Playing China's game

See this article for evidence that (a) for the Chinese, Copenhagen (and climate-change generally) is about getting as much out of the developed countries as possible without committing to any major effort on its part, and (b) Chinese media is simply the propaganda arm of the state and not inclined to independent, critical analysis. Where are the counterbalancing considerations?

Google news headlines on Copenhagen 

Interesting that Google chose this as the top news item on the subject, ahead of Reuters, The Times, the FT, BBC, Washington Post, etc. Not that they've sold out to the Chinese government on freedom of expression, or anything...

Lest anyone fall for China's offer to cut its carbon intensity by 40% (relative to 2005 levels) by 2020, let's put that into perspective. If China's economy grows by 8% a year, that commitment would be consistent with a 77% increase in China's carbon emissions in absolute terms from 2007 levels. If it grows by 10% a year, carbon emissions could increase by 107% compared to 2007.

2005, of course, is carefully chosen because that post-dates the big surge in China's CO2 emissions. Helpfully to the maths, the carbon intensity of China's economy has barely changed from 2005 to 2007 (reduced from 0.63 to 0.6 kg CO2/US$).

In 2007, China emitted 6.07 billion tonnes of CO2 from fuel combustion. The UK emitted 0.52 billion tonnes, the EU-27 3.9 billion tonnes, and the developed world (Europe, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) 11.9 billion tonnes.

If they delivered on their offer, just the increase in their annual emissions between 2007 and 2020, if their economy grows at 8% a year, would be nine times more than the UK's current total annual emissions, and more than the current total emissions of the EU. The developed world would have to cut its emissions by nearly 40% by 2020 just to balance out China's increase (before we even start to think about the growth of the other developing countries or actual global reductions).

If their economy grew at 10% a year, the increase in their emissions would be two-thirds more than the total current emissions from the EU-27. The developed world would have to cut its emissions by 2020 by more than half, to balance the increase. And remember that the supposed objective is to cut global emissions, not keep them at their current levels.

It's not going to happen of course, for at least two reasons:

1. China's economy was the chief "beneficiary" of the malinvestment of the past 20 years, and growth is only being temporarily maintained by massive stimulus. Once they have burnt their reserves building bridges to nowhere and digging holes to fill in again, their economy will collapse like a house of cards.

2. If they somehow carried on developing at current rates, the strain on resources would be so great that prices of key commodities (energy, metals, food, etc) would rocket and the global economy would collapse, taking China with it.

But if, by some miracle, they survive both of these factors, the most likely outcome should make the envirocommunists very happy. The next stage in their economic development is to move increasingly from low-tech, energy-intensive industries to services and high-tech industries. What sort of arrogance is it on our part to assume that they won't be able to compete with us in the service and high-tech sectors just as well as in low-tech sectors, when they still have an appetite for education and discipline, while we continously lower our educational and social standards so as not to damage the self-esteem of the dumb and the chaotic? And what sort of masochism is it to pay them for the "carbon-benefit" of this export of our jobs (as we are already paying them to export much of our carbon and industry)? The expansion of their service sector will have a dramatic effect on reducing their carbon-intensity without requiring massive investment, which is a good thing, because we won't be able to pay them what they think they deserve for this "efficiency-improvement". Once they are competing in all sectors, there won't be enough jobs left to cover our domestic social commitments, let alone international hand-outs, in a developed world with sticky wages that do not reflect our competitors' educational parity (if not superiority) and lower labour costs. Our carbon emissions will have shrunk back to pre-industrial levels, along with our economy and standard of living, and their carbon-intensity will have shrunk proportionately as promised. Of course, in absolute terms, global emissions will be as high as they would have been if we had not committed economic hara-kiri, but the carbon would be coming from different places. And that's the objective for a fervent envirocommunist, isn't it?

The elders of the Chinese communist party must be laughing their heads off that we are voluntarily considering doing this to ourselves. Have our leaders got no idea how badly they have already bankrupted us?