|CPDS Home Contact|
NASA study suggests that haze has contributed to climatically related disasters (eg China's flooding). However scientists in India suggest that the problem is only winter haze - and that it is inappropriate to blame developing Asia for global pollution. ('Asian haze affects climate: study', FR, 1/10/02)
Astronauts have noted that the planet has changed since 1990 - becoming blurred rather than blue. Smoke and dust in the atmosphere are widespread. Much of South Asia is covered with a 3km thick blanket of man-made smog. The Asian brown cloud covers the northern Indian cean and much of South Asian (including India, Pakistan, SE Asia and China). It involves ash, acids, aerosols that result from forest fires, burning of agricultural wastes, dramatic increases in the burning of fossil fuels (in vehicles, industries and power stations) and inefficient cookers burning wood and other bio-products. The cloud has been visible for 20 years - but has been getting worse while Europe and North America have been cleaning up their environmental act. Connections with climate change (eg droughts in Australia) are being suggested - noting the effect of reducing sunlight and heating the atmosphere. Hundreds of thousands (or millions) of people are at risk from respiratory diseases. UNEP scientists identify risks in change rainfall patterns - droughts and floods. Western Asia is drying up. Air pollution causes 500,000 deaths pa in India. The effect will intensify over the next 30 years - and potentially have global impacts because the cloud could travel around the world in a week. 20 years ago droughts in Northern Africa may have been due to European air pollution. And the el nino effect may be linked to growing greenhouse gas concentrations. Australia is very vulnerable because it already has a very variable climate. (Montgomery B. 'Killer cloud over asia', A, 16/8/02)
Asian brown haze (ash, acids, and aerosols) has the potential to disrupt Asian growth. It will alter weather, seriously hurt agricultural production according to UNEP. The effect on sea temperatures will also affect el nino, and alter Australia's agricultural production. The haze results from forest fires, burning of agricultural wastes, vehicle emissions, inefficient cooking. It cuts sunlight by 10-20% and heats the lower atmosphere. The winter monsoon has been altered, leading to 20-40% less rain in NW India, Pakistan and western China (Taylor L. 'Brown haze threat to Asian growth', FR, 12/8/02)
[Preliminary] CPDS Comments
Assuming that reports about this environmental difficult facing South and East Asia are correct, the situation has very broad economic implications. These are far wider than the (potentially serious) implications for agriculture that the UNEP has identified.
Firstly economic growth in Asia can not continue indefinitely in its past 'low quality' pattern. This medium-term need for ever greater concern for environmental factors compounds the need for change that was revealed by the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. In particular:
One obvious effect will be to create significant further growth opportunities for environmental management industries.
Secondly, the priority that will need to be given to environmental concerns in Asia will require changes that have global economic repercussions.
Asia's ability to act simply as a low-cost producer in mature industries (which remains a major strategy in most regions) will be reduced. This will alter one of the drivers of economic change that has been in place since the 1960s - namely the relocation of capital intensive production to low cost locations (mainly in Asia) - whose consequences have included:
Because Asia's ability to compete as a low cost producer will be impeded:
Thirdly, the challenges of environmental management outside Asia could also increase, eg: