Media Blame America For China's CO2 Emissions

When it was announced Tuesday that China surpassed the United States as the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide, NewsBusters asked, “Will Media Notice?

In reality, the answer is a mixed windbag, with most press outlets totally ignoring the revelation, and a few actually blaming the problem on – wait for it! – the United States. I kid you not.

However, before we address that stupidity, it first must be relayed that not one of the television news outlets bothered reporting the Chinese CO2 data at all. It appears that television news divisions only feel CO2 is a problem if it’s emitted by American corporations or citizens.

As for the print media, the few that did cover this story either gave it very little attention, or made some fairly predictable excuses for why it’s okay as the planet nears its seemingly inevitable doom at the hands of greenhouse gases for China to be the leading “polluter.”

For instance, the New York Times devoted a total of 83 words to this story in its “World Briefing Asia” section Thursday on page A12 (no link available):

China has overtaken the United States as the top emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, because of surging energy use in its economic boom, a Dutch environmental agency said. Other experts have estimated that China will not surpass the United States until as late as next year. ''But whether it is 2006 or 2007 is not the key issue,'' said Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency. ''What is key is that China is becoming the world's top carbon dioxide emitter.''

That was all the print-space the Times felt this story deserved.

Alas, that was more than the Washington Post and USA Today devoted to this story, as LexisNexis and Google News searches identified not one word printed about this in those leading papers.

Not one.

Does this suggest that CO2 really isn’t the problem, and that all this focus on U.S. emissions of this gas is – forgive the pun – a lot of hot air?

After all, if greenhouse gases (GHGs) are indeed destroying the planet, given the media’s focus on manmade global warming, shouldn’t it have been front-page, headline, lead story news that the country with the largest population – which has now just begun an extraordinary economic expansion – has become the largest emiitter of CO2 in the world?

Seems not. In fact, the publications that did give focus to the story made excuses for why China should be given a pass for its gas.

For instance, the Los Angeles Times devoted 1032 words to this story, although placed on page A3 (emphasis added):

Even if that already has occurred, China's per capita emissions are only about one-eighth the average for the wealthier industrialized countries of Europe and North America, Birol said. At current projected growth rates, China's per capita emissions in 2030 still will be only one-third those of the West, he added.

Interesting excuse, isn’t it? After all, the alarmists claim that CO2 is killing the planet, correct? And, we need to do everything possible to immediately halt the continually increasing emission of this GHG or low lying areas will be flooded, species will go extinct, and mankind’s very existence on this planet will be in jeopardy.

If this is the case, why are per capita emissions at all relevant? Isn’t this kind of like a homicide division not worrying about finding sole murderers when there are serial killers still at large?

Or, to put this in more of a “green” perspective, should the Environmental Protection Agency only concern itself with the largest polluters, but ignore the greater number of smaller ones?

For example, let’s assume that you have five major corporations dumping hazardous waste into the San Francisco Bay. One of them is responsible for 49 percent of such dumping, while the other four dump the remaining 51 percent shared equally between them.

Should the EPA ignore the four lesser polluters because they’re each only polluting a quarter as much as the largest one? Pretty illogical, isn’t it?

Regardless, isn't comparing per capita emissions specious on another level altogether? If you really want to compare a country's GHG impact on the planet, isn't land mass somewhat more relevant than population?

As such, shouldn't a nation's CO2 emissions as a function of its size be a better way to compare environmental impact on the atmosphere? If that is the case, given that China is "slightly smaller than the US," it now leads America in emissions per acre. Just something to consider that the media choose not to.

Yet, maybe even more preposterous than this per capita emissions discussion was the Associated Press’s take in a piece entitled “China: Criticism of CO2 Emissions Unfair” (emphasis added):

Developed countries are hypocritical for criticizing China's greenhouse gas emissions while buying products from its booming manufacturing industry, Beijing said Thursday.

For those keeping score, that was the opening paragraph:

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang called China the "world's factory" and said criticism of its increased emissions was unfair.

"The developed countries move a lot of manufacturing industry into China. A lot of the things you wear, you use, you eat are produced in China," he said at a regular news briefing. "On the one hand, you shall increase the production in China, on the other hand you criticize China on the emission reduction issue."

Unfortunately, AP writer Anita Chang, after presenting this incredibly specious position by Gang, chose not to refute it in any way, or quote folks who did. As such, I feel compelled to do her job for her.

To begin with, the piece mentioned that China’s CO2 emissions have been skyrocketing due to, amongst other things, that nation’s “voracious coal consumption.” In fact, “China relies on coal for two-thirds of its energy needs.”

Is this energy exclusively being used for the production of exports, or do inhabitants use electricity as well? Doesn't some of this energy usage go to the creation of products for said inhabitants, or does China export everything it produces?

Chang conveniently chose not to address this.

Furthermore, can every nation get a pass for the CO2 it emits related to exports, or just China?

After all, according to the CIA’s World Factbook, China trailed the European Union, Germany, and the United States in total exports for the year 2006 (estimates all). Shouldn’t these entities also be allowed to reduce their net CO2 emissions by those specifically related to the production and transport of their exports? Or, does only China get such a convenience?

And, doesn't China benefit from all of the money it takes in for selling these exports, or are Chinese corporations giving everything away for free? Don't these export revenues help the economy and result in increased employment and an improved lifestyle for the citizens, or are these people all slaves for western imperialists?

Obviously, such positive economic ramifications were totally ignored by press representatives suggesting that China's economic boom and its resulting increases in GHG emissions only benefit America and the West.

Finally, it is interesting to note how the press all seem okay with China’s growing CO2 problem being related to the strength of its economy. For instance, this from the LA Times piece: “China's emissions have outpaced predictions because the economy has grown faster than expected.”

So, it’s okay for a country’s CO2 emissions to expand if it’s caused by economic growth? Outstanding. Then, why isn’t this also true for developed nations?

After all, the nations of the West still need to expand their economies to feed their citizens. If the media can realize that with increased economic growth in China comes increased GHG emissions, then shouldn’t all countries who are seeing such growth get a pass for increasing their emissions as well?

As the reader likely has concluded, herein lies the real media hypocrisy, for none of this is about CO2 emissions or GHGs. If that was the case, a new national leader in death-causing emissions would have indeed been front-page, lead story news with experts expressing grave concern for the planet.

Instead, the media’s response to this report or lack thereof indicates that they couldn’t care less about GHGs or global warming. This is all about taking down the big bad wolf of western capitalism, and any pretense to the contrary is totally belied by how Tuesday’s China news ended up not being news at all.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.