Enviro China Lust

It just amazes me how some greens continue to entertain the notion that authoritarianism might be better for the future of humanity than democracy.

Two years removed from a historic election, in which a black man was elected president of the world’s longest-lasting democratic government, try wrapping your mind around this question posed at Grist:

Is China’s quasi-dictatorship better prepared than our mess of a democracy?

There are a few messy facts that China’s enviro admirers conveniently ignore when they conduct this kind of thought experiment. I could tick off a bunch but I’ll simply state the most obvious. In China, you can’t pose a question like this on a popular website:

Is America’s aging, flawed democracy better prepared for the 21st century than China’s corrupt, quasi-communist dictatorship?

Or you’d think that green fans of China might at least ask themselves that question and wonder, which system would I like to improve on?

Of course not. Greens despairing over global warming lust after China the way guys drool over supermodels in the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The fantasy is further indulged in the enviro mind with weirdly skewed comparisons like this:

Is a nation ruled somewhat autocratically by engineers and scientists better equipped to confront the 21st century than a nation that has always been suspicious of intellectuals, a nation increasingly ruled by the checkbooks of lobbyists and the entrenched industries they represent?

This is, to be charitable, “somewhat” amazing.

58 Responses to “Enviro China Lust”

  1. kdk33 says:


    Great guest post!

  2. Marlowe Johnson says:

    It’s telling that you didn’t include this paragrah:
    “Is a nation ruled somewhat autocratically by engineers and scientists better equipped to confront the 21st century than a nation that has always been suspicious of intellectuals, a nation increasingly ruled by the checkbooks of lobbyists and the entrenched industries they represent? It would be horrible, if it were true, and this is the unconquerable nut of the problem the U.S. now faces: if we can’t get it together to transition to a sustainable resource base, what hope is there for the co-occurrence of both democracy and lasting material civilization?”
    You really do seem to have it in for the hippies at Grist and CAP it seems…
    IMO it’s an absolutely legitimate albeit uncomfortable question.  It’s not a sin to ask is it?  In selectively quoting the article you fail to note it’s basic thrust: that the current state of democracy in the U.S. is a clear impediment to addressing the most pressing enviromental issues of the day.

  3. Andy says:

    I don’t think it’s an “uncomfortable” question, but an ill-considered one.  Authoritarian regimes certainly are better able to organize national resources toward specific goals, but at what cost?  Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that an authoritarian regime here in the US will do anything about the environment.  By definition, such regimes do what they think is necessary to keep power.  If environmental issues are not being advanced under a democracy, why would it be in the interest of an authoritarian government to advance them? The idea that authoritarianism can save us from anything is a fool’s dream.

  4. Roddy Campbell says:

    Excellent post.
    Marlowe J – you describe the thrust in comment 2, pressing environmental issues – in which country, to take a light-hearted Julia Roberts example, could Erin Brockovitch happen?  Does China have the legal system to let that happen?
    Phrasing it more generally – which country do you think looks after, and will look after, its environment best?  Which country has the legal system, pressure groups, press, laws etc to best achieve that?  In which country can voters and activists actually affect policy?
    The extended para you cite – ‘if we can’t get it together to transition to a sustainable resource base’
    is there some weird implication there that the author actually believes that after a couple of five year plans China will have a more sustainable, resource-wise, economy?
    I could go on, but it’s just silly.
    To describe the USA as a country that ‘has always been suspicious of intellectuals’ as they do is a view of such parochiality it’s shocking.  By comparison with anywhere else the exact opposite is true.
    I don’t mind the question being asked any more than you do, ‘Is China’s quasi-etc better prepared ENVIRONMENTALLY for C21 than our mess of a democracy?’, but the answer is not complicated.
    If the writer actually thinks the Chinese economy will decarbonise by any more than it will naturally as GDP per capita rises he is seriously deluded.

  5. kdk33 says:

    “Authoritarian regimes certainly are better able to organize national resources toward specific goals, but at what cost? ”

    Indeed, and this applies more generally to any global carbon reduction scheme:  How are these intergovernmental rules administered and, more importantly, enforced.  What are the risks in terms of diminished freedoms and the increased likelihood of armed conflict – there will be cheaters, and what if one is a really big nuclear power.

