Apr 062009
 
Authors: Ian Bezek

In 2006, China added France to its power grid. Not literally of course, but China built so many new power plants in one year that they could power all of France.

In fact, according to Robert Bryce’s book “Gusher of Lies,” China is building a new coal-fired power plant every four days.

Even if we assume (in both cases falsely) that global warming is real and that we will magically find enough new reserves of fossil fuels to keep running our carbon-based power facilities, we can’t stop global warming.

Why can’t we stop it? The drivers of new carbon emissions aren’t America, Europe or other already developed economies. Instead, the biggest increase in greenhouse gas emissions is coming from industrializing nations such as China and India who, we can be sure, won’t go along with such niceties as the Kyoto Protocol.

Following Kyoto would be economic suicide for China. Their entire economy is built on the notion that they will be the world’s factory. They make low quality easy-to-manufacture junk.

The manufacture of these rudimentary goods requires exceptional amounts of power. It is a pipe dream to believe that China, whose economy relies on building things more cheaply than all competition, will agree to costly regulation to limit carbon emissions.

A nation building roughly 80 coal power plants a year doesn’t care even remotely about the environment. According to the “China Daily” newspaper, Chinese water minister Wang Shucheng admitted in 2005 that there are more than 300 million Chinese people “whose drinking water security cannot be guaranteed.” China doesn’t even provide fresh water to its people, let alone care to stop global warming.

As long as China and other rapidly growing nations remove themselves from the global warming discussion, there is no way to reduce human-caused carbon emissions. Bryce points out that by 2006, China was burning more coal than the U.S., Europe and Japan combined. America can bury as much carbon as it wants, it won’t matter even slightly with China burning low-grade coal in ever-increasing quantities.

Beside the impracticality of attempting to reverse global warming without having any assistance from the world’s most populous nations, our efforts are also perceived as unfair.

Industrializing nations argue that the U.S. is trying to stop the progress of less-developed nations. Countries like Brazil argue that it is unfair for the West to develop to a high degree and then tell the rest of the world to quit developing entirely.

We as Americans consume absurd amounts of resources, and we burn lots of carbon-based fuel in doing so. For us to tell the rest of the world that they can’t be like us is patently unfair.

The Kyoto Protocol tried to meet this objection by only applying to developed nations. However, that leaves Kyoto with no teeth.

An agreement that only covers the developed, energy-efficient and shrinking economies of the U.S., Japan and Europe won’t even make a dent in human-caused carbon emissions as the terribly inefficient developing countries build their smokestacks to the sky.

However, the only just way to limit China and India’s emissions would be to lower our economy down to their level. We can’t, from our economic pedestal, tell developing nations that they aren’t entitled to modern economies like our own.

Ask yourself what you would personally have to sacrifice if we actually got China to shut down its greenhouse gas causing factories. What’s that? The shelves at Wal-Mart and Target are empty. The racks of clothes at your local mall are suddenly bare.

The simple truth is that while we in America may want to act like we’re fighting global warming, we’re addicted to the products created by the burning of fossil fuels.

Government won’t accomplish anything fighting global warming. The only feasible way to fight climate change is to consume less — but saying that doesn’t win votes.

Ian Bezek is a junior economics major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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