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Media hand-wringing about slowing economic growth in China underlines the utter disconnect between between climate scientists and decision makers. China is the world’s second-largest economy. It is also the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gases. Mainstream media recently reported analyses that hydrocarbon consumption, deforestation and other greenhouse-gas-producing human activities are causing climate changes with bad results such as more drought, heat and big storms. Apparently without noticing the conflict, our news and opinion sources accept the premise that economic growth is good. Two recent quotes from New York Times and BBC stories, respectively, emphasize a possible Chinese “threat” to world economic growth:
“Problems in China give some economists nightmares in which, in the worst case, the United States and much of the world slip back into recession as the Chinese economy sputters, the European currency zone collapses and political gridlock paralyzes the United States.“
“China’s economy, the world’s second-largest, expanded at an annual rate of 7.6% in the second quarter, the slowest pace of growth in almost three years.There are fears that growth could slow further in the near term, because economic problems in export markets, in Europe and the US, are impacting on consumer demand for Chinese goods.”
One of this blog’s core points is that economic growth that generates more greenhouse gases is bad; manufacturing more stuff is not a wise goal of public policy, and governments should move away from unquestioning worship of growing their economies. China brings a new coal-burning power plant on line every week or so to power skyrocketing growth, with little consideration of what burning millions of tons of coal does to our air, and yet Western opinion-makers worry that a 7.6% annual growth rate for China threatens our world because it is not fast enough. A front-page Times’s headline last week was “China Confronts Mounting Piles of Unsold Goods – A Drag on Its Economy.” The story had no hint that slowing China’s production of plastic toys and so forth might be good for the planet.
What will it take to refocus our priorities?
Image by Min’s (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons