The two countries which emit the most CO2 into the atmosphere are China and the U.S. Their governments are taking a very different attitude toward the problem.
Two recent reports from China have highlighted the danger of climate change. One is from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, about the Himalayan plateau. It’s warming faster than the globe as a whole, and not only are the Himalayan glaciers melting, the Tibetan permafrost is degrading. This is a severe threat to all of Asia, because glacial runoff is a major source of their great rivers, and permafrost is an important part of how that runoff gets into their great rivers. Add to that the fact that a startling amount of land there is desertifying, and the Chinese are worried about the consequences — because for them, global warming isn’t just bad already, it’s going to get a lot worse.
The other is a major report from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Third National Assessment Report on Climate Change. It too points to the problems with the disappearance of glaciers, and the startling degradation of permafrost. It emphasizes the re-distribution of precipitation — more in some parts, less in others — and the problems associated with it. It points out that extreme weather and other things related to climate change have accounted for over 70% of China’s natural disasters, and the expectation in the near future of even more drought and flood.
The Chinese government takes the problem seriously. Very seriously. That’s one of the reasons they’re deploying renewable energy rapidly. They’re investing heavily in both adaptation to climate change, and mitigation — because the problems are only going to get worse, they intend to do what they can to keep it to a minimum. The Chinese are poised to become the leader of the world.
Here in the U.S., our government has become the dead weight of the world.
It’s not the president’s fault — he’s been trying hard to get the right policies working, things like the Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate agreement. The fault lies with the U.S. Congress. That’s because the Republican party controls both houses of congress. They’ve sworn to block any substantial U.S. participation in the recent ground-breaking climate agreement reached in Paris. They’re trying hard to undermine the Clean Power Plan. The republican leadership is in the pockets of fossil fuels, bought and paid for, and they’re determined to “drill baby drill” at the very moment the rest of the world is taking “leave it in the ground” seriously.
We used to be the leader of the world, we gave hope to people everywhere. Now we’re the albatross, the burden, the problem. If you ask a Republican presidential candidate what to do about climate change, the best answer you could hope for is to burn more natural gas — switch from one carbon-based fuel to another. With that attitude, in the presidency or in congress, we won’t just remain the problem child of the world, we’ll get worse.
But while we seem poised to abandon our leadership role, to run like frightened rabbits because it’s just too hard, there’s another country ready to take it. Move over, U.S.A. China is here.