  6. L. Carey says:

    Keith, did you actually READ the post at Grist, or are you just writing commentary based on headlines?  Seriously.  It’s obvious from the actual content of the Grist piece that the subject is NOT “would the condition of humanity be better off with authoritarian government?” but rather more along the lines “can China use authoritarian tactics to improve CHINA’s national position (perhaps at the expense of an unfocused U.S.)?”
    That the general population might not benefit from the authoritarian approach is plainly suggested by the statement “Our democracy is very good at some things. No one is ever going to shut down your local power plant when you’re experiencing sub-zero temperatures just so they can meet national energy-saving targets, which happened last week in China.”  That’s hardly a big wet kiss for an authoritarian future.

  7. Keith Kloor says:

    All I really want (with apologies to Alanis) is for #2 and #6 to chill. I’ve been posting about this issue with respect to Friedman, Hansen (hippies?) and now Grist.

    The China lust is a recurring theme that i don’t get, and my post today, as with the others, is alluding to what’s not mentioned about China, and I tried turning the Grist’s question on its face, to make my point.


  8. Steve Mennie says:

    As was mentioned in the comments over at Grist..
    “…Do not ever forget one simple truth: as a matter of law, it is the responsibility of corporations, acting within the confines of regulations and the law, to maximize earnings for shareholders. Period..
    Methinks you doth protest too much Kieth..I certainly didn’t get the idea that we should  abandon Democracy and rush to embrace Communism. I did get the suggestion that it is easier for an authoritarion government to enact changes that are (may be) necessary for survival than it is for a democratic one..especially when it is a sclerotic one that seems to have no ability or desire to rein in the more diabolic aspects of free market capitalism.
    The article seemed to be suggesting that there are certain changes that are required to sustain the planet and it’s inhabitants – human and non-human – and that we perhaps need something akin to the war footing that saw America switch from manufacturing automobiles and fridges to manufacturing airplanes and tanks etc. within a matter of months. And it was an authoritarian government move that also rationed such things a sugar, rubber, gasoline etc.
    Perhaps the need is not so great..perhaps we can dither for another couple of decades of burning coal and oil..perhaps. But it’s an experiment that could be very costly and we only have the one planet. So perhaps some authoritarian direction from a government not bought and paid for by corporate power would be a good thing.
    I don’t think there’s a need to call it “China Lust” or to describe people who put the thought out there as “guys drooling over Sports Illustrated super models etc. etc…
    Just sayin’…

  9. Jarmo says:

    China does what it does, not because of environmental concerns, but because it has no other choice.

    At current and predicted rates of use, its coal resources (3rd largest in the world) are gone in 40 years.

    Estimated 450 million people will move to cities by 2020 from rural areas. Chinese economy will grow at 7-10 % annually in the next 10 years.

    Chinese emissions per capita will never reach US figures but this is due to scarcity of resources rather than the green ambitions of the Chinese: there just isn’t enough fossil fuels left. 

  10. Stu says:

    Wasn’t it China who effectively put the brakes on Copenhagen? And don’t you guys have a president and a government in favour of renewables and action on climate change?

  11. PDA says:

    All I really want is for #2 and #6 to chill.
    Understandably, because if they motivate anyone to read the source article, they’ll see that it’s saying exactly the opposite of what you claim it is.
    What a half-assed piece of crap this post is.
    Is a nation ruled somewhat autocratically by engineers and scientists better equipped to confront the 21st century than a nation that has always been suspicious of intellectuals, a nation increasingly ruled by the checkbooks of lobbyists and the entrenched industries they represent? It would be horrible, if it were true…

  12. Roddy Campbell says:

    Jarmo #9 – ‘China does what it does, not because of environmental concerns, but because it has no other choice.’
    er …. what is it exactly you think China is doing?  What percentage of electricity dyu think they generate w/o CO2 emissions (apart from hydro which is significant).  Coal dominates and will continue to do so.

  13. stereo says:

    During wartime, the US government regularly moves into a quasi-central planning economy.  There can be planned production, taxation, centralised control of resources using rationing and conscription.  So it is simply a matter of how necessary it is seen to do so, not one of whether or not the hippies are taking over.

