China's environmental challenges have global implications

Sep 21, 2010

Unlike Vegas, what happens in China doesn't stay in China.

The country's environmental challenges have worldwide implications, so more developed nations, such as the United States, need to help China adopt integrated solutions for the sake of global sustainability, a Michigan State University environmental scientist argues.

"What happens in China affects the rest of the world," said Jianguo "Jack" Liu, University Distinguished Professor of fisheries and wildlife. Liu is known around the world for his work on and coupled human and natural systems and is the lead investigator of the International Network of Research on Coupled Human and Natural Systems, funded by the National Science Foundation.

"China is growing very quickly and as its economy has grown, so have its environmental challenges. The first thing everyone needs to do is recognize the relationship between humans and the environment. Environmental problems are an indicator of human problems. By protecting the environment, people protect their health and their livelihoods," he said.

"Every country needs to recognize the important link between human and natural systems," said Peter Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden and noted China scholar. "We focus on China because the country is developing so fast. In 2002, the compared the growth in gross domestic product to environmental destruction and both were about 10 percent. Those numbers aren't compared any more because it makes the economic statistics look bleak. China's biodiversity, one of the richest sets of organisms in the world, is seriously threatened by extinction in the decades to come, but if preserved, offers great opportunities to us all for the future."

Liu and Raven's paper, "China's Environmental Challenges and Implications for the World," is published in the September issue of Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology.

The paper examines long-term and recent socioeconomic and environmental trends in China and outlines a systems approach to tackling China's environmental issues. Those include using economic stimulus money to invest in low-emission industries such as solar and bioenergy; better coordination of environmental and economic activities at all organization levels; and working together with developed countries, such as the United States, and developing countries, such as India, to develop a global climate agreement and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

"In the past, China's motto was 'conquer nature.' People thought that development should come first and pollution could be cleaned up later," explained Liu. "It is encouraging that this attitude has begun to change. Investment in green technologies is increasing dramatically. However, fundamental changes in the development model and in the administrative system are urgently needed. Through institutional, scientific and technological innovations, can help achieve global sustainability."

Liu holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability at MSU and is director of the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. This research is funded by the National Science Foundation and supported by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.

Explore further: Sunken aircraft carrier rediscovered off California coast

Related Stories

China's policies treasure both environment and people

Jul 07, 2008

Two of the world's largest environmental programs in China are generally successful, although key reforms could transform them into a model for the rest of the world, according to new research published this week in the Proceedings of ...

Most panda habitat is outside nature reserves: research

Jul 28, 2010

Though much effort and many resources have been expended to protect the endangered giant panda, research by an international team of scientists shows that much suitable panda habitat is outside the nature reserves and areas ...

Peer pressure plays major role in environmental behavior

Jun 29, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- People are more likely to enroll in conservation programs if their neighbors do -- a tendency that should be exploited when it comes to protecting the environment, according to results of ...

Recommended for you

China's struggle for water security

5 hours ago

Way back in 1999, before he became China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao warned that water scarcity posed one of the greatest threats to the "survival of the nation".

Canada revises upward CO2 emission data since 1990

5 hours ago

Canada revised its greenhouse gas emission data from 1990 to 2013 in a report Friday, showing it had higher carbon dioxide discharges each year, and a doubling of emissions from its oil sands.

Climate censorship gains steam in red states

19 hours ago

While plenty of people found humor in the recent news that officials in Florida and Wisconsin are censoring state workers' ability to talk about, much less work on, climate change, other states are not necessarily laughing. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.