We MIGHT have a chance to turn around the ever increasing pollution and global climate changes that are bringing disease and destruction to the world's masses...IF the USA and China could only work together on the problem.
There was a very interesting article in October's "Foreign Affairs" magazine by Richard Holbrooke, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, on "The Next President" in which he compares the issues and positions between then candidates Obama and McCain. Since then the American people have voted and elected their new President, which to me tweaked the relevance of this overview of issues that face our next President-elect.
While it is obvious that many imperatives face the new leader of the free world, I continue to focus and believe in highly prioritizing development of renewable energy sources and getting our system weened off of fossil fuel addictions which are making our whole population sick and in addition making historical enemies of freedom and democracy hugely rich through the transfer of wealth from our productive system to their iconoclastic, Islamic system which holds almost monopolistic control over much of the world's energy supplies. I truly think...and hope...that President-elect Obama understands the danger of this dependency and will do something about it. The lack of action on this has been my greatest disappointment with modern Republican leadership in the USA. For the sake of their future relevancy, I hope the Republicans quickly get on the right side of some of these fundamental issues our country is facing. We can't afford to have our collective heads in the sands of ignorance any longer.
Though the article gives a reasonable overview to the myriad of issues confronting our leadership, I couldn't help but focus on the energy part and the lights really went on regarding the potential, and responsibility, that the USA and China have on solving this major crisis together. The following quotes bear repeating in support of my theme:
Obama has a far more comprehensive plan, with an ambitious goal for emissions reduction, a market-based mechanism that has broad support among economists on the left and the right, and substantially greater investments than McCain's plan in technologies that will help achieve these goals. McCain stresses removing environmental restraints on domestic and offshore drilling. This is hardly a serious long-term solution to anything; even if major new fields were found, they would have no effect on supply for at least a decade, and they would do nothing for climate change or conservation.
The search for effective energy and climate-change policies will require a national consensus on the seriousness of the situation and an action plan entailing compromises and sacrifices on everyone's part, sacrifices normally associated with war -- all without undermining economic growth. As a cautionary tale, it is worth recalling President Jimmy Carter's fervent but unsuccessful attempt to rally the nation in a prime-time televised speech in April 1977. Wearing a much-mocked cardigan sweater, he said that his energy-independence project would be the "moral equivalent of war." When someone pointed out that the initials of that phrase spelled "meow," the press had a field day, ignoring the substance of Carter's proposals. A true national debate was deferred for 30 years. One of Ronald Reagan's first acts as president was to remove from the White House roof the solar panels Carter had had installed.
The twin challenges of energy dependence and climate change offer an opportunity for a breakthrough between the two most important nations in the world today, which also happen to be the world's top two polluters. Together, China and the United States produce almost 50 percent of the world's carbon emissions. In the last year, China has passed the United States as the world's largest polluter. In 2007, two-thirds of the worldwide growth in global greenhouse gas emissions came from China, according to the Netherlands Environmental Association, which estimates that China now emits 14percent more climate-warming gases than the United States does. On a per capita basis, however, it is still not even close -- as every Chinese points out. The United States produces 19.4 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year; China (5.1 tons) trails not only the United States but also Russia (11.8 tons) and the countries of Western Europe (8.6 tons). India checks in at only 1.8 tons per capita.
The effort to produce a new international climate-change treaty to supplant the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, is getting nowhere fast. A new agreement is supposed to be finished and ready to be signed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. Do not count on it. With neither China nor the United States playing a leading role in the negotiations, many members of Congress are warning that there is no greater possibility of Senate ratification for the Copenhagen agreement next year than there was for the Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s (in other words, none) -- unless at least Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia agree to limits on their carbon emissions. And without China and the United States, the value of the treaty, although still real, would be limited.
Here is a seemingly insoluble Catch-22: the major emerging economies will not agree to any treaty containing meaningful limits on their emissions, and the U.S. Senate will not ratify an agreement that does not include them. There is, however, another approach that should be considered, without abandoning the Copenhagen process: multiple agreements in which various combinations of nations address specific parts of the larger problem. In such a collection of agreements, there would be a greater opportunity for genuine U.S.-Chinese cooperation. In particular, the two nations could reach bilateral agreements for joint projects on energy-saving, climate-change-friendly technology. The mutually beneficial goal would be an increase in energy efficiency and a reduction in carbon emissions in both countries. (Japan, the world's most efficient energy consumer -- and an indispensable ally of the United States -- could participate in such arrangements; it has much to teach both nations, and it already has bilateral technology-exchange agreements with China.) From carbon capture to clean coal to solar and wind energy, there is vast untapped potential in joint projects and technology sharing -- but no institutionalized U.S.-Chinese framework to encourage them.
I hope "we the people" will get active and encourage our government leaders to pursue agreements with China and other large and powerful nations to cooperate in development of cleaner and cheaper renewable energy sources. It is too big of a problem for any one country to get a grip on alone. In particular, with the current global downsizing of the economy and consumerism, this joint effort could provide jobs and income far surpassing those lost in the current downsizing of manufacturing/consumer based industries in both countries.
This could be the moment to take advantage of current cultural swings and ratify more trade and joint ventures towards these global macro issues instead of just bailing out antiquated, curve-lagging industries in both countries who have missed the mark on planning for current market needs. Let the next multi-millionaires come from renewable energy IPOs instead of “happy go lucky” oil drillers. And I also continue to hold the belief that countries that do business together, stay together. The more powerful nations become connected in business and trade, the less likely they will make war on each other and will defend each other's interests. Based on our global conflicts with Muslim extremists and other dictatorships that would rather see democracy and free trade destroyed, it would be a very prudent time for the USA to have a growing partnership with China...arguably the NEXT superpower of the globe both economically and otherwise.