Stories by David G. Victor

  • China Is Becoming a Green Leader

    Back in the 1990s, when diplomats were designing the Kyoto treaty on global warming, they exempted China from any requirement to control emissions. The country was too poor, the thinking went, and had many more urgent priorities to tend to. A decade later, that thinking has changed. Having surpassed the United States as the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse pollutant, China is now seen as a laggard.The reality, however, is different. In the past few years, severe pollution and worries over dependence on fossil fuels have prompted the Chinese government to launch a radical transformation in how the country uses energy. It is embracing efficiency, imposing limits on pollution, and investing in new