Will China’s Rise Lead to an Environmental Catastrophe?

China Pollution - Courtesy of NASA 

GlobalWonk attended a debate in Chicago last week that outlined the impacts of China’s unprecedented economic rise on the environment. The debate was sponsored by The Economist and Chicago Public Radio. Orville Schell, Director of the Center on U.S./China Relations at the Asia Society, and Barry Weisberg, from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), represented the affirmative position. Vijay Vaitheeswaran, correspondent for The Economist, and Kelly Sims Gallagher, Director of the Energy Technology Innovation Project at the Belfor Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, represented the negative position.

The affirmative side won the debate. They argued that China is already in the midst of an environmental catastrophe. Vaitheeswaran and Gallagher did not disagree that there are current significant issues; but thought that all developing countries cycle through this. Early stages of development being much dirtier than later, more technically savvy stages.

During the question and answer period GlobalWonk asked the following question; “If you were a presidential candidate in the ’08 election, what policies would you pursue relative to green and renewable energies, to ensure the United States were arguing from a defensable moral position when making recommendations to China on their development?”

In our opinion, while we certainly should be concerned, we have no right to castigate the Chinese when our own house is not in order. Let’s clean up our act, in all senses of the term, before we are audacious enough to make recommendations to others.

The New York Times has done an excellent series on this topic. We highly recommend it. The link is below:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2007/08/26/world/asia/choking_on_growth.html

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