Over at Kids Prefer Cheese, Angus posts an interesting chart that shows a dramatic increase in Chinese coal consumption since 2000:
Angus then proceeds to suggest – accurately – that this is big environmental problem that can’t be solved by one of the most commonly discussed panaceas for climate change . As he argues, “One thing is for sure: a rich world carbon tax is not going to do much, if
anything at all, for the environment. Unlike acid rain, carbon dioxide emission is a global externality, not a local one.”
Now to be fair to Angus, this is a post focused on climate change. But I’d like to compliment his post by highlighting that this chart also has a good news side (that I’m sure he understands but just isn’t focusing on here). Namely, all that coal consumption is happening for a reason: Chinese economic activity has shot up and thus China needs a heck of a lot more energy to power that expansion. This is, of course, great news for the people of China and the world. Sure, it has the downside of creating more environmental problems for all of us. But it is a sign of a massive increase in the well-being of hundreds of millions of people. So two cheers for China’s coal use.
Now, like Angus, I hope that we can figure out a way to help power all of that economic activity with cleaner sources of energy (without squelching growth, ours or theirs).