China’s economic boom leading to dreadful air quality

China’s zooming economy is a wonder of the modern world, but the eco-toll is becoming increasingly severe. Acid rain affects about a third of the country, approximately 70 percent of its lakes and rivers are polluted, and more than 400,000 Chinese a year are estimated to die prematurely due to extreme air pollution. And the problems don’t stay within China’s borders: The country is the world’s second-largest greenhouse-gas producer, and the U.S. EPA says that at times nearly a quarter of the particulate pollution over Los Angeles originated from China. Last week, environmental official Zhang Lijun cautioned that China’s pollution levels could quadruple or worse within 15 years if automobile use and energy consumption are not curbed. Though the government has been setting higher benchmarks for auto fuel efficiency and clean energy development, and boasting of a green Beijing Olympics in 2008, it’s also been cracking down on environmental activists. ‘Cause obviously they’re the problem.