Pollution is so bad in some parts of China that at least one entrepreneur has begun selling canned air. And in April, a study revealed that air pollution contributed to 1.2 million deaths, or 40% of all premature air pollution-related deaths worldwide. News like this would trigger some countries to make strong statements about long-term pollution reduction plans. Others might even introduce some (mostly unhelpful) legislation. But here’s the thing about living in a communist country: leaders can be as ridiculously harsh as they want. In China’s case, that means killing the worst polluters out there.
This week, China announced a new judicial interpretation to better enforce its environmental protection laws. Reuters reports on the document:
In the most serious cases the death penalty could be handed down," it said.
"With more precise criteria for convictions and sentencing, the judicial explanation provides a powerful legal weapon for law enforcement, which is expected to facilitate the work of judges and tighten punishments for polluters," Xinhua said, citing a government statement.
"All force should be mobilized to uncover law-breaking clues of environmental pollution in a timely way," it added.
In the past, China has relied on softer pollution-cutting measures, like expanding public transportation and punishing organizations (sans death penalty) for illegal construction. But it’s not all that surprising for China to threaten polluters with the death penalty—according to Reuters, the country executes more people each year than every other country combined.
Climate change will inevitably kill a lot of people with extreme heat, droughts, flooding, and other natural disasters. It’s not the worst idea to threaten polluters with serious punishment. This is a serious issue. But the death penalty is probably not the optimal solution.