“Twenty More Years of Roaring Growth” for China?

The following is an excerpt from http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31478-china-s-communist-capitalist-ecological-apocalypse :

In The Wall Street Journal of August 20, 2014, Justin Yifu Lin, an economist and close adviser to senior leaders in Beijing, stated that he’s confident China can sustain its recent 8 percent per year growth rate for the foreseeable future. He predicts “20 years of roaring growth” for China. Really? Where does Yifu think the resources are going to come from for this scale of consumption? As it happens, in 2011, the Earth Policy Institute at Columbia University calculated that if China keeps growing by around 8 percent per year, Chinese average per capita consumption will reach the current US level by around 2035. But to provide the natural resources for China’s 1.3 billion to consume on a per capita basis like the United States’ 330 million consume today, the Chinese – roughly 20 percent of the world’s population – will consume as much oil as the entire world consumes today. It would also consume more than 60 percent of other critical resources.

Production Consumption* Commodity Unit Consumption Latest Year Projected Consumption 2035
U.S. China China World
Grain Million Tons 338 424 1,505 2,191
Meat Million Tons 37 73 166 270
Oil Million Barrels per Day 19 9 85 86
Coal Million Tons of Oil Equivalent 525 1,714 2,335 3,731
Steel Million Tons 102 453 456 1,329
Fertilizer Million Tons 20 49 91 214
Paper Million Tons 74 97 331 394

*Projected Chinese consumption in 2035 is calculated assuming per-capita consumption will be equal to the current US level, based on projected GDP growth of 8 percent annually. Latest year figures for grain, oil, coal, fertilizer and paper are from 2008. Latest year figures for meat and steel are from 2010. Source: Earth Policy Institute, 2011

How can this happen? What would the rest of the world live on? Already, as resource analyst Michael Klare reviews in his latest book, The Race for What’s Left (2012), around the world existing reserves of oil, minerals and other resources “are being depleted at a terrifying pace and will be largely exhausted in the not-too-distant future.”

B. Airpocalypse Now

Decades of coal-powered industrialization combined with the government-promoted car craze since the 1990s have brought China the worst air pollution in the world. Scientists have compared north China’s toxic smog to a “nuclear winter” and the smog is also sharply reducing crop yields. Lung cancer is now the leading cause of death in Beijing and nationally pollution-induced lung disease is taking the lives of more than 1.2 million people a year. With 20 percent of the world’s population, China now burns as much coal as the rest of the world put together. Twenty of the world’s 30 smoggiest cities are in China.

As domestic food grows increasingly unsafe, alarmed middle-class Chinese strip supermarkets of imported food.

Ironically, China is also a “green technology” leader, the world’s largest producer of both windmills and solar panels. Yet in China these account for barely 1 percent of electricity generation. Coal presently supplies 69 percent of China’s total energy consumption; oil accounts for 18 percent; hydroelectric, 6 percent; natural gas, 4 percent; nuclear, less than 1 percent; and other renewables including solar and wind, 1 percent. (27) China currently burns 4 billion tons of coal a year; the US burns less than 1 billion; the European Union, about 0.6 billion. China has marginally reduced the carbon intensity of production in recent years by installing newer, more efficient power plants but these gains have been outstripped by relentless building of more power plants. To make matters worse, even when power plants are fitted with scrubbers to reduce pollution, operators often don’t turn on the scrubbers because these cut into their profits.

While government plans call for reducing coal’s share of the energy mix from 69 percent to 55 percent by 2040, it projects that China’s absolute coal consumption will still rise by more than 50 percent in the same period in line with China’s projected economic growth of around 7.7 percent per year. The World Health Organization considers air pollution above 25 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter (PM2.5) to be unsafe. China’s current national average is 75 micrograms but particulate levels in many cities average in the hundreds.

In the winter of 2013, China suffered from the worst air pollution in its history as half of the country, nearly the whole of northern and eastern China, was smothered in dense smog for weeks at a time. Smog alerts were called in 104 cities in 20 of China’s 30 provinces as schools and airports closed in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities. In January, PM2.5 levels in Beijing reached 900 micrograms per cubic meter. As Beijing was choking in smog in the winter of 2013, Deutsche Bank analysts gloomily concluded that even if China’s economy slowed to 5 percent growth per year from it’s current 7.6 percent rate, coal consumption would still nearly double and China’s smog could increase by as much as 70 percent by 2030. (28)

China’s leaders thus face an intractable dilemma. They can’t keep growing the economy without consuming ever more coal, oil and gas. Yet the more fossil fuels they burn, the more uninhabitable China’s cities become, the more Chinese people flee the country, and the faster China’s emissions are driving global warming.

More: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31478-china-s-communist-capitalist-ecological-apocalypse

The People Have Spoken: Global Warming, Real—Magic Underpants, Not

Well, the votes are in and counted; a decision has been made. The people have spoken: global warming is real—magic underpants are not. And bowhunters are not fit to hold higher office, much to the disappointment of Paul Ryan and his role model, Ted Nugent. By shunning the diehard deer hunter, the voters have made it clear that the animals of the Earth are not mere playthings for the rich and famous, the powerful and perverse.

Perhaps now that the election is over we can forget about magic underpants and begin to focus our attention on the real issue that affects all our lives—namely, how human actions are changing the planet’s climate.

According to Kevin Knobloch, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, “President Obama has won another four years in office. In the wake of destruction left by Hurricane Sandy, the country may have experienced its first election disrupted by global warming. What makes this even more troubling is that the urgent crisis of climate change was never meaningfully discussed in the debates or on the campaign trail. After a year of punishing droughts in our nation’s breadbasket, extreme heat across most of the country, and wildfires that devastated our forests and property, it is now time to turn up the heat on our political leaders. Even with the continued polarization in Washington D.C., there is much President Obama can do to adopt science-based solutions that permanently drive down our carbon emissions and more effectively prepare for the climate-related disasters that will continue to threaten our lives and livelihoods.”

The trick will be making sure our lives and livelihoods don’t compound the problems of global warming. For example, shipping freighter-loads of coal across the ocean to be burned in Chinese power plants might provide a few jobs here for some, but is it worth the trade-off of carbon emissions produced?  Is the hedonism of the Western diet worth the continued suffering of billions of animals and the methane they produce? “Real change” will take real commitment and real innovation, rather than business as usual.

Cartoon © Rob Tornoe, 2012. All Rights Reserved

There Was Magic in the Underwear

There was magic in the air last night—magic underpants, that is. Mitt Romney must have been wearing a crisp new pair for the debate. It’s not likely he would have beaten an intelligent, popular incumbent president without them.

Special skivvies aside, Mitt’s disregard for the environment showed through in the first few minutes with the line, “I like coal” and his promise to approve the Keystone pipeline. It was if he was saying, “Bring it on!” to the disastrous impacts of global warming. And by boasting about having five sons, he was clearly thumbing his nose at the problem of over-population.

For the sake of the natural world, Mr. Romney should trade in his magic undies for a crystal ball—or a dose of reality. Maybe then he’ll be able to see what rampant coal and shale oil extraction and burning are doing to the Earth and the atmosphere and how unbridled breeding is threatening this, the one and only planet we’ll ever know.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson