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60-Second Earth

The Price of Traffic in China

It's not just the inconveniences of traffic jams that may last for months outside of Beijing, it's also the global climate. David Biello reports

Imagine being stuck in traffic for a week. If you're a trucker in China on National Expressway 110 you, unfortunately, don't have to imagine. You may already find yourself recently in a traffic jam that lasted nearly two weeks and stretched for more than 100 kilometers. 

The mega-jam started as a result of road damage caused by a truck on a newly constructed portion of road and has been exacerbated by heavy use from truckers hauling goods into the capital city plus various accidents. This is the second such mega-jam this summer and the underlying problem is China's growing love affair with automotive transport

Whether it be the ubiquitous small trucks piled almost to tipping with various goods or the car showrooms sprouting like mushrooms after a rain in all the major and minor cities of the People's Republic, the Chinese want to drive. More than 2,000 new cars are added to Beijing's streets every day. That Chinese desire to drive could prove a problem for the entire planet. 

That's because transportation such as cars make up the fastest growing source of emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Those gases wrap the Earth in a heat-trapping blanket, ultimately changing weather patterns. And we all know what weird weather does to traffic. 

What's worse, the world's worst traffic jam may have been caused by the world's other worst offender when it comes to climate change: coal. Specifically, trucks carrying illegally mined coal to the capital. If both these trends keep up, climate change is a foregone conclusion. 

—David Biello

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