Miriam Leitao at PostGlobal

Miriam Leitao

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Miriam Leitao is a reporter and columnist for O Globo and Radio CBN in Brazil. She is also a commentator on Globo TV Network and runs her own blog, www.miriamleitao.com, hosted at Globo online at www.oglobo.com.br. She was awarded Columbia University’s Maria Moors Cabot Prize in 2005. Close.

Miriam Leitao

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Miriam Leitao is a reporter and columnist for O Globo and Radio CBN in Brazil. more »

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August 2007 Archives

August 27, 2007 11:35 AM

Olympic Spirit Needed for Air

China is not seriously concerned about the quality of air. If it were so, the country would take stronger measures to mitigate its emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants; it would cooperate with the international community to face the problem and protect its population from the terrible effects of pollution. China’s air pollution levels are among the world’s highest. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 16 out of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are Chinese and the consequences of air pollution are causes of 400,000 premature deaths in the country.

China is more concerned about its image, than its air quality. It would like to seem to be cleaner when thousands of foreigners arrive there to participate in the Olympic Games. As usually in authoritarian regimes the tendency is to ban the reality far way from the foreigners’ eyes, to makeup reality. The government wants to avoid embarrassments during the games. China has a huge and fast growing pollution problem. It will not be solved by temporarily banning cars from Beijing during the Olympic Games.

In Brazil, we also have problems with the quality of air. In part, the means to cope with air pollution has been a biofuel program. Brazil had started biofuel production in the 1970’s when oil prices skyrocketed, enlarging the Brazilian external deficit. Today, the country is self-sufficient in oil supply, but the biofuel program has been increasing. Brazilian ethanol has a well-structured distribution chain. Consumers can find ethanol in every gas station. Vegetal fuel, with no emissions of carbonic and nitrogen gases represents 40% of domestic fuels consumption. Nowadays, Brazilian auto industry produces only hybrid cars, able to run 100% on ethanol or any mix of ethanol and gas. All gasoline used in the country has 25% of ethanol added to it.

However, it is not enough. Despite its achievements, Brazil has had many of the problems of air pollution in its six major metropolitan areas, especially in São Paulo. A recent survey made by an environmental website, O Eco, founded that 55% of the population complained about the quality of air and a third of respondents reported respiratory diseases attributed to air pollution.

Air pollution travels, and effects areas far from where the site of emissions. That is why pollution is a global problem. The Chinese government is strongly investing to make the Olympic Games a success, but its concern with the problem is limited only to the worries about the athletes’ performance and criticism from Olympic authorities.

The only way to be sincerely responsible about this problem is to adopt here, there and everywhere mandatory measures to mitigate the emissions of gases that are affecting both human’s health and the Earth’s future.

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