Let the Bali Spin Begin

by William Yeatman on November 8, 2007

A few remarkable pieces ran today in the “climate change” context.

First, China Daily, which is a decent barometer of the state’s thinking, ran a piece with the amusing headline “UN climate change chief impressed by China,” which also was indicative of the piece’s message: this is as good as it gets.


It opens by noting that “China is taking all the necessary steps to tackle the adverse impacts of climate change, chairman of the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Rajendra Pachauri has said.”  Presumably this means openly rejecting Kyoto-style caps on emissions, and building a coal-fired power plant every three days as China reportedly is doing, in which case the U.S. certainly has some catching up to do on at least one count to match Chinese performance which also is increasingly lauded by the Europeans (see below).


It turns out, however, that Pachauri had less obvious steps in mind.  “Pachauri said he was impressed by what Chinese scientists and meteorologists had done to fight climate change.” (emphasis added; and in case you are not yourself impressed by this assessment, China Daily follows this with a reminder that Pachauri leads a group that shared the Nobel with Al Gore).


So, China’s impressive contribution – to fighting climate change, mind you – is proffered by its scientists and meteorologists.  Some breakthrough technology, you might ask?  Well, sort of.  It seems that China now has a weather channel, “and it reaches everyone”.  OK, that might exaggerate things by a few hundred million in a country lacking rural electrification necessary for large swaths of its peasantry to plug in their sets.


Still, were that not enough to fight climate change, China has set up 2,400 observation posts (the U.S. may or may not be a laggard, with precisely half that amount, 1221 surface temperature measuring stations, if also having considerably less area to cover).  Impressed with their climate-change fighting capabilities yet?  There’s more.


Finally, it seems that Chinese scientists were very cooperative with the IPCC, “with its scientists showing a very positive attitude toward working with international researchers to fight climate change”.

You really gotta love state-run media.  I may be mistaken, but there has indeed been a detectable cooling just in the past few days.


This heroic Chinese effort becomes relevant due to a claim, made by a European climate delegate published in a Forbes story, “US, not China, main obstacle in climate change talks – EU delegation”, who assures us that the Chinese quietly inform her how “China is also likely to make other commitments when the [post-2012 Kyoto] talks begin next month”.  Tough to tell which messenger to believe here, really.


This piece reflects the EU’s rather transparent campaign, in the run-up to December’s Kyoto talks in Bali, to explain away its unilateral if fracturing insistence that post-2012 Kyoto look like the 2008-2012 version, with an ever-tightening if selective absolute emissions cap, which is still rejected by the U.S. and 155 other countries.  In truth, the U.S. has joined with Kyoto parties Japan and now Canada to bring in Kyoto-rejecting Australia and Kyoto free-riders India, China, and South Korea and develop (what the administration refuses to call) an alternative path, of technology development and transfer allowing participants to choose their own metric.


Europe demands that others stay clear of that approach, thereby somehow positioning the U.S. as the obstacle to progress.  This spin will be on full display beginning on December 3-14, at which point we hopefully will see how it withstands pushback and debate.


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