The Slick Silk Road to Copenhagen

At the UN and among European elites, there’s no longer any debate about whether global warming is occurring or whether — if it is real — it’s caused by human action.  Despite the lack of proof for either hypothesis, the presumed fight against supposed global climate change is the path of choice toward world governance and, in stagnant Europe, it is singularly aimed to lessen the United States.

China — one of the world’s biggest polluters — is using the “global warming” movement to avoid burdening its own economy while managing to encourage all others — especially the United States — to burden theirs.

The logic for many left wing politicians is both compelling and God-sent. Not only imperialist and capitalist countries have exploited the rest of the world for over a century to take over their resources, in particular oil and gas, the use of those forms of energy, so vital to economic prowess, has endangered the “planet”. Emission of carbon dioxide is the ultimate sin from the rich countries and a symbol of inequality. The Obama Administration, radically changing course from its predecessors, has adopted the global climate change rhetoric and all that it implies.

China, by far the world’s fastest growing major economy and, as of last year the world’s biggest emitter, destroys the bliss of the new international order that is supposed to come from a carbon constrained world. Theoretically, Communist China would want to join in anything resulting in the reduction of American hegemony, but in this case it is chary of the economic suicide that this particular idea would inflict upon itself.

Ever Confucian, China had been paying lip service in fighting global climate change, and had been saying whatever the rest of the world liked to hear until very recently. China ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002 and last September at the UN Climate Summit in New York, China’s President Hu Jintao spoke about the “international responsibility on climate change” and China’s strategy on carbon reduction. That attitude was called “sincere and inspiring” by leading climate policy advocates.

What many did not know, less than a month before President Hu made his New York speech, China had already stated its position on climate change policy at the  meeting of the  National People’s Congress on August 24, 2009. China proclaimed that with the “financial aid and technical support from the developed nations”, it will take proper actions toward emission control “according to the national situations while continuing its economic development.”

Shortly afterwards, when China was pushed to make specific emission cuts at the U.N. climate talks in Bangkok in October, China’s top climate representative, Yu Qingtai, had a public spat with delegates from the U.S. and Europe and walked out of the meeting. Yu pointed out that poor countries are the “victims of climate change,” and that rich countries are largely responsible for centuries of pollution, and that it is unfair to expect all countries to play a role in combating global warming. At last, China, a nation culturally unwillingly to be confrontational, stood up to counter the Westerners.

In what has been defining the chasm between sclerotic Europe that has little to lose and China, Karl Falkenberg — the European Commission’s director general of the environment — criticized China by saying that nothing would be gained by focusing on per capita emissions and raised a frequently repeated boogeyman."We know that consequences of climate change are seen more dramatically as of now in the developing world so continuing to argue (there is) almost a human right to pollution as I heard from my Chinese colleague is not the way we need to go about it."

What China has been really interested is how to win more emission rights at the upcoming Copenhagen climate negotiating table. Emission rights and energy use are development rights, said Ding Zhongli, an Academician and the vice president of the Science Academy of China. China’s emissions per capita was 2 metric tons per year in 1990, the GDP was only about $600 billion in the same year. In 2008 the emission per capita was increased to about 5 metric tons per year with the GDP growing to $4.4 trillion.

Emissions per capita in China are a little above the world average of 4.5 metric tons per year, but only two-thirds of those of Europe and less than one-third of the U.S. Energy use for China is central to its economic development and the seeking of the higher quality life style enjoyed by Westerners. According to the US Energy Information Administration projections, China’s emissions per capita in 2030 will be about 8 metric tons per year, the same as those of Europe in 2030. Assuming that by then the Chinese population increases to 1.6 billion from 1.3 billion in 2009, the total emissions will be 11.04 billion metric tons, compared to 6.72 billion metric tons in 2007. If China were to agree to cut its emissions by complying with the Kyoto Protocol, instead of the even more rigid upcoming Copenhagen pact, China would have to reduce its emissions per capita to a preposterous 1.36 metric tons per year in 2030. Nothing like this could ever happen.

China’s CO2 intensity per dollar GDP is still twice as high as that of the world average with its massive use of coal and with no chance to change as its major energy resource in the foreseeable future. According to EIA projections, China accounts for 74 percent of the total increase in world coal-related carbon dioxide emissions from 2006 to 2030. The coal-related emissions in China are projected to grow from 4.9 billion in 2006 to 9.3 billion metric tons (or 52 percent of the world total) in 2030.

China’s renewable energy in 2006 only accounted for 0.06 percent of total energy consumption of 73.8 quadrillion Btu. In typically silly Western wishful thinking, made all the more ridiculous by appearing in presumable prestigious scientific journals, McElroy et al. from Harvard University recently published in Science that “China could meet its energy needs by wind alone.” Beyond ridiculous, no Chinese government or experts think so and there is no further proof than the ongoing buying spree of oil and gas fields around the world by China.
As Zachary Karabell, author of book Superfusion, puts it, “For the last decades, as China’s economy kept growing at unprecedented rates, most Western analysts kept discussing when it would crash. Now with China surging ahead through this (financial) crisis, all they can discuss is, when will China stall?” China knows all too well that its rise to world economic prominence has made a lot of Westerners uncomfortable. From the Central Government to academia, there is a growing belief in that country that the climate change rhetoric is a tool of Westerners to stop China from growing stronger. Strangely and for different historical reasons, China and the United States find themselves in similar predicaments, even if the Obama Administration has ideologically positioned itself squarely in the camp of reducing America’s wealth. This is something that China will not do.

So, on the road to Copenhagen, China will still pay lip service and play along until Westerners push too hard. China may “agree” to cut emissions “in large scale”. But China will insist on emission rights per capita, instead of a confined emission number. Kyoto Protocol is expiring without any of its intended accomplishments. Virtually no country has met their commitments. With China’s obvious position, any Copenhagen pact, whatever it is, is likely to have the same fate.


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