The headline alone would be enough to cause blood vessels to break among most hardcore global-warming advocates. Last year, China surpassed the U.S. in producing carbon dioxide (CO2). When one considers that the Chinese economy is only one- third the size of that of the U.S., it underscores their contribution even more.
Estimates are that by 2020 China will produce two times as much greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as the U.S. The bottom line is any global effort to reduce CO2 emissions requires China’s involvement, but China’s power rests upon the foundation of continued and significant growth.
The world is looking toward the upcoming world Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark as a breakthrough event. This will be the biggest push since the Kyoto meetings in 1997. Of course, Kyoto turned out to be a non-event because the U.S. wasn't aboard and China and India were exempted. Thus, Kyoto and its initiatives were rendered pretty much useless before the first signees emerged.
Denmark is supposed to be different because the Obama administration embraces the concepts that climate change is significantly manmade and that the world is on the verge of a cataclysmic collapse without quick, drastic action.
Cap and trade and the ensuing increase in energy costs if it were enacted might be marketable if it were part of a worldwide effort that could achieve the goals of reducing GHG emissions. But, without China, there can be no sizable reduction in GHG emissions. Thus, economically, developed countries will have a hard time selling the sacrifices without any hopes of achieving the stated goals.
Higher energy prices and tough economic times will make cap and trade a very difficult sale domestically, as well. Globally, the focus can’t continue to be a sacrifice of wealth and lifestyle; not as long as China is unwilling to participate. So, despite all the bluster that will precede the meeting in Denmark, the only viable option will be to pursue technologies that are economically viable; that is, using more natural gas, etc.
This will be seen as a major blow to the climate-change movement. It will make it impossible for the movement to separate its desire to lower GHG emissions from its desire to shut down free markets and what they perceive as greed caused by the unethical pursuit of profits.
Without China, any reforms will be inconsequential and harm competitiveness. And, there’s just not much stomach for that in today's economic and political environments.