Fighting extreme poverty is increasing global warming

Climate Change

Saw this bit of information on Salon:

Link: How the World Works –

The good news: The World Bank reports that the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty fell from 29 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 2004.

The bad news: The numbers are almost entirely due to China and India’s economic growth — especially China’s. The World Bank says that between 1981 and 2004, the number of people living in extreme poverty in China declined by 500 million. But in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, while the proportion living in extreme poverty dropped slightly, rapid population growth ensured an absolute increase in the number of extreme poor.

The really bad news: This year or next, says the International Energy Agency, China — which is reportedly building a new coal-fired power plant every four days — will pass the U.S. as the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases.

The author goes on to connect the dots – that as India and China are struggling to pull large portions of their population out of poverty, the attendant rise in energy usage is increasing the rate of global warming…

The US is still way ahead in the total carbon based emissions per citizen, but the net result of these two countries and their larger populations is becoming a significant worry. Al Gore was right to call for clean-coal burning technology back in 2000. I’ve not heard much about that though since the election.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Nicholas:
    This article from the Christian Science Monitor suggests that China may be doing a better job of reducing greenhouse gases than the United States. Here is the link:
    Some hghlights:
    “But new evidence suggests that, despite a fast-growing economy that could make it the world’s largest carbon-dioxide emitter as early as this year, China may be getting on board. In a bid to cut energy costs, boost energy security, and reduce air pollution, it could be essentially creating the largest greenhouse-gas-reduction plan on the planet.
    . . .
    “Make no mistake, China’s greenhouse-gas emissions are projected to increase rapidly through 2020. With its roaring economy and demand for coal-fired power, China will surpass the US as the largest producer of greenhouse gases sooner than expected, perhaps this year instead of in 2010, International Energy Agency officials said this week.
    Yet China’s rate of growth in emissions could slow thanks to sweeping reforms, started in 2001, to slash energy use at cement, steel, and paper factories, and for automobiles, Mr. Helme’s group reported this week. Those reforms are on track to cut 168 million tons of greenhouse gases by 2010, says the CCAP.
    That’s a pittance compared with the nearly 6 billion tons of carbon-dioxide China emits annually. But that amount nearly matches the Bush administration’s goal of reducing US emissions, voluntarily, by 183 million tons a year by 2010, says the CCAP report.”

  2. I’ll be glad to concede the point and the good news.
    The issue though is a matter of degree. I think the article I referenced mention that the average output of an Indian or Chinese national is on the order of 3 tons of C02 per year. The average for an east coast American is something like 6 or 7x greater at 20 tons/year.
    But there are lot more Chinese and Indian consumers than there are folks here in the US. So while individually they’re doing better, in aggregate, they’re going to have a bigger effect than we are.
    The problem is that we can’t tell them not to advance – they have every right to try to better themselves and their lives.

  3. Nicholas:
    I agree with you on both fronts: (1) that the large number of Chinese and Indians could swamp any efficiency gains, and (2) that the U.S. is hardly in a position to tell the Chinese or Indians that they can’t develop.
    My concern is that the argument that India and China aren’t committed to doing anything is a major point made by those who oppose Kyto or any serious effort for the U.S to control greenhouse gases. This article makes the point that the Chinese may actually be doing a better job of greenhouse gas containment (albeit on a per capita basis) than we are.

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