China’s gamble

Chinese industrial trafficBBC News surveys the climate-change scene in China and finds a disinclination to sacrifice one iota of economic growth to avert a problem that will strike China particularly hard:

Rapidly melting glaciers in Tibet would lead to dangerously low water levels in some of its most famous rivers; the Yellow River and the Yangtze.

Rising sea levels would have a massive impact on the country’s coastal regions which are home to the nation’s most prosperous cities and provinces.

More than 400 million people in China are already living with the problem of desertification, partly brought on by climate change.

Higher temperatures would also affect agriculture and food production.

Yet, the reality is that global warming is not a major concern for most people. They worry more about jobs and money, family and lifestyle than the environment.

Chinese policymakers must know their country’s in for trouble if it keeps on as it is, soon to be the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitter (in total, of course, not per capita). But their stability in power depends on continuing their annual massive increases in national prosperity: every 0.1-per-cent slip in GDP increases the chances of revolt against Communist Party rule, particularly in the still-dirt-poor rural towns and villages. Even if it leads to greater prosperity later, as increases in industrial efficiency should, no short-term sacrifice is acceptable.

Their bet must be that something magical will happen before the effects of climate change become obvious. Or at least that, assuming the worrisome projections don’t become reality till mid-century, that it’ll be somebody else’s problem.

(Via Bill Doskoch. Photo credit: “Yangshuo town043,” Flickr/rpoll.)

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