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China, while facing the negative environmental impacts of coal, still has blinders on

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

As Climate Progress reports,

 

  • A severe drought in northern China — considered the country’s breadbasket — has hit almost 43% of the country’s wheat crop this winter, senior officials have warned….Henan Daily reported that the drought is the province’s most severe since 1951, with no rain for 105 days. It warned that up to 63% of the region’s wheat crop is threatened.
  • Chinese scientists said Wednesday glaciers that serve as water sources on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau are melting at a “worrisome speed,” having receded 196 square km over the past nearly 40 years.
  • A senior family planning official in China has noted an alarming rise in the number of babies with birth defects….Jiang Fan, from China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, said environmental pollution was a cause of the increase.  The coal-mining heartland of Shanxi province had the biggest problem.

 

Despite this triad of negative environmental impacts from coal and carbon emissions in general, when asked “Is China ready to sign a treaty to cap carbon emissions?”,  Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao answered

 

...it’s difficult for China to take quantified emission reduction quotas at the Copenhagen conference, because this country is still at an early stage of development. Europe started its industrialisation several hundred years ago, but for China, it has only been dozens of years.

 

To which Joseph Romm appropriately responds,

 

China is going to have to get past this nonsense that it is like Haiti or Kenya. It is a hyperdeveloping country that has been consuming more coal, steel, cement than any other country by far for years. It is perfectly reasonable for China to develop fast, but to impy that it is only at an “early stage of development” is a canard.

 

Looks like Obama and Steven Chu have their work cut out for them getting China to slow down its coal use and carbon emissions.


Edited by dana1981 - Fri, 6 Feb 2009 21:51:50 UTC
post #2 of 14

Yikes...  China's a complicated issue.  I can certainly understand how they say Europe and the US have been seriously polluting for a long time now...but at the same time...if we don't all pitch in, we're all going to be in absolutely dire straits.

 

Any predictions on what Obama and Chu will do there?

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stins:

 

Any predictions on what Obama and Chu will do there?


 

One report, “A Roadmap for U.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Climate Change,” is a joint project of the Asia Society and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, both based in the United States. Scientists and policy advisers from both countries contributed to the report.

 

The origins of the report indicate that it could carry weight in the White House. It was produced by a committee led by Steven Chu

 

NYTimes story

post #4 of 14

When we were in Vietnam, I was shocked by the extent of the air pollution.  I think that instead of being allowed more lax restrictions on the acceptable amount of pollution, western countries should provide aid specifically earmarked to help economically developing countries bypass the super polluting stages of traditional development.  China needs more power plants?  How about we help them to build wind/solar/hydroelectric, or at the very least, cleaner coal plants?  We provide plenty of international aid for other reasons, and I think this should be a priority too- we all share the same air...it's just lucky that we have the Pacific ocean to dilute the smog a bit.

post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by nitedreamer:

When we were in Vietnam, I was shocked by the extent of the air pollution.  I think that instead of being allowed more lax restrictions on the acceptable amount of pollution, western countries should provide aid specifically earmarked to help economically developing countries bypass the super polluting stages of traditional development.  China needs more power plants?  How about we help them to build wind/solar/hydroelectric, or at the very least, cleaner coal plants?  We provide plenty of international aid for other reasons, and I think this should be a priority too- we all share the same air...it's just lucky that we have the Pacific ocean to dilute the smog a bit.

 

 

China's energy needs are growing at a pace that no renewable source of energy can cover. The Communist Party has clung to power because it promised (and largely delivered) economic prosperity. The motto is "grow first, clean later". China sees any attempt by the West to interfere with its choices as a thinly veiled attempt at 19th century collonialism.

 

The hard fact is that no renewable technology has proven itself on a large scale yet, and no renewable shows potential as a baseline load source. So good luck convincing a rational, super-intelligent group of people to bet the future of their country on it. Asking China to build its electricity capacity on wind and solar is like asking a family to raise their children without protein.

 

And, because words are cheap, I'm willing to bet money on this. Long Bets anyone? Maybe on something like percentage of energy produced by renewables on 1/1/2020? I say less than 20% worldwide.

 



Edited by petera650 - Sun, 08 Feb 2009 19:23:06 GMT
post #6 of 14

Another issue is that the US is so in debt to China that it doesn't really make sense for us to be giving them aid.  The issue is not that they don't have the money for renewables or the technology (they're on the way to becoming the largest producer of wind energy and have some good solar technology too).  The problem is that as Peter says, they're just growing so fast that they can't keep up with their energy needs with renewables.  Coal is abundant, cheap, and a well-established technology so it's also quick to build.

