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China, Coal and Green Leapfrogging
Alex Steffen, 10 Jun 06

chinamapsmall.jpg More on Chinese Pollution. The Times reports that coal-burning in China is killing 400,000 Chinese a year, and contributing mightily to environmental problems around the world:

One of China's lesser-known exports is a dangerous brew of soot, toxic chemicals and climate-changing gases from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants.
In early April, a dense cloud of pollutants over Northern China sailed to nearby Seoul, sweeping along dust and desert sand before wafting across the Pacific. An American satellite spotted the cloud as it crossed the West Coast. Filters near Lake Tahoe in the mountains of eastern California "are the darkest that we've seen" outside smoggy urban areas, said Steven S. Cliff, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California at Davis.

The coal China is burning now is of immediate concern to most of East Asia and the North American West Coast, but the coal Chinas burns over the next two decades will weigh heavily in deciding not only what kind of future we will have: it may well play a critical part in deciding what kind of lives our great-grandchildren live.

This is what makes winning the great wager in China so important. China is hell-bent on raising itself out of poverty and bringing at least its urban, industrialized communities into the ranks of the globally affluent. As the Times puts it,

One-fifth of the world's population already lives in affluent countries with lots of air-conditioning, refrigerators and other appliances. This group consumes a tremendous amount of oil, natural gas, nuclear power, coal and alternative energy sources.
Now China is trying to bring its fifth of the world's population, people like Mr. Wu and Ms. Cao, up to the same standard. One goal is to build urban communities for 300 million people over the next two decades.

This is part of what makes rapid progress on sustainable innovation so important. We need better models and systems -- better buildings, better vehicles, better urban planning; massive investment in clean energy research, energy efficiency and green chemistry; new models like product service systems, distributed power and smart metering... the list could go on and on -- we need them now, and (here's the kicker) we need to spread them across the entire planet more quickly than any other set of technological advances has ever spread.

We need to intentionally trigger a planetwide eruption of bright green leapfrogging, and, in many ways, China needs to be the epicenter, not only because a dark brown China means a ruined world, but because of the influence China has come to exert across the Global South and especially in Africa. In much of the Global South, the U.S. and E.U. lack the credibility to bring on such a push, but a China which saw such a future as not only right, but in its interest (a bright green leapfrogged China is going to have a lot of solar panels and expertise to sell), might well be able to lead the charge.

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Comments

the coming world will be the challenge that everyone is borned to deal with....who will be able to link up himself to this world?


Posted by: Jonathan on 10 Jun 06



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