How Development is Hurting, Not Helping, China's Poor (Video)

China's biggest defense of its massive greenhouse gas emissions is its need to develop like West has, mostly in order to lift its people out of poverty.

But that kind of unbridled development is already defeating its own purpose: climate change is exacerbating the problems of poverty in China.

China's not the only country to blame, nor is it the only victim. The U.S. and the rest of the developed world are by far the biggest contributors to global warming, the effects of which are hitting hardest in developing nations.In a new report compiled with experts from the nation's Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Greenpeace China and Oxfam Hong Kong explore the connection between climate change and poverty. Writes AFP:

"Climate change is making poverty alleviation work harder because as soon as there is a disaster in those places where the environment is very fragile, these return to poverty," Xu Yinlong of the academy told reporters.

According to Hu Angang, an economist at Beijing's Tsinghua University who wrote a preface to the report, China is one of the countries in the world most prone to natural disasters.

"More than 70 per cent of Chinese cities and over 50 percent of the population are located in areas susceptible to serious meteorological, seismic or oceanic disasters," he wrote.

And 95 per cent of those living in absolute poverty in China are living in ecologically fragile areas in the interior of the country, the report added, highlighting the correlation between hardship and a weak environment.

These places are now showing signs of climate change, including glacial retreat, an increase in droughts, enhanced soil erosion and frequent extreme weather events...

Greenpeace and Oxfam urged China to take the lead in adopting a climate rescue treaty at a key meeting on climate change in December, and introduce measures such as elevating bridges and roads in flood-prone areas.

China has demanded that the U.S. and other developed countries pay it 1% of their GDP per year to help China fight climate change. In a report to the United Nations last month, the Commission on Climate Change and Development said that about 0.7% of GDP, or about one to two billion dollars a year, must be given to developing nations.

Climate aid and technology transfers will likely be a sine qua non of any climate deal this year at Copenhagen.

But as China continues its lead as world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, and as the effects of climate change in China accelerate -- Beijing's argument that it deserves to pollute to develop rings increasingly hollow.

More than aid, and maybe more than politically tendentious carbon caps, the best way toward mitigating the effects of climate change may be verifiable and measurable improvements in emissions.

And more than Western political pressure -- already weakened by the U.S.'s fraught trade relationship with China -- it may be the sight of danger in China's own backyard that will be the most persuasive argument for action by Beijing.

More on Climate and Poverty at TreeHugger
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