According to the Japan Times, this year has seen a record number of photochemical smog warnings issued across Japan, with China apparently being the main culprit.
With China’s rapid economic growth, scientists are concerned that pollution from Chinese power stations and industry is having an increasingly damaging effect on the health and well-being of people, animals and agriculture here.
Japan is currently a world leader in energy efficiency. The country uses one-third of the amount of energy that the U.S. needs to produce one unit of GDP, and one-ninth of the amount needed by China. The Japanese government claims energy production is now 30% more efficient than in 1973.
However, Japan is not quite as environmentally conscious as these figures may suggest. More than 77% of the country’s rubbish is incinerated, partially offsetting any reduction in emissions. The Japanese are also increasingly seeking a more luxurious lifestyle, which places further strain on a country with little natural resources of its own.
Japan committed itself to cutting emissions to 94% of 1990 levels by 2012. However, emissions are currently almost 8% above 1990 levels, making this target difficult to achieve. Meanwhile, China’s output of nitrous oxide – the gas primary responsible for smog – has increased almost four-fold in the past 25 years. Prevailing winds carry airborne pollution east, with the west coast being particularly badly affected.