high in China, but I did not know about eastern Europe, or from reading the comments, Australia.

I guess the big question is who is to blame for this. While China can be blamed for lack of regulation, we have to ask ourselves as consumers, what part do we play in this? The western countries notorious for being mass consumers, and China has evolved and industrialized to help supply this huge demand. As mentioned above, improving environmental quality should be a collective effort between China, and the corporations who invest and choose to do their manufacturing in China. To increase regulation on environmental quality, I believe the best way to get people to care about environmental quality is to provide real, tangible evidence demonstrating how air pollution will effect them. The reality is that not everyone will alter their lifestyle solely to reduce their environmental impact. However, perhaps when people see how environmental degradation will negatively effect them, we could get more people involved and generate real positive change.

This will be an interesting topic to follow in the upcoming years. With the Paris Agreement becoming international law, China and other large scale air polluters (ex. USA) will be under pressure to combat climate change through reduction of GHG emissions and investing in green technology. I've included an article on the Paris Agreement if you want to know more.

This was a great podcast! You did a good job describing the problem and structured this very well. Each point you make covers a relevant point and you provide plenty of factual evidence to back up any information you give. You focused on various parts of the world which was interesting as a reader because you gave a much bigger picture of the issue as a whole and not just in one country.
It was great that you provided information about what steps China is taking to tackle this issue as it has sparked my interest and I further read into this plan that it has. Its great to see the efforts being made and the resulting reductions of harmful emissions however, it is still alarming that the country had to issue a ‘red alert’ on pollution as year forcing schools to close with limits on car use and factory operations also being put in place.

I came across this little simple real-time world map of air quality where you can easily see the comparison of pollution between countries, its fun to have a quick look at:

Again, this was a great post!

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