Paying tribute to the new Chinese emperors
Posted by ampontan on Saturday, June 30, 2007
ON THE RIGHT SIDEBAR there’s a quote from author Michael Crichton: “We need to start seeing the media as a bearded nut on the sidewalk.” He’s not just speaking metaphorically—some people really do fit that description. One of them is the London-based independent journalist, Gwynne Dyer.
Well, perhaps I exaggerate. He’s more likely sitting in an office somewhere rather than pounding the pavement and haranguing innocent pedestrians. But as you can see from the photo on his website, he is bearded, and as you can read from this article on Chinese pollution, he has some nutty ideas, too.
His sermonette was inspired by China’s emergence as the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide. The primary reason for all the Chinese hot air is the use of coal-fired power plants, which accounts for about 70% of the country’s energy consumption.
It’s already causing serious problems in the region; in a previous post, I noted how Beijing’s air was among the filthiest in the world, and how Chinese air pollution is causing air pollution alerts in Japan.
The normal response would be to get the planet’s largest country to shoulder some responsibility and act like an adult. But Dyer has a completely different approach to this problem:
..if China imposes the same kind of curbs on its emissions (as Western countries), then it will not become a country where most people are prosperous and secure in this generation, or perhaps ever. The same goes for India and all the other once-poor countries that are now experiencing very rapid economic growth. So the deal must be that they get to keep on growing fast, and the rich countries take the strain.
Now that’s nutzpah: the developed world should allow the Chinese to continue to use the planet as its toilet because otherwise they won’t get gloriously rich—perhaps ever!–and hold its nose while serving as China’s Permanent Latrine Orderly.
Dyer further beclowns himself by offering two “main ways” for achieving this:
One is (for the developed nations) to cut their own emissions very deeply, leaving some room for the developing countries to expand theirs. The other way is to pay directly for cuts in the emissions of the developing countries: pay them to adopt clean-burning coal technologies, pay them to build renewable energy sources, pay them not to cut the rain-forests down. Pay them quite a lot, in fact, because otherwise we all suffer.
In other words, the developed nations must forego their own prosperity for the sake of Chinese affluence by literally paying tribute to the new emperors and letting them behave even more irresponsibly.
Would anyone care to speculate on the shape of the New World Order after that mission has been accomplished?
The author seems to be suggesting the West should run a screwy protection racket in reverse. Instead of hoodlums leaning on a shopkeeper for money with the threat of trouble if he doesn’t cough up the cash, the local police are supposed to seek out the neighborhood delinquent and hand him their wallets for not breaking the law.
One would think that a man whose column is published in 175 newspapers in 45 countries (according to his website) would have done some basic research. That no longer seems to be a prerequisite for taking up space in the mainstream media, however.
For starters, Dyer seems to be unaware that 30% of Japanese ODA to China is already earmarked for environmental projects. The academic sector is involved as well. Next April, Kyushu University will open a research institute expressly to train Asian technicians in clean ways of utilizing coal energy.
Dyer thinks his is a simple plan:
The (industrialized countries) can easily afford to, because they are already rich and bound to remain so.
They’re not bound to remain rich by having their wealth redistributed to China. And no, Dyer’s website contains no suggestion that he ever studied economics.
Of course, this would allow the Chinese to divert the money they should be spending on environmental measures somewhere else. Where else?
China is now lavishing funds on its Navy, long a neglected arm of the military services. Since George W. Bush took office, China has been building up its fleet of amphibious assault ships and submarines, and last December launched its first in a new class of nuclear subs, years earlier than anticipated by U.S. intelligence.
In the first half of 2002, the attention of Western military specialists was drawn to two large-scale contracts concluded by China and Russia and aimed at PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Navy modernization:
1. Construction of two Sovremenny-class missile destroyers, for $1.4 billion;
2. Construction of eight upgraded Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines, for $1.6 billion.
Indeed, $3 billion in six months is a huge sum of money. However, this represents only a part of the resources directed at PLA Navy (PLAN) modernization. In any case, the rate of PLAN modernization and construction is not inferior to similar rates of the PLA Air Force and air-defense network.
Instead of “paying them a lot” and indirectly subsidizing a military buildup that China is bound to use (or, at minimum, threaten to use) for malevolent purposes, a better idea would be to have the Chinese pay for it themselves. It’s not as if they need substantial naval forces. A Chinese refusal to use for clean energy resources the funds it’s already spending on unnecessary military upgrades would be a clear indication of the government’s intentions in the future.
That Dyer fails to consider this possibility is puzzling. His website states that he served in three navies and held an academic appointment at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
If we are to agree it behooves the rest of the world to help the Chinese with their pollution problem, a cleaner and better way would be to provide them with the know-how for building nuclear power plants instead of using coal, but that idea would really shiver Dyer’s timbers. A quarter of a century ago, he was shouting from the sidewalks to warn us that the end of the world was nigh because of the threat of nuclear holocaust.
We see how that turned out.
Since the point of the exercise is not the content of the program but the platform it provides, Dyer simply amended the text of his apocalyptic sermons to switch the focus from nuclear weapons to the environment. But he doesn’t consider Chinese air pollution, an example of which is shown in the accompanying photo, to be the big problem–he’s now a full-fledged member of the Church of Global Warming:
But climate change will affect the lives of ordinary Chinese people, and the government and the experts know it. One government study last year predicted a 37 percent fall in crop yields within the next 50 years if current trends persist. Since we may assume that climate change will be having comparable effects elsewhere and that even a rich China will be unable to make up the shortfall by importing food, that prediction implies mass starvation.
There is going to have to be a global agreement on curbing greenhouse-gas emissions within the next five to 10 years or the world faces runaway climate change, but countries like China and India must get special terms or their hopes of a prosperous future are doomed.
Doomed if we do and doomed if we don’t. At least it keeps Dyer gainfully employed.
It would be futile trying to convert the true believers–somewhat akin to trying to convert a Moslem to Judaism. But for those who you who aren’t in Dyer’s amen corner and wonder if we really do face “runaway climate change” and mass starvation, this article is for you. Don’t pass up to chance the follow all the links, particularly those in the underlying articles themselves.