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.