China's torrid economic growth is one of the most spectacular tales of human improvement in recent memory, with literally millions of people being lifted from poverty into higher standards of living. Yet it's come at a cost -- environmental devastation on a truly large scale, as a new study from the Australian Research Council makes clear. To wit: China's coastlines have lost 80 percent of their coral reefs due to pollution, over-fishing and development.
To make the matter more challenging, some of the devastated coral is located in parts of the South China Sea with multiple claimants. Whoever assumes control over these waterways will not only inherit resource rights, but a serious ecological problem to boot.
(Photo: California Academy of Sciences)