Sinica: China's Environmental Collapse

After the collapse of international climate change talks in Copenhagen in 2009, Mark Lynas' devastating article as published in the Guardian laid the blame squarely at China's feet, accusing the Chinese government of deliberately scuttling American-led efforts to secure an international agreement on climate change. This begs the question: is China really to blame for the collapse at Copenhagen, and what plans if any does the country have for curtailing its own cascading environmental problems?

Joining hosts Kaiser Kuo and Will Moss this week are Jonathan Watts, Guardian correspondent and author of the new book When A Billion Chinese Jump, and Adam Wang, senior attorney and director of the China Environmental Law Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Beijing. Both experts in Chinese environmental policy, Jon and Adam join us for an in-depth discussion of Jonathan's new book on China's growing environmental crisis and the various efforts underway to solve it.

As always, let us remind you that if you enjoy this podcast, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below, or write us at sinica@popupchinese.com. And remember, to subscribe to the Sinica show through RSS, just open up iTunes, click on the "Advanced" menu and select the option "Subscribe to Podcast". When prompted, copy the URL http://popupchinese.com/feeds/custom/sinica into the box. If you'd like to download this mp3 directly from our site you can also grab it as a standalone mp3 file. Enjoy!
 said on 
July 10, 2010
i don't have the environmental lingo that i've just listen to in order to debate and don't pretend to know anything about china policies in this matter . i'm just an ordinary retired person learning mandarin on this site. environmentalists (such as Al Gore and David Suzuki and other less known) in north america where i live > have now been proven to have manipulated false statements and statistics.

the planet has not warmed-up 1/2 degree in the last 6 yrs , the oceans level have not increased either and we have had the coldest winters the past 3yrs . where/what is this global warming? climate change at different cycles have always existed in my life time. i'm too old to worry or care about this but i sure would like to be enlighted for my grand-children sake. even if it's man-made carbon dioxide isn't it necessary for plant life in china. the planet will live and china needs problably to concentrate more on quality water. AlGore didn't invent the internet but he sure invented global warming (climate change / environmental crisis whatever it's called now)

most environmentalists are the problem.

in my opinion this will be proven to be the biggest scam (money grabbing) the planet has known.
 said on 
July 10, 2010
A really great podcast, possibly one of the best yet. I think Jonathan did achieve one of his goals in making this very tough, and opaque problem, even more so in China, accessible to more people with his reporting.

With all the pessimism, and what James Fallows puts as "all out fatalism" regarding the environment in China, there are rays of hope, and people doing hard work individually and with NGO's. I'm happy to see you guys end the podcast on a positive note.

 said on 
July 11, 2010

I think Canadians tend to be less skeptical than Americans on climate change in part because there is less political polarization in Canada, and in part because the effects of climate change are more visible and exaggerated up north than closer to the equator. The empirical evidence is also generally available and the balance of evidence seems to be that we have already seen several fractions of a degree in warming. Even skeptics I read online seem now to have dropped claims that global warming is not happening in favor of arguing that it is not anthropogenic in origin and/or we don't need to worry about it.

That said, I'm skeptical of mainstream proposals for carbon trading as a solution and much more pessimistic than paglino9 on society being able to do anything about global warming before market forces end our oil dependence for other reasons. So I thought ending the podcast on "a positive note" was a case of indulging in false optimism. One recent counterexample that springs to my mind involves the case of a non-Chinese energy company which is having to make payoffs to local officials simply to build green technology plants in China. When even low-level Chinese officials are systematically encouraged to put personal self-enrichment above the environmental health of the country by bleeding clean energy companies, I can't see how either private or public sector initiatives in China are going to accomplish much of anything. Public sector research will not be results-oriented while private sector initiatives will be hamstrung by rent-seeking policy-makers.

