US Posturing on China's Carbon Emissions Scarier Than the Emissions Themselves

china air pollution photo

Smog over the Pearl River. Photo: J Aaron Farr via flickr.

Now here's a scary thought: If we don't see significant cuts in China's carbon emissions by 2050, even if every other country reduced theirs by 80%, the world will still see a 2.7°C rise in average temperature. That's what Assistant Secretary of State for Energy David Sandalow said in The Guardian:Sandalow went on to say,

China can and will need to do much more if the world is going to have any hope of containing climate change.

No One is Making Strong Enough Emissions Reduction Commitments
Fair enough, but frankly that statement could just as easily apply to the United States, to Japan (whose recent emissions reduction pledges are just 2% below its Kyoto agreement pledges and are being universally lambasted for being weak), to Australia, to any number of smaller nations flying under the radar as "developing nations" but where per capita emissions are higher than in Europe...for plenty of places.

The long and short of it is, every nation, China included, thinks they are doing enough to curb emissions and in a time frame that they believe effective (or effective when compared to political expedience), but not one of them is making deep enough emissions reductions commitments that happen quickly enough to avert the worst of climate chaos.

When it comes emission reduction commitments, no nation (with the exception of those already getting flooded, like the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea) really is justified in pointing fingers at other nations, claiming not enough action.

Rich Nations Have Obligation to Help the Poor Adapt
In fact, the position of a coalition of developing nations, led by China, that rich countries should commit to 40% reductions from 1990 levels by 2020, and dedicate 1% of GDP to aid poor nations with climate change adaptation is a far more reasonable thing to suggest than Sandalow's statement.

Not to mention that China has recently made green power pledges equal to those in Europe: 20% by 2020. That's 100 GW of wind power plus a significant solar power target.

Inaction is Simply Not an Option
Surely there's a degree of political posturing going on from both sides, but far scarier to me than China continuing business-as-usual as the rest of the world cuts emissions (it simply won't happen...), is that the world's major emitters don't make deep enough emissions cuts all on the pretense that a) they'll be offset by China, or b) because they're simply too scared to act first.

Global Climate Change
Poorer Nations Tells the Rich: You Must Cut Emissions 40% Below 1990 Levels by 2020
West 'Responsible' for Third of China's CO2 Emissions
US, China, Wealthy Nations Should Bear the Costs of Reducing Carbon Emissions

Related Content on