The major current environmental issues in China are air pollution (greenhouse gases and sulfur dioxide particulates) from overreliance on coal, which produces acid rain; water shortages, particularly in the north; water pollution from untreated wastes; deforestation; an estimated loss of 20 percent of agricultural land since 1949 to soil erosion and economic development; desertification; and illegal trade in endangered species. Deforestation has been a major contributor to China’s most significant natural disaster: flooding. In 1998 some 3,656 people died and 230 million people were affected by flooding.
China’s national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are among the highest in the world and increasing annually. The CO2 emissions in 1991 were estimated at 2.4 billion tons; by 2000 that level, according to United Nations (UN) statistics, had increased by 16 percent to nearly 2.8 billion tons. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), between 1990 and 2002 the increase was closer to 45 percent. These amounts cited by the UN are more than double those of India and Japan but still less than half those of the United States (comparable figures for Russia are unavailable but estimated at probably half the level of China’s). China’s ozone depleting potential also is high but was decreasing in the early twenty-first century. The CO2 emissions are mostly produced by coal-burning energy plants and other coal-burning operations. Better pollution control and billion-dollar cleanup programs have helped reduced the growth rate of industrial pollution.
Although China crosses all or part of five international time zones, it operates on a single uniform time, China Standard Time (CST; Greenwich Mean Time plus eight hours), using Beijing as the base. China does not employ a daylight savings time system.