However, while China has increasingly focused on carbon mitigation efforts over the last decade, the country is just beginning to seriously tackle the equally difficult question of adapting to the effects of climate change. China’scomplex geography and large landmass spanning various types of climate zones have always made it vulnerable to extreme weather events like droughts and floods. Due to the worsening factor of climate change, Beijing will need to step up its game to future-proof the country. As the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports emphasize, both mitigation and adaptation work is key to reducing vulnerability to climate change — and China still has a long road ahead of it.
“The climate story is a China story”
As Jeremy Wallace, a professor at Cornell University focusing on the effects of Chinese politics on climate and cities, told me, “The climate story is a China story.” China’s rapid industrialization and recent rise to becoming the second largest global economy was mostly fueled by coal. As a result, China was responsible for 27 percent of global greenhouse emissions by 2019, the most in the world and greater than every country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and European Union combined. That carbon-heavy energy load helped drive prosperity and historic poverty reduction, but there was a steep environmental cost for China, too, including major air and water pollution, desertification, ecological devastation, and the rise of extreme weather events.
Mounting concern and political pressure, mostly internal and to a lesser extent international, forced Beijing to act. Over the last two decades,the Chinese government passed domestic climate legislation, and made commitments to the international community, most notably when it signed the 2015 Paris agreement.
Scott Moore, director of China programs and strategic initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, told me that the Chinese government acknowledged opportunity and risk, with the latter especially playing a big role in climate policymaking. “Of the world’s large economies, China is probably the single most exposed to climate risk,” he said.
There’s self-interest, too. The Chinese governmentalso saw a huge opportunity in investing in the global clean energy market, which today is worth trillions of dollars. “China is the world’s largest investor, developer, deployer, and manufacturer of clean energy across the board,” said Michael Davidson, professor of global policy and engineering at the University of California San Diego. China invested $380 billion in renewable energy in 2021 alone, accounting for almost half of new renewable energy capacity worldwide. Because of entrepreneurship and large government subsidies, the country has built out an enormous domestic network of wind and solar plants, and become the global leader on electric vehicles.
These changes are reflected in the very air that people living in China breathe, with the air quality in cities like Beijing markedly improving over the past decade. “It’s hard to say that they’re lagging” on tackling climate change, Davidson told me, and indeed, a recent report by Carbon Brief found China’s carbon emissions have seen their longest decline in a decade.
On the adaptation side, despite the severity of the current floods, far fewer people are dying today from floods in China than they used to. Floods are a historic problem in China, but because the Chinese government invested in flood control over the past two decades, the risk of death isn’t as high as it used to be, Moore told me, when the worst floods could kill people in the millions. The flood adaptation measures included the construction of large dams and reservoirs, but also the improvement of early warning systems and emergency management strategies such as evacuation.
The dam projects came with sizable environmental and human costs, ironically, including the destruction of wetlands that may have otherwise absorbed floodwater. Floods in recent years have also called the effectiveness of megaprojects like the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric project ever created, into question. The central government recently acknowledged the unintended side effects in its climate adaptation strategy, finally passing a wetlands protection law last year to not only conserve but restore wetlands.Chinais also increasingly embracing nature-based solutions like “sponge cities,” retrofitting and designing cities to better absorb floodwaters, which could help reduce the severity of future floods.
Beyond its carbon mitigation efforts, the Chinese government also released an updated climate adaptation plan in June to better prepare the country by 2035. Its aims include improving early warning systems for extreme weather, shoring up food security, and boosting conservation efforts both inland and along the coast. Notably, the plan is a follow-up to a 2013 adaptation plan that heralded China’s “war on pollution” and led to China decreasing as much air pollution in seven years as the US did in three decades. This new plan will hopefully be similarly ambitious, because it aims to have a nationwide climate impact and risk assessment system by 2035. This would ensure major infrastructure projects consider potential environmental consequences, like the aforementioned dams used to control flooding and generate hydropower.
China has a plan to adapt, but is it enough?
Still, for whatever progress China has made toward mitigating climate change, its adaptation strategies may not be enough to meet the current moment. The consequences of climate change are coming faster than most governments, policymakers, and even scientists anticipated. “The reality we’re facing now is that the carbon emissions that are already in the atmosphere are baked in for a period of time,” said Jonas Nahm, professor of energy, resources, and environment at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “Things are going to get worse before they get better, even if we do everything to meet the Paris agreement models.”
The realities of the baked-in effects of climate change were in full view in Sichuan, the southwestern province at the center of this summer’s heat wave and drought. Hydropower systems there faced a serious electricity shortfall due to reservoirs and rivers drying up. “For all of this sort of anticipation, and planning, China’s also scrambling to try to figure out how to respond to this in the same way that the Europeans are with all these rivers running dry,” Nahm told me.
