Imagine you’re an environmentalist, trying to warn others of the need to take action on climate change. Your friend tells you off like this: “If you really cared about the planet, you’d stop using electronics and take your own house off the electrical grid.”
“Ah,” you reply, “but that won’t save the planet unless everyone does it. My personal emissions, and even those of every activist who agrees with me, won’t be enough to save the planet if everyone else keeps polluting.”
You would be right in saying this. But now, try to visualize the same problem on a global scale. There are many nations, the largest of which — China and India — are still rapidly developing their economies. U.S. emissions have been on the decline for more than a decade, in fact retreating to 1990s levels. But China’s emissions are growing and surpass America’s by a long way. India will be in the same position before long.
Even if the U.S. were to take itself off electricity completely — ignoring the catastrophic consequences of that for Americans and for the whole world — China and India would make up for all the pollution savings within less than six years, by one (admittedly 7-year-old) estimate.
This is why it’s significant that Joe Biden’s climate change plan, for all of its plagiarism, its counterproductive tax hikes, and its politically correct pandering, at least doesn’t completely ignore China and India. China’s pollution, along with that of India, is on a trajectory to render the U.S. contribution utterly insignificant. This is one of the many reasons the Green New Deal was such a joke — it failed to address this elephant in the room.
There is no climate fix that doesn’t involve a deal with the world’s two largest nations. Last month, the world got a further hint of how useless action is without Chinese cooperation. Chinese factories have been secretly violating an international agreement against the use of CFC’s. This was discovered because of the damage they continue to cause to the ozone layer, which is supposed to have been fixed. Because China’s population is so large, anything China does can undo what the rest of the world does.
This is why diplomacy — not renewable energy and not conservation — will be the single most important element of any climate change action. If China and India cannot be steered toward a cleaner gas and clean nuclear future, then there’s nothing to be done. Unilateral economic constriction for its own sake would be a form of national mortification.
To put it in language liberals seem to understand, it’s the climate version of “thoughts and prayers.”
Another bit of good news is that Biden is also committing at least half-heartedly to the nuclear energy research that will ultimately solve the issue for good. If he’s willing to mention that now, amid a Democratic primary where voters think their iPhones can be powered with rainbows, maybe he’ll even commit to it for real when the primary is over.