Shifting Baselines

Days in China’s Haze

Dr. Randy Olson brought a couple very interesting articles on China to my attention this morning. Both have to do with climate and each have a different element of Shifting Baselines.

The first, Doha and Dalian, by the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, explains why Friedman remains skeptical of proposed mitigation strategies for climate change, mainly because of the pace in demand in places like Qatar and China for fossil fuel (a parallel to my skepticism about seafood awareness campaigns in the face of the increasing Asian demand for fish). Demand for oil since the 1990s has risen 22% in the U.S. In China, demand has increased 200% over the same time period.

Though his baseline is only three years old, Friedman revisits both cities this year to find drastic changes–changes he believes are outpacing the efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Friedman writes, “Hey, I’m really glad you switched to long-lasting compact fluorescent light bulbs in your house. But the growth in Doha and Dalian ate all your energy savings for breakfast. I’m glad you bought a hybrid car. But Doha and Dalian devoured that before noon.”

The second article is a blogpost from Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate who sees (or, rather, cannot see through the aerosol haze) the same rampant growth in energy during his three-week stay in China.

Gavin also expresses skepticism, though his is about the blogosphere’s role in communicating science. He writes, “Finally, the limited access to the Internet that one gets in China (through a combination of having better things to do with one’s time and the sometimes capricious nature of what gets through the Great Firewall) allowed me to take a bit of break from the constant back and forth on the climate blogs. In getting back into it, one appreciates just how much time is wasted dealing with the most ridiculous of issues…at the expense of anything substantive. In effect, if possibly not in intention, this wastes a huge amount of people’s time and diverts attention from more significant issues (at least in the various sections of the blogosphere). Serious climate bloggers might all benefit from not getting too caught up in it, and keeping an closer eye on the bigger picture. We will continue to try and do so here.

I was not part of the blogosphere when science blogging first began so my memory doesn’t serve me. Is the blogosphere be losing pespective on its its role in the climate change discussion by generating too much white noise itself (a cyber version of aerosol haze)?


  1. #1 Milan
    September 28, 2007

    Is the blogosphere be losing perspective on its its role in the climate change discussion by generating too much white noise itself?

    I think it depends a great deal upon the site. Gristmill is consistently good, though they still public a fairly large number of fluff pieces.

  2. #2 Shelley
    October 4, 2007

    The pollution in China is certainly appalling. My parents live in Suzhou in south China near Shanghai, and when the pollution is particularly bad, you literally feel ill. Their balcony become covered in fine black soot after a few days, and all the skyscraper windows must be constantly washed to prevent the caking up of soot on them.

    And get this: only a few percent of Chinese currently drive cars (still in the tens of millions). Just wait a few more years, until they all do.

  3. #3 hikayeler
    July 2, 2009

    tamam dır bu iş bir

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