Playing into a paradox

The way out of the two holes the world finds itself in – its frozen economy and overheated climate – are for the time being mutually exclusive when it comes to talks with China. We need China’s economy to keep booming to help us pay our own bills, and we need it to slow down please before our environment is decimated by those dirty factories which are fueling that same economic boom.

This isn’t to say there won’t be a way to accommodate the two further down the line: commentators like Thomas Friedman think the biggest companies of this century, digging us out of our financial hole, will be the green energy companies which are also working on the ecological one. But for the time being, not polluting is expensive – much too expensive for a government like China’s, which needs its economy to keep growing to legitimise its rule.

I keep thinking that the most immediate solution, without China having to endanger its economy to a point it will clearly not tolerate, is technology transfer – the West giving away clean technology secrets to countries like China (which either can’t or won’t foot the R&D bills themselves). That’s certainly what William would like to see: he gets very excited at the mention of technology transfer, but is concerned that China’s terrible record on IP protection will prevent American companies from playing ball.

In the midst of these economic and environmental crises, I see ten articles or commentaries on the former for every one I see on the latter. In a lot of them, there is reference to ‘future generations’, ‘for our children’ etc. etc. (or take a look at the banners in yesterday’s US ‘tea-parties’). Well, I’m one of those future generations. And you know what I’d like the older generation to get mad about? Not my employment and pay-check prospects, but my prospects of living in a world not too unrecognisable from the one I enjoy living in now.


  1. Yes, it’s the piracy issue which hits the nail on the head (I touch on it in this earlier post: http://www.thinksix.net/archives/345). This aside (as it was explained to my by a much more informed friend), however, technology transfer shouldn’t deprive the Western developers of their profits. And expensive implementation – a point which didn’t occur to me – will hopefully become less expensive as technologies progress…

    Technology transfer is only meant, to clarify, as a long-term solution which requires short-term action. Short-term solutions which require short-term action are, of course, also needed: or we’ll be past the point of no return. Carbon storage is an option. Methinks a longer post beckons!

  2. I think the problem is that existing green technologies are expensive to *implement* (relative to their savings in carbon), quite apart from any added expense their developers add on to cover their development costs. And even if that weren’t so, your suggestion would require money from somewhere to let the developers profit, or else remove all incentives for future private development… a thorny issue!

Comments are now closed.