Paul Krugman writes that China's development, and the greenhouse gas emisions that go with it, is likely to have disastrous effects on the climate. Scientists' predictions about the effects of global warming are growing more and more pessimistic. Part of the problem is that Western nations haven't been much of a good example. But as China continues to grow, the question becomes, what are we going to do about it?
Nothing, say the Chinese... After all, they declared, the West faced no similar constraints during its development; while China may be the world’s largest source of carbon-dioxide emissions, its per-capita emissions are still far below American levels; and anyway, the great bulk of the global warming that has already happened is due not to China but to the past carbon emissions of today’s wealthy nations.
And they’re right. It is unfair to expect China to live within constraints that we didn’t have to face when our own economy was on its way up. But that unfairness doesn’t change the fact that letting China match the West’s past profligacy would doom the Earth as we know it.
It's not all doom and gloom though. Krugman argues the inefficiency of China's energy use provides much room for improvement. It is, as Al Gore has often argued, the political will that's missing.