Although only the first part of the United Nations' Climate Report 2007 will
be officially unveiled in Paris tomorrow, a draft of part two was leaked to the
press early this week.
The leaked draft, on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability
caused by climate change, is alarming. For instance, between 1.1 and 3.2 billion
people will suffer from water scarcity by the end of the century as the earth's
temperatures rise by 2 C to 4.5 C.
And by the year 2080, an additional 200 million to 600 million people will
grapple with food shortages and 7 million homes will be inundated by flood
Even without the report, everyone should by now realize that global warming
is hitting the tipping point, as cherry trees bloomed in Washington, DC last
December while Moscow remained green until January. Australia has suffered from
continuous drought and last year its wheat harvest was only half that of a
In China, parts of the central and southwest areas experienced heat waves for
40-some days last summer. Just this past weekend, sandstorms, which usually
start in March, attacked parts of Northwest and North China.
With the grimmer future presented to us, people who still peddle the
"American way of life" have to think hard again. The earth cannot sustain that
way of life as US per capita carbon dioxide emissions are six times the Chinese
level and 20 times the Indian level.
However, while the world is groping for preemptive measures to ward off or
delay the effect of global warming, there will be more finger-pointing.
Over the past few years, the media have been singling out China and India as
potential threats to global ecological and subsequent economic and political
stability with their dramatic rise in production.
It is true that China has not been successful in avoiding the environmental
costs that developed countries paid in attaining their prosperity. In fact,
China's damage is partly caused by some multinationals and businesses from
developed economies dumping their energy-wasteful and polluting processes onto
China in the name of investment.
I believe China is acting on its responsibilities to switch to a greener
developmental track, however insufficient the speed. At the local level, more
and more urban Chinese are finding ways to save water and electricity at home,
while rural people are improving their lives by using solar heaters and methane
But I don't believe it is fair to single out China and India as threats.
The greenhouse effect started with the developed countries in the last
century. They produced far more carbon dioxide emissions and wasted far more
natural resources. Even today, the US and Europe are still placing a huge demand
on the world's ecosystems with their high per capita carbon dioxide emission and
consumption of energy.
The US is still reluctant to enforce stricter car exhaust standards and still
refuses to abide by the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Some well-wishers, such as Thomas R. Conlon, a US wind energy expert who is
working with his Chinese colleagues to install windmills in rural areas, are
lending valuable helping hands and know-how.
Despite their own track records, the developed countries are pushing China
and India to become world leaders in sustainable energy and agriculture.
Questions must be raised as to how much these countries have done to help
developing countries take the lead to economize on natural resources using the
developed countries' advanced technologies.
Only actions speak louder.
(China Daily 02/01/2007 page10)