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Oh that China

20 Jul 2022 | OP ED Watch

Another odd thing about the climate debate, among many, is that very often the scale of a proposed response seems ludicrously out of proportion to the purported problem. Even the hoo-hah about American climate plans seems excessive since the United States is doing fairly well by world standards when it comes to reducing emissions while other nations are blasting off, especially China and India. As for Canary Media finding a “super-tree” that could “help feed the world and fight climate change” we’ll get to it right after that thing that dissolves in your mouth and you never need a dentist again. But first, a hat tip to Climate Home News, often a target for our jibes and with reason, for a story that starts “When it comes to the world’s two biggest emitters, we are caught between a secretive autocracy and an oversharing corrupted democracy.” Because if you really care about emissions, and with the late Ralph Klein you grasp that “you have to hunt where the ducks are” you can be as concerned as you wish about all sorts of environmental issues but when it comes to GHGs you either get drastic action in the main emitters or forget the whole thing.

On The Atlantic’s home “Planet” Robinson Meyer asked a month ago what would happen if Manchin really did manage to torpedo Biden’s climate plans.

“Over the past few days, I’ve asked this question of energy analysts and climate scholars. Some of them have found it too depressing to contemplate. Others have shrugged. Even setting the legislative uncertainty aside, this year has been one of the most destabilizing moments for energy markets this century…. But we can make some safe bets. If Congress fails to pass climate legislation, the effects won’t be felt immediately outside of a few areas…. But over the coming decade, the world will wind up a hotter, poorer place. Carbon emissions will remain high, and the basic framework of the Paris Agreement on climate change may start to crumble.”

Now this passage is rubbish. No computer model suggests that changing U.S. emissions by, for the sake of argument, an extravagant 20% either way in the next decade will change temperature a jot or tittle. Remember, if all nations hit their Paris targets the net impact by 2100 would be one tenth of a degree eighty years hence. If he doesn’t know it, it’s hard to understand why he’s on that particular beat. But he seems not to. And neither do his editors. Nor apparently do they care, the conclusion coming before the reasoning to save time, you see.

Over at Climate Home News, on this occasion at least, they followed a very different procedure. After noting the Chinese and Indian issue they wrote “The US this week raised hopes of a compromise climate spending bill and quashed it again before you could say ‘Joe Manchin is a bad-faith actor’.” But “At Climate Home, we bypassed that news cycle (come back to us when you’ve achieved something, America!) and took a longer look at the former. Because the fact that so little climate journalism comes out of China at a certain point becomes newsworthy in itself.”

Especially when a whole lot of something else is coming out of China as it builds coal-fired plants at an astounding rate. And while news outlets focus on heat waves in India, it too is relying heavily on coal because it’s got to have power and its massive investment in wind turns out to have been pretty much a waste of money; 10% of capacity, 3% of output.

So never mind the pongamia. Canary may chirp that it’s

“an ordinary-looking tropical tree with agricultural superpowers. It produces beans packed with protein and oil much like soybeans, except it has the potential to produce much more nutrition per acre than soybeans. It’s hardy enough to grow on just about any land, no matter how degraded, without any pesticides or irrigation. It not only removes carbon from the atmosphere, which combats climate change, but it also sucks nitrogen out of the air, so it usually doesn’t need fertilizer that accelerates climate change.”

But we growl that if it were that great, farmers would have learned about it long ago. And when people say we should save the wetlands because climate change, we respond that saving wetlands is good ecological sense but don’t oversell it.

Meanwhile, do think long and hard about Chinese Communism. There’s a real issue.

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