While in Beijing early this year US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that China and the US, the world’s largest emitters of such gases, had agreed to intensify information-sharing and policy discussions on their plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions after 2020. A few days later in Indonesia, he warned Indonesians that man-made climate change could threaten their entire way of life, deriding those who doubted the existence of “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction””. Last week President Obama didn’t wait for policy discussions with the Chinese to be completed and announced new EPA regulations that will gut the US economy.
But what are the Chinese doing about carbon dioxide? As per a recent US naval officer’s observation on the Chinese that “Ninety per cent of their time is spent on thinking about new and interesting ways to sink our ships and shoot down our planes”, China is adopting new and interesting ways to burn more coal. China is currently burning four billion tonnes of coal per annum while the US burns one billion tonnes for power generation. The new thing they are doing is a massive investment in plants that produce synthetic natural gas from coal according to this article from Scientific American.
Being a post-modern publication, Scientific American doesn’t tell you how much coal those plants will consume. You have to calculate that from the carbon dioxide production figure which is considered to be much more important. And the result is 400 million tonnes per annum – about 40% of the coal that the US burns in power generation. All the pain and suffering the US might endure to reach the new EPA target reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 30% will be offset by this new Chinese way of burning coal.
David Archibald, a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., is the author of Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short (Regnery, 2014).