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Climate Change and China: an example of media disunity

By Mel Mac

I surfed the ABC news website this afternoon and clicked onto this headline: “China fights pollution: New environmental police squad to battle heavy smog”.

The article seemed a little threadbare. When this occurs I search further and ideally for an article in the country relevant to the article, I like to get more details this way. I decided to try something different today and scanned the headline blurbs on the first Google page, and I noticed that all of the articles, bar two, started the same: “Officials in Beijing create a new environmental police squad in the latest effort to fight China’s persistent…”

The first one that differed was from The Indian Express, and it began with: ‘Beijing and dozens of cities in China spend many winter days under a thick, gray haze, with air pollution levels that…’

The second one was further down via the Deccan Chronicle and it began with: ‘Beijing will set up environmental police force to crackdown on erring factories and step up its supervision and enforce accountability in 16 districts to tackle the recurring pollution problem, officials said on Saturday’.

There was a bit more to the story than the basic Associated Press (AP) summaries that the media was reporting pretty much everywhere else in the news. In particular there was no mention of several other measures that were also announced at the same meeting, they included: ‘A target of cutting the use of coal by 30 percent in 2017 to shutting down 500 higher-polluting factories and upgrading 2,500 more. And about 300,000 high-pollution vehicles will also be restricted from entering the city starting next month’.

I also found an ABC news analysis that was posted around three hours later than the AP article, with the headline: “China’s air pollution crisis shows no sign of ending as nation fails to lower coal use”. It goes on to say:

“People are frustrated because air quality was improving in 2016 until coal production ramped up in September to service a mini stimulus package for heavy industries. Cheap coal has powered China’s economic miracle and still provides 70 per cent of the country’s energy. The Government is reluctant to wean itself off coal, fearing unemployment and unrest. In a rare display of anger, China’s rising middle class took to the Chinese social media website “wechat”, demanding the Government take action and protect the children of China.”

There is nothing in the analysis above to back this up in the article in the way of links, or footnotes unfortunately. The writer says further that:

“China’s addiction to coal shows no signs of slowing. China produces and consumes more coal that the rest of the world combined. In the winter its citizens use the most. Like many in northern China, Li Yuan said he had no choice but to burn coal to keep warm. He cannot afford electricity or gas — coal is a quarter of the price. “Using coal is not good. It’s dirty. You touch it and your hands get black,” he said.”

What also isn’t included in any of the above articles is that China is also investing 2.5 trillion yuan, the equivalent of $US361 billion in renewable power generation by 2020. Fortune reports:

“The investment will create over 13 million jobs in the sector, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said in a blueprint document that lays out its plan to develop the nation’s energy sector during the five-year 2016 to 2020 period. The announcement comes only days after Beijing, the Chinese capital, and other cities in China’s industrial north-east were again engulfed in hazardous smog, caused largely by coal-fired power generation. The NEA said installed renewable power capacity including wind, hydro, solar and nuclear power will account for about half of new electricity generation by 2020.”

Personally, I was aware of China’s five-year-planning but not of the lofty renewable energy target above until I started to write this. The current Australian government’s energy policies look dismal when compared to this news and it’s not right that the media has missed this, when so many Australians, especially Indigenous Australians care and value nature and worry about the repercussions of our climate changing. China is the world’s biggest investor not just in energy but in renewable energy. It’s citizens need to be able to breathe, just like the developed countries and the rest of the developing countries will follow too, naturally.

We can’t keep ignoring the ginormous elephant that is renewable energy in Australian politics and our economy, this is harming not just investment hopes within our country and overseas investors, but it’s also within our communities. The uncertainty and lack of long-term planning only opens us up to further exploitation by multinational corporations and or foreign countries. China is the world’s biggest producer and investor in solar energy now. Australia still has a chance, together, not on an elitist path, but closer to an egalitarianism one. One that questions authority and those that seek executive powers over us. If journalists can’t or won’t do it, we will just have to. It’s the pioneering Aussie way.

This article was originally published on Political Omniscience.



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  1. Harquebus

    There is no such thing as “renewable energy”.

    “Models often limit their life cycle or EROI analysis to just the solar panels themselves, which represents only a third of the overall energy embodied in solar PV plants. These studies left out dozens of energy inputs, leading to overestimates of energy such as payback time of 1-2 years (Fthenakis), EROI 8.3 (Bankier), and EROI of 5.9 to 11.8 (Raugei et al).”
    “Solar has too many energy costs and dependencies on fossil fuels throughout the life cycle to produce much energy. It’s more of a fossil-fuel extender because PV can’t replicate itself, let alone provide energy beyond that to human society.”

    Tilting at Windmills, Spain’s disastrous attempt to replace fossil fuels with Solar PV, Part 1

    “Windmills are too dependent on oil, from mining and fabrication to delivery and maintenance and fail the test of “can they reproduce themselves with wind power?””
    “Not only would windmills have to generate enough power to reproduce themselves, but they have to make enough power to run civilization.”
    “If the energy costs of intermittency, back-up conventional plant, and grid connection were added to the “cost” of windfarms, the EROEI would be far lower than current EROEI studies show.”

    “Manufacturing wind turbines is a resource-intensive process. A typical wind turbine contains more than 8,000 different components, many of which are made from steel, cast iron, and concrete.
    One such component are magnets made from neodymium and dysprosium, rare earth minerals mined almost exclusively in China, which controls 95 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth minerals.”
    “There’s not one step of the rare earth mining process that is not disastrous for the environment.”

    Big Wind’s Dirty Little Secret: Toxic Lakes and Radioactive Waste

    “This article seeks to explain why China’s environmental crisis is so horrific”
    “Reckless dumping of industrial waste is everywhere in China. But what caught the attention of The Washington Post was that the Luoyang Zhonggui High-Technology Company was a “green energy” company producing polysilicon destined for solar energy panels sold around the world.”
    “Polysilicon production produces about four tons of silicon tetrachloride liquid waste for every ton of polysilicon produced.”
    “China’s rise has come at a horrific social and environmental cost.”
    “for all the waste and pollution, most Chinese have gotten surprisingly little out of it all.”
    “most of the world’s light-industrial goods are made in China and they are, for the most part, deliberately designed to be unrepairable and mostly unrecyclable.”
    “High-speed trains are hugely expensive to build and operate and consume more than twice as much electricity to run as regular trains”

    “The simple truth is that everything we do is only made possible by fossil energy. Our food, transportation, electricity, buildings, cultural methods of inhabiting our world, clothing, medicine, everything all hinges on the energy being present to create them in the first place.”

  2. Kaye Lee

    Harquebus you are like a broken record. We need to improve. Full stop. Your ridiculous endless naysaying with never a hint of a suggestion is absolutely pointless. What are you trying to achieve? Do you want people to give up? Do you want everyone to think renewables are worse than cheap coal? I am sick to death of your endless links. If you have a suggestion make it. if you don’t, then there is no need to endlessly repeat the same shit over and over and over and over again. You do not understand the damage you are doing.

  3. Roswell

    Harquebus, you are showing complete disrespect to the author, which you probably think you’re entitled to do. It is not your given right, no matter how important you think your message is.

  4. Marcus

    LOL, Harquebus. Energy skeptic. Sounds like another one of those websites that is 100% funded by the fossil fuel industry. Not since the tobacco industry have I seen an industry so hell bent on propagating lies & propaganda to prop up their failing enterprise.

  5. Phil

    Mel Mac’s article in essence calls out the failure of Australian government to press forward on expanding renewable energy systems. And Mel is correct in my view. The Australian government, and for that matter our state governments are severely compromised by their mind numbing allegiances to the mining sector and its corrupting lobby. It seems so ironic that neoliberal governments wedded to the capitalist system would pass up the opportunity to give their buddies in the corporate world every opportunity to make big bucks from an emerging industry like renewable energy. Something is very wrong with Australian politics.

    As for Harquebus’s comments – i gave up reading them some time back and I think Kaye Lee has nailed the reasons in her comment.

    It’s surely time that comment writers stopped responding and cast off from this obfuscating time waster Harquebus?

