Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China Can't Be Cool to Obama Demands on Global Warming

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China Can't Be Cool to Obama Demands on Global Warming

Article excerpt

The world's largest carbon emitter must submit to outside review of its efforts against climate change for the US and others to sign an agreement.

The world will hardly know if global warming is being curbed if the largest emitter of carbon - China - isn't releasing accurate data about its pollution.

That's why it was correct for the United States to insist Thursday at the climate-change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, that Beijing must be transparent about any claims of success in reducing greenhouse gases.

Without outside verification of carbon cuts in big polluting nations such as China and India, the US Senate is unlikely to pass a tough bill that would force Americans to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels.

And any international pact that sets hard targets for emissions reduction will mean nothing if there are suspicions of cheating or if some countries don't pull their own weight.

The problem in China is that the ruling Communist Party has a long history of issuing false or at least unreliable data about its economy - as do many one-party regimes driven by ideology and that are often rife with corruption. Lower-level officials often cook official reports - or "add water," as the Chinese say - to meet quotas set by Beijing or to protect their turf.

Beijing claims it has a campaign against statistical "falsification and embellishment." Indeed, gathering information in the world's most populous nation, which also has the third-largest and fastest-growing economy, is not easy.

Still, official figures - such as energy use per economic output - are often revised several times after the first announcement. Foreign economists regularly find discrepancies in China's data. "One may begin to wonder about the possibility and likelihood of professional statistical work in China," writes Carsten Holz, an economist at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, in a recent issue of the China Economic Quarterly. …

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