The day that pollution experts have been warning of for two decades has arrived: China has become the world’s biggest energy consumer.
China’s new status is a reminder that when it comes to shaping the world’s climate, for good or bad, there are countries that wield much greater influence than Canada. It ought to spark some sober reflection among Canadians about how much we ourselves can do to to fight climate change, as long as a behemoth like China continues to devour the Earth’s resources.
In his Sunshine Sketches, Stephen Leacock, whose day job was teaching economics, depicts a group of wealthy men raising money for a community project in fictional Mariposa. Each man promises to give generously, but it’s always contingent on conditions that can never be met. While crowds cheer their seeming generosity, no one in the story actually gives a penny.
The story of climate change politics follows a similar plot line. Governments have been promising to reduce greenhouse emissions since the 1980s, but so far none of these emission cuts have actually happened, and now China is racing to produce more. Governments often argue over which country is responsible for how much of the world’s reductions, but they’re arguing over cuts that exist only in fantasy. Like the benefactors of Mariposa, they never have to cough up.
And now the world’s emissions climb even higher, as China’s appetite for energy, to fuel a juggernaut economy, knows no bounds. (The Chinese are going through the equivalent of 2.252 billion tonnes of oil a year.)
Canada has a high rate of emissions per capita, but our population is small and so our overall emissions are still far behind China’s, or those of the United States, Russia and others. Canadian political and industry leaders are right to ask why we should spend billions of dollars and possibly cripple our economy to cut emissions that are a tiny fraction of the global total? What difference does it make how many coal-fired plants Ontario phases out when China opens two new coal plants every week?
These are legitimate arguments. It’s delusional to think that Canada alone can change the world, no matter how many fluorescent light bulbs Canadians buy. And in truth, our industrial-scale efforts seem insipid: Our multi-billion-dollar devotion to wind power produces a tiny fraction of one per cent of Ontario’s electrical needs. We claim to build “green” houses, but the people in them still use as much power as ever, mainly because consumers continue to buy electricity-sucking gadgets. So why should Canada do anything? Because there’s no alternative. Morally, someone has to act. We can’t just give up.
But there’s also an economic self-interest. Countries that invest in greening the economy will be tomorrow’s winners. Fuel efficiency, hybrids and renewable fuels are obvious areas for research.
China has now become the world’s biggest buyer of new cars. Western countries that have designed and built cars for nearly 100 years, Canada among them, owe the world technological improvements. It’s better economically to be in the forefront of green technology than to watch someone else to develop it, and buy from them.
In the meantime, China’s coal-fired economy is a useful reminder that as the world develops frameworks, protocols, cap-and-trade mechanisms and lists of Annex I and II countries, all that really counts is the rising level of carbon dioxide.
El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.
- Detrás de Cámaras
- Galería de Medios
- Notas de prensa
Page 'Breadcrumb' Navigation:
Site 'Main' Navigation: