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Found 12 results

  1. Under the Dome, the self-funded documentary by former television news anchor Chai Jing about China’s battles with smog, has been an internet phenomenon. Within three days of its release on Febuary 28, it had racked up more than 150 million views and garnered 280 million posts on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter. Then the Chinese government removed it from the web, stung by the criticism the film prompted, leaving those who had hailed it as a landmark moment in Chinese environmentalism wondering if the documentary’s influence would end up being curtailed. Seemingly inspired by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Chai Jing presents some shocking facts to her audience in a TED Talk-style format. She documents the health implications of smog, such as its possible relationship with lung cancer, and attributes China’s smog pollution to factors including the consumption of low-grade coal and oil, the expansion of energy-intensive industries like steel, and the lack of enforcement of environmental regulations. Former celebrity TV anchor Chai Jing, as seen in the photo, quit her job after her baby daughter was born with a lung tumor, and after a year of rigorous investigation, launched a 1 hour 40 minute documentary about China’s smog. A wake-up call? Under the Dome invites comparison with Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s 1962 exposé of the effects of pesticides, and some commentators have predicted that the documentary will galvanise China in much the same way that Carson’s book changed America. There are indeed striking similarities between the two. Both focus on environmental issues of huge concern to their respective societies; both were made by women with national reputations for their previous work; and both spurred unprecedented national discussions. Even China’s newly appointed environment minister Chen Jining said he was reminded of Silent Spring when watching Under the Dome – although that was before the government abruptly changed its mind about the documentary. For all their similarities, there are still many hurdles facing the documentary that Carson’s book did not experience. The social context China is undergoing significant social change, with a growing middle class who are more concerned with quality of life than basic needs, and who are willing to raise their voice over issues that affect their health. This is a similar context to the postwar America in which Silent Spring was published. Yet today’s world is also more globalised than in 1962, a fact that could have two opposite effects on China’s environmental movement. On one hand, the potential solutions to global issues such as climate change, and local issues such as air pollution, may feed into each other. As my colleague and I have argued, concern over China’s energy security has become a key driver of its renewable energy industry. But on the other hand, globalisation has made people more mobile, both within and between countries. Migration has become an option for some Chinese to escape the smog, which might reduce their motivation to engage in the local environmental movement. Differing political climates In many ways, the reception given to Under the Dome is broadly similar to that received by Silent Spring. Both were challenged by economic interests, such as the chemical industry in the case of pesticides, and fossil fuel firms in the case of smog. Both were also criticised for a perceived lack of “balance” or author expertise, and were even accused of being political conspiracies. Both were also praised by the scientific community. Silent Spring’s legacy was honoured by the American Chemical Society in 2012, while a Chinese professor blogged about Under the Dome: … [compared with Chai Jing] we experts in the field of environmental protection and scientists on the smog research should feel ashamed for our incompetence to communicate with the public and our lack of courage to expose the problem. But perhaps the most important difference is in how the two respective governments reacted, especially given that both the book and the documentary broadly chimed with what authorities were trying to do at the time. Silent Spring was published when the then US president John F. Kennedy was implementing his New Frontier program, and Under the Dome has arrived while the Chinese leadership is commmitting to an “energy revolution”. Several key ideas advocated in Under the Dome to fight smog are aligned with the government’s agenda, such as reducing the share of fossil fuels in the country’s energy supply, and increasing the share of renewable energy sources. This may partly explain why the documentary was first released on the website of People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, and why the resulting media and online criticisms of the government’s handling of the smog issue were initially tolerated despite such comments usually being closely monitored and censored by the state. However, after a week of explosive discussion in the public sphere, the documentary was taken down from all Chinese websites. While the smog issue was a topic of frequent discussion during the annual session of the National People’s Congress, held in this same week, Chai Jing and her documentary were rarely mentioned by any representatives or government officials. Contrast that with the policy response triggered by Silent Spring, including the appointment of the President’s Science Advisory Committee, hearings on the issue in the Senate, and the establishment of the US Environmental Protection Agency. The Chinese government seems to fear that grassroots movements may undermine its legitimacy in ruling the country. It has implemented a range of policies to transform China’s energy system, but the effectiveness of those policies are yet to be seen. The legacy of Silent Spring is beyond question. Whether Under the Dome gets the chance to have a similarly lasting impact is far from clear.
