April 18, 2008

Tablezine - The American Way

in collaboration with Brendan McGetrick, 2007

Brendan McGetrick

China emitted 511.8 billion yuan (US$64 billion) worth of pollution in 2004, equivalent to 3.1% of GDP. Or 581 Shenzhou 6 space missions.
The estimated clean-up cost for this pollution was calculated at 287.4 billion yuan (US$36 billion), 1.8% of GDP. Or the same as the cost of 22 Beijing Olympics.
If the country used current technology and today’s standards to solve this pollution at the source, it would need a one-off investment of 1,080 billion (US$135 billion), 6.8% of GDP. Or 2 Three Gorges Dams, 2 water relocation programs, and 2 gas transfer programs.
Sources: Stephen Green, “China’s light green GDP,”, 24 December 2006; Shenzhou 6 price estimate; Olympic price estimate; 3G price estimate; Gas diversion price estimate; Water transfer price estimate

If China adopted the American lifestyle (meaning same per capita consumption), by 2031:
*China would consume 1,352 million tons of grain, compared to 382 million tons used in 2004. This is equal to two thirds of the entire 2004 world grain harvest of just over 2 billion tons.
*China’s meat consumption would rise from the current 64 million tons to 181 million tons, roughly four fifths of current world meat production of 239 million tons.
*China would need 99 million barrels of oil a day. The world currently produces 79 million barrels per day.
*China would use 2.8 billion tons of coal annually—more than the current world production of 2.5 billion tons.
*China’s aggregate steel use would jump from 258 million tons today to 511 million tons, more than the current consumption of the entire Western industrialized world.
*China would need 303 million tons of paper, roughly double the current world production of 157 million tons. That would require over 5.1 billion trees
*China would have a fleet of 1.1 billion cars in 2031—well beyond the current world fleet of 795 million.
*China would drink 124 billion liters of bottled water - almost equal to the 154 billion liters consumed by the entire world in 2004. I

Sources: Lester R. Brown, “Learning from China,” Earth Policy Institute Online, 9 March 2005; American Obesity Association, “AOA Fact Sheet“.

Text: Brendan McGetrick
Producer: Theo Deutinger, Andreas Kofler