Stunning opening ceremonies — brought to you by coal power


The Chinese have delivered the most technologically advanced opening ceremonies in Olympic history. And truly staggering stuff aesthetically. A key theme was “harmony” — but sadly the country achieves only a surface harmony, one built on stifling dissidents and on the most carbon-intensive economy in the world.

Surely a country with a 5000-year history, that brought us Confucius and Lao Tzu, that first created many of the core inventions of the modern world, that is capable of such a stunning achievement as these opening ceremonies — surely such a country can develop without destroying both itself and the rest of the planet.

This century’s two great economic powers — China and United States — will either leave the world towards a sustainable, low-carbon that sustains the health and well-being of the next 50 generations or we will be reviled as pariah nations for centuries to come. It really shouldn’t be a hard choice.

13 Responses to Stunning opening ceremonies — brought to you by coal power

  1. civil behavior says:

    If we were really being honest we would recognize the Olympics for what they represent.

    An egregious display of unmitigated gall flying in the face of world calamity.

    Watching it does anyone really believe that we (the world) are going to reign in carbon emissions before the feedbacks kick off runaway climate change?

    How much energy do you think it took to get all those people there in the birds nest to watch this? How much more is used everyday in just living daily life? Does the enormity of the problem register for most people or are they too wowed and awed by the splendor?

    I’m finished. This world is just too greedy to understand the ramifications of what no other species does. Shit in its own nest.

  2. llewelly says:

    Surely a country with a 5000-year history, that brought us Confucius and Lao Tzu, that first created many of the core inventions of the modern world, that is capable of such a stunning achievement as these opening ceremonies — surely such a country can develop without destroying both itself and the rest of the planet.

    Confucius advocated the suppression of dissidents. His was a philosophy of authoritarianism.

  3. Eric says:

    ‘[S]urely such a country can develop without destroying both itself and the rest of the planet’

    Well … no. After all, nobody else developed without making an enormous contribution towards the destruction of the environment. This is especially so of the US and the UK. China is now following a Western, capitalist developmental model, so it is ridiculous to expect them to do any differently.

    I am not justifying the path China has taken, indeed I think it is a horrible mistake on many levels. I am simply saying that one should not be surprised by the nature of things.

    Bear in mind also that the emissions take place in China, but in many respects they are our own. An enormous quanitity of goods is manufactured in China, by foreign firms, using cheap labour, for export to the West.

    A variant of this point applies to the ‘technologically advanced’ opening ceremony … the advanced technology in China comes from the Germans, the French and the Japanese. And is still owned by them.

  4. Ronald says:

    I think I heard last night that China had the largest GDP in the world in 9 of the last 10 centuries, the 20th being the one they lagged in. Huge country and huge population are the contributing factors to that I’m sure, not per capita income, but maybe true anyway.

    If it’s true that the costs of reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gases enough is 0.6 to 1.5 percent of GDP as some reports pointed out on this website have said, then it is a real tradgedy. Humans didn’t evolve by surviving because we thought of grand scientific ideas, but to a technically literate population, we should know and do better.

    It was a great show.

  5. Ronald says:

    A report just out by MIT on fuel usage reductions that are possible in the next 30 years. Good report. My complaint, they use liters and liters per kilometers in the graphs with no conversions. What, is it written by Europeans? Oh well.

  6. Uosdwis says:

    I think I read they had to divert power from other provinces, AND had to divert water from other provinces. Wonderful, but tragic that hardly anybody realizes this.

  7. paulm says:

    I think there should be a cap on the amount spent on game prep. Things are getting ridiculous. Existing facilities should be reused; it should be low key and focus on the sports.

    When kids are starving to death elsewhere, the amount spent on this is immoral.

    Hopefully this will be the last big event like this unless it takes into account environmental and societal concerns.

    The west could have a huge impact on China’s emissions by simple not buying their goods and moving industry back within their borders.

    This would mean high cost of living though, but would more accurately reflect the cost of production due to pollution, such as CO2.

    This should be taken as a serious policy and included as part of the solution wedges.

  8. Ana says:

    If you believe GE’s commercials, a lot of the power is coming from wind. Their latest ecomagination commercial centers on a discuss blown astray by the wind. It has been in pretty frequent rotation on the Olympics coverage I’ve been watching. You can watch it here along with 2 other commercials that will be shown on TV:

    Putting China’s wind energy use in perspective would be worth a medal.

  9. Alex J says:

    What should count most is not the advertising campaigns but the actual figures for percentage of renewable energy. China seems to be edging out the U.S., at around 7.5%, including a massive expansion of hydroelectric. Clearly we can do better. Accelerating progress will likely require a phased-in carbon tax or cap & trade. But let’s not forget that a significant part of China’s coal-fueled growth is a result of Western demand for cheap stuff. We need a system that addresses international trade, perhaps applying a tax to products assessed as non-compliant with international standards, or providing incentives like technology sharing. I don’t know about McCain, but Obama seems serious about negotiating internationally to help the transition from fossil carbon fuels.

  10. Richard says:


    I think you will find they are litres, and they are derivatives of SI units!

  11. JMG says:

    What makes you think the US will be one of the top two economic powers of the 21st Century? There’s little to suggest that will be the case beyond 2020.

  12. Robert says:

    The US’s view of itself never fails to amuse me. At the last count 80% of world debt belonged to the US – not really something you would associate with one of “This century’s two great economic powers “.

    Everyone else in the world switched to the SI system long ago. Only a US citizen could fail to notice.

  13. Doug says:

    I took a look at the MIT report that Ronald posted above.

    I will need to look more into the full report, but from the “executive summary” document,
    I can see two major problems with how they came up with their numbers:

    1. They assumed no change to the U.S. electric-generation setup; in fact they seemed to assume that “electricity from the grid” means “electricity generated from pure coal” in all locations, forever.

    2. They don’t seem to estimate any significant improvement in battery technology vs. the present date. Their estimate is that batteries will remain too heavy and too expensive to provide more than a few tens of miles in a hybrid setup, even by 2035.

    They’re also not projecting much decrease in car weight — only 20%, or 35% at most. Based on what Amory Lovins et al. are saying on that subject, it seems like an extremely timid estimate.