  2. New data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that global CO2 emissions stalled at about 32 billion tonnes in 2014, the same number as in 2013. And even better, this happened while the global economy actually grew. It therefore marks the first time in 40 years that such a halt or reduction in emissions wasn’t tied to an economic downturn. This could suggest that climate change mitigating efforts could be having a more noticeable effect than previously thought. “This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one,” said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol. “It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.” There have only been three times – the early 1980's; 1992 and 2009 – in which emissions have stood still or fallen compared to the previous year, and all were associated with global economic weakness. In 2014, however, the global economy expanded by 3%. This remarkable change is most likely due to an increase in more sustainable and renewable energy sources. The IEA themselves attributes this to changing energy consumption patterns in mainly China and OECD countries. In 2014, China increased their share of electricity generated from renewable sources – such as hydropower, solar and wind – and burned less coal. In the more developed OECD countries, the IEA points towards increased focus on sustainable growth, including greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy being deployed. “An important factor could be that China’s coal consumption fell in 2014, driven by their efforts to fight pollution, use energy more efficiently and deploy renewables,” said Professor Corinne Le Quere, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia. “Efforts to reduce emissions elsewhere will have played a role, but there are also more random factors such as the weather and the relative price of oil, coal and gas.” This is obviously good news. A decoupling of economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions would be highly welcomed. But while all of this is encouraging, it shouldn’t make us lose focus, we need to continue to increase our efforts to mitigate climate change. It’s still too early start talking about a new trend, because we cannot draw too many conclusions on data that only shows one year of emissions. "The latest data on emissions are indeed encouraging, but this is no time for complacency – and certainly not the time to use this positive news as an excuse to stall further action," said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven.
  3. China has been the world’s largest consumer of energy since 2009 when the country surpassed the US. The majority of the energy which is produced and consumed in China comes from dirty fossil fuels. According to numbers from the International Energy Agency (IEA), about 78 percent of the total electricity generated in China between 2004 and 2010 came from coal. In 2007 China surpassed the US – yet again – and became the world’s largest greenhouse gas polluter. It’s worth pointing out though that China’s per capita emission numbers still lags behind those of more developed countries. However, this has obviously caused massive negative effects for the global climate, the local environment and Chinese people’s health. To combat this, China is investing heavily in more sustainable and cleaner energy sources. And they have done so for several years now. The country invested a total of $56.3 billion on wind, solar and other renewable projects in 2013. That year, China invested more on renewables than all of Europe combined and became the world leader in renewable energy investments. Last year China became a powerhouse for solar and wind as the country’s investments in renewable energy increased by 32 percent, to $89.5 billion. Unfortunately not everything is renewable energy as China has plans to triple its nuclear power capacity by 2020. And more than a third of the world’s nuclear reactors currently under construction can be found in China. But nuclear energy can’t seem to catch up with the deployment speed of renewable energy sources. Not even in China. Last year, China’s nuclear capacity reached 20,000 megawatts. But at the same time China added 23,000 megawatts of new wind energy capacity – a world record. Chinese wind power now has an amazing cumulative capacity of 115,000 megawatts. While Beijing plans that nuclear energy will generate 50,000 megawatts by 2020, analysts expects that the country’s wind power capacity will then have already reached 200,000 megawatts. To put things into perspective: wind power alone is now capable of powering more than 110 million homes in China. And if we only look at capacity, Chinese wind power now produce more energy than all of the nuclear power plants in the US. Renewable energy sources are being deployed much faster and on a bigger scale. And for the foreseeable future, nuclear energy is unlikely to match wind power in China. Despite this, coal remains king in China. But the energy landscape is changing ever so rapidly. And according to official data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, coal dropped nearly 3 percent in 2014. All of this is encouraging. Particularly as new IEA data shows that global CO2 emissions stalled in 2014 while the economy actually grew. This marked the first time in four decades that the world economy grows while carbon emissions don't. Experts say that this change is likely due to an increasing worldwide deployment of renewable energy – and especially, a changing energy landscape in China.
