A First Step to Environmental Peace?

I’m ambivalent.

First, I recognize the foolishness of the United States agreeing to reduce (on top of all previous reductions) our carbon dioxide emissions 26% by 2025, while the People’s Republic of China only agrees to stop increasing their emissions (already among the highest in the world) by 2030. (Probably after most of the old men currently running China have died.)

Paradoxically, I doubt either country can deliver on their promise. So much of the “low hanging fruit” of American emissions have been picked, that any future reduction–not to mention a quarter in ten years–will be extremely unlikely. China has the opposite problem. Their current economic surge has been fueled by coal-fired electric generators which already are killing their people–emissions that most of the world know how to avoid. But China’s economic growth is slowing. No one in Beijing wants to be blamed for frustrating the newly-awakened dreams of prosperity and security by their billion plus citizens.

But I also recognize that China has never agreed to any limit on their emissions before and therefore a a bad agreement may be better than no agreement. In fact, the worst pollution today comes from countries like China, India and Russia, who are more interested in growth than in pollution. Getting China to admit there’s a problem might be a good first step to addressing the problem.

It’d be nice, of course, if countries cooperated to stop damaging–if not improving–the environment we all share, but human history shows few examples of such cooperation. And most of those seemed so minor at the time.

Remember the 1987 INF Treaty? All the USA and USSR agreed was to eliminate nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges  between 500-5,500 km (300-3,400 miles). In retrospect it seems like no big deal, but it was the first of a series of treaties between the USA and Soviet Union which effectively ended the Cold War.

Maybe this environmental agreement is similar first step. I hope so.


One thought on “A First Step to Environmental Peace?

  1. I was shocked that Obama settled for China not having to make changes for years. I was pleased, not in a nice way, when they couldn’t clean up their air before the conference. Despite temporary draconian measures like closing factories, they couldn’t make the air cleaner.

    Yet the obvious pollution didn’t seem to help U.S. much at the bargaining table. Just a tiny first step. We’ll see.

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