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China and the Environment: It’s More Complicated Than You Think

China and the Environment: It’s More Complicated Than You Think November 27, 2021

China, in the run-up to COP26, was lambasted by media and political spin doctors, and thus by the general public.

I meant to post this three weeks ago but forgot, though I managed to discuss it with Geoff Benson when he popped down for a spot of lunch the other week.

Watch this:

Who really are the bad guys? There are a number of things to discuss that come out of this segment, including:

  • The CO2 emission stats are often communicated in real terms, not per capita. China and India look like the bad guys when they have 1.4 billion people. Their emissions stats per capita are actually way down the list (38th in the world) compared to, I don’t know, the US, which produces twice as much per capita.
  • Canada and Australia do not have a single km of high-speed rail between them. China has 2/3rds of the world’s high-speed rail capacity, which it will double over the next 20 years. The US has less than Uzbekistan.
  • This is the most important one for me. Let this sink in, China produces 30% of all manufactured goods. Who uses all the iPhones? Not the Chinese, largely. China takes the hit for the production of all of these goods. But who consumes them? Whose fault is this? Should China be burdened with the emissions statistics or the end-user countries? This is effectively outsourcing CO2 emissions, and 25% of emissions operate in this fashion and makes richer, service-based mature economies look better.
  • In the early 1990s 12% of China was forested, now it is 23%.
  • The mainland US has not laid a single km of underground rail transit in the last 30 years and yet urban transit systems are being built in dozens of cities.
  • China’s renewable energy efforts far outshine the US and elswhere. It has more solar capacity than the US and Europe, world no. 1 for wind and hydroelectric, nuclear has increased 500% since 2010. All of this has happened since 2010. It’s pretty incredible.

So the global situation is nuanced. China is making an effort. Are we?


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