Climate

Chapter Nine Excerpt: The U.S.-China Suicide Pact on Climate

The international dimension of climate in Hell and High Water (paperback now at Amazon):

The “international fairness” issue is the emotional home run. Given the chance, Americans will demand that all nations be part of any international global warming treaty. Nations such as China, Mexico and India would have to sign such an agreement for the majority of Americans to support it.

–Frank Luntz, 2002

We don’t need an international treaty with rules and regulations that will handcuff the American economy or our ability to make our environment cleaner, safer and healthier.

–Frank Luntz, 2002

What country’s insatiable thirst for oil imports is most responsible for the tightening world market since the mid- 1990s? Hint: It’s not China. From 1995 to 2004, China’s annual imports grew by 2.8 million barrels a day. Ours grew 3.9 million. China sucks up about 6 percent of all global oil exports. We demand 25 percent, even though China has a billion more consumers.

china-us.jpgIn what year will China’s total contribution to climate change from burning fossil fuels surpass ours? Hint: Climate change is driven by rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, and those concentrations have been driven by cumulative emissions since the dawn of the industrial revolution. While China’s CO2 emissions might well exceed ours by 2010, its cumulative emissions might not surpass ours until after 2050.


Not only are we the richest nation in the world, but for many decades to come we will be the one most responsible for global warming. No wonder the Chinese and Indians and others in the developing world expect us to take action first, just as we did to save the ozone layer. No wonder the rest of the industrialized world embraced the Kyoto restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, even knowing the emissions from developing countries such as China and India were not restricted.

One can only marvel at a strategist like Frank Luntz for his ability to appeal to Americans who “will demand that all nations be part of any international global warming treaty,” while, in the same breath, reaching out to Americans who oppose “an international treaty with rules and regulations that will handcuff the American economy.” Such a rhetorical flimflam strategy by the global warming Denyers and Delayers is politically very savvy, but it is the sure road to Hell and High Water.

That said, China’s emissions are growing at an alarming rate. In 2000 the government walked away from the California-style energy efficiency effort it had embraced since 1980. For the past few years, it has been building one major dirty coal plant almost every week. The climate problem cannot be solved if China and other rapidly developing countries do not take steps to restrain their emissions growth. But if the United States maintains its position that we will not take strong action until China does, neither country is likely to act in time. This chapter explores how the United States and China might avoid destroying the climate and, with it, our way of life….

4 Responses to Chapter Nine Excerpt: The U.S.-China Suicide Pact on Climate

  1. David B. Benson says:

    “richest nation in the world”: Depends upon the measure. Per capita income might be quite a bit higher in some of the oil-producing nations. And what other country has a nation debt like ours?

  2. RhapsodyInGlue says:

    It would seem that to be at all effective, either a global cap system must be put in place or countries/regions with caps must be allowed to cap/tax the embedded carbon in imports. Without such schemes it would seem a cap in the U.S. would just force ever more production to those countries without caps. It’s one thing to have export driven development overseas because of inherent relative advantage in certain industries, but it’s quite another to systematically create a situation that favors rapid building of coal fired plants in China to create goods that are probably relatively energy inefficient and then use more energy to ship them half way around the world.

  3. Jay Alt says:

    half way around the world

    or across the Atlantic . . .

    Barroso trade threat on climate
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7201835.stm

  4. ming says:

    you said:”While China’s CO2 emissions might well exceed ours by 2010, its cumulative emissions might not surpass ours until after 2050.”
    do you have any more specific number to prove the point that China’s cumulative emissions might not surpass ours until after 2050? please send them to me if you have, thanks