The Chinese Example: Forget Warming, And Cut Emissions Anyway

 Civilizer

Global warming continues to be this year’s hot complaint.  The greening of America has seeped into retailers, advertiser, and consumers, and all thanks to the rallying cry “Stop Global Warming.”  Al Gore made an alarmist film rife with errors and got a Nobel Peace Prize and an Oscar for it, because he was trying to “Stop Global Warming.”  You can buy everything from an environmentally friendly light bulb to environmentally friendly floors for your house, so you can help “Stop Global Warming.”  Well I never thought I’d say this, but:

To hell with global warming.  Take a look.

A smog-o-rific satellite image of China

That picture up there is a photograph of China taken from space.  See all that dark gray stuff?  That would be all the stuff that China’s factories belch into the atmosphere.  And it’s a perfect example of why we do have to cut emissions, develop cleaner energy, and more prudent land management strategies, and why global warming has to take a back seat.  The example of China illustrates the situation perfectly.

China, of course, is hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics.  “Hosting” is kind of a funny word, as they seem like the kind of host who welcomes you into their home and then dispatches their German Shepherd to watch you like a hawk and take a bite out of your thigh if you touch the candlesticks.  But in any case, it’s their big event on the world stage.  And they had so badly fouled their air that they had to shut everything down in and around Beijing well ahead of the start of the Games to try and get things athlete-ready.  The air is so bad, the great Haile Gebrselassie has refused to compete in Beijing.  But underneath that nauseating claim are some pretty shocking facts:  Air pollution kills approximately 656,000 Chinese people a year, and water pollution another 95,600.  More people die of pollution-related causes in China than die of cancer in the United States each year, or heart disease.

And how about this, for all you dismal scientists out there:  on a combined basis, air and water pollution cost China 5.8% of its GDP – around $100 billion annually.  And oh yeah – all that smog probably exacerbates global warming. 

Now, I’m not saying that global warming is a liberal con job, or that it doesn’t exist.  The evidence that global warming is happening is pretty hard to refute, and I’ve no doubt that humanity has a hand in it.  But remember, this planet has been going through climactic shifts and cycles since time out of mind.  And also remember that while human activity has a tremendous impact on the planet, our capacity to affect the climate is dwarfed by our capacity to affect conditions on the ground and our own quality of life. 

China is a microcosm of the wider world.  Their most pressing problem isn’t global warming, and it isn’t their most solvable problem, either.  The same goes for the rest of us.  Keep in mind that China shut down the country for several months and their air is still a mess – you think if you buy some different lightbulbs and drive a Prius that you can reverse something like global warming?  Really?  You think if a few enlightened people in pockets of the world straighten up and fly right, it will reverse centuries of industrialized by-product, and the millions of cars on the road?

But let’s look at what would happen in China, and in fact the entire world, if we developed clean, alternative fuels instead of burned oil, gas, and coal – less cancer, cleaner water, healthier watersheds and ecosystems, stable animal populations, and budgets that aren’t as stressed by the health care and/or clean-up costs that come with all that stuff.  But if we push that stuff aside and just keep talking about global warming, then what happens when the skeptics break through?  What happens when they plant enough doubt in enough people’s minds about this whole global warming thing?  After all, no lay people really understand the science behind it – here’s a fun game: find some passionate global warming guy or girl on a college campus and ask them to explain carbon-feedback loops.  See?  They mostly just know what Al Gore put in a movie, and we all know he’s full of shit most of the time.  Wasn’t his wife that crazy chick who tried to ban W.A.S.P.? (Truth be told I wish she’d succeeded there)

Gas prices drop, these stupid things will come right back

I’ll tell you what will happen – people will decide they don’t have to worry anymore.  They’ll buy regular old bulbs again, they’ll stop buying hybrid cars, they won’t worry about recycling that much.  Global warming has at least served one purpose.  It’s woken people up to the fact that we can’t continue to live the way we do without serious consequences to the long-term viability of the planet.

But it’s time to shift the focus.  China isn’t shutting its factories down because of global warming.  They’re doing it because the world is coming to visit this summer, and the Chinese government understands that no one wants to live or compete in the smog, the algae blooms, and the runoff.

So why should the rest of us put up with it anywhere else?

One Response

  1. Yes. When a nation gets rich it deals with its dirt. London used to be disgusting, like the big B, and smog was ever present. Then we got prosperous and cleaned up. I expect China to do the same. Faster.

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