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.
In 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.