Earth Day was celebrated around the globe on April 22. That’s as it should be, as scientists find more ways that pollution, energy production, climate change and other issues such as recycling are interconnected.

Which brings us to China and its oversized impact on the state of the world. Earth Day there is a cause for plenty of concern — and not just for the Chinese.

The country of 1.35 billion people is plagued by horrendous pollution problems.

Despite official government statements that praise the country’s modern ways, especially its fuel-efficient automobiles and production of solar panels, China is by some estimates headed toward having even worse pollution problems. Many are tied to its use of dirty coal.

Coal consumption soared 33 percent between 2008 and 2011, up by 1 billion tons a year. That figure equals the total use in the United States on an annual basis, and China now burns about four times as much coal as we do.

That figure is likely to grow even more quickly as the Chinese economy expands. The result of this increased use of fossil fuels — as an overwhelming number of scientists agree — could be more dramatic changes in the global climate.

So how might China, and the rest of the world, avoid these environmental problems?

The expanding Chinese economy is creating a middle class that could pressure the government to improve pollution controls and emphasize the use of cleaner-burning coal and other fuels.

China also might replicate some of America’s environmental success stories.

In our interconnected world, some attention in this and future years must continue to focus on how well China deals with its myriad environmental troubles.

— Kansas City Star, Missouri, April 20

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