5 Reasons Why China Will Turn Green
China is often used as a scapegoat in global environmental politics; however China may just be the country to lead the charge into a green and sustainable economy. China’s relationship with the environment will need to change because the basis of its economic growth may well crumble before the country has even joined the rich club. So what are the main challenges facing China and why does it matter that the sustainable revolution reaches the most populous country:
1) Water Scarcity
Water is seen as endless resource. The planet’s surface is two thirds water but from that only 1% is drinkable. Water distribution then further complicates the picture. Northern China suffers from drought; southern suffers from flooding. China is trying to solve this with a multi-billion-dollar project to divert water from the Yangtze to compensate the arid North’s lack of water. Why is China investing this money? Because water scarcity is a major brake on economic growth for almost every form of wealth creation.
In China scarcity is compounded by the impacts of pollution. China’s Ministry of Environmental protection states that approximately 48% of the country’s fresh water is drinkable another 26.4% is good for agricultural and industrial uses. This leaves a massive 24.3% that cannot be used. This lack of fresh water is already strangling economic growth through sickness, crop failures and drops in industrial output. Europe and America had similar problems but their economic development was slower and did not put as much pressure on this resource.
2) Peak Oil
Although there is some debate, it looks likely that we have already passed peak oil. Historically the price of oil has never been so high and even the most serious economic crisis in recent history did not cause the price to drop under $ 65 a barrel.
Demand is going to outstrip supply and in a land increasingly wanting to drive and consume this means that there will be a concerted push for alternative technologies. Green technology will increasinly be “Made in China”. Car efficiency standardsare now higher in China than in the USA because China wants to remain ccompetitive in a world without oil.
3) Peak Coal
Coal produces 66% of China’s energy and a massive 46% of the World’s Coal is mined in China. Although a largely ignored problem, peak production is coming.
The reasons for peak coal are that the mines produce less and less and demand simply keeps on rising. It is not simply how much coal is in the ground. As exploration becomes too expensive, mines close. In the UK, Germany and almost all American States peak coal has been reached because coal became too expensive to compete on the global level. This problem is now occurring in more and more countries:. As Chris Venon in an article on the Oil Drum points out:
“global coal resources have been consistently revised down, and by 55% over the past 25 years, from 10 trillion tons hce (hard coal equivalent) in 1980 to around 4.5 trillion tons hce in 2005. Certain countries (including Germany and the UK) have been revised down by over 90% in this period.”
Coal is not as abundant as many may think. Burning it may also result in natural catastrophes that 10% economic growth cannot match: Runaway Climate Change, something that China cannot afford to risk.
4) Runaway Climate Change
The Chinese cannot drive, fly and live like Europeans or Americans because the cake i.e. the atmosphere is not big enough.
Through efficient growth we can create economic wealth while at the same time preventing the worst effects of climate change while at the same time solving the problems of peak oil and coal.
President Hu promised in November 2009 to improve economic efficiency by 40 to 45 % by 2020 (measured by energy used to create a dollar of GDP). China will and could and should go further and increase its efficiency byat least 72% to match the USA or by 83% to reach Japan’s level of efficiency.
5) Leadership in the World
China has not shown itself to be a global leader yet, but through economic power comes responsibility. China has in recent years turned from being a receiver to a giver of foreign aid, it has overtaken France, Britain and Germany in quick succession and this summer (2010) overtook Japan to become the second largest economy. It is already the largest CO2 emitter. It may just use the green evolution that the world needs to take control of the global field.
China is already the largest producer of solar panels. Its ability to adapt its economy to the needs of the world has made it grow very quickly. It looks likely that China may just be able to deliver the technology that really starts to fight the fire that is human destruction. Where the USA waits and squabbles, China prepares to revolutionise the world much as America or rather capitalism did in the 20th century.
- Ban the Baby
- Global Warming Demands Leadership
- Yeah But China Builds a New Coal Plant Every Two Weeks
- Is the Downfall of Coal Power Here?
- The Greenwash Party