These are my instinctive biases at least, although I'm aware they may be uninformed. That said, I would enjoy a future podcast where Jonathan and others have the opportunity to talk substantively about specific projects which are actually making a difference. I would find it interesting to hear where the funding is coming from in these cases, and what percent of Chinese initiatives are home-grown and sustainable.
 said on 
July 11, 2010
Global warming is very evident when, e.g., one looks at the loss of ancient Arctic shelf ice over the past decade or so. Skeptics often say "but we just had a cold winter," or the equivalent; but global warming does not mean that everything and everywhere gets nothing but warmer; global warming involves temperature extremes in both directions, within overall a warming trend. Harsh winters and violent storms are as much a part of global warming as are temperature increases. I had hoped that the B movie The Day After Tomorrow would at least have disabused people of the notion that global warming means nothing but warmth; unfortunately that misconception still persists widely. Hence the real need to switch from "global warming" to a less misleading term, "climate change".
 said on 
July 11, 2010
I should add that although a majority of Canadians have tried to look at the situation objectively and are concerned about climate change (or so the polls tell us), our present government seems determined to ignore climate change issues, in part because of its determination not to alienate Alberta voters by imposing any kind of restrictions on tar sands development. I cannot see that we are doing much better than China; indeed, we may be doing worse.
 said on 
July 13, 2010
trevelyan, user18,

thanks for the 2 links. i've done a lot of reading. obviously all one sided. would you know a few links debating the other side point of view.

my concern is not whether canadian or chinese government are ignoring or doing anything about "global warming" but whether it exist at all.

can common sense come out on both side of this debate?

which is "kouyu" these days qihoubianhua or shijiebiannuan

although interesting i don't think Sinica podcasts are useful part of beginner/elementary learning lessons. case in point i was diverted from my basic conversation mandarin learning.

 said on 
July 13, 2010
Well--I'm no expert on the best sites to go to, but here are 3 you can start with: (1) 2007 United Nations report on climate change--summarized at www.cbc.ca/news/background/climatechange/unreport-2007.html (I assume you can get the whole report also by logging on to the UN site); report agreed upon by 2000 climate scientists from 113 countries (2) on snow, cold, etc., and global warming, a web article by the host of a media science program: www.cbc.ca/news/background/climatechange (click on Cold Climate article) (3) more partisan but still informative (quick facts): www.skepticalscience.com
 said on 
July 13, 2010
BTW: I should have added that the featured article right now on the skepticalscience website comes from a March 2010 article in "Science" (major scientific journal) by scientists at the U. of Alaska (Fairbanks).
 said on 
July 13, 2010

Everyone I hear refers to it as 气候变暖 these days, but I don't know if that's representative of greater China or just Beijing. And just on a quick non-climate related note. If you'd like to keep Sinica lessons (or any other series) from showing up on your front page, the easiest way to do this is to visit the lessons archive page:


The column on the right-hand side with checkboxes will let you customize what *new* shows will appear automatically on your front page and in your RSS feed. You can add other older lessons either by bookmarking them individually, or adding them through our lesson calendar.


 said on 
July 14, 2010
Vaclav Smil's "The Bad Earth" won a Joseph Levenson prize in the 1980s. It's still a great, great read. So is his "China's Environmental Crisis." Smil, a Canadian academic, is the head honcho on the subject of the Chinese environment. Mark Elvin's "The Retreat of the Elephants" is also quite good, particularly if you're like reading history (it's an environmental history). Judith Shapiro's "Mao's War on Nature" is not the best book I've ever read, but it's useful. I'm surprised that no one mentioned Elizabeth Economy's "The River Runs Black" - scary book!

 said on 
July 14, 2010

"If you'd like to keep Sinica lessons (or any other series) from showing up on your front page" I know, but i just don't want to miss out on anything even though some are above my comprehension.

"meiyou zuihao zhiyou geng hao" so is PopupC

user18 , tofu.stinky,

thanks for the reading suggestions

中华绿党联络员  贝立
Gtalk:      greenpartycn@gmail.com
MSN:      greenpartycn@hotmail.com
SKYPE:  chinagreenparty
Freedom Through Truth For Service
欢迎加入中华绿党 :)
温和 进步 清新 务实
红火中华, 清新绿党!
您的力量, 是新希望!
中华绿党 大众咨询留言板(服务党外):
  欢迎加入中华 绿党 :)