  14. Tom Fuller says:

    PDA, I think you are wrong on so many levels that it is almost difficult to know where to begin. But the short answer is no, a nation ruled somewhat autocratically (Jesus–how euphemistically can you hide the callous cruelty that characterizes China? I have great respect for them and what they’ve achieved, but the costs their people have born in the process are staggering–and you call it somewhat autocratic? Shame on you PDA. I hope everyone who sees you post on policy issues remembers that phrase) by engineers and scientists (what on earth gives engineers and scientists policy or governance chops? Would you really want James Hansen in power?) to confront the 21st Century.
    This will be even more an ‘American’ century than the last, in part because of the obstacles to abuse of power that frustrate PDA, but more because America will be the only industrialized country with a growing population, 168 of the top 500 universities, leadership in biotechnology, nanotechnology and robotics and a market system that is adaptable enough to meet the requirements of a century that will make the 20th look tame.
    Wrong on so many levels…

  15. Keith Kloor says:

    Tom Fuller hits on the phrase that really bothered me in that last passage I quoted from: “…Is a nation ruled somewhat autocratically…” which reinforced to me the Grist author’s tendency to gloss over the truly autocratic nature of China.

    Is Glen Beck “somewhat” deranged? Is Rush Limbaugh “somewhat” partisan and hyperbolic? Somehow I don’t Gristies agreeing with either of these characterizations. But China is “somewhat autocratic”? No. That’s absurd. (China is somewhat capitalistic–that would be accurate.)

    Let’s talk about a true autocrat closer to home that would be a better example to use for this discussion: Robert Moses. Now he was definitely not somewhat autocratic, either, but he is someone who got a lot of things done, democracy be damned. If you want to appreciate the full scale of how successful Moses was, and the collaterol costs, read The Powerbroker by Robert Caro, a masterpiece of history and journalism.

  16. Tom C says:

    Um, has anyone involved in this discussion actually been to China?  The notion that they are in some way “better” than the US on environmental issues is weird, to say the least, if you have spent time there.

  17. JD Ohio says:

    Those of you admiring China for environmental reasons should go to a big city and try to see the sun.  (I have been to Wuhan, Beijing, Shanghai, Hangchow, Yichang & E-Zhou.)  You will rarely see it because of the extensive pollution.
    There is much that is admirable about the Chinese people, but as poor as they have historically been, there is no way that they will sacrifice economic gains for environmental reasons.  For example, it gets pretty cold in Wuhan in the winter, but historically Wuhan was not allowed to have heat. (From the Yangtze river south, the government prohibited heating.) So the people in Wuhan typically wear heavy jackets in their home in the winter.  When they get the chance to get more comfortable in the winter, they will take it.

  18. Steve Mennie says:

    I think people are continuing to miss the point here..Rather than get all sweaty about whether China is “better” than America why can’t we focus on whether or not the planet is rapidly approaching a point where some sort of authoritarian guidance is required to set us on a sane path.
    I think Stereo @13 gets it.

  19. JD Ohio says:

    #18  Steve,
    Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, & Iran are authoritarian countries.  What is your model for an authoritarian country that would tackle environmental issues.
    Would add that I find it funny that you and others are looking for an authoritarian model.  You can’t win scientific or policy arguments, so you decide that you will order people to do what you think is right.

  20. harrywr2 says:

    Steve Mennie Says:
    January 22nd, 2011 at 6:23 pm
    “Rather than get all sweaty about whether China is “better” than America why can’t we focus on whether or not the planet is rapidly approaching a point where some sort of authoritarian guidance”
    And exactly how do we go about choosing who that authority should be?
    Our current authority is decided by ballots.
    I can tell you with absolute certainty that if the authority doesn’t have ‘the consent of the people’ you will need 20 soldiers/1000 population to maintain ‘authority’. That adds up to 6 million Soldiers.
    The National Rifle Association has 4 million members. They might wish to assist in deciding  who should be the authority. Assist who is another question.

  21. Steve Mennie says:

    One more time…
    America went to war (one is tempted to ask when they didn’t) and things became very authoritarian over night. The political will was there because of the perceived threat of Fasciscm. I feel that we need the same sort of approach to global warming but the perceived threat is not there..nor will it be as long as there is a concentrated effort on the part of big oil and coal to spread misinformation. But I’m not advocating that we immediately become an authoritarian state. And JD Ohio..the scientific argument is pretty much over.

  22. Steve Mennie says:

    an addendum..
    An ‘authoritative’ and free market strategy which would have the ‘consent of the people’  is a cap and tax on carbon emmisions. If the production of CO2 costs money you can bet that the market will find a way of stopping its production.

  23. Steve Mennie, you’re completely fresh to this debate, aren’t you? This is like your first day on the alarmist job, right?

