Newsweek reports on why relations between the U.S. and China can have an impact on the environment:
Gao Guangsheng has an odd sense of timing. In late October, as the global financial system was collapsing around him, he put the United States, Europe and Japan on notice that they would be getting a bill for a hundred years of pumping the climate full of carbon dioxide. The idea wasn’t entirely new—the big industrial powers had been vilified before for despoiling the planet on their way to wealth and modernization, while asking China, India and other poor nations to do the right thing. But the demand took on an entirely new characater coming from Gao, Beijing’s climate czar. It didn’t hurt that he was able to deliver a precise figure: 1 percent of GDP, which comes to more than $350 billion a year.
Western leaders handled Gao’s statement as you might have expected in the middle of an economic crisis: they ignored it. Over the next few months, however, that tactic will be difficult to sustain. As climate talks begin to build toward a climax in Copenhagen in December, when a follow-on to the Kyoto Protocol is due to be drawn up, Gao’s challenge stands as a gaping rift. It’s the same rift that kept China, India and other relatively poor nations out of Kyoto and gave President George W. Bush an excuse to withdraw, putting climate-change policy on hold for the past eight years. The issue looms large over Hillary Clinton’s first trip this week to Beijing as newly minted secretary of state. The longer the issue remains unresolved, the greater the chance that Copenhagen will end in a similar stalemate—and this time there’ll be no George Bush to blame.