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News of the Day ... In Perspective


China claims one-child policy helps to protect climate

China has now surpassed the U.S. as the world’s leading producer of carbon dioxide emissions. It is building about one coal-fired electrical generating station every four days, and is investing in technology to convert coal to liquid fuels. It has rejected efforts to impose international restrictions on its emissions, but claims to be doing its part by enforcing its prohibition against families having more than one child, or at most two children, by forcible abortion if necessary (Alister Doyle, Reuters 8/30/07).

Since 1979, China has reportedly avoided 300 million births, equal to the entire population of the U.S. According to Su Wei, the senior Foreign Ministry official heading China’s delegation to U.N. climate change talks in Vienna, these population measures mean that “we averted 1.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005,” based on average world per capita emissions of 4.2 tonnes.

“Population is clearly an important factor,” stated Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat .

As the U.N. works on a plan to limit carbon dioxide emissions after the Kyoto Treaty expires in 2012, some say that birth control measures, less draconian than China’s, are overlooked. Delegates to the climate conference say this is “unlikely to find favor as a major policy theme, partly because of opposition by the Catholic Church and some developing nations trying to increase their population.”

Harlan Watson, chief U.S. negotiator, says that high immigration to the U.S. makes it difficult to slow emissions.

“It’s simple arithmetic,” he said. “If you look at mid-century, Europe will be at 1990 levels of population while ours will be nearing 60 percent above 1990 levels.”

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