  24. Tom C says:

    Steve Mennie –

    Please forgive me but your attitude is frightening to most normal people.  At the very least, though, before we go submitting to your “authoritarian guidance” (lovely Orwellian pharase that) we want independent review and reasonable access to data and methods.  What underlies the supposed consensus is guarded by a very small number of people.

    The argument as to whether there will be X or Y temperature rise by 2100 and whether this or that bad thing will happen is not “over” by any stretch of the imagination.  It hasn’t even started.

  25. kdk33 says:

    “But I’m not advocating that we immediately become an authoritarian state.”

    See, that Air Vent guy was just paranoid; we don’t need to relinquish our freedoms right away.

    Live free (and warm)!

  26. Matt B says:

    The quote “Is China winning the race to build clean energy technology?” seems to assume that the Chinese are pursuing the manufacturing of photovoltaic & wind turbine products because they want to help the environment. Another way to look at it is:
    1. The Chinese believe the way to accumulate wealth is through manufacturing
    2. For manufacturing to be successful, you need to make a product that people with money will buy
    3. Western nations seem to love these wind power and solar power products & will pay top dollar, no matter how efficient they are
    4. Making these products is a nice fit for China given their raw material access, their relatively inexpensive labor, and their willingness to put up with factory waste that the EPA or EU or Japan would find objectionable
    So, the Chinese will subsidize these industries, mainly for export, Sure, they will use some of these products internally, but answer quick – if these solar panels & wind turbines were that efficient & cost effective, why would they ever export them? It’s a nice business opportunity for for the Chinese, who strongly support manufacturing, & as long as there are enough people in the West to guarantee a market for these products, they will be happy to make them. As soon as we stop mandating/subsidizing these technologies, the product push out of China will fade & fade quickly.

  27. Menth says:

    Comparing the threat of AGW to the spectre of fascism in the 30’s is more than a little unreasonable. I think people advocating for action on AGW often need a reminder that as much as it may difficult to accept, industrialization (yes even fossil fuels *gasp*) has been an incredible boon to the welfare of humanity. To pretend that the appeal of cheap fossil energy and the absence of meaningful action on AGW was and still is strictly a product of conspiring plutocrats is more than a little disingenuous.
    As Keith has pointed out at length here in past weeks, there is an abundance of competent environmental journalism communicating the science of climate change. Mainstream journalism seems inclined to publish stories depicting dire AGW scenarios as seen this week with the claim that the globe will warm by 2.4C by 2020. Al Gore won an Oscar and a Nobel prize promoting the cause and Mike Mann seems to have an open invitation to write opinion pieces for the Washington Post for cripes sake. As much as some may like to depict the AGW argument as having been some marginalized argument barely able to eke out any space in the public’s vision, spare me.
    Human nature dictates that most individuals are reluctant to sacrifice current wealth to prevent an abstract future danger. That’s why you see polls that show that a large percentage of people believe in AGW and even think it’s bad but when they’re asked if they would be willing to sacrifice x amount of dollars to fight it they say “nope”.
    See here:http://media.economist.com/images/20090704/CUS717.gif
    If some think that the solution to this is to get “somewhat autocratic” well, good luck with that.

  28. Steve Mennie says:

    I assume by your opening comment that you include yourself in the category ‘most normal people’. Such condescension is not conducive to a positive or productive exchange.
    And your categorical and arrogant assertions regarding the state of scientific knowledge are…well, just that. categorical and arrogant.
    May the force be with you.

  29. Steve Mennie says:

    My reply was to Tom @24

  30. It was not a reply to Tom. You didn’t address his points or answer his questions. You just made assumptions about him, and called him arrogant.
    Furthermore, the most categorical and wholly ridiculous assertion regarding the current state of science lies with your words: “And JD Ohio..the scientific argument is pretty much over.” This is why I was able to easily identify you as one who is truly a novice in the debate.

  31. Steve Mennie says:

    simon hopkinson..
    You can tell yourself what you need to..

  32. stereo says:

    Menth Says:
    January 23rd, 2011 at 12:35 am Comparing the threat of AGW to the spectre o f fascism in the 30″²s is more than a little unreasonable.

    It’s not comparing AGW to the spectre of fascism, it’s stating that the USA has been prepared to use central planning, rationing and conscription in the past.  It doesn’t matter what for, it matters that it has done it.  I don’t believe that it is necessary to deal with AGW, but the ability to resort to extreme measures when it is deemed necessary has been demonstrated.

