Although only the first part of the United Nations' Climate
Report 2007 will be officially unveiled in Paris tomorrow, a draft
of part two was leaked to the press early this week.
The leaked draft, on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability
caused by climate change, is alarming. For instance, between 1.1
and 3.2 billion people will suffer from water scarcity by the end
of the century as the earth's temperatures rise by 2 C to 4.5
And by the year 2080, an additional 200 million to 600 million
people will grapple with food shortages and 7 million homes will be
inundated by flood waters.
Even without the report, everyone should by now realize that
global warming is hitting the tipping point, as cherry trees
bloomed in Washington, DC last December while Moscow remained green
until January. Australia has suffered from continuous drought and
last year its wheat harvest was only half that of a normal
In China, parts of the central and southwest areas experienced
heat waves for 40-some days last summer. Just this past weekend,
sandstorms, which usually start in March, attacked parts of
Northwest and North China.
With the grimmer future presented to us, people who still peddle
the "American way of life" have to think hard again. The earth
cannot sustain that way of life as US per capita carbon dioxide
emissions are six times the Chinese level and 20 times the Indian
However, while the world is groping for preemptive measures to
ward off or delay the effect of global warming, there will be more
Over the past few years, the media have been singling out China
and India as potential threats to global ecological and subsequent
economic and political stability with their dramatic rise in
It is true that China has not been successful in avoiding the
environmental costs that developed countries paid in attaining
their prosperity. In fact, China's damage is partly caused by some
multinationals and businesses from developed economies dumping
their energy-wasteful and polluting processes onto China in the
name of investment.
I believe China is acting on its responsibilities to switch to a
greener developmental track, however insufficient the speed. At the
local level, more and more urban Chinese are finding ways to save
water and electricity at home, while rural people are improving
their lives by using solar heaters and methane gas.
But I don't believe it is fair to single out China and India as
The greenhouse effect started with the developed countries in
the last century. They produced far more carbon dioxide emissions
and wasted far more natural resources. Even today, the US and
Europe are still placing a huge demand on the world's ecosystems
with their high per capita carbon dioxide emission and consumption
The US is still reluctant to enforce stricter car exhaust
standards and still refuses to abide by the Kyoto Protocol to limit
greenhouse gas emissions.
Some well-wishers, such as Thomas R. Conlon, a US wind energy
expert who is working with his Chinese colleagues to install
windmills in rural areas, are lending valuable helping hands and
Despite their own track records, the developed countries are
pushing China and India to become world leaders in sustainable
energy and agriculture. Questions must be raised as to how much
these countries have done to help developing countries take the
lead to economize on natural resources using the developed
countries' advanced technologies.
Only actions speak louder.
(China Daily February 1, 2007)