Stephen Colbert, Chinese Air Pollution Control, and the Clean Air Act

Having moved on from his show The Colbert Report, part time satirical comedian part time late night talk show host Stephen Colbert now presides over the Late Show.  Last year Colbert he did a segment covering Chinese President Hu Jintao’s trip to America. During his visit Jintao announced that China would be taking steps towards cleaner atmospheric conditions and significantly decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.  The segment, though a bit dated, references several still relevant issues.  Colbert jokes about sea levels rising and the connection to global atmospheric conditions.  He also mentions the Volkswagen controversy which indicates further cause for concern and demonstrates a company being environmentally deceitful in order to gain an economic benefit.  Colbert’s piece also addresses the fact that while many presidents have vocalized climate change concerns very few have acted upon them.  It seems that with the upcoming presidential race that Colbert’s segment should be taken into account when looking at various candidates stances on climate change both at home and abroad.

While the revision made to the existing Air Pollution Control Act is a step in the right direction for the Chinese, it is lacking in some areas. While their was a proposal on the table to limit the use of automobile use in order to cut down on China’s infamous smog problem, the proposal was ultimately deleted from the final draft. (The Act Revision’s full text document can be found on the Chinese Government’s official law website. ) This conclusion to remove the part of the revision limiting automobile usage was reached because Chinese policy makers were worried that it would encroach on the right’s of Chinese citizens. This negotiation demonstrates the need to strike a balance between conservation laws and individuals rights.


This issue of balancing rights and conservation is not only an issue in China. In fact the Chinese document is very interesting to compare to the United State’s own Clean Air Act which is more stringent than China’s Pollution Control Act.  Despite the comparatively greater regulations mandated by the Clean Air Act and the positive effects these  regulations have had on our environment, Congress continually seeks out to weaken the regulations of the Clean Air Act for similar reasons. On the other hand many individuals and organizations believe that we should further regulate air pollution in order to improve public health and slow climate change.