The climate for fighting climate change just got noticeably more cordial. Historically, the two biggest stumbling blocks to reducing carbon emissions have been China, which is the world’s largest source (accounting for 29% of the global total annually), and the US (at 15%).
Even though China is the largest source of carbon today, that statistic is slightly misleading as China has four times the number of people, so it pollutes less per person than the US. In addition, until around ten years ago, the US held the record as the largest source of carbon. If you count all carbon emissions since 1751 (and they are cumulative), then the US has emitted 2.5 times the amount of carbon as China.
However you figure it, the US and China have been the major stumbling blocks to reducing carbon emissions.
But that is now old news. In a dramatic change, the US and Chinese presidents shook hands on Tuesday over a deal that will see China cap its carbon emissions and the US cut its emissions by at least 26%.
China will increase non-polluting energy sources so that their share is greater than the energy China produces from coal. In fact, China will build alternative energy capacity that will be greater than the total electricity generation capacity of the US.
It is expected that this breakthrough will put strong pressure on other countries (including India and Brazil) to agree to reduce carbon emissions.
Predictably, the Republicans attacked the agreement, even though 58% of US voters say that climate change is a serious problem. The GOP has pledged to make it a priority to roll back Obama’s measures on the environment. But what did we expect from the Party of No? After all, the new Republican majority leader of the Senate is from Kentucky, one of the major producers of coal.
Republicans have long used China as an excuse to do nothing about climate change in the US. Watch them in their own words:
In fact, on Monday evening (the evening before the announced agreement) Charles Krauthammer appeared on Fox News and said that Obama should push for a climate agreement with China, saying “if we get one with China we have something real.” Just last week, Krauthammer said on Fox News “if he gets an agreement with China, which he won’t, but that’s the one area it would be historic.”
Now that China is onboard, Fox News has changed their tune and is now calling the agreement with China a “War on Coal”. It never ends.