Pollution Control With Chinese Characteristics

by Dave Schuler on May 27, 2014

There’s an interesting post at The Diplomat that considers whether the U. S. and China, working collaboratively, can end climate change:

The test for U.S.-China cooperation on climate change is rapidly approaching. Both sides have committed “to contribute significantly” to the 2015 Climate Change Conference, to be held in Paris. The plan is for a replacement to the Kyoto Protocol to be adopted in 2015 and to take effect in 2020. Whether or not the Paris conference reaches this lofty goal will be heavily dependent on whether the U.S. and China can come to an agreement on emissions reductions.

To be honest I’m skeptical. Western actions aimed at controlling pollution go back 150 years and intended to improve air quality 70 years. The West has had institutions it could rely on to support these moves, particularly a robust system of civil law. China has a lot of catch up to do and it must do so without the institutions the West exploited for its own strategies. I don’t think there’s a meeting of minds here and compromise offers no model for change. You can’t compromise your way to institutions that don’t exist.

I strongly suspect that China’s first moves in improving air quality will be targeted at particulates, something that will do very little with respect to climate change.

If and when China makes real substantive moves rather than issuing press releases and subsidizing industrial production of alternative energy resources for export, whatever policy China adopts it will be pollution control with Chinese characteristics and I can’t even speculate on the contours of such a program.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ben Wolf May 27, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Going after particulates is likely to make the problem worse, given those higher in the atmosphere reduce incoming solar radiation. The long expected Chinese turn toward environmental quality has been an area of concern for a number of climatologists.

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