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Science magazine blows the story of China’s Environmental Challenges

By Joe Romm on August 7, 2008 at 8:23 am

"Science magazine blows the story of China’s Environmental Challenges"

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china-science.gifWith the Olympics almost upon us, Science magazine has a cover story on “China’s Environmental Challenges” (subs. req’d). Since Science has been a leader in drawing attention to the threat posed to humanity by accelerating greenhouse gas emissions, you’d think that one of those challenges would be China’s newly achieved leadership in carbon dioxide emissions, how China can developesustainably, and what are the alternatives to their rapacious use of coal.

You would be wrong. Here are the four articles that comprise the magazine’s news focus on China’s environment:

News Focus

Richard Stone
Science 1 August 2008: 628-632.
A marvel of engineering, the Three Gorges Dam will start operating at full capacity later this year. Already under way is an epic experiment on how a dam impacts the environment. Full Text » PDF » Podcast Interview »
Richard Stone
Science 1 August 2008: 630.
Dramatic reductions in water flow in the Tarim River, the lifeblood of Xinjiang Province, mean provincial authorities must act fast to conserve water and find alternative water sources. Full Text » PDF »
Hao Xin
Science 1 August 2008: 633-635.
In a controversial venture, officials plan to halt open grazing, eradicate rodents, restore “degraded” grasslands, improve wetlands, and plant many trees and shrubs. Full Text » PDF »
Richard Stone
Science 1 August 2008: 636-637.
Drastic measures have brought down levels of some pollutants; a return to business as usual after the Olympics could be bad for health. Full Text » PDF »

It is interesting how these stories all dance around the 800-pound panda in the room, but that only underscores the gravity of the magazine’s omission.

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9 Responses to Science magazine blows the story of China’s Environmental Challenges

  1. jorleh says:

    Can´t understand what they think. Science? Where?

  2. Robert says:

    Easy solution to the problem of China’s emissions. Divide the country into 4, each with a population of 325 million (slightly more than the US’s 304 million).

    CO2 emissions of each will be about 1/4 of the US, giving them another 30 years or so to catch up.

  3. Ben says:

    Maybe the U.S.A. should be split into several smaller countries as well. Then you could still be way behind the Quartered China remnants in terms of population.

  4. Ronald says:

    Maybe Science had no answer to reducing CO2 release. There was to be article 5, but it was blank.

  5. Robert says:

    Then continue the process to its logical conclusion, leaving you with one US citizen (large air-conditioned house, couple of gas guzzlers in the drive) and four Chinese citizens (one-bed apartment, no car).

    The US will still find a way to blame it on the Chinese.

  6. There is also another article on the effects of dirty air on the Olympic athletes and an editorial, but neither of these seem to mention greenhouse gases, either.

  7. red says:

    Robert: “Easy solution to the problem of China’s emissions. Divide the country into 4, each with a population of 325 million (slightly more than the US’s 304 million).

    CO2 emissions of each will be about 1/4 of the US, giving them another 30 years or so to catch up.”

    This assumes that a country’s emissions per person is a relevant statistic. It’s not. Encouraging that is very likely to simply encourage a huge, impoverished population, which is not a virtue.

    How about emissions per usable acre? Emissions per monetary value of goods and services produced, or level of freedom and innovation? etc … I’m sure there are more useful measures than the counter-productive emissions per person.

    The realities of the military and economic ambitions of China’s dictatorship make it difficult to consider taking climate-related steps that actually damage our economy. If we want to make progress, we need to take steps that are inherently helpful to the economy (perhaps in the long run after an investment phase), or turn the economy-suffocaters into economy-helpers (e.g: tie tough steps that involve higher gas or carbon taxes or stricter regulations to equal or larger tax cuts elsewhere).

  8. Robert says:

    Red, There is no natural link between emissions and land area. The land has no ability at all to absorb fossil fuel emissions. Atmospheric CO2 started rising as soon as we started burning coal a couple of hundred years ago.

    To stabilise CO2 concentrations we need (at least) to reduce emissions to zero. In practice we may need to do a little more than this to arrest and reverse the trends and positive feedbacks that are already in place. A policy of contraction and convergence (towards zero) is the only policy which can work, however unappealing it may sound. It is also the only policy that would give the US a moral position to demand that the rest of the world joins in – at the moment China has the perfect get-out, conveniently provided by the US, Australia, Canada and most of the developed world.

    Your last para is akin to giving up. Chinese and US emissions are rising and set to rise faster under BAU. Without massive political will this process will continue until all fossil fuels are exhausted, irrespective of the effect on climate. We then have the dual problems of no energy AND a chaotic climate.

    I see the undertaking business as a bright star in an otherwise bleak future.

  9. Jon says:

    Knocking Science seems a bit unfair, as if there weren’t hundreds of articles published in the last few years about China’s environmental crisis, most of which deal specifically with emissions and coal power. Some of these were in the NYT, others in Foreign Affairs, others in scientific publications (i.e. the research programmes that established China’s CO2 trajectory in the first place).

    Probably, Science saw the glut, realised that there were other areas maybe under-discussed – in particularly the earnest efforts at the sub-national in China to improve the environment, which include no small amount of grassroots organising and bottom-up political pressure.

    One might have thought, rather, that Climate Progress would appreciate a diversity of information rather than merely a dry re-hash of widely publicized information.