“You’ve seen over the last several years that some of the existing infrastructure just isn’t prepared,” said Nahm. A key example of this is the South-North Water Transfer Project, the largest water diversion project in history, and perhaps even the most expensive infrastructure ever built, period. Built over the past two decades,the project aimed to bring water from water-abundant southern China to water-scarce northern China, which, despite containing around half the country’s population, only has about 20 percent of the country’s total water supply.
China’s infrastructure issues go beyond just its water projects, however. Wallace, the Cornell professor, said China may also need to fundamentally rethink how it builds urban areas. As in the US, Chinese cities have a tendency toward sprawl that is more polluting and carbon-intensive. “Once you build the city,” Wallace said, “it’s really hard to go back, right?” There is some research to suggest that sprawling cities have to deal with more extreme heat events than do more compactly designed cities.
In the meantime, UC San Diego’s Davidson told me, there are still things China could do to protect provinces like Sichuan from extreme weather in the future. For one, the central government could ensure that it has a more unified power system that can better respond to energy shocks, such as a spike in demand for air conditioning when it’s boiling hot.
Another is better urban design: More efficient air conditioning, better insulation, planning, and cooling centers can help Chinese cities better cope when there’s a heat wave. China could also improve monitoring systems for extreme weather, support the agriculture sector, reevaluate current infrastructure projects, and bolster reforestation and flood control efforts to not only control flooding but also prepare for future drought scenarios.
With the advent of its new 2035 climate adaptation plan, which will implement a road map to bolster China’s risk assessment and its “climate-sensitive sectors,” it appears the Chinese government is looking to implement many of these policies. But this will require upending what Nahm described to me as the economic and engineering approach that China has largely taken to its infrastructure up to this point, green or otherwise. Rather than building dams or water diversion systems, China will have to double down on nature-based solutions.
At an environmental conference in Beijing, Ge Le, director of the climate change and energy program at the Nature Conservancy in China, pointed to recent reforestation efforts in China and trying to integrate more greenery into cities, like the aforementioned sponge cities, as positive examples for China to expand on. She also brought up the oyster reef restoration projects in Alabama, which aim to strike a balance between ecological restoration, climate adaptation (as reefs function as seawalls), and commercial benefit for the communities that harvest oysters.
To some observers, China’s catastrophic summer may appear to be an indictment of Beijing not having done enough to meet the current climatic moment. But the truth is that China has done a lot to mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as adapt to its effects. And while the Chinese government could certainly do more, the unveiling of the 2035 adaptation plan makes it clear that there is a lot more to come. The problem facing Beijing, then, is the same faced by Washington, Brussels, and elsewhere: Climate change is already here, and things are going to get worse before they get better. China, like the rest of the world, is going to have to buckle in and work harder than ever.
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“I used to have a beagle named Roger, and Roger was a rascal,” remarked Kennedy. “About every two weeks Roger ran away – he always came back – but about half the time he came back with dead animals that he hid under my back porch,” he explained. “President Biden’s energy policy looks like something Roger used to keep under my porch.”
“The fact is that America has the largest and strongest economy in all of human history,” Kennedy continued. “We cannot run it without fossil fuels – not today, not tomorrow. It is also a fact that America, through reserves and technology, can produce every drop of oil and natural gas that we need and that we can sell to our friends,” he recalled.
“This poses a problem for President Biden because he has embraced the awakened or berserk wing of the Democratic Party and the awakened ideology is that we need to get rid of oil and gas in the United States,” Kennedy said of his radical colleagues in Congress.
“So President Biden came up with a new energy policy, and it’s this: Instead of producing our own oil and gas cheaper in America, we’re going to buy oil from foreign countries that hate us — in this case, Venezuela — so those foreign countries are going to get more money have to buy guns to try to kill us. It’s bullshit,” Kennedy quipped about Biden and his party’s energy policies.
Watch the video:
America can produce every drop of oil and natural gas we need that we can still sell to our friends.
That poses a problem for Pres. Biden because he has embraced the berserker wing of the Democratic Party – and their awakened ideology says we need to get rid of US oil and gas pic.twitter.com/m57fjqWmtk
As The New York Times As reported on Saturday, the OnX app is at the center of the controversial case now being heard in Carbon County, Wyoming, for using the app by a Missouri bow hunter Bradly Cape planned how he would gain access to the public lands around Elk Mountain in Wyoming.
Knowing how irritable many landowners are to hunters trespassing on their property, Cape has identified an area of ”checkerboard” control. That is, the land is divided into mile-by-mile sections, half of which are public property and half private property, like the black and white squares on a chess board.
At one point on this checkerboard map, Eshelman controlled two squares that met at a corner. The other two squares were public property. Using OnX, Cape mapped the exact location and led three friends to walk around the corner from one public space to another. Not only did they not set foot on Eshelman’s land, they also crossed the territory of his possessions infinite small. Not a single state has laws against this “corner crossing,” which is common in areas where railroad companies were once granted public land to “open up” to the West.
