7-lane highway to moon
Ahead of Carbon Dioxide Junky John Howard's trip to China to sign the $25 billion deal for the sale of Liquefied Natural Gas, ABC's Foreign Correspondent (Cars Eating China, reporter John Taylor) last week raised the spectre of the largest Asian dragon leaving the largest global warming footprint on the environment, with the car replacing the bicycle as the preferred means of transport and enough cars the fill a seven-lane highway to the moon.
Foreign Correspondent reports "by 2010, there will be 55 million vehicles on the road in China".
The environmental impact will be devastating: Foreign Correspondent continues: "Car ownership in Australia is around one car for every two people. In China at the moment, itâ€™s one for every 92. Should their ownership rates ever equal ours, thatâ€™s an awful lot of raw materials, energy requirements, and pollution."
It is not sustainable, says Lo Sze Ping, a Chinese environmentalist. He asks: "Why are we still going ahead with it? We know very clearly by driving a car you are driving human civilisation over the cliff, but we still do it."
And with the lifestyle shift that will have everyone gasping for air comes a rise in roadkill. If you think we have a problem with casualties, think again. Foreign Correspondent reports China has more than 100,000 road fatalities each year, the equivalent, according to Andrew Harding, head of the China Automobile Association, of "roughly a Jumbo jet crashing every day."
My research suggests a much higher figure, given in a UN report, Injury: A Leading Cause of the Global Burden of Disease, published eight years ago (1999). Besides China (178,894 deaths; 5,384,909 injuries in 1998), high on the list of road kill are India (216,859 deaths; 7,203,864 injuries in 1998) and Africa (170,118 deaths; 6,116,559 injuries in 1998), especially in South Africa. According to South Africa's ArriveAlive website, ArriveAlive, "The World Health Organization has estimated that in 2002 [four years ago!] almost 1.2 million people died in road crashes worldwide and as many as 50 million were injured."
For those who like number- crunching, here are a few more from Foreign Correspondent: 1,000 new cars on the road each day in China; 1.3 billion people in China (one-fifth of the world's population), 14 million cars today, calculated to rise to 55 million cars, trucks and buses by 2010; China has 16 of the world's 20 worst-polluted cities, caused mainly by cars; five million graduating from driving school every year; within two decades, China tipped to produce more cars than anywhere else in the world.
Thanks to John Taylor and the Foreign Correspondent team for bringing another timely report to our attention.