Utopian green policy and freezing Chinese citizens
Mark Milke Vancouver Sun.com
February 23, 2018
The problem with a perfectionist end accompanied by inflexible methods and pursued by linear thinkers is how real people suffer. Last October, 28 cities in northern China promised to cut particulate pollution by 15 per cent. Beijing countered by demanding a 25-per-cent reduction.
As Bloomberg reported, when the artificial reductions were scrapped in December, "a well-meaning anti-pollution push turned into a debacle." The policy "had the inadvertent but predictable effect of leaving large swathes of the country freezing cold." Indeed, these parts of China can experience temperatures as low as those seen in much of Canada.
The ban was typical Beijing command-and-control policy. That approach didn't work well when applied to the economy - anyone remember Mao's disastrous Great Leap Forward? It doesn't work any better when applied to the environment. China, as even most casual observers know, suffers from severe particulate pollution. It is among the worst in the world and rivals that of the Industrial Revolution in 18th-century England.
China is smoggy, and dangerously so. Coal is burned for industrial use and power, and is a significant contributor to the Middle Kingdom's unhealthy, deadly problem. At present 70 per cent of China's electrical power is generated from coal.
It was in response to severe pollution problems that Chinese mandarins tried to reduce coal use this winter. But with a lack of alternatives, the orders were not practical. Nor for that matter would more solar power and other oft-promoted green alternatives help, given they are unable to heat a northern home in winter.
Instead, reliable coal-replacement energy sources must be used, which is where natural gas shipments from British Columbia come into play. But one British Columbia politician will have none of it, University of Victoria academic and climate scientist Andrew Weaver.
Weaver, of course, is also leader of B.C.'s Green party, which holds the balance of power in the province's legislature with three seats. The Greens have a "Confidence and Supply Agreement" to keep the NDP government from falling. That agreement includes implementing a "climate action" strategy beyond B.C's existing carbon dioxide emissions tax.
Greens oppose the development of LNG exports because that economic activity will result in higher carbon emissions for the province. However, contra the Green party position, natural gas exports from B.C. could help solve two Chinese problems: coal-produced pollution and the need for reliable and affordable heat in Chinese homes, schools, offices, stores and every other building in winter. In addition, B.C. LNG exports could reduce China's greenhouse gas emissions.
But Weaver is a prime example of a dogmatist unconstrained by reason. In a recent interview, the Green leader was adamant that the governing NDP's promotion of natural gas exports to Asia is a potential deal-breaker. Asked what it would take to keep the Greens from withdrawing support from the NDP, Weaver answered that the government would need to "show me ... a climate strategy that will lead to our legislative reduction targets."
Today's targets resulted from a promise made over a decade ago by former-Liberal premier Gordon Campbell to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020, measured against 2007 levels. Reductions did occur until 2010, but have since risen. Weaver wants that now-failed reduction target raised to 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. But like the Chinese politburo, he has no plan to achieve these steeper targets.
The narrow focus on reducing emissions in British Columbia, or Canada, is unrealistic and even unhelpful to other nations. Canada could export natural gas and contribute to a huge reduction in Chinese greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to an improved quality of life.
This is not a fantasy. Between 2005 and 2015, carbon-dioxide emissions fell by 12 per cent in the United States even though the American economy grew by 15 per cent. The greenhouse gas reduction came in large measure because ever-more natural gas replaced coal in many U.S. power plants. That is exactly the combination that could further CO2 reductions in China and particulate pollution from coal at the same time.
At present, the Chinese can only choose between choking in smog and freezing in the dark. The remedy is to apply the strategy long advocated by reasonable environmental voices to think globally and act locally. That would make sense for both British Columbians and China's masses.
That would be positive for everyone, and the environment and the economy. It's a win-win-win. That is, unless you happen to be narrowly focused on one province in an energy-producing country - and you don't care about other human beings in foreign lands.
Mark Milke is an author, policy analyst and contributing writer to Canadians for Affordable Energy.
Image credit: Pixabay.