As many of you have heard by now, there was an eleventh hour deal between US and the major emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and South Africa when I was looking bleak. Before going through the merits of this deal, I will first explain why this issue is so important to me. I grew up in possibly the most polluted place in the world. CNN ran a story about Linfen, http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/12/15/china.pollution/index.html, which is right next to my hometown. I know there are a lot of questions, especially from the Republicans in America, regarding whether or not global warming is really valid. I think that if ever lived in my hometown, you would think that global warming is a reality. In the span of the 26 years of my life time, the average high temperature of a summer time has gone from mid 20s to mid 30s. The kind of environment degradation in my hometown is truly extraordinary. The water level dropped so much that what used to be a shallow river no longer exists. They had to fill that area with tap water to give the illusion that it's still a river. When it's really hot and dry in summer time, you can see dry land with huge cracks. Even the famous yellow river is completely dried up in the summer time around where I came from. The air quality is so bad that I catch some form of respiratory sickness every time I go back there and can never get well until leaving the country. I can go on talking about how the sinful nature of men have destroyed this amazing world that we live in, but I would be spending the next 4 pages talking about all the bad things i have seen in China alone. I think that the change in climate is partly due to the natural climate change, but mostly due to the damage done by us. If the temperature continues to go up the way it does, there will be increased drought problems around the world. Water will become more and more scarce for certain countries. In other countries, they'd have the opposite effect of too much precipitation leading to hurricanes and tsunamis. And with polar ice caps melting, the international water level would rise to the point where millions of people will be displaced. The sad part is that the developing countries that contribute the least to carbon emissions and can afford the least to help out on emissions cut will end up suffering the most from climate change. There have already been talks about many Pacific islands getting swallowed up by the Ocean in the next 50 years. I'm more concerned about areas like Bangladesh where over 100 billion people could be displaced due to elevation in water level. And what about New York? Manhattan would be swallowed up if water level is elevated as much as the projection.
But what if all of the scientific theories are wrong and all the global warming in the past 20 years are occurring naturally? Even if that's case, the world would become a much less polluted and environmentally damaging place by using less fossil fuel, have more stringent emission standards and use more efficient plants. Who would really complain about breathing in air with less toxin? During the elections, everyone complained about how America is overly reliant on the Middle East for energy usage. At the same time, many of the major oil fields (like Ghawar Field in Saudi Arabia, Cantarell Field in Mexico and Daqing in China) around the world have all hit the so called peak oil and are not declining in production. There are still oil sands in Canada and deep water oil deposits off Florida and the Green River Formation oil shale around Colorado. However, you start running into the problem where the amount of energy used to extract is actually greater than the oil extracted. For example, the core of Earth has the highest grade of untapped iron deposits, but is anyone actually stupid enough to try to extract those iron ore? As a result of the oil/natural gas production decline and the increase need for them around the world, America will be fighting for that shrinking share of oil production with China and India. By necessity, the entire world would have to eventually switch to using renewable or re-usable source of energy.
Because of all the above, I was really nervous leading up to Copenhagen. I knew of the great divide between the developing countries and developed countries, so was really worried that nothing would get worked out. As it stands, the agreement was regarded by numerous European countries as not enough. I think that view is way too pessimistic. Even though China and India have not given a specific year when their emissions would peak, they have agreed to at least set some kind of firm target and have agreed to some form of international verification. When it comes to China, face is an extremely important part of the culture and the communist leaders don't like to look bad in front of others. Under international scrutiny, I really don't see China backing off on the commitments that it made this week to the world. I really think Obama did a great job in emphasizing the idea that this is the first step in concluding something that is truly worthwhile and effective over the long run. I believe that by the UN conference in Mexico City next year, this deal would have moved further along. It would take a while for the last minute concessions by China, India, Brazil and South Africa to really put in a legally binding agreement. I don't think China will stop at 40-45% energy intensity cut. Having seen their past efforts, they will most likely achieve a larger cut through their current efforts in nuclear/wind/solar power expansion and more stringent fuel efficiency/emissions standards. Of course, it's also important for Europeans to achieve their stated goal of 25% emission cut from 1990 levels. It is also important for US to actually offer something better than a 1.3% emission cut from 1990 levels. Compared to EU and Japan, US and Canada are really not doing that much to help the global efforts. Having lived in these 2 countries for the better parts of my life, I'm quite ashamed of that. In the midst of the great economic downturn in the past 70 years, it's really hard for any country to make sacrifices while others stand pat. I'm just glad that we have finally started the process of really trying to cooperate on this globally. Even if what we have now is not perfect, we can hope for greater international pressure to yield more firm targets and a legally binding agreement that could save our planet.