China to stress economic growth over arresting global heating

According to Deutsche Welle this morning, the official Chinese position on economic growth and global heating is that economic growth trumps global heating.

“There is especially no research that details the economic impact of a two-degree restriction, nor what kind of influence such a target would bring on the development of each nation.” (Ma Kai, the minister of China’s key Reform and Development Commission, quoted from Deutsche Welle’s article above)

According to the IPCC report that China signed last month, the cost in global economic growth is expected to be approximately 0.12 percent growth in GDP. Note that this simply a slowdown in the current rate of growth, not an actual shrinkage in GDP.

Ma is either misinformed or is outright lying.

The Guardian Unlimited posted a related story with this quote Ma:

Ma, however, stressed that the bulk of responsibility for battling climate change still lay with industrialized countries, which “are in a better position to cap emissions.”

As these positions from China show, energy is inextricably tied to the economy, global heating, and even foreign policy. China, as the world’s second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, must start making massive cuts to its emissions of greenhouse gases just as the developed world must. Ma is correct in saying that the developed world is in a better position to cap emissions, but the developed world cannot solve the global heating problem alone. Without continuous pressure on developing nations like China and India, and without significant investment in carbon-free or carbon-neutral energy generation for developing nations, it is only a matter of time before the developed world’s ability to cut emissions is dramatically outstripped by the developing world’s emission.

[Crosspost: Dr. Slammy in 2008]

5 replies »

  1. I get the massive complexities that are China, but when your nation is responsible for the amount of emissions that theirs is, can we go ahead and acknowledge that they’re an “industrialized country”?

  2. Sorta. Like you said, there’s massive complexities when it comes to China, and yes, parts of China are highly industrialized. But the majority of people in China are peasants growing food slightly over the subsistance level, not industrialists. In this respect, China is very much like Great Britain at the start of the Industrial Revolution – not truly industrialized yet, but in an uncomfortable border zone between agrarian and industrialized.

    The problem with China is their massive population. Pulling them up to the standard of living of even a poor industrialized nation will take a LOT of energy. And I’ve seen studies that say that the Earth simply doesn’t have the “carrying capacity” to handle everyone living at the standard of living of Western Europe, Japan, or the U.S. Yet another reason to transition over to a carbon-free (or carbon-neutral) energy supply – it will reduce the human footprint on the planet.

  3. Robert, thanks for pointing out the “stock vs. flow” aspects of greenhouse gasses. I’ve read too many people who scream “It’s all China’s fault! They’ll never cut back, and they’ll exceed the U.S.’ emissions NEXT YEAR (OR THE YEAR AFTER)!!” as a means to excusing the U.S. and Europe’s history of dumping CO2 into the air for the last 150 years.

    And then I’ve seen folks (most often from China or India) saying “It’s all the U.S.’ and Europe’s fault! They’ve been dumping CO2 into the air for 150 years, so they have to clean up their acts ENTIRELY before we’ll even dream about considering cleanin up our act!” as a way to excuse their own emissions. Everyone’s pointing fingers and there are precious few people (too few) actually doing something about it.

    Essentially, though, both the “traditional” CO2 dumpers AND the “up-and-coming” CO2 dumpers need to accept that they’re both responsible for the future. Right now everyone’s whining like spoiled children, and what we need is some authentic parenting.