Climate Change and China

In the year 2006, China took over the title of the “largest greenhouse gas emitter” from America, producing the most overall greenhouse gas quantity annually. The Energy Information Administration predicts that China’s emissions will grow at a remarkable 4.2% per year between 1990 and 2030 a growth rate that is higher than any other emitter. The climate problem in China is very serious; if China’s trend toward producing greenhouse gases still increases in the future, Earth’s environment will be further stressed and other nations’ efforts to reduce greenhouse gases will be cancelled out.

China’s action exemplifies an ethical problem called “the tragedy of commons“, which means China, in pursuing its self-interests by emitting large amount of green house gases, creates detrimental effects to the global environment. In the next few paragraphs, I will elaborate on the ethical problem that China is facing and what to do about those issues, focusing on how much China should do to protect the environment. China is now facing the dilemma of improving its economy. While it is enhancing its economy at an incredibly fast rate, China has a conflict between protecting the environment and speeding economic development.

China is experiencing a boost in its economy while increasing 1.5 billion tons of greenhouse gas emission annually. China’s fast-growing economy is fueled by large product exports. China has the ability and advantage to compete with other industrial nations in terms of cost, since it has abundant coal, which accounts for two-thirds of China’s total energy consumption.The problem with China’s coal usage is that coal emits far more greenhouse gases than petroleum or other fossil fuels, and an even greater amount of greenhouse gases than renewable energy sources.

However, China is certainly not willing to sacrifice its economy and its competitiveness in order to reduce greenhouse gases. China’s actions on climate change exemplify the tragedy of the commons, because while the EU and other nations are adopting various kinds of approaches to reduce their emissions levels back to the 1990s level within the next 10 years, China is going to cancel out others’ endeavors by producing more and more greenhouse gases. Moreover, China’s position not only undermines the value of other nations’ reduction of emissions, but it also provides opponents of emissions reductions with powerful rhetorical tools.

Opponents can point to economic competition from China as well as the futility of reducing emissions in the face of Chinese politics. Eventually, industrial countries may end up doing nothing. If the world experiences serious global warming consequences, humanity will eventually destroy itself. With no doubt, Effective approaches should be adopted to deal with green house gas emission, But we are just not sure what can we do to protect the atmosphere and the global common and what to do with industrial nations such China. Because people use uncertainty as their excuse to not protect the environment, some people argue that we should pay more attention to improving technology and the economy so that we will be better off in resisting those possible catastrophes in the future. However, in my opinion, uncertainty is our ground for taking action to prevent the worst possibilities that could happen. By evading the job, we are leaving our responsibilities to the next generation and, if some real disaster happens, the world will be driven into crisis.

Therefore, when to solve the problem is not a question at all; we should start to take action now. One way to get started is to address China’s huge emissions problem. Recent treatments of this topic by academics, policymakers, and the media have suggested that national governments should take a variety of steps to shift China’s incentives. They have suggested reformed Clean Development Mechanism, such as subsidizing China through excess allowances in a post-Kyoto global carbon trading scheme, subsidizing China’s adoption of less carbon-intensive energy production such as using more wind and nuclear power; transforming coal usage into alternative environmentally-friendly fuels; facilitating the development and adoption of new technologies; and having China acting unilaterally in the hope that nations such as the USA, Canada, and Australia will reciprocate.

It is not simply that China does not care about the climate change issue. Since 1990, China has taken environmental issues very seriously.

The problem is combining these concerns with the development imperative. When you have 1.5 billion people to feed, you can hardly be blamed for taking development as the first imperative. What we can ask China to do is to change their use of coal into more environmentally friendly fuels gradually, such as natural gas and nuclear power. We cannot stop abruptly because that will bring China’s economy to a complete halt. The most viable way to do it is by setting a scheme to reduce its emissions step by step. Moreover, developed countries should help China to facilitate the development, so that China will advance its technology at a fast rate, thus producing less overall carbon dioxide.

Finally, all of the industrial nations should come to a consensus to reduce greenhouse gas emissions differently within their different capacities. For example, Japan is already very efficient and sustainable in its methods of production. Therefore, when nations come to a consensus, we cannot ask Japan to reduce as much of their emission rates as we ask China to reduce. China’s way of relentlessly emitting greenhouse gases is the manifest of tragedy of commons. By depleting shared resources and acting independently according to its self-interest, China is developing and earning its profit in contrary to humanity’s long-term best interests.

Therefore, we should encourage China to adopt reasonable approaches to reduce greenhouse gases, not only because China’s action is unethical and extremely influential to the global environment, but also because China, in its size and magnitude, can be an effective exemplar of greenhouse gas reduction in the world. The founder of the concept “tragedy of commons”, Garrett Hardin, suggests one solution, which is government regulation for this problem. In this case, a third party in international range should coerce and assist China to reduce green house gas emission. If China does reduce their emission in the first place, other nations will gradually reciprocate. Thus we will have a better chance to protect the global atmosphere common.

-------------------------------------------- [ 1 ]. Vandenbergh Michael P. (2008). Climate Change: The China Problem [ 2 ]. Vandenbergh Michael P. (2008). Climate Change: The China Problem [ 3 ]. http://sitemaker.umich.edu/section002group9/energy_use [ 4 ]. Vandenbergh Michael P. (2008). Climate Change: The China Problem [ 5 ]. Garvy James (2008). The Ethics of Climate Change

[ 6 ]. Vandenbergh Michael P. (2008). Climate Change: The China Problem [ 7 ]. Vandenbergh Michael P. (2008). Climate Change: The China Problem [ 8 ]. Vandenbergh Michael P. (2008). Climate Change: The China Problem