Xi'an, China—In the United States, climate-policy advocates often hold up China as a boogeyman of sorts. Last fall, Jeffrey Immelt and John Doerr penned a Washington Post op-ed lamenting the fact that the United States is "clearly not in the lead today" on clean energy. "That position is held by China." Tom Friedman has gone even further, making analogies to America's space race with the USSR.
Kevin Drum asks why China's visitors are invariably blown away by the changes taking place in the country: "China is big on a macro scale. It's big on a statistical scale. It's growing fast. But on a ground level scale? It's just a place. It's no bigger or denser or busier than lots of other places. So why is everyone always so awe-stricken about it?" Having been in China for a few days, I'd say the size of the place is less impressive than the sheer rate of change.
Shanghai, China—This week, I'm traveling around China trying to get a better sense for the country's energy and environmental policies (the trip is being sponsored by the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation). On a very broad level, there are two big, contradictory facts about the country to consider. One is that China is working far more frantically than we are to rein in its greenhouse-gas pollution and promote cleaner energy sources.
In the past week, there's been a long back-and-forth about how big, exactly, the Gulf oil spill is and how much crude is leaking out of BP's well. First the oil company said 5,000 barrels per day were gushing out. Then that was shown to be false. Now some experts estimate it might be closer to 95,000 barrels per day, and various members of Congress have been accusing BP of a "cover-up" and demanding a precise barrel count. Is any of this even important, though?
Now that financial reform has passed through the Senate, is energy next? As always, that's… unclear. A big problem right now is that no one actually seems to be at the forefront of shepherding the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act through the chamber.
We've had to wait all week, but Rand Paul has finally decided to bless us with his thoughts on the oil spill in the Gulf: STEPHANOPOULOS: But you don’t want to get rid of the EPA? PAUL: No, the thing is is that drilling right now and the problem we’re having now is in international waters and I think there needs to be regulation of that and always has been regulation. What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, you know, “I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.” I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.
The Peterson Institute for International Economics has just put out a great assessment of the Senate climate bill, the American Power Act. Dave Roberts has a post over at Grist with lots of colorful graphs pulled from it, but I thought this drab little chart was maybe the most helpful of the bunch.
A hotter world will mean more people at risk of malaria, right? That's certainly the impression the U.N. gave in its 2007-2008 Human Development Report, which noted that increases in rainfall, temperature, and humidity will help malaria-carrying mosquitoes expand their geographic range. That report estimated that as many as 400 million people could be at risk—and this is a disease that already kills one million people per year. But the science on this subject has never been so clear cut.
Do we really need more sweeping scientific reports about global warming? At this point we've been deluged with studies and assessments and summaries and reviews, and anyone who's still deep in denial about the problem probably isn't going to be convinced by yet another fat volume of graphs and citations.
Just how crucial are those oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico? Earlier today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was arguing that they're indispensable. While testifying before the Senate energy committee about the BP spill, he spent plenty of time copping to various regulatory missteps at his agency and promised that "heads will roll." But he also made a case for continued offshore drilling: "The reality is that we'll be depending on oil and gas in the transition to a new energy future.