34 Responses to Energy and global warming news for March 1, 2011: China issues warning on climate and growth
Prime Minister Wen Jiabao: “We must not any longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth and reckless roll-outs, as that would result in unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption,”
Pretty amazing stuff:
China’s environment minister on Monday issued an unusually stark warning about the effects of unbridled development on the country’s air, water and soil, saying the nation’s current path could stifle long-term economic growth and feed social instability.
In an essay published on the agency’s Web site, the minister, Zhou Shengxian, said the government would take a more aggressive role in determining whether development initiatives contributed to climate change through a new system of risk assessment.
Ignoring such risks, Mr. Zhou said, would be perilous.
“In China’s thousands of years of civilization, the conflict between humankind and nature has never been as serious as it is today,” he wrote. “The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the worsening ecological environment have become bottlenecks and grave impediments to the nation’s economic and social development.”
His comments, coupled with similar remarks by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao that were publicized in the state media on Monday, suggest that China may seek to embrace tighter environmental restrictions during legislative sessions that begin this week in Beijing. The meetings, held once a year, will include the introduction of the country’s latest five-year economic plan.
On Sunday, Mr. Wen lowered the target for average gross domestic product growth, to 7 percent from 7.5 percent, and suggested that China would reconfigure the emphasis that places economic growth above all else.
“We must not any longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth and reckless roll-outs, as that would result in unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption,” said Mr. Wen in an Internet chat widely publicized by the state media.
The remarks come at a time of unrelenting environmental degradation that has accompanied double-digit economic growth. Last year, China registered 10.3 percent growth, higher than its official target.
Mr. Zhou’s vow to weigh factors like climate change when approving new factories would be significant given that such policies were largely the domain of China’s top economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, which had been reluctant to sacrifice economic growth for environmental protection.
With its increasing fixation on social stability, the Communist Party may have come to realize the benefits of balancing economic growth with the public’s demands for uncontaminated food and water. In recent weeks, there has been a cascade of damaging news about the environment, from dangerously high smog levels in the capital to a study that found 10 percent of domestically grown rice contaminated with heavy metals.
China has also become the leading emitter of greenhouse gasses, which scientists link to global warming, largely because of the country’s dependence on coal, which feeds 70 percent of its energy needs, and its growing thirst for oil. Although the government has an ambitious program to cut energy use for each unit of economic growth, it refuses to place any outright caps on emissions.
Official vows to rein in environmental abuse are frequently announced, but many laws and policies are ultimately circumvented or ignored at the local level, in large part because of a system that encourages officials to pursue economic growth over environmental sustainability.
China will try to slow GDP growth to ease pressure on the environment following a series of unusually stark warnings from senior ministers about the country’s current mode of development.
The announcement that economic growth targets will be lowered from 8% to 7% over the next five years may mark the end of China’s peak growth years as environmental constraints drive up the expense of resources and pollution control.
“In China’s thousands of years of civilisation, the conflict between humanity and nature has never been as serious as it is today,” the environment minister Zhou Shengxian wrote on his ministry’s website.
“The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the deterioration of the environment have become serious bottlenecks constraining economic and social development.”
In an online discussion on Sunday, the premier, Wen Jiabao, said China’s 2011-15 economic plan would lower the target for annual GDP growth – “to raise the quality and efficiency of economic growth”.
The average price U.S. drivers paid for gasoline soared 19.4 cents in the latest week to $3.38 a gallon, the biggest jump in pump prices since Hurricane Katrina disrupted petroleum supplies in September 2005, the Energy Department said on Monday.
Gasoline prices rose a record 46 cents during the week Hurricane Katrina devastated offshore drilling platforms and Gulf Coast oil refineries.
Gasoline prices are up 68 cents from a year ago because of skyrocketing crude oil costs, as unrest in Libya sent U.S. oil trading above $100 a barrel.
The price of crude, which accounts for more than half the cost of making gasoline, rose by more than $8 a barrel last week. Every $1 increase in a barrel of oil is equal to a 2.4-cent rise in a gallon of gasoline.
The United States has approved the first deep-water drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico since last year’s massive oil spill.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement announced Monday that it issued a permit to Noble Energy to continue work on a well about 70 miles southeast of Venice, La.
Noble started drilling the well four days before the Deepwater Horizon exploded. Drilling activity was suspended on June 12 under a moratorium the United States placed on exploration in waters deeper than 500 feet.
No new deep-water permits had been issued since the moratorium was lifted in October. Regulators have been under pressure from the oil industry and some lawmakers to get drilling projects started again in the gulf while ensuring that new safeguards were in place.
According to The Nation’s Mark Hertsgaard, allowing climate change deniers to pose as cautious skeptics has sabotaged the US response to the global warming crisis. Hertsgaard, who’s reported on climate change for over twenty years, joins The Real News Network to explain how the media has provided a platform for right-wing fringe groups to peddle a distorted ideology and a mercenary support for the coal and oil industries.
True skeptics, Hertsgaard says, are invaluable to the scientific process because scientific hypotheses must be tested. But those who claim that the science is mixed on whether climate change is occurring deserve the name “climate cranks.” A genuine skeptic is driven by facts and open to changing their position, while the outright denial of overwhelming evidence that climate change is real, urgent and dangerous by this crop of conservatives does not warrant them the title of skeptics, he says.
Environmental groups are running a series of radio and television advertisements targeting House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) for voting to block funding for Environmental Protection Agency regulations in a spending bill approved by the House earlier this month.
The advertisements are part of a broad effort by environmental groups to build opposition against lawmakers for their votes on the House spending bill, which would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.
The bill slashed the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by about $3 billion and included a series of amendments that blocked funding for the agency’s climate rules, among other regulations.
Upton, who became chairman of the House energy panel in January, has become a central figure in GOP efforts to stop the EPA from issuing climate regulations, a move that Republicans say would impose major burdens on the economic recovery.
We’ll always have Cancºn. Online, at least.
The United Nations office in charge of international climate change negotiations introduced a new online tool on Monday to track progress toward meeting the goals agreed to last December at an international climate conference in Cancºn, Mexico.
That meeting, remember, got the international talks back on track after the debacle at Copenhagen a year earlier. Climate negotiators came to Cancºn in a more businesslike mood and with more modest and realistic expectations. No one expected to conclude a binding international treaty, and none was produced.
But the more than 190 nations represented at the talks achieved marked progress on the main agenda items: mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation to climate change, international financing arrangements, slowing deforestation and development of low-carbon energy sources. They recommitted to taking collective action to keep the rise in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius over the next half-century.
The new Web site maintained by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change details terms of the Cancºn agreement and overall progress toward meeting them. A separate Web site compiles the pledges by individual nations toward those goals.