  33. Indeed, what is really extraordinary is the level of trust the public has in government not to do wrong by them, despite long histories of often callous disregard for their rights, welfare or occasionally even their very survival.

  34. Stu says:

    I’ve heard that in China- you can’t access WUWT.
    Maybe that’s the attraction?

  35. Shub says:

    MArlowe Johnson at #2 doesn’t know what the heck he is talking about.
    The passage KK quoted is completed by MJ. The whole para is as bad, but MJ cannot see it. Somehow.

  36. kdk33 says:

    “the USA has been prepared to use central planning, rationing and conscription in the past”

    Even this won’t tackle CO2.  It’s a global thing – the BRIC countries (and Africa, eventually) have to play along.  So what you need is global central planning, rationing, etc.  And enforcement.

    As someone said above, good luck with that.

  37. kdk33 says:

    Matt B has it about right regarding China and “clean” energy.  One thing he left out:  The Chinese are more than happy to play along while we committ economic suicide.  Who knows, maybe they can lobby for reparations.

    They want a growing economcy; they need cheap energy.  And they will have it.  Mostly coal, in the short term.  But they also imagine petrochemicals based on coal – the raw material they have in abundance – nuclear is probably a hedge against that working out and driving up the price (harrywr2 notwithstanding).

    Similarly other emerging economies.

    Dreams of decarbonization are just that.  Unilateral decarbonization is a non-sequitur.  Even if you’ve a fairly alarmists position on climate change, the most effective path forward is to accrue wealth and advance acience & technology.  (Windmill tilting is pointless, though we could certainly use fewer windmills.)  If you reject alarmism you get to the same place: do nothing and accrue wealth.

    Amazing that those ignorant, anti-science, US voters are getting this one right.  Cheers to the status-quo.

  38. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Your critique of the ‘somewhat’ autocratic is spot on.  However, I think that you’ll find most greens look to China not as an exemplar on the green energy front but rather as a measuring stick for how dysfunctional modern democracies are when it comes to addressing long-term environmental threats (CFCs being the exception).    IOW it’s not a question of we should be more like China, but rather if even China is doing better than us then….
    On a more basic level it seems to me that you’re confusing an is with an aught.  China is doing more on the clean energy front and this is unquestionably in part due to its ability to avoid the morass of special interests that infect energy policy politics in democratic countries.  Just because that is so, however, does not mean that we aught to adopt a more autocratic form of governance.
    On the other hand, there is ample precedent for curtailing of democratic freedoms in the face of existential threats as already noted up-thread.  Along those lines, here’s a question for you — at what point, if any, would it be reasonable for other countries to use the threat of force to impose carbon caps on other nation or nations?  Could GHGs ever be construed as a ‘clear and present danger’ that would justify the bombing of coal plants and hummers 🙂 ?
    Just a thought….

  39. isaacschumann says:

    Apologies if this has been pointed out already, (I haven’t read the whole thread) but where would china be if it did not have the the U.S. and Europe to sell shit too? Economists such as Krugman can’t stand China because they are essentially ‘cheating’ at capitalism; they reap all of the advantages of the global capitalist system, without any of the messy consequences of individual freedoms and democracy. The Soviet Union would have been around alot longer if it had thought of selling consumables to the capitalist west in mass amounts. If western democracies were to do what environmentalists say and drastically reduce their consumption, even go into negative growth as some suggest would be desirable; the Chinese system would implode.
    They are only able to invest so much so quickly in green technologies because a) they were already invented in capitalist countries, they’re just applying existing technologies. b) there is no democratic process to get in the way. and c) they’re cash rich from selling stuff to us. Most of the ‘lessons’ from china don’t apply, unfortunately. Why don’t the capitalist countries seem to get any credit from environmentalists for inventing the stuff the china is applying? I think Keith’s reversal of the question is very apt.

  40. Vinny Burgoo says:

    I’ve just found this in my ‘look at this later’ file.
    Riding red tracks

    On an epic journey through China, Andre Vltchek was stunned by the quality of public transport. Here, he argues socialist central planning is to thank ““ and that other countries should take note.

    It’s not primarily concerned with environmentalism but does exhibit irrational China-lust.

  41. Steve Mennie says:

    If it will turn down the volume on the paranoia, I’m willing to replace ‘authoritarian guidance’ with leadership or decisiveness..If it’s a given that corporations sole purpose is to make profits for shareholders and they do this within a context of private property, the rule of law etc., then it would seem to make sense that they would be willing to ‘play the game’ in a changed context that paid more attention to the health of the planet so long as it was a ‘level playing field’ that pertained to everyone.
    I’m suggesting (not categorically stating) that we are in need of just such leadership.

