How Solar Can Help Solve China’s Pollution Problem

A new documentary on the extreme air pollution in China is opening the world’s eyes to the health impacts of using coal for energy. At the same time the country’s energy officials are trying to increase the use of solar power in an attempt to reduce emissions. 

China’s energy regulatory body, the National Energy Administration, recently announced that the country installed 5.04 gigawatts of new solar capacity in the first quarter of 2015. China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, is seeking to install 17.8 gigawatts of solar by the end of the year. In total the country now has 33 gigawatts of solar, compared to the U.S.’s 20 gigawatts of installed solar capacity. Germany is the world leader in solar power installations, with 36 gigawatts of installed solar power at the end of February 2015.

China, Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming

The new installations are a part of China’s goals for greenhouse gas reduction and increased renewable power adoption that were laid out in a 2014 agreement with the U.S.

The announcement comes during an environmental awakening that some are calling China’s “Silent Spring”, a reference to the impact of Rachel Carson’s 1962 book on the hazards of the pesticide DDT in the United States. A recently released documentary titled “Under the Dome” illustrates the graphic impacts of air pollution from burning coal in China. According to the New York Times, the documentary was recently deleted from Chinese video websites “under orders from the Communist Party’s central propaganda department.” The documentary follows the story of a former investigative journalist for the main state run television broadcaster who begins to worry about the impacts of China’s air pollution shortly after the birth of her daughter. The state of air pollution as presented in the documentary is shocking, at one point it is compared to London’s Great Smog of 1952.

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