The New York Times today reports on China’s policy paper on global warming. China says that it will not commit to limiting emissions – not exactly a shock. China will contribute to finding a solution to global warming by focusing on improving the energy efficiency of its economy. That is, they’ll call something that they’re doing anyway in order to foster economic growth a global warming policy.
Of course, I think it would be both immoral and impractical for them to do otherwise. Average income in China today is about $1,300 per year, up from less than $300 twenty years ago. If you had to live on $1,300 per year, but you saw a clear path to achieve a comfortable life within your children’s lifetime, what do you think would be your appetite for sacrificing this opportunity in return for potentially avoiding a problem that might or might not develop a hundred years from now? Even an autocratic regime like China, never mind a functioning democracy like India, will find it impossible to resist this kind of pressure. These governments may make symbolic gestures, but they will not be foolish enough to sacrifice the opportunity to escape grinding poverty.
What’s funny about the Times articles is that in the sixth paragraph they quote Joseph Kruger, policy director for the National Commission on Energy Policy – identified in the article as a “bipartisan group” in Washington (the reporter doesn’t mention that this is an advocacy group for a cap-and-trade system in the US) – saying that “China is not going to act in any sort of mandatory-control way until the United States does first”. This is a complete non-sequitor and directly contradicts what the Chinese themselves have said in this article: the reason they won’t cap emissions is that they want to escape poverty. The US could either cease or double emissions tomorrow morning and it would not affect the Chinese position.
You’d almost think that the Times has an agenda here.