Recently a number of neo-con and far right op-ed writers, especially in the Washington Post here in Washington, have questioned whether the U.S. should take any action against climate change since the now largest polluter China has not done so. It is true that China has refused to sign a multilateral treaty, as we have done, or to commit long-term to specific cuts on greenhouse gasses.
America, however, has acted unilaterally to deal with this critical issue. Obama included in his earlier stimulus package money for clean energy technology and acted to increase auto efficiency mileage standards, which will cut down on pollutants. The administration has also moved to cut greenhouse gases and other pollutants from smoke stack (single source) entitles like power plants via EPA regulations. Given the hostility of House (and Senate) GOP members to even acknowledge this reality and to oppose any measures that will both reduce such gasses as CO2 and also air pollutants that cause death and sickness to children and those with respiratory diseases, such new regulations are still in the works and some are already in place – they point in a direction of less green house gasses in the coming decades.
There is little chance of getting a strong treaty to deal with climate change in this session of Congress, and likely in the next. Frankly, working on bilateral agreements in informal understandings may be the only and now the best way to advance this issue not only on a national but also a international basis.
Just a few weeks ago, news articles reported that China is indeed taking measures to address climate change and air pollution and those changes have come about due to China’s own recognition of the horrific impact on its population from the high level of pollution that abounds in China. This topic was taken up at the recent bilateral meeting. The United States and China, the world’s two top emitters of greenhouse gases, agreed to five initiatives in Washington to cut carbon output from the largest sources, including heavy duty vehicles, manufacturing and coal-fired plants, according to the Department of State.
This is not entirely surprising since China’s leaders have been worried about the health impacts of their pollution – go to Beijing and you will fast discover this – and have long cooperated with the State of California, for example, which has taken the lead in energy efficiency in the good old U.S.A. Another example of this action includes the recent news that eight more cities in China, the world’s biggest auto market, are likely to announce policies restricting new vehicle purchases according to an official at the automakers association. Already China has tried to control air pollution but it has a long way to go. One action they may take as the world’s biggest auto market, are possibly to announce policies restricting new vehicle purchases. But the government has made similar promises over the last decade. Enforcement has often been lacking, particularly at the local level. Chinese cities are the most polluted in the world, and smog clouds over eastern China, are visible from orbit. But citizens are now up in arms more than ever.
So perhaps self-interest and the hope that cooperation with the U.S. might help to solve both the national and the global problem will be the force behind at least some kind of effort to save our planet from a threat to its true “security.”
On both sides this shows a measure of pragmatic response to real recognized problems, and on our part the realization that we will not get any cooperation on treaties from the Congress due to Republican acts of continue legislative sabotage. We may see this kind of approach on other issues like arms control, etc. if more normal multilateral instruments of cooperation are blocked.