ENVIRONMENT
09/08/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Beijing's Green Olympics: How Green Are The Games?

The events leading up to today's opening ceremony illuminated much of Beijing's environmental issues. China went to great efforts to reduce the city's overcrowding, pollution, and overall environmental damage. Today reports surfaced of cutting electricity in Shandong Province to power Beijing. From the US cycling team's arrival at the Beijing airport sporting smog masks to the perpetual white veil of pollution that covers the city, this year's Olympics may not be as green as had been hoped.

The Wall Street Journal's Keith Johnson reflects on the China's pollution.

How can Beijing still continue to tout "green" Olympics? Aside from chasing away cars and closing factories, Chinese authorities did spend almost $20 billion on mass transit and to add new renewable energy, which is meant to provide about 20% of the power for Olympic venues. There are also plenty of flashy clean-tech touches around the venues. But the last, best hope might be inside the venues themselves.

But just like the marathoners preparing to brave heat, haze, and humidity in their quest for gold, Western companies trying to cash in on Beijing's furious race for green have to ask themselves: What happens if the pollution never lifts?

Huffington Post blogger Andrew Smeall encourages the United States and China to team up to combat climate change.

We are right to call attention to China's pollution problems and their growing carbon footprint, but China is also correct in pointing out that we in the U.S. emit more than our fair share. Although China is now the largest greenhouse gas emitter by volume, it remains far down the list of per-capita polluters. On that front, America is still number one. As two nations that are, and will remain, heavily dependent on abundant coal, the U.S. and China need to start thinking about collaborative solutions to the climate change problem.

Blogger Alex Pasternack of the Huffington Post hopes that the "green games" will serve as China's wake-up call to its damaging emissions.

To be sure, the city has made great strides in reducing sources of pollution, from phasing out high emission vehicles to transitioning from coal-fired to electric heat to deploying a fleet of clean natural gas buses. It's also succeeded in getting cars off the roads in the world's grandest anti-pollution experiment, thereby reducing emissions in the city by 20 percent, the government says. To clean up the city for the Olympics, it says it has spent $17.6 billion.

But longer-term and systematic issues have not been addressed. For example, there remains debate over what the source of the pollution problem actually is. Is it the exhaust from all those cars the new middle class is buying? The volatile organic compounds that small factories exhale into the atmosphere? The high emissions of old trucks that have been banned from the city center? Dust and sand from the factories and deserts growing in Inner Mongolia? Straw burning farmers in the suburbs?

Related:
::Read Alex Pasternack's blog: "Is the IOC Helping Beijing Hide It's Pollution" on the Huffington Post.
::Read about the Top 15 Eco-activist athletes at China's Green Olympics on the Huffington Post
::Read more at the Huffington Post Olympics big news page.