 

It's really a tricky problem because you can't just tell China to stop advancing and industrializing.  The best solution would be to get them to sign on to an international climate change agreement which would require them to find a way to reduce their emissions.  But clearly they are very resistant to that.  Tough job for the Obama Administration.

post #7 of 14

A couple of comments. Our debt to China is massive, no doubt, but there are ways we can, as a nation or in concert with other nations or as part of a U.N. effort, proide guidance to any efforts by China to shift its policy and focus toward renewable energy.  The Bush Administration failed to represent America's interests on this so totally that the Obama Administration is starting with an almost clean slate.

 

Re the bet: can't take it because of the year, that's too tight, only certain areas are really making serious efforts to comply by that date.  We should be seeing a budget for California by the end of the week: whether our ambitious climate program survived intact remains to be seen.  But shift your bet to 2030, and adjust your figure a wee bit, and I will take you up on that bet. 

 

One of the things I mention on Yahoo occasionally is empowering yourself through education.  The posters here have done that, overall.  But I think the more pessimistic among those who believe in climate change are operating in a vacuum.  It helps to rub shoulders with other knowledgable individuals more directly than by participating in a forum such as this one. I will be spending part of my day going through notes and materials accumulated while attending, "Steps to a Sustainable Future: Building Momentum for Real Change," put on by the Planning & Conservation League.  The panalists and other speakers were wonderful, and I was particularly impressed with how learned California's Mary Nichols and other elected officials were on this subject.

 

So while some of the news was dire -- lots of talk about the snowpack and projections there -- the work being done to get us toward that 20% figure is incredible.  I take heart from meeting so many like-minded people working hard independently and together to find and implement solutions.  I'm an incurable optimist, what can I say? Dana, I apologize for not putting this on your radar, it was up in Sacramento.

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

I do agree it helps to live in California where the environment is taken more seriously than in most of the rest of the country.

post #9 of 14

One of the contacts I made was with Dr. Amber Pairis, the Climate Change Advisor for the the State of California Department of Fish & Game.  She is young, stepped right into the DFG/Climate Change position about a year ago, and has apparently wasted no time in coming up to speed and networking with others in the field.  She fielded questions like a pro and interacted comfortably with panel members she'd never met before. Althought opportunities in California exceed those of most states, I believe those who follow the issue closely should make a concerted effort to get out there and particpate in forums/workshops/conferences/etc. whenever the opportunity presents itself.

 

post #10 of 14

Alright, maybe China is too big- but there are a lot of other economically developing nations with smaller power needs that this could still apply to (like Vietnam).  But... if we are saying that reenewable energy won't work for China because they are so big, what hope do we have for the world as a whole in the long run? 

 

I'm just saying that if we want countries like China to come around, it would be nice if we offered them some actual assistance rather than just a scolding.  Yeah, they might turn it down, but at least then we are putting money where our mouths are. 

post #11 of 14

I think China is all about the face-saving gesture as far as bringing the nation up to speed on global climate change, or even getting them in the game.  There's a lot of baggage to deal with there -- the population, past practices, the current direction, corrupt politics -- but we've got no choice but to approach negotiations with them by waving a  tasty carrot, rather than clutching a bruising stick.  I personally think China will come around faster and harder than some people think.  They're a competitive nation, and that as much as anything will help draw them into the effort to combat climate change.  They do not want to fall behind on the technological front, and they would like to be in the forefront in many areas.  In short, we need to appeal to their sense of greed in order to ensure that they satiate it in the most sustainable fashion.  Does that make sense?

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Yeah I agree.  China is definitely aware of the dangers associated with global warming and their contribution to it.  I think particularly if we lead by example (something the US has so far refused to do on climate change), China will be fairly likely to follow.  Right now they can point the finger and say "if you're not going to take action we shouldn't have to either", and frankly they're right.

 

But I agree if we take action, they won't want to be left behind as an environmentally inferior nation.

post #13 of 14

I think that China will be more motivated to secure the long term viability of its own food supply by dealing with global warming if they are told that they cannot rely on US wheat or Canadian wheat to replace their lost yield.

post #14 of 14

The Chinese need to move to clean coal but the costs of clean coal is artificially high because the US has the largest clean coal reserves in the world, actually more than the rest of the world but both Clinton and now Obama put that off limits. So the result is China continuing to pollute the environment. People like Clinton and Obama do not see the long term effects of their dangerous policies and then years later when they face the aftermath they are totally clueless as to how we got there in the first place.


Edited by griv - Sat, 21 Feb 2009 20:51:37 UTC
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