America’s Congress passed its Clean Air Act in 1970 because of dense, visible smog in many U.S. cities and industrial centers. The U.S. has emitted over 90 billion metric tons of carbon since 1800 from fossil-fuel consumption and cement production. U.S. fossil-fuel emissions have doubled since the 1950s but the U.S. share of global emissions has declined from 44% to 19% over the same interval because of higher growth rates in other countries. Source: cdiac.gov
China’s Clean Air Act was first introduced in 1987. For an example of China’s progress, in 2006, Greenpeace was consulted by the CCP on an early draft of a renewable energy law by China’s National People’s Congress. Today—seven years later—China is the world’s leader in the production of renewable energy—in 2011, China produced 797.4 billion annual kilowatt-hours from alternative sources of energy production [hydroelectricity, wind power, biomass and solar] compared to the United States in second place with 699.3 billion.
While China’s air pollution problems may sound extreme and incomparable to air quality here in the U.S., we should not forget that America actually did face a very similar environmental situation during its industrialization. Source: Think Progress.org
Since 70% of China’s electricity comes from thousands of coal burning power plants, Chameides expresses doubts that China will be able to meet these lofty goals. However, I disagree. When you discover the downside of China’s coal burning power plants, it is obvious there is no choice but to clean up.
China’s one-party system has demonstrated the ability to get things done quickly and mistakes are made but so are course corrections. I witnessed China’s ability to get things done in Shanghai. We were staying in what was once the French concession. The stately mansions that had housed wealthy French families and their Chinese servants had been converted to communal multi-family homes still surrounded by high walls. When we went to sleep, the walls were there. In the morning, they were gone.
An army of workers arrived at night, took down the walls and trucked out the debris without making enough noise to wake people.
Although I disagree with Chameides conclusion, his piece is worth reading. And we should not lose sight of the fact that China’s population represents 19% of the earth’s total compared to 4.5% for the U.S. In addition, China’s average per capita CO2 emissions in 2011 was 7.2 tonnes per capita (per person) compared to 17.2 tonnes in America—one of the largest in the world. Imagine how many tons of CO2 the US would pollute the environment with if it had China’s population. Source: PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.
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