Ten Things about China and Climate Change

by Derek Scissors, Ph.D.
The Heritage Foundation
Special Report #68
November 2, 2009

Many global environmental debates are chiefly about China. In the past, it has been acid rain made in the PRC but falling elsewhere. Eventually, the conversation will shift to water shortages and diversion that have already displaced millions and may eventually threaten conflict with some of China’s neighbors. As the international community lurches toward the Copenhagen climate change conference, the main topic is carbon emissions and climate change. Again, the debate will center on the PRC.

The size of the country means conflicting processes exist simultaneously. Critics of Chinese ecologic and economic practice can point to ongoing devastation at the same time defenders point to important remedial programs. China and climate change is a topic broad and substantial enough for several books, but there are vital statistics that must be included in any conversation. These point to the PRC as by far the most powerful force, now and for the indefinite future, driving carbon emissions. The reason is coal.

Numbers Don’t Lie

1. While the data can be presented in many different ways, China almost surely leads the world in raw spending on “green energy.” The PRC is allocating an impressive amount of resources to cleaning its environment as well as building wind turbines, solar plants, and similar facilities.

2. China also leads in coal production and consumption. In 2000, China’s official figure for coal output was 880 million tons and dropping; in 2008, it was 2.62 billion tons and still climbing. The PRC’s ecologic footprint is often characterized as a natural result of a large population and a growing economy. In coal, it is more than that:

China’s share of world GDP: over 7 percent and climbing;
China’s share of world population: about 20 percent and declining;
China’s share of world coal use: over 40 percent and climbing…

…9. When troublesome for the Communist Party, Chinese statistics are altered or censored. Political statistics are censored (e.g., the size and nature of Tibetan riots), economic statistics are altered (e.g., Chinese provinces claim every year to grow faster than the national “average”), and environmental statistics are censored (e.g., suppression of foreign reports in favor of official accounts).[9] Any environmental agreement that permits the PRC to report its own progress is not worth the tree chopped down to print it…

The article continues at Heritage.org

Comments are closed.