Polluting Pariah or Green Superpower?
In view of various unbelievably long and incoherent comments made by someone called jdouglashuahin on Climate Denial Crock of the Week (this and this being just the tips of a couple of very large icebergs), I am going to devote the whole of this week to the subject of China.
My Dad was born in China and, despite being locked up in Japanese internment camps for most of WW2, I think one of the most enjoyable trips in his final years was unquestionably that he made to China when he was nearly 80. Sadly, I have never been; nor am I now ever likely to visit it (far too self-indulgent even if I had a job and/or the money). However, having been brought-up in the UK but taught to use chopsticks almost before I could control a knife and fork properly, I have always taken a keen interest in chinese food, culture and people. I was therefore delighted, last year, to find that one of the optional modules for my MA was Environmental Policy and Practice in China and India. I did not hesitate. [N.B. People like John Douglas Swallow should note the use of italics here to identify this as the name of a course module; not an indication that I ever travelled to China]
Therefore, in the remaining four days of this week, I will post the 5000-word essay I wrote on the subject of the water resources (i.e. surface water and groundwater) in the Yellow River Basin of Northern China. The source of the Yellow River is in the Tibetan Plateau and as such this seventh-longest river in the world passes through just about every climatic zone the planet has to offer; is regarded as the birthplace of Chinese civilisation; and is only now surpassed by the Yangtze River in terms of its industrial importance to China. However, by way of setting the scene for what is to come, I would recommend that people read (or if necessary re-read) a brief item I posted about a special report presented by Justin Rowlatt (first broadcast on the BBC News Channel about a year ago) between Christmas and New Year last year.
Justin Rowlatt is an experienced BBC journalist who first came to my attention when he agreed to allow his entire family to be used in a year-long experiment to see how small a carbon footprint they could have (by selling the family car etc). Building on the success of this experiment, his alter-ego “Ethical Man” embarked on a trip across the USA to explore just how easy (or hard) it would be to roll-out low-carbon lifestyles in a car-obsessed, consumption-oriented country. As well as producing a series of programmes; he wrote about his experiences in a blog. So it was that he came to be in China last year to investigate just how worried the Chinese are about climate change; just how much they are doing to minimise the inevitable impact of such a populous – and rapidly-developing country (by investing heavily in renewable energy technology); and the logistical limitations that growth imposes (including the fact that China is likely to continue burning coal for several decades).
Unfortunately, the BBC’s Our World production entitled ‘China’s Green Revolution’ does not appear to be on You Tube, but there are numerous other programmes and/or news items that are, which cover similar territory. For example, here is a brief item produced by the World Bank:
So, China may well be intent on an entirely selfish programme of seeking to maximise the economic benefit it can acrue for itself by selling renewable energy technology to the rest of the world but, this is not the whole story. Therefore, I hope you will stay with me this week as I look in detail at the challenges China faces in seeking to tackle its own pollution and feed and water its own population: These are all problems that climate change is only going to make harder to solve, which is why the Communist Party of China is so worried about climate change (even if the Tea Party is not).