November 12, 2014

China, US, make largely toothless #climatechange agreement

Just how green are these solar panels, and how does that relate to an announced
US-China carbon-dioxide emissions accord? Photo via National Geographic
You can tell it's relatively toothless by the fact that the New York Times devoted less space to it, as part of a combined two-subject article, than to the other issue — free-trade talks.

It's relatively toothless in that China pledges to have its carbon emissions peak in 2030 and be at 20 percent renewables by then.

It's also relatively toothless because, as this story shows, solar panel manufacture itself can have high carbon emissions, as well as otherwise being environmentally dirty. And, there's only one sure-fire way to fix that: a carbon tax domestically and tariff on imports. More here on the relative lack of greenness of solar, as well as of dams and the trendy new one of wood pellets, among other things.

Now, as for why China would publicly agree to an even-toothless carbon accord?

Well, China's coal is not only relatively dirty but running lower. It's potential reserves of shale-based natural gas aren't provable let alone proven yet in any great amount. And, it's roughly the same latitude to more equatorward than the US, and with lots of sunny deserts and higher elevations, so it's situated well for solar. It's a large country with plenty of high-wind areas, so it's situated well for that. And, as the Three Gorges Dam shows, it's got further hydropower in mind.

So, the 20 percent pledge? China, unlike U.S. red state wingnut politicians, knows this makes good economic sense. And, speaking of those wingnuts? How much will they restrict Obama's pledge to accelerate the rate of cuts of U.S. carbon emissions?

As for China having its emissions peak in 2030? Well, beyond the planned increase in renewables, that's also because China's overall population is expected to peak in ...

Wait for it, wait for it ...

2030. Give or take a few years.

We, and much of the rest of the west, have of course exported a lot of our carbon to China. But, China's absorbed that. China will likely never be as car-intense as the U.S., or even as Western Europe. And, starting from scratch, hybrids and full-electric vehicles can be a bigger part of the mix sooner.

And, that population link cautions us to also look this "agreement" more closely in the mouth.

First, the US population will not peak in 2030. And, we will be at 400 million by 2050.

Other 2030 things to note?

Shortly after that, India will pass China in population. And, likely have a "dirtier" economy. Another reason to not put too much stock in yesterday's deal. Also on that link, note the even more rapid growth rate of Pakistan, with further ecological — and international politics — implications. And, the explosive growth of some sub-Saharan countries.

A different website gives slightly different numbers, but the same general idea.

In a related item, feel free to vote on my poll about Obama and Keystone XL, at top right.

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