26 October 2009


I believe the Chinese have a valid point in their claiming that they have become the world's workshop (capital easily relocates to take advantage of cheaper inputs) and thus pollute. In essence, the US has exported pollution, by shifting industries and jobs overseas (the Chinese, beginning with reforms of Deng Xiaoping, were certainly not forced by us) to save our cities (but not our workers' jobs). And, our cities are, for the most part, cleaner. Our primary air pollutants are no longer caused by electricity-generating power plants and factories but automobiles. Of course, "pollution knows no boundaries," so pollution returns to us in several ways. It's all so short-sighted.

In any case, with peak oil just a very few years away (if you accept the views of some economists), then there must come a process of de-globalization that will change everything. The previous decades-long era of the global shift to a geo-economy will end, and a reversal will commence, including the "neighborhood effect" of industries re-relocating back closer to customers in North America and Europe. This will begin to happen even before peak oil, as oil prices (already at $76 pb) continue to climb as the global economy continues to recover.

But with peak oil (some see as high as $200 pb within six years) we will see the growth of regional economies as the geo-economy declines. This scenario depends on the advent of peak oil. There would necessarily be a great deal of destabilization and turmoil (but opportunity as well)--so get ready.

Otherwise, China will manufacture a very high percentage of all automobiles within ten years as well as continue to be the world's workshop for smaller consumer items, although it is beginning to have such severe environmental problems and incipient labor shortages that production will be hampered, to the advantage of the other emerging economies, such as India.

Seems there are two basic scenarios: Manufacturing continues to locate in China (and India and the other emerging economies: Brazil, Philippines, etc.) or peak oil changes it all.

Regardless, we might have only a very few years (now measurable in only a few dozen months) to hold global atmospheric CO2 under 350 ppm and hold global warming under 2.0C (to perhaps 2.4C) to prevent environmental tipping points from being tripped--the melting of the Arctic ice cap, the thawing of permafrost, and the warming and acidification of the oceans. Each of these is a positive feedback loop, thus the reason they are critical. For example, with increase of global atmospheric CO2, the oceans absorb CO2 and acidify; with oceanic acidification comes the dying off of zooplankton which are CO2 absorbers and O2 emitters.

So, from China as economic powerhouse and global polluter (along with ourselves!) to the globe in peril--we collectively have questions to answer and changes to be made and adjusted to. It WILL be interesting!

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