You know the sort. “Oh it’s no use us doing something because India and China and all the rest are emitting more than us. It’s all their fault. Let them cut back their emissions and then we can talk about cutting ours”
Let’s face it, they are not looking for arguments. They are looking for excuses. Always more excuses, to justify doing nothing themselves and carry on their comfortable, convenient, complacent lives. Let’s try examining those excuses.
First of all, remind me: who started anthropogenic climate change? Which country first sent carbon emissions soaring? Which country started the Industrial Revolution? Oh yes, that’s right: it was the nation on the little island on the north-eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Great Britain by name. We began it in oh, about 1760. Have the people complaining about China and India considered just how much we’ve contributed to global warming in all the time since? For the record, since 1850 the EU has contributed about 25% of the total cumulative CO2 emissions. The US has added another 27%. China has contributed 11% in the time since its industrialization and India has emitted just 3%. Substantially less than we have.
They might also stop to consider just why China and India are emitting so much now. They emit because they manufacture things. We all know this – we all know ‘everything is made in China’ nowadays. We all know that huge amounts of what we have here in Britain are created in China. To put that another way, we here are creating the demand for China to manufacture things: we here are creating the demand for China to increase its emissions. Davis and Caldeira particularly have tried to assess emissions by consumption. Look at how much we import.
Next, why is so much manufacturing done in China and India now? Because it is cheaper to do it there. Why is it cheaper? Because these countries have fewer human rights, fewer workers rights, and fewer environmental laws (although that is beginning to change in China). From a global perspective, you could say that the West has deliberately exported our manufacturing there for that purpose, whether it is owned by western or chinese or indian companies or whoever.
The cheapness of chinese goods for us here is bought at a cost. Because the worker protection laws and environmental protection laws are poorer, companies operating there are free to hold life cheap. In environmental terms, manufacturing there causes more emissions to pour into the atmosphere than it would to create the same items back in the west. The manufacture of solar panels has been particularly noted for this. That’s even before you factor in the ecological cost of transporting the goods made there over to here.
What all this means is that we have farmed out our responsibility to China and India, and are now asking them to carry the can. It is not their fault alone. I don’t mean to imply they are entirely passive actors in the drama – China is steadily moving into a world dominating position as a result – but the emissions they are creating are not created for them alone, they are created for us. Who then sit back and whinge that they have to do something about the global problem we face all by themselves.
It is pathetic.
China is beginning to wake up to the damage that is being done to their environment and is beginning to move more to renewable power, with rather more enthusiasm than we have done so far . Perhaps given the huge amount of resources we have transferred out of China since the Opium Wars (do look them up) particularly, we should be asking how we can help them. Perhaps we could support them in the transition to the sustainable state we all need. Perhaps we could even start to experiment on that transition ourselves instead of making poorer people the world over our guinea pigs, and swap success stories. Anthropogenic climate change is a western-created problem originally and one we should have woken up to and started trying to solve years ago. We have been warned often enough.
Next time I hear someone whinge about India and China’s emissions I swear I will interrupt and tell them to grow the hell up.