On the heels of the UN Climate Change Conference, Beijing has recently announced a code red smog alert; the highest level. It is only the second such alert, the first coming earlier this month.
It is a significant step as it involves closing factories and schools and strictly restricting the number of vehicles on the road.
Thankfully, the scale-topping 500 on the Air Quality Index (AQI) predicted has not yet materialized as of noon on Sunday local time. The AQI in Beijing stands at 200 – high enough to keep me inside but low enough that I can still see across the street.
China, unfortunately, seems to take a lot of the blame in the Western media for climate change. It has to change its ways, for sure, and the government understands this, but this kind of thinking shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the real problem.
According to the British Charity Oxfam, in a report released on December 1, “The total emissions of the poorest half of the population of China, around 600 million people, are only one-third of the total emissions of the richest 10 percent in the US, some 30 million people.”
Climate change, in other words, is as much about the economy as it is the environment. If we were all poor we wouldn’t be at the critical stage we are.
Of course I am not suggesting that we make everyone poor. But I do agree with China in that the developed countries can’t preclude the developing countries from further development in order to solve the problem.
It might be said that the climate issue is not so much about emission as it is treatment. Which is why the US generally appears to be ecologically sound while the Chinese are literally suffocating in smog. The US has the technology and the capital to address the issue. China does not.
Which is why the transfer of knowledge and capital will be the key to solving the problem globally. Restrictions, by themselves, won’t be the answer, assuming the developed nations don’t somehow – perhaps through force – convince the developing nations to accept a grave social injustice.
The biggest issue for China is the use of low quality coal. About 60% of its electricity is produced with this resource. But even though China is planning to invest $78 billion in new nuclear plants in the next five years, bringing the total number of nuclear plants operating in China to 110 by the year 2030, it will still be heavily reliant on coal for its power generation.
Which, in turn, means that the only real solution for China is the development of new cleaner coal-burning technologies.
And this, in my opinion, is where world leaders should be focusing their efforts and their investment. Focusing on restrictions in output won’t solve the problem. Technology will. Instead of trying to get every country to agree to a specific quota, we should have an international energy think tank and research body, the output of which belongs to all citizens of the world.
This, to me, is very good news indeed. Political consensus has proven difficult, nay impossible, throughout the history of man – and we’re running out of time. But technological advancement, now that’s another story. We’ve amazed ourselves with how far we’ve come and no one doubts there is plenty of runway left.
Solutions, not punishment. That is always the most productive path to follow.
Some early praise for the author’s latest book, “Understanding China – There is reason for the difference”
“An insightful, compelling introduction to the intricacies of Chinese business and life.” – Kirkus Review
To see the full review from this prestigious literary company, please click on this direct link:
“Understanding China is a “must-read” for anyone interested in culture, working with Asian businesses, visiting China or simply if you enjoy a well-written book! I worked in China in the 90’s and while I eventually understood the differences, I never understood “why” until now. Moreau does a great job explaining the “why”. Well done!!”
(Not a relative!)
“Having done business and gone on personal journeys through the Asia Pacific region, I wish I’d read a book like this first. The premise is that being happy and effective in China requires more than just learning how things operate and working within the established system. This will bring frustration and leave you ineffective because you, the Westerner, will still be looking at these cultural differences as irrational. Mr. Moreau contends that only by understanding why things are the way they are in China and in the West can a Westerner actually influence outcome in China.
The author proceeds to explain the differences with very engaging writing that made me say, “Of, of course! It all makes sense now.”
(Also not a relative!)
Note: The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.
You may contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org