Sunday, 19 June 2011

Greenpeace really doesn't get it

Don't ask me why, but I have been reading a 2008 Greenpeace report called "energy revolution". It's a fascinating read - it's also now the basis of an IPCC chapter, so it's worth digging into.

In the introductory section on page 13, there is this paragraph:

It is important to highlight that in the Energy [R]evolution Scenario the majority of remaining coal power plants – which will be replaced 20 years before the end of their technical lifetime – are in China and India. This means that in practice all coal power plants built between 2005 and 2020 will be replaced by renewable energy sources. To support the building of capacity in developing countries significant new public financing, especially from industrialised countries, will be needed. It is vital that specific funding mechanisms are developed under the international climate negotiations that can assist the transfer of financial support to climate change mitigation, including technology transfer. Greenpeace International has developed one option for how such a funding mechanism could work (see Chapter 2).
They are talking about a timeframe of between 2005 and 2050. As we all know, China and India are growing like topsy. They are getting rich like no one on this planet has gotten rich before. There are all sorts of estimates out there as to how long it will be before China overtakes the US as the largest economy in the world. If you believe the numbers in Wikipedia, income per person is between $4,283 and $7,518 per head. At China's current rates of growth (and if they can maintain it), that should double every 7 years or so.

So in 2017, income per head should be about $15,000 (using the PPP numbers). In 2024, they'll be up to $30,000 per head. In 2031, it will be $60,000 per head. Now I doubt they can maintain double digit growth above a certain income level, but you get the picture. In 20 years or so, they will be richer than we are today (Australia's current income per head on a PPP basis is just under $40,000 per person).

Here's my question - if the Chinese are growing so rapidly that they'll be richer in 20 years time than we are today, why the hell should be be transferring money to them now so that they can build wind farms? If we simply stand back and let them get rich, they can afford to undertake environmental programs off their own bat.

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