A Money-Driven Phenomenon

by Audrey Houle on September 21, 2017 - 9:22pm

Catherine Martin, Audrey Gauthier, Isabela Gorea and Audrey Houle


It has been noticed that governments have had tendencies to deny accusations of hiding information, but slowly, as some of these buried facts come to surface, they manage to change world perspectives. Actually, many journalists and researchers have tried to prove their point, and censure is becoming easy to bypass; information is easily leaked. One of these well-known disguised truths is climate change. We have proof of weather changes, yet neglecting the principle of humans being a massive cause of these changes is not helping the cause. Huge industries or producers are good at ignoring this phenomenon, thus their only motive is feeding the economy and their wealth. In fact, many countries take the example of China to justify their lack of action. This text will explain a great example of the biggest excuse of the century, the China Syndrome.

Governments often refuse to act against global warming because they think their actions will be useless if China, one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gas, doesn’t participate in this fight. This is what we call the China syndrome. The concept of China syndrome comes from the Yellow Peril, which is how was called the racism towards Chinese people because of how Americans felt threatened by these people in the 19th century. Now, the threat of China on the environment is too important that governments feel that nothing could stop global warming if China continues to pollute. It is true that without China’s participation our actions will have little effects on global warming. However, it doesn’t mean governments can use this as an excuse to not take action.

China is one of the biggest polluters in our modern world. According to recent data provided by the Global Carbon Project, it is the actually the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, being responsible of the emission of about 10,357 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. It is followed closely by the United States, which emits about 5,414 million metric tons of CO2, and then by India, producer of 2,274 million metric tons per year as well. The annual average emission per capita in China is about 7.7 tons of CO2 – and this number doesn't even take in consideration the emissions coming from land-use, land-use change and forestry. This comes along with a horrific load of dramatic consequences for the Chinese population: decrease in the life expectancy, 350 000 to 500 000 deaths caused by air pollution each air, cancers, cardiovascular diseases and cardiorespiratory illness and so on. We've all heard about the toxic fog people have to live in in cities like Beijing - the air quality is up to forty times the World Health Organization's limits on particulate matter, ozone, sulphur dioxide, mercury and other contaminants. The massive pollution asphyxiating the country also destroys its vital ecosystems, the air pollutants impeding the vegetation's ability to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere and contaminating the soil and the water.

It is true that, due to its industrial development, China's emissions have increased exponentially since the 1980s. Still, an encouraging slowdown in Chinese emissions growth has been observed in the past few years, mostly because coal consumption has been declining at around 1% per year since 2013 – whereas it was increasing at the rate of 1% at the beginning of the millennium. During the 2015 Paris climate negotiations, China made many promises concerning the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

Though China Syndrome is used as an excuse for many countries to not join the fight for climate change, this translates, in some cases, the lack of motivation of some politicians, or in other cases, affinities with the fossil fuel industry. However, we have collectively wrecked the planet's balance and we all have a responsibility in this, through the interconnectedness of our world. For instance, China has become the heart of the economy relative to the production of goods, and that's partly why it emits so much greenhouse gases. However, it's mostly North America and Europe who consume these goods, so the consumers also have a responsibility in this situation, not only China. Furthermore, China has developed measures to respect the promises it made at the Paris Agreement of 2015. For example, it recently stopped the construction of 103 new coal-fired plants and will put more than $360 billion dollars into renewable power generation by 2020. Since it lowered its coal production and is investing in renewables, based on Climate Action Tracker’s predictions, the country has peaked its CO2 emissions (though it will keep producing other greenhouse gases so the total of the latter will still increase for a few years). The biggest polluter is slowly turning towards renewable energy and green solutions. Thus, other countries shouldn’t be using the China syndrome as an excuse anymore. Everyone has their part to play.














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