Monday, August 28, 2006

China, the US and the typhoons

The devastating impact of the typhoons in China – 15 million, yes, million, people may be homeless – is a reminder that the majority of Chinese population is still quite poor.

Opponents of the Kyoto Protocol love to point out that the rapid economic growth of Kyoto-exempt China. The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from China are expected to surpass that of the United States sometime in the next 20-30 years.

As well they should. There are 1.3 billion people in China. Even if China caught up to the US in total emissions, the average Chinese would still be responsible for less than one quarter of the emissions of the average American (currently ~21 tons CO2 eq./year*).

So let’s ease off on the rhetoric. No doubt, China will need to be a part of long-term international effort to reduce GHG emissions. That will mean China shifting away from coal burning and from the increasing reliance on imported oil. Sound familiar? The best thing North Americans can do right now is set a good precedent.

And yell and scream about how to help the victims of the typhoons.

* All GHG emissions reported in units of CO2 ‘equivalent’. The gases are summed by factoring in their global warming potential relative to CO2. There’s an even bigger gap between the US and China in CO2 emissions alone.


Anonymous said...

Lets not brign upper middle class guilt. I don't have any of that. I was not born in the first world country.

I think that China has something to learn about: democracy, rule of law, respect for human life and human rights. China should (as well as Canada should) put into its constitution right to private property.

Stalin said: One death is tradegy, millions of deaths -- statistics.

Lets not be short sighted here.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic point, bravo!