Krugman: China's Emissions Will Destroy Us All

After a week in China, Paul Krugman returns with the same observation that others have: China’s unchecked emissions growth from its coal-fired power plants threatens the world.  He also notes that China’s universal reaction to this complaint is an understandable, “So it was OK for you to pollute like crazy when you were industrializing your own country, but now we can’t?”

Alas, aside from noting the problem, the Nobel winner doesn’t propose any solutions.  Economic sanctions won’t work, in part because we’d never consider them.  Getting all huffy won’t work.  A carbon tax on imports won’t work–or is at least problematic–because it will hurt US and European consumers.  So unless anyone else has any bright ideas, it seems we’ll just have to hope that China eventually begins to scare the hell out of itself, too.

I have seen the future, and it won’t work… China’s emissions, which come largely from its coal-burning electricity plants, doubled between 1996 and 2006. That was a much faster pace of growth than in the previous decade…  China now emits more carbon dioxide than the United States, even though its G.D.P. is only about half as large (and the United States, in turn, is an emissions hog compared with Europe or Japan).

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