Kyoko Altman at PostGlobal

Kyoko Altman

Hong Kong, China

Kyoko Altman has worked as a correspondent and anchor for CNN and CNBC, and as a news-magazine reporter for Japan's top-ranked news program 'News Station' on TV Asahi. She has covered more than twenty countries. Close.

Kyoko Altman

Hong Kong, China

Kyoko Altman has worked as a correspondent and anchor for CNN and CNBC, and as a news-magazine reporter for Japan's top-ranked news program 'News Station' on TV Asahi. more »

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China – World's Next Eco-Villain

America is the favorite target now in the debate about global warming. But with China set to overtake the U.S. as the world’s biggest carbon emitter as early as this year, Beijing is fast emerging as the no. 1 eco-villain. Global warming seems likely to join trade and human rights as a preferred cudgel for condemning China as it emerges as a global power.

The UN Security Council debate on climate change this week highlighted deep disagreements between industrialized countries and the developing world. Led by China, an alliance of developing nations protested against the Security Council’s method of tackling the environmental threat.

China argues that rich nations, which have pumped out the majority of existing carbon dioxide, should cut their own emissions rather than push for caps restricting other countries’ growth. China has contributed less than 8% of total carbon dioxide emissions since 1850, while the US is responsible for 29%. The average American still consumes more energy and is responsible for the release of 10 times as much carbon dioxide as the average Chinese.

The U.S. says it will not commit to a curb in emissions unless developing countries like China and India also agree to a reduction. China uses more coal than the U.S. and continues to open a new coal-fired power plant every week. The increase in global warming gases from China’s coal use is likely to exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years.

But for developing countries, fighting with the developed world over global warming is self-defeating. Scientists say the people most at risk from climate change tend to be the poorest. China’s coal-burning plants are choking its people, causing respiratory damage and heart disease. And water shortages due to climate change are increasingly stirring social unrest. Like other developing countries, China is less equipped – technologically and financially – than the U.S. or Europe to deal with the consequences of climate change.

Instead of pointing fingers, China and the developing world should join the international momentum led by Europe to address the issue and try to get as much help as possible. That in turn would put more pressure on America to cooperate. With mounting pressure from within the U.S. – from mayors, governors, members of Congress and even the Supreme Court – to tackle the issue, this may be an opportune moment.

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