  42. Steve Mennie says:

    And Tom says…
    ” What underlies the supposed consensus is guarded by a very small number of people.”
    This sounds perilously close to conspiracy theory rather than rational examination.

    Could you elaborate on this cabal ‘guarding’ the ‘supposed consensus’?

  43. Stu says:

    I have a feeling this is going to be a dumb question, but here goes nevertheless…
    But how is it that this supposedly ineffective democratic system, under Bush- was able to lead people into war and at the same time also managed to drag the rest of the free world unwillingly along for the ride… suddenly now can’t get anything done?

  44. Jarmo says:

    What exactly are the environmentalists admiring in China?

    Coal has been central to the recent rapid economic growth of China. China accounts for 47% of global coal consumption today, and this is likely to rise to 53% by 2030. China contributed 80% of the growth of world coal demand 1990-2010, and is expected to account for 77% of the growth to 2030.
    There is a clear recognition within China that it needs to move away from its heavy dependence on coal. Environmental constraints (local air pollution as much as climate change concerns) and the rising cost of domestic coal resources are expected to curb Chinese coal growth.
    The timing of this transition to less coal-intensive growth is uncertain. In our outlook, China’s coal consumption flattens by 2030, and world coal growth for the 2020-30 decade averages just 0.3% p.a.

  45. JD Ohio says:

    #21 Steve Menne
    “The scientific argument is over.”  Simply ridiculous.  We have advocacy based semi-science, groupthink and unreliable data (See CRU lying episode).  When a nutcase like Hansen (who advocates the jailing of those who oppose his ideas and compares warming with Nazi death trains) heads an agency that collects and analyzes data, anyone who understands rigorous science knows what a joke “mainstream” climate science is.
    Even assuming that the science was correct, there is still no model of gigantic social engineering/planning over 50-100 years that has been successful since the onset of the industrial age that I am aware of.  Several smaller scale social engineering/planning episodes have been abject failures, such as the Great Leap Forward and busing for “integration” for instance.  Those advocating extreme CO2 controls do not even consider the difficulty of the planning issues, much less than address them.  In 50 to 100 years, the world will have changed too much for anything done now to have its intended effect far into the future.

  46. kdk33 says:

     “China is doing more on the clean energy front ”

    Seems fair to ask in what sense are they “doing more”.  They are the worlds largest carbon emitter and their emissions are growing, a lot.  In that sense they are clearly “doing more” than anybody else.

  47. Tom C says:

    Steve Mennie –

    If you don’t want people like me and Jeff Id to be paranoid, you need to stop saying things like “authoritarian guidance.  Looks like you have made some progress in that area.  Now you might want to push back when nuts like James Hansen loudly proclaim their totalitarian fantasies.  Then I promise to stop being paranoid.

    As far as the science goes, I certainly accept that it has warmed some fraction of a degree over the last century, though I am suspicious that the UHI has not been adequately dealt with.  I am not suspicious because of any conspiracy theory, I am suspicious because I am an engineer who has dealt with complex physical systems for nearly 30 years, and I have seen first hand how difficult it is to collect and understand data.  The CRU fiasco only added to my misgivings.

    The temperature history and the climate models depend on the work of a very small number of researchers, maybe 50 or so.  Everyone else accepts these data because it is nearly impossible to perform an independent confirmation (due to complexity and lack of cooperation).  So all the other scientists that tell us about what precipitation will be in the SW United States in 50 years and how that will affect the bird populations (or whatever) are doing so on the basis of uncertain data and computer models on top of computer models.  Again, from experience I don’t think that these can be trusted to any significant extent.  To be quite frank, that fact that Hansen seems to think he can predict these things so far into the future with such certainty means that he is either an ideologue who is lying, or he is a megalomaniac.

    As far as effective action goes, the most effective action that could possibly occur if the threat were as real as you make it out to be, is to commit to nuclear power in a big way.  That is the big 25% ot total emisisons that could be drastically reduced.  Whaddaya think Steve, you with me on decisive action?

