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other words, is crucial in holding the line against the earth’s next great climate reset. But implementing this great policy

leap forward will require overcoming significant barriers. First, frequent gaffes on data collection are already weigh- ing heavily on computer models used to predict the rate and impact of climate change. Te authors of a study in the journal Nature Climate Change argue that Chinese under-reporting of annual carbon emissions data may be as much as the total yearly output of Japan, the world’s fifth-largest emissions contribu- tor. Statistical opacity also threatens to render carbon-trading bourses in China mere money-transfer schemes. An even greater barrier to effective

cles would play a major role in stabilizing temperature rises. And alternative energy technologies would need to dominate on a scale that dwarfs current imaginings.

Blind spots

If China does not contribute to a robust global effort at remediation, simulations show global temperatures more than doubling before the end of the century to breach the 2 C red line. China, in

remediation efforts involves a counter- productive worldview that imperils seri- ous climate change initiatives, even on an international level. “I have spent a fair amount of time trying to convince my Chinese friends that climate change is a real threat instead of another conspiracy by the rich countries to stop the eco- nomic growth of the developing coun- tries,” writes Wen Jiajun. Modernizing China still retains a sense of being his-

tory’s greatest victim. Finally, it is difficult to tell which of

China’s environmental targets are action- able policies and which merely stem from point-scoring in the back rooms of inter- national climate change conferences. For instance, the country’s climate change law may not be ratified for another three years, while a nationwide trading plat- form will likely not be implemented until the latter half of the decade. Analysts see the proffered carbon tax as being so low as to be inconsequential. Unfortunately, China does not have

the luxury of “feeling the stones” toward mitigating climate change. Now, with the world fast approaching the 2 C red line, it’s time for the country to take a real leadership role and transform its society and economy to ensure its survival. Counter-intuitively, the most effec-

tive way to spur the other great polluters of the world into action is through China creating a “Sputnik moment” by launch- ing its own dramatic climate stabilization actions. Ultimately, either we all take the initiative to retrofit modern society for sustainability, or the earth will do it for us.

China Economic Review • November 2012



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