Less Carbon, More Lead

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In Beijing yesterday Tony Blair praised the progress China has made on green initiatives, which are outlined in a new report by the Climate Group. “Chinese businesses are now today among the top producers of electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels and energy efficient appliances,” he said. “In an incredibly short space of time, China has taken the lead in the race to develop and commercialize a range of low-carbon technologies.”

On the same morning as Blair was making his announcement, Chinese media were reporting on the country’s latest environmental disaster. Nearly 100 children in central Hunan province were found to be suffering from lead poisoning due to unchecked emissions from a factory near their homes. A few days earlier protesting villagers forced the closure of another polluting factory in Shaanxi province. And three weeks before that, there were demonstrations over yet another toxin spewing plant, this one also in Hunan.

Journalist Christina Larson recently wrote about the “Great Paradox of China,” of green tech and gray skies:

The experience of daily life in Beijing hardly gives the impression that the last year has been a watershed for the environment in China. Being in the capital, one can’t help but feel a little quizzical glancing at recent headlines from newspapers in Washington, New York, and London announcing China’s green-tech revolution. (This is what an eco-friendly revolution feels like?)

It Thursday is any indication, this paradox will only sharpen.