The dangers of China’s environmental degradation go well beyond the country’s borders, as pollution threatens global health more than ever. Chinese leaders have argued that their country has the right to pollute, claiming that, as a developing nation, it cannot sacrifice economic growth for the sake of the environment. In reality, however, China is holding the rest of the world hostage — and undermining its own prosperity.
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The difficulty in putting a number on the economic costs and benefits of tackling China’s air pollution comes from both sides of the issue — the economic losses due to pollution and the cost of cleaning it up. “It’s hard to pull out an exact number on the economic loss due to air pollution in China,” notes Wei. “[The country] just started to publically publish [pollution] data in 2013 for all the major cities.”
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