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from Breakingviews:

China index: Beijing cleans up skies, not its act

By Katrina Hamlin

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Skies above China’s big cities are turning blue, as its economic warning lights flash red. Across the country, PM2.5 readings – a measure of small particulates in the air – fell by 6 percent year on year in the first six months, Greenpeace reported in July. Beijing even scored the city’s least smoggy month since January 2011 according to data from the U.S. Department of State. Dirty industrials are leaving town and shutting down – but that’s just a quick fix.

If grey skies are a sign of economic activity, the clear air suggests things are slowing fast. Breakingviews’ Tea Leaf Index, an alternative measure of China’s economic prospects, dropped to its lowest level since May 2009 in June. Signs are appearing that the industrial economy is in some trouble – for example, diesel demand is likely to fall for the first time in a decade in 2014, Reuters reported on Aug. 7.

Graphic: Breakingviews Tea Leaf Index

But since clean air became a target, it has also become harder to interpret. Only nine of 161 Chinese cities achieved air quality monitoring standards in the first half of this year, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Some problems have just been shunted from one area to another. While Beijing enjoyed a 10 percent year-on-year fall in PM2.5 levels in the first six months, Jiangsu suffered a 10.6 percent increase as steel production leapt 9 percent year on year, soaking up demand from places like Hebei where many plants closed.

from Breakingviews:

U.S. drought could spark economic water warfare

By Kevin Allison and Antony Currie

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

The withering drought afflicting California and the southwest United States could spark economic warfare over water. Scarce rains have left large swaths of the country dry for, in some areas, several years. That’s happening as industries from beverages to semiconductors grow concerned about whether they will have adequate access to water in the future. For cities and states situated around the Great Lakes, as well as water technology firms, it presents a flood of opportunities.

from Photographers' Blog:

Heshan: a poisonous legacy

Heshan, China

By Jason Lee

Heshan, a village with a population of about 1,500 in China’s Hunan province, is sometimes given the grim label: “cancer village”.

Located some 1,200 kilometers (770 miles) from Beijing it stands in an area rich in realgar, or arsenic disulphide.

from Photographers' Blog:

Living on e-waste

Dongxiaokou village, China

By Kim Kyung-Hoon

Dongxiaokou village lies just on the outskirts of Beijing, but a trip there does not really offer a pleasant escape from the city centre. For Dongxiaokou is no ordinary village: it is a hub for rubbish.

A waste recycle worker looks around a broken piano which he recently picked up from the street at the yard of his tenement house at Dongxiaokou village in Beijing May 14, 2014. This village is known as Beijing's biggest site for the disposal and recycling of electronic waste and it has been the home of E-waste collectors and recyclers for a decade.    REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA)

For years, the area has been home to people who make their living by collecting and recycling electrical and electronic waste – from abandoned air-conditioners to fridges and TV sets. Several hundred families work to gather this “e-waste” from people in wealthy, downtown Beijing.

from Breakingviews:

Stanford’s snub to coal typical of Silicon Valley

By Christopher Swann

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Stanford’s snub to coal is typical of Silicon Valley. The black rock is an easy target for the university’s $18.7 billion endowment, which is bigger than the top five U.S. coal firms combined. But shouldn’t the principle behind it, reversing global warming, also apply to oil companies, including Stanford donor Chevron? Like Valley tech tycoons, the Palo Alto school seems to shun some evils only so far.

from The Great Debate UK:

How cities can help protect citizens from air pollution

--Julian Hunt is former Director-General at the Met Office and Visiting Professor at Delft University of Technology. Amy Stidworthy is Principal Consultant at Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants. The opinions expressed are their own.--

The Saharan dust in London last week affected the atmosphere, and caused irritation to the many people who suffer from breathing difficulties. Just as in the smog of the 1950s and of Dickens’s day, which was caused by soot from coal burning, the cloud of dust particles was dense enough that less sunlight made it through to ground level.

from Breakingviews:

Anadarko’s $5.1 bln settlement adds up in market

By Kevin Allison
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Stock investors seem to have a firm grip on Anadarko Petroleum’s toxic waste settlement. The record $5.15 billion settlement on Thursday, covering years of environmental claims, was at the low end of a court-defined range which had a midpoint of $9.8 billion. The 15 percent jump in the oil company’s market capitalization is mostly explained by those numbers. And it brings Anadarko’s 12-month stock performance nearly back in line with the S&P 500 after a bumpy ride.

from Photographers' Blog:

Tainted paradise

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Sergio Moraes

Back in the 1960s, when I was just a kid, I remember watching swimmers in Guanabara Bay and seeing dolphins race alongside the ferries that transported people to and from the city of Niteroi and Paqueta Island. Beaches like Icarai in Niteroi and Cocota on Governor’s Island were very popular.

So I felt sad when I took a boat through the bay on an assignment recently and photographed discarded sofas, old children’s toys, rubber tires and a toilet seat among many other objects that littered the filthy water.

from Breakingviews:

China index: growth cannot cloud judgment on smog

By Katrina Hamlin

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist.  The opinions expressed are her own.

Smog in China is losing its silver lining. Bad emissions were once associated with economic growth, since they meant power plants and factories were active. Citizens broadly accepted the trade-off. But the relationship may be changing. Breakingviews’ latest Tea Leaf Index reading shows growth prospects are the worst since July 2009 – even though the sub-index for pollution is at its second highest average level monthly in six years.

from The Great Debate UK:

Changing weather patterns mean meteorology is more important than ever

--Julian Hunt is former Director-General of the UK Met Office, and a Visiting Professor at Delft University of Technology. The opinions expressed are his own.--

Since the 1990s, the United Kingdom has celebrated National Science and Engineering Week every year to coincide with World Meteorological Day (which this year is Sunday 23 March). This is fitting, given that meteorologists, whose original interest was more in the effects of outer space (especially meteors and lightning) than weather, work with scientists and engineers ever more closely, both in the use of modern measurement techniques and in making conceptual advances in mathematics and physics.

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