Thomas Friedman: Aren’t We Clever?
While American Republicans were turning climate change into a wedge issue, the Chinese Communists were turning it into a work issue.
“There is really no debate about climate change in China,” said Peggy Liu, chairwoman of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, a nonprofit group working to accelerate the greening of China. “China’s leaders are mostly engineers and scientists, so they don’t waste time questioning scientific data.” The push for green in China, she added, “is a practical discussion on health and wealth. There is no need to emphasize future consequences when people already see, eat and breathe pollution every day.”
And because runaway pollution in China means wasted lives, air, water, ecosystems and money — and wasted money means fewer jobs and more political instability — China’s leaders would never go a year (like we will) without energy legislation mandating new ways to do more with less. It’s a three-for-one shot for them. By becoming more energy efficient per unit of G.D.P., China saves money, takes the lead in the next great global industry and earns credit with the world for mitigating climate change.
So while America’s Republicans turned “climate change” into a four-letter word — J-O-K-E — China’s Communists also turned it into a four-letter word — J-O-B-S.
For a critique of Friedman’s piece, see the Absurdity, Allegory and China blog:
Friedman and Liu need to spend a little more time in China, perhaps in Shanxi province, covering toxic air issues and the coal mining deaths, and the downwinder effect that has turned north China into a mess. Then let’s get together and talk about legislation that will bring China into the 21st C, rather than struggling along like some post-WWII Pittsburgh, full of enlightened politicos who ride roughshod over environmental disasters on a daily basis, trying their best to keep them from making news. It all looks great on paper, but the environmental hazard that is China continues to grow. Let’s not forget that Beijing alone is adding 2,000 new cars a day. (Yes, Tom, a day. You ought to be able to handle that math: double the number of days you want to figure for, then add three zeroes. One year = 730,000 more cars, and that’s only in Beijing.) So you can cheer lead about clean tech and green this, that and the other, but at some point your going to have to give your arms a rest, lower your pom-poms, face the traffic and coal, and take a deep breath.