  4. Chai Jing

    Former television news anchor Chai Jing. Read the story: China’s ‘Silent Spring’ has many more political hurdles to jump
  5. China is a renewable powerhouse

    Source: Renewables 2014 Global Status Report
  6. During President Obama's visit to China, both countries announced a new climate change agreement that effectively takes away one of the right wing's major arguments against action to curb global warming. For the first time, China has agreed to set a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases it will emit by 2030, increasing its reliance on renewable energy. This is significant for two reasons-one, China is now the largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, and two, the US government and conservatives have used China's previous unwillingness to set such limits as an excuse to avoid any and all binding targets on U.S. emissions. The U.S., as part of this agreement, sets ambitious goals for reductions in carbon pollution by 2025. The bilateral agreement is also significant because it comes in advance of UN sponsored climate talks in Paris in the fall of 2015, aimed at forging a binding international treaty on climate change. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, notes both the historic nature of the agreement and also its limitations, in his commentary on Huffington Post. He points out that this agreement comes barely more than a month after the giant People's Climate March in New York City on Sept. 21. This massive outpouring set the pace for the upcoming struggles over environmental issues. He also notes that this agreement by itself is no reason to slow down or stop the mass struggle for more aggressive climate action. And have no doubt that there will bee sharp struggles. Mitch McConnell, the likely new Senate majority leader in 2015, has already announced that he opposes the new deal; that he will oppose the efforts of the EPA to regulate new and existing power plant carbon pollution and that he places a high priority on Congress passing legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Some Democrats propose a vote to approve the Keystone pipeline during the lame duck session to boost the chances of Mary Landrieu winning re-election to the Senate from Louisiana. The battles over climate change and other environmental issues will play a larger role in electoral and legislative struggles, and we can already see glimpses of splits in the ruling class. A new study confirms that the opposition by conservatives is not some kind of general rejection of science, it is a reaction against the steps needed to find solutions. That reinforces the points made author Naomi Klein in her new book, "This Changes Everything" that right-wing politicians recognize climate change as being a challenge to the capitalist system. The new agreement will only escalate the intensity of right-wing opposition to any and all steps to tackle climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and all forms of carbon pollution. But it offers renewed hope for a serious international agreement to replace the expired Kyoto Accords.
  7. China appears to be losing its appetite for shark fin, a popular delicacy served at state functions, weddings and business dinners as a sign of wealth and prosperity. A government ban on the controversial delicacy at state banquets and official functions last year is now being adopted by restaurants and hotels. Scientists estimate 100 million sharks were killed for their fins last year earning the trade more than a billion dollars. Al Jazeera's '>Craig Leeson reports from Beijing.   Watch the video:   
  8. One day after the US unveiled their plan to cut carbon emissions with 20 percent by 2030, a top senior adviser to the Chinese government said that the country will set limits to their carbon emissions from 2016. Reuters report that He Jiankun, chairman of China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing earlier today that China will introduce an absolute cap on carbon emissions from 2016. “The government will use two ways to control CO2 emissions in the next five-year plan, by intensity and an absolute cap,” He said. Although later during the day He seemed to downplay his earlier comments, saying that he was only expressing his “personal view” and that they do not represent the views of the Chinese government - potentially after pressure from the latter. “What I said today was my personal view,” He said. “The opinions expressed at the workshop were only meant for academic studies. What I said does not represent the Chinese government or any organization.” If China were to set a cap on their carbon emissions, it would be a major game changer for international climate talks. So far these talks have suffered from a North versus South, rich versus poor, divide where the U.S. and China have been arguing over who should take the first step to limit carbon emissions. “The Chinese announcement marks potentially the most important turning point in the global scene on climate change for a decade,” said Michael Grubb, a professor of international energy and climate policy at University College London, to Reuters. In 2006, China dethroned the U.S. and became the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and their emissions continue to rise steadily. A cap on carbon emissions is therefore very much needed, but the actual impact of such a cap is dependent on which limit and sector its applied to. “Interesting hint from Beijing, although the key point will be where (the cap) is set. If ambitious and announced well in advance of Paris, it could be a game changer,” Connie Hedegaard, Climate Action Commissioner for the European Union, said in a response. Following the announcement from the U.S. yesterday and today’s hint from China, things are clearly starting to move again after the huge failure in Copenhagen back in 2009. The big climate summit in Paris next year will be exciting. But it’s doubtful that China will, and even can, limit their carbon emissions before 2030.
