A "Noxious Cocktail" in China's Air

Yesterday's New York Times carries a story by Andrew Jacobs on a new UN study that describes the effects of industrial pollution on China's health, environment, and economy.  The article contains some slightly different estimates than my earlier posts on this issue, The Future of China's Economy, and More on China's Economy, Food Production, and Food Demand.

Here is the press release about the report from UNEP, and here is the report itself, "Atmospheric Brown Clouds: Regionalassessment report with focus on Asia".

Here are a couple of tidbits about China from the Times story:

Although their overall impact is not entirely understood, Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a professor of climate and ocean sciences at the University of California, San Diego, said ...some studies suggest that the plumes of soot that blot out the sun have led to a 5 percent decline in the growth rate of rice harvests across Asia since the 1960s.

...Henning Rodhe, a professor of chemical meteorology at Stockholm University, says... “The impacts on health alone is a reason to reduce these brown clouds,” adding that in China, about 3.6 percent of the nation’s annual gross domestic product, or $82 billion, is lost to the health effects of pollution.

In addition to the general effects of warming that reduce agricultural yields in Asia, farmers are evidently facing a reduction due to decreased insolation.  As long as our energy production is "carbon-positive", this is going to be a problem.

The health impact estimate above is on the high end of those I have found, but I don't see any reason to discount it relative to the others.  I wonder how long it will be before Asian pollution starts to have a measureable effect on health here on the West coast of the U.S.  Is anybody looking for this explicitly?  A positive correlation would have very interesting consequences in our international political economy.