The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Who’s feeling the heat?

March 31, 2007

Why the lack of posts? Well, I’ve been under two writing deadlines in recent weeks. For both projects, I’ve been working on pieces about the domestic and international politics of global warming — one for a magazine and one for a textbook.

Here’s some news from that research worth serious discussion:

A report released last week by Beijing authorities indicated that as its economy continues to expand at a red-hot pace, China is highly likely to overtake the United States this year or in 2008 as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

This information, along with data from the International Energy Agency, the Paris-based alliance of oil importing nations, also revealed that China’s greenhouse gas emissions have recently been growing by a total amount much greater than that of all industrialized nations put together.

“The magnitude of what’s happening in China threatens to wipe out what’s happening internationally,” said David Fridley, leader of the China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The story notes that China’s emissions were 42% of the US level in 2001, but had grown to 97% in 2006!

China recognizes the problem:

In an attempt to force local governments to obey energy-efficiency edicts from Beijing, the government recently announced that local officials’ pay and promotion will be judged in part based on their environmental record, not just their economic success. The first evaluation period will be in July.

Compared to the US, China already has higher fuel efficiency standards for their cars — and new research reveals that China and other developing nations have been doing their part to limit global emissions even without formal requirements to do so.

“Since 1990 developing countries have reduced their emissions pathway in such a way that it is almost equivalent to what (rich nations) committed to under the Kyoto Protocol, in millions of tonnes,” he [UNEP head Achim Steiner] said of preliminary data.

In both pieces, I note that we may be experiencing a “tipping point” on the issue of global warming. Dozens of major corporations want the U.S. to act — and not just insurance companies: Boeing, Whirlpool, Duke Energy, PG&E, etc.

Even Exxon Mobil is starting to talk-the-talk. It’s the civilizing force of hypocrisy!

Will the Bush administration catch on before it expires?

Hat tips: Ron Mitchell pointed me to the first China story and my graduate assistant Sean Payne (no relation, but the coauthor on the book chapter) found some of the other stories.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.