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China's Economic Miracle

China's Economic Miracle


markPresident Hu’s Tuesday statement that China would pledge to cut the carbon dioxide emissions produced for each dollar of output brought praise from Al Gore. The seasoned environmental campaigner and former U.S. vice-president has a very good grasp of the realities of the situation. The statement would also have been welcomed by all the G20 leaders and a few others as well. The fact is that that what Al Gore and the world leaders all know is that China is a minimal contributor to global warming if this is judged against its population; it is the people of their countries who are kept misinformed by an over-excitable press.

markWhat gave rise to the hysterical calls from the U.S. media, exemplified by USA Today, where a May 2008 headline screamed, “China Now No.1 CO₂ Offender” can be seen on graph 1. The populist and nationalistic daily newspaper continued, “Unless China cuts its emissions...the situation is pretty bleak”.  This lowbrow approach has been a constant theme emanating from the U.S. press and is mirrored to a lesser extent by European publications.

Quite evidently the noisiest protestors have not examined the bottom line; the situation where population is taken into account. The information on graph 2 clearly shows that the U.S.A. continued to produce carbon emissions per person through to 2006 at over four times the rate of China. It should be remembered that these statistics only reflect industrial and energy production; they do not reflect the excessive pollution created domestically by the American consumer. When this is factored in, and one considers the profligate wastage that occurs in most American homes and from most American cars, it is clear that it is the U.S.A. to whom we should say, “If you don’t cut your emissions, the situation will be bleak!” and say so repeatedly.  

President Hu’s comments were clear as regards China’s objective, “...to cut...the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each dollar of economic output, over the decade to 2020.” Quite evidently tmarkhis means that China’s gross carbon emissions will continue to increase, as the economic output does, but to a lesser extent. On graph 3 the growth of China’s and the U.S.A.’s economies and carbon emissions are displayed, indexed to a base of 100 in 2001. This data demonstrates that, for the first time, by 2006 emissions in China were growing at a slower rate than the growth of G.D.P. and later data comparing electricity consumption against total GDP also indicates a fall in the rate of increase of growth of demand for electricity against the growth of the economy as a whole (see graph 4).  

Notwithstanding the use of terms such as, “the increase in the rate of growth is...blah, blah, blah”, what it actually means is that China’s emissions will continue to increase, as will India’s, Brazil’s, Russia’s, in fact any of the countries enjoying a sustained boom from a low base.

markChinese economic objectives have been perfectly clear for several years; President Hu has now added clarity to China’s stance on the issue of carbon emissions. It unsurprising that he is unwilling to give concrete figures on this subject, the developed nations are unable to hit their own targets for the reduction in emissions, and it is considerably harder for a nation riding the surge of an economic tsunami to make accurate predictions of how that future growth can be forecasted and the increase in emissions moderated.

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