The world’s current worst polluter is actually beginning to own up to its role in harming the environment, as well as the long-term impact that will have on its own population. In an environmental report released Monday, the Chinese government called climate change a “serious threat” to China, reports Reuters.
Additionally, the country’s officials acknowledged that not only is its population under-informed about the impending crisis, but that the nation’s leaders have done an inadequate job of preparing for the trouble ahead. Although China’s latest declarations are still a long way from fixing the problem at hand, publicly declaring the severity of the situation is a critical step toward making change.
Over the past two decades, natural disasters have been responsible for killing an average of 2,000 Chinese citizens each year. With instances of extreme weather rising along with climate change, that number is expected to go up. In China specifically, typhoons and flooding is expected to ravage certain areas, whereas drought will plague other parts. These events will devastate the food and water supply, thus making survival more difficult for the Chinese population.
Although the government says it has started to put safeguards in place to address the changing climate, it concedes that basic infrastructure is not well protected and its people are in jeopardy in the event of many climate-caused natural disasters.
The situation in China is complex. While other parts of the world raced toward industrialization in the past century, China has held back. Aside from its urban centers, much of the country has not adopted the lifestyle that Americans would associate with 21st century living. Now, however, China is primed to join other world powers in employing all of the latest technological advancements and frills of the modern world… as well as all of the eco-downsides that accompany these changes.
Can the earth withstand having its most populated country start polluting and consuming finite resources at similar rates to the United States? Not really. In turn, however, does the rest of the industrial world really have any business telling China it can’t partake in enjoying the luxuries that other first world developed nations take for granted because of the ecological impact? Again, not really.
While it may not be fair for other parts of the world to say, “We’re doing enough damage to the environment without your growing carbon emissions factoring into the equation,” certainly something must be done. The fact that China is recognizing that this situation goes beyond “fairness” and is indeed a “serious threat” is a start.
The fact that the nation’s pollution has become almost unbearable might also play a factor. The air quality has been so bad that people in Shanghai have been ordered to stay indoors for seven days in the past month alone. Although the smog is not a result of climate change, it is certainly a major contributor to the problem, and its similar, more immediate health effects will hopefully similarly inspire more action and policy change on China’s part.
Rather than denying itself a chance to industrialize, China should feel the pressure to tackle green energy. Nothing would help China cement itself as the world superpower it strives to be like developing renewable energy sources and taking the lead on technology that the rest of the world will not only want, but need. It’s clearly something China is considering given that China is investing more in this new energy than any other country at $65 billion last year.
Here’s hoping that they, we, or anybody really finds practical solutions for generating energy without causing irreversible damage to the planet sooner than later.