Legally, Eshelman can’t put a fence across that corner. So instead he installed “Keep Out” signs at the corners of each of his squares, leaving only a few inches between them (a photo of the signs is in the Times Article). But on a return visit, the hunters, aware of the shields after scouting the site, brought back a specially constructed short ladder that allowed them to leap across the space between the shields.
As WyoFile Eshelman’s ranch manager reportedly spotted Cape’s group on the public property. After ranch employees harassed the hunters, including chasing them in pickup trucks driving Eshelman’s men across public lands, the manager, along with Wyoming Fish and Game, called the local sheriff to charge the hunters with criminal trespassing. Initially, officials from both agencies told this manager that they had not issued a trespassing charge for corner crossing. But days later, after the manager pressured local officials by reminding them of Eshelman’s importance in the district, another Fish and Game MP pressed charges.
Eshelman owns 23,277 acres near Elk Mountain, but when prosecuting this case for corner crossing, he attempted to block access to 1.6 million acres of public land.
The case went to court in April, with the local district attorney claiming someone was wanted for trespassing simply for violating “airspace” over private land (which would surely be news to the FAA). It was only about two hours before a local jury decided the whole thing was ridiculous and found the four men not guilty.
That should have been the end of the whole thing, but after not getting what he wanted in the criminal trespassing case, Eshelman pounced on the hunters with a civil suit “for causing millions of dollars in damage,” which is demanding not only compensation for this alleged damage, but also the payment of all legal fees, both criminal and civil, by the hunters. He’s seeking a staggering $7 million in damages for disturbing a few inches of air over his land.
As Donald Trump has demonstrated so many times, those rich enough can endlessly work the courts, using them both as a means of coercing others into submission and as a means of evading personal responsibility for anything. Hunting groups and other public-land access advocates have raised $110,000 to cover legal fees that threaten to wipe out the four hunters.
No matter how ridiculous this all seems, and no matter how fast the jury trial ends, Wyoming officials are convinced that the landowners will win in the end. According to a Republican attorney who used to work for the attorney general’s office, if the hunters win“It wouldn’t surprise me at all that legislators would come back and pass legislation stating corner crossing is illegal. If you win you lose and if you lose you lose.”
Although most people are unaware, this type of checkerboard control covers a large portion of the American West, and blocking access to public lands in this way would render equally vast areas completely inaccessible. The impact would extend far beyond a dopey pharmaceutical millionaire using his Wall Street earnings to snag some of Wyoming’s finest real estate.
The answer to a Wyoming law that says corner crossing is illegal is simply enough: a federal law that says it is. But Republicans are unlikely to allow such a law, even if every hunter in America is clamoring for it. Because for Republicans, when there’s a competition between middle-class hunters and wealthy landowners…it’s not even a competition.
Corresponding forbes, Eshelman made his millions when one of several pharmaceutical companies he was an executive at sold for $3.9 billion in 2011. “Eshelman personally made at least $160 million from the after-tax sale. FORBES estimates his fortune is worth at least $380 million. Eshelman declined to comment on his net worth or how much he made by selling his shares in any of his companies.”
Eshelman is a longtime supporter of conservative Republican politicians. According to WyoFile:
He has donated millions to conservative Republican candidates running for federal office. In the 2008 election cycle, according to Open Secrets, he pumped $5.5 million into Rightchange.org, Eshelman’s tax-exempt “527” organization “founded primarily to influence a political election.”
Open Secrets lists Eshelman as the second-highest single donor to “Outside Money Organizations” in the 2010 election cycle with $6,359,660. His total contribution to Republican candidates for federal office is at least $28.5 million.
The Republican Party keeps hitting and pointing fingers at each other. The traditional media act like they didn’t totally screw it up when they predicted a “red wave” a few weeks ago. In tonight’s episode, Markos is joined by democratic political strategist Simon Rosenberg. Rosenberg was one of the few outsiders who, like Daily Kos, kept telling the world that these midterms were closer than was reported. The two are a bit pleased that they are right in their optimism about the 2022 midterm elections, and they offer their analysis of why Democratic candidates have been successful and how terrified the Republican Party is heading into 2024.
Graham (R-SC) said on Fox News: “Big Tech, you can’t sue these people under Section 230, so there’s no regulatory system that works, so I’m going to unveil a digital regulatory commission that looks at social issues, media companies like Apple, Twitter and Google. We need a regulatory environment to control the abuse of power here, so I’m going to do that with Elizabeth Warren. They’re looking for something that can bring us together in Washington. Social media is out of control, it needs to be regulated in some way and I think that brings both parties together.”
Big Tech has gotten so out of hand that it has made Lindsey Graham and Elizabeth Warren (DMA) allies on the same issue.
Graham is right. Elon Musk’s only flaw was that he was so blatant about his abuse of power. Musk could be the last straw, forcing the government to crack down on social media companies.
There are too few people with too much power running a few giant social media companies. The abuse of power in social media must be combated.
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House press pool and congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a bachelor’s degree in political science. His thesis focused on public policy with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and professional memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Political Science Association