  48. Eli Rabett says:

    OK, Eli has been to China and worked with a lot of Chinese folk (it goes with the territory since ~1980).  China is interesting, an authoritarian government on the top and a population that does what it wants except if they get noticed and squashed.  Since China is huge, they don’t much get noticed, and, of course to a great extent you can buy a get out of jail card.  Sort of an interesting combination of libertarianism and communism. James Fallows at the Atlantic is a pretty useful guide to this.

    And Marlowe is right, what is really worrying politically is that when the climate hits the fan the black helicopters are going to fly which is why we are trying to protect the ostriches by taking action now.

  49. Steve Mennie says:

    I’ve witnessed your typing skills before here and elswhere wherein you are capable of writing novellas of breathless bullshit that rave about free markets, technology, American exceptionalsim etc, while flinging fact free categorical statements in all directions.
    It would be boring and unhelpful to engage in a pissing contest as your mind is already zip-locked into a position that is unassailable because impervious to any  evidence that may point to alternative interpretations. A true idealogue.
    I don’t count myself as an ‘alarmist’ but am intrigued by the visceral and mean spirited response on the part of – oh, I don’t know..free market libertarians for want of a better expression when there’s even the suggestion..the hint of at least considering the possibility that it is, indeed, impossible to have infinite growth and consumption on a demonstrably finite planet.
    I wouldn’t characterize myself as an ‘environmentalist’ either but am equally puzzled by the instinctive and unthinking conflation of environmentalists with socialists or fascists beavering away to form some world government hell bent on taxing us to death all the while ignoring the fact that the corporate fascists have already taken over.
    So I leave the field to you sir..carry on and may the force be with you.

  50. Keith Kloor says:

    I was going to mention Fallows as a good guide to China, but Nicholas Kristof is equally good, and his column today is especially relevant to this post and discussion.

  51. Tom C says:

    Steve Mennie –

    How your post #49 relates to my post #47 is an utter mystery to me.  Moreover, since I don’t even believe in American exceptionalism, I highly doubt I have committed much to paper or blog defending it.

    I’m all for hedging our bets regarding AGW by a robust expansion of nuclear power (25% rather than the twosies or threesies percent that CF lightbulbs and hybrids gets you).  How about you Steve?  Or, maybe the lack of interest in nuclear by alarmists shows what this AGW panic is really about.

  52. JD Ohio says:

    Comment #46 from Kristof’s blog from a Chinese person:

    “IF anyone is promoting that China should be more democratic, then I am sorry, you guys simply don’t know what is right for the Chinese people.

    What China nedds now is freedom of speech, press, assmebly and religion. AND, an independant judiciary and prosecution. Until this is in place and functioning for a long while, any so called western multiparty democracy will just result in the worst form of democracy possible- corrupt, inefficient and totally inept government, it would be 100 times worst than the worst democratic country existing now given the size of the population. Please, push for these reforms to be in place in China-the Chinese government can’t rebute that, but not multiparty democracy at this point which the Chinese government will take it as conspiracy to topple their regime. Frankly, personally I don’t think one man one vote is best for China now.”

    I have a good deal of knowledge about China because my deceased wife (A Chinese Physician from Wuhan), and my fiance (A physician from Beijing) are Chinese.  The Chinese government should definitely not be an example for the U.S.  On the other hand, it is counter-productive, most of the time, to criticize China.  The Chinese have legitimate reasons to resent the West, and most criticism appears to be condescension to the Chinese.  Instead, before we criticize, we should ask ourselves how much democracy has helped Iraq.  Also, we should remember in the 1780s only about 10% of white male voters could vote. 

    China will change and eventually become democratic (it is comparatively, much more open than it had been), but they will do it in their own way, and it won’t happen overnight.  Before criticizing the Chinese government, it is wise to ask, if the current system collapsed quickly, what would take its place.

  53. Stu says:

    Steve Mennie above…
    “Based on recent trends, and using a cautious,
    conservative estimate of environmental risk, in just 71 months from
    January 2010, taking us to the end of 2016, the accumulation of
    greenhouse gases in the atmosphere means that it will become “˜more
    rather than less likely’ that temperatures will rise by at least 2C.”
    I hear the sound of a spitfire, nosediving…

  54. Steve Mennie says:

    Haha..yes, I think I hear it as well..probably a much larger nose dive than a spitfire tho’..Where is that quote from by the way..?

  55. Stu says:

    Sorry Steve, it’s in the .pdf you linked to just above.
    Page 11.

  56. Stu says:

    Ahh.. the report does’nt specifically say when though (I thought they were saying a rise of 2 degrees by 2016)

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