The following 2 articles give us a good overview of the China problem. The Business Week article also gives an excellent insight into the level of corruption in China regarding the enforcement of environmental regulations.
OSLO - Cheap coal will be the main enemy in a fight against global warming in the 21st century because high oil prices are likely to encourage a shift to coal before wind or solar power, a top economist said on Thursday.
Coal emits far more greenhouse gases, blamed by most scientists for a rise in world temperatures, per unit of energy when burnt in power plants or factories than oil or natural gas.
"The most important environmental problem in the 21st century is coal, or you could say coal is the most important enemy," Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told Reuters.
Business Week (August 2005)
China is at best at a standstill in its fight against environmental degradation. For all its efforts, China's unrestrained growth makes it one of the world's worst polluters. Most of the nation is still reeling from the devastation wrought by three decades of communist industrial development and the subsequent 25 years of quasi-capitalism. In 2025, China will consume 14.2% of the world's energy, compared with 9.8% in 2001. Because most of China's electricity comes from power plants that burn high-sulphur coal but lack effective emissions controls, acid rain falls on one-third of the country. And 70% of its lakes and rivers are heavily polluted, largely because more than 80% of China's sewage flows untreated into waterways. Six of the world's 10 most-polluted cities are in China, according to the World Bank, which estimates that pollution costs China more than $54 billion a year in environmental damage and health problems.
BBC (March 2005)
Supplying that energy comes at a cost. On the day we arrived in China, 214 miners lost their lives in a gas explosion. The safety figures suggest corners are being cut to maximise supply. Officially, 6,000 were killed in China's coal mines just last year - that's 20 a day. Methane explosions are the main culprit. But it's not just a safety hazard - methane's also a greenhouse gas, 20 times as damaging as carbon dioxide.
6,000 were killed in China's coal mines just last yearMost of the accidents happen in China's small, private mines where high production figures count for more than people's lives.
Girl Economist also has an interesting anecdotal China coal post from the 20th September.