Filed under: Policy
Assuming the U.S. catches up with the EU and Japan and reduces its greenhouse gas output. What good does that do as long as China and India accelerate steadily into a consumerist future?
James Fallows, writing in the June issue of The Atlantic, says China will clean itself up eventually, if not sooner.
Fallows has been living in China for two years, and breathing its poisoned air. New air-quality regulations went into effect in 2006, and since then, Beijing’s air quality has improved measurably — in spite of the fact that the number of cars on the street has doubled since 2000. At the same time, dirty private industries are quickly figuring out that wasted power is wasted money — the example Fallows cites is the cement business, which has recently installed heat-recovery and co-generation equipment at 170 plants around the country, reducing energy use by about 30% and saving about 1.7 million tons of coal annually. Fallows suggests that in a carbon-trading future, a lot of investment will go into scrubbing China’s factories clean.
The government, understanding that pollution externalities (including elevated health-care costs and mortality) are a serious drag on economic growth, has reformed its training and incentive programs to reward environmental progress. One advantage of a authoritarian state is you don’t have to listen to oil-and-coal lobbyists. –Seth Masia
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