Source: Time Magazine
More on China’s Energy & Environmental Problems
I think that China’s current single-minded focus on GDP growth is unsustainable because of the tremendous environmental impacts that path is causing. So following my look at the New York Times series (see China Choking on Its Economic Growth) yesterday I did some more reading in this regard. I came across two related articles that may be of interest to you.
World Resources Institute Newsletter
By coincidence, the World Resources Institute’s EarthTrends newsletter arrived by e-mail yesterday and its focus for the month was China’s growing appetite for energy (see China’s Future in an Energy Constrained World, January 8th, 2008).
EarthTrends compared China’s exploding energy demand and its expected supply, concluding that the country’s current energy path is unsustainable. Some statistics of note:
· China will be the world’s largest energy and fossil fuels user soon after 2010;
· It has already passed the U.S. as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter;
· China currently uses 15% of world energy supplies;
· The country plans to double energy use while quadrupling GDP by 2020.
Climate Change Performance Index
Interestingly, EarthTrends notes China’s efforts to introduce policies to make its energy growth path more sustainable and cites the work of GermanWatch, a German NGO. GermanWatch publishes an annual Climate Change Performance Index, which ranks countries efforts to address global warming. For 2008, China ranked 40th - ahead of more developed countries such as the U.S. (54th), Australia (53rd) and Canada (52nd).
Foreign Affairs Journal Also Looked at the Issues
Last year, in Foreign Affairs, Elizabeth Economy published a well researched assessment of the environmental costs associated with China’s current growth path (see The Great Leap Backward?, September/October, 2007). Some statistics cataloguing the scale of the problems China faces include:
· 14,000 new cars hit the roads every day;
· China is home to 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities;
· 660 cities have less water than they need and 110 have severe shortages;
· The government has plans to relocate 400 million people, constructing new urban centres for them to live in;
· China is now the largest polluter of the Pacific Ocean; and
· The world’s largest importer of illegally harvested timber.
Like the NYTimes, Ms. Economy urges scepticism regarding the central government’s ability to manage the environmental juggernaut it has unleashed. (A scepticism World Resources Institute and GermanWatch don’t appear to share.)
She closes by recommending that the U.S. and the rest of the world bear in mind the country’s limited capacity and focus on one or two key priorities such as climate change and illegal logging. She also suggests that without clear leadership on these same issues, the U.S. and other developed countries are unlikely to have any influence over China.
It doesn’t look like either the U.S. or Canada is listening to her advice yet.