  9. Half the world's pigs - more than 470 million of them - live in China, but even that may not be enough to satisfy the growing Chinese appetite for meat. While meat consumption in the United States has fallen more than 5 percent since peaking in 2007, Chinese meat consumption has leapt 18 percent, from 64 million to 78 million (metric) tons - twice as much as in the United States. Pork is by far China's favorite protein, which helps to explain the late-May announced acquisition of U.S. meat giant Smithfield Foods Inc., the world's leading pork producer, by the Chinese company Shuanghui International, owner of China's largest meat processor. China already buys more than 60 percent of the world's soybean exports to feed to its own livestock and has been a net importer of pork for the last five years. Now the move for Chinese companies is to purchase both foreign agricultural land and food-producing companies outright. People in China ate 53 million tons of pork in 2012 - six times as much as in the United States. On a per person basis, consumption in China first eclipsed that in the United States in 1997, and it has never looked back. Now the average Chinese eats 86 pounds (39 kilograms) of pig meat each year, compared with 59 pounds in the United States. As demand rises, pork is starting to shift from household- or farm-scale production into larger factory-like operations. Overcrowding in these facilities has been blamed for pollution and the spread of disease, as well as for the recent dumping of thousands of dead pigs into a river flowing into Shanghai. Chinese chicken production and processing have also consolidated, as sadly seen in the recent fire at a large poultry plant in northeastern China that reportedly killed at least 120 people. China's chicken intake just recently caught up with that in the United States, with 13 million tons eaten in each country. It took China just 25 years to make the consumption leap achieved by the United States over a half-century. Chicken is America's meat of choice, and U.S. individual diets are four times heavier with poultry than Chinese diets are. However, as fast-food restaurants in China multiply, chicken consumption is rising. If the Chinese ate as much chicken per person as Americans do, their flocks would need to quadruple - as would the grain and soybeans used in the feed rations. As for beef, grazing land limitations and higher costs have made this meat far less popular in China than in the United States, with 5.6 million tons consumed in 2012, or 9 pounds per person. The average American, in stark contrast, ate 82 pounds of beef that year. Total beef consumption in both countries appears to have peaked. The Chinese eat nearly as much mutton and goat (close to 7 pounds per person annually) as they do beef, while those meats barely register in U.S. diets. New steakhouses are trying to lure affluent Chinese toward red meat, but they are unlikely to reach the masses. If the Chinese ate as much beef as Americans do today, they would need 50 million tons of it, 90 percent of current world consumption. With the average income in China poised to reach U.S. levels as early as 2035, heavier beef consumption theoretically could become economically feasible. Ecologically, though, it may never be possible. Grasslands are unable to sustain herds much larger than the existing ones, as evidenced by the vast dust bowl forming in northern China, largely from overgrazing by sheep and goats. Thus, getting more beef would mean intensive use of feedlots. But cattle take more grain and soybean meal per pound than all other livestock and poultry. In recent years China has imported some grain, though imports still make up a small share of its total supply. China's soy production, however, has barely budged since 1995, while soy use (mostly for feed rations) has shot up fivefold. Imports have made up the difference. (See data.) Hogs put on about twice as much weight as cattle per pound of feed, and chickens grow even faster. Smithfield Foods in the United States has become remarkably "efficient" at fattening hogs en masse; such expertise is a big attraction for China. Yet even though the United States has a better reputation on food safety than China, U.S. factory farms have their problems as well in terms of the contamination of meat and the massive quantities of waste generated by large groups of animals. The widespread use of antibiotics in U.S. industrial meat production has been linked to growing bacterial resistance to antibiotic treatment. And one feed additive still used in the United States to help pigs gain lean weight - ractopamine - has been banned in China because of feared negative health effects. According to reporting by Reuters, Smithfield began limiting the use of ractopamine on some, but not all, of its animals last year, with an eye on the Chinese market. Given the existing land degradation and pollution that are making it harder for China to produce more - and safer - food, it is not difficult to see why foreign acquisition of both land and food producers is becoming increasingly attractive. Yet just as the American diet has been shown to be a dangerous export - accompanied by spreading obesity, heart disease, and other so-called diseases of affluence - ramping up American-style factory meat production is not without risk. By Janet Larsen. For more information, see "Meat Consumption in China Now Double That in the United States," by Janet Larsen, and the latest book from Earth Policy Institute, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity, by Lester R. Brown.
  10. China is number one, in greenhouse gas emissions that is. A report from the University of California says that Chinas greenhouse gas emissions have been "underestimated" and that the country probably took the number one position from USA in 2006-2007. According to the research "unchecked future growth will dwarf any emissions cuts made by rich nations under the Kyoto Protocol." Dr Auffhammer, lead researcher, said in an interview with BBC that: "Our figures for emissions growth are truly shocking. But there is no sense pointing a finger at the Chinese. They are trying to pull people out of poverty and they clearly need help. The only solution is for a massive transfer of technology and wealth from the West." And he is of course correct. A large part of the western industries have moved to China and other development and low-cost countries. China, for example, produces the gadgets, clothes and other stuff that we, in the western world, consume. It also doesn't really matter if China is the top carbon polluter in the world. They still have a low per capita levels of pollution compared to USA. USA's per capita levels are around five to six times higher than China. The UN insists "that rich countries with high per capita levels of pollution must cut emissions first, and help poorer countries to invest in clean technology." And just like Dr Auffhammer said, China and the other development countries are just doing it the same way we did when we become developed countries. It is of course sad and extremely bad that China is now polluting the most. But emissions in USA, Europe and elsewhere are still growing. Not a single developed country today is doing enough, so why should the poorer countries be held responsible?