  6. Roswell

    Harquebus, I have deleted your last comment. While I’m moderating I am not going to tolerate that rubbish. Anymore of it and I will place you in moderation.

  7. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    Harq – “there is no such thing as renewable energy”. I know that you believe that modern solar and wind (and no doubt tidal too) cost more to set up than they produce from an energy perspective, but saying so such thing as renewable energy just makes you look foolish. Where I come from we’ve been happily using renewable energy for a very long time – hydro electricity; look it up. Once you’ve built the plants and turbines, they generate shitloads of ‘leccy over a considerable period. And windmills have been around for a long, long time, and indeed watermills too. Totally renewable. Or how about food. That’s a renewable energy source. You eat a tomato, chuck the seeds in the ground, and lo and behold, a few months later new tomatoes appear, courtesy of the sun! Amazing. Indeed fossil fuels are actually a renewable source too – unfortunately we just don’t have the billions of years to recreate them. So lets put our thinking hats on, and see how we can improve the efficiency of the manufacture of these new forms of energy capture, perhaps by using renewable energy to help create the materials that need to be used?

    Otherwise you are beginning to act like the Eeyore of AIMN. Either that or Marvin the Paranoid Android. Yes, we know the planet is going down the shitter, but lets at least see what we might do to prevent it – even if it is only to annoy the shit out of the climate denialists.

  8. Harquebus

    It was a sincere comment with no abuse nor profanity, was certainly not rubbish and I stand by it. I ask you kindly, will you please put it back up.

  9. Roswell

    I won’t be. It is hard enough for people to have their work published anywhere. Humiliating them will only be a deterrent.

  10. Harquebus

    I doubt your reasoning and deny the accusation but, as you wish.
    Avagoodwun ‘n’ catchyalayda

  11. Marcus Hicks

    Sincerity & pro-fossil fuel comments are a contradiction in my books.

  12. guest

    Harquebus’s comments are less offensive to me than those of the ABC analysis which tells us that “The (Chinese) Government is reluctant to wean itself off coal…” and “China’s addiction to coal shows no sign of slowing.”

    Harquebus has at least given sources for his comments. We might not like what he says, but it is clear that human activity, even with all the best intentions, is the source of much grief in the world.

    Whereas the ABC comment seems more like propaganda in support of the Coalition’s attitude to coal and renewables. And adding to that propaganda is the ignorance of what is happening in China and its coal consumption and investment in renewables. In the same way the Coalition seems to be ignorant of India’s attitude to coal and renewable as well.

    The debate about climate change and cooking the planet is deliberately smudged here in Oz. So that even in talking about the cheapness of coal, Graham Lloyd in the Australian is talking about even cheaper methods of burning biomass in order to generate energy through the burning of forestry detritus or straw or sugar cane, or the use of gases from animal excreta, etc and yet one of the criticisms of renewables is the failure, apparently, to achieve base load. Good luck with pig poo!

    But coal is king, apparently. We can expect to be burning it for decades, no worries.

    Meanwhile our technology relies heavily on particular minerals, or rare earths, as Harquebus points out. We even need them in cell-phones. So we have miners, even children, scratching in the dirt for rare earths so we can write up on Facebook. Then, when we throw the phones away, millions of them, there are people who sit about pulling them apart for the rare earths, gold or whatever.

    And we see children clambering over mountains of rubbish to collect plastic bags for recycling before they are buried or end up in the sea to kill birds or fish. Even in Oz there are bags in the water – like plastic soup.

    Probably half, if not more, of Oz sees itself as conservative. That is, it resists change, and wants change to happen slowly, if at all. With that mindset so prevalent, if things go belly up, the shock is going to be traumatic and devastating – unless…

  13. Rossleigh

    Harquebus, The Institute for Energy Research was set up by Robert J.Bradley Jnr. He spent sixteen years at Enron and wrote speeches for Ken Lay. Hardly, an authoritive source.
    But I forget. Anything you find on the internet that agrees with your position is an authoritive source…

  14. Brad

    harquebus reminds me of the character in the fight scene from The Holy Grail, who having had his arms chopped off yells, ‘come back and fight like a man’.
    Some people just don’t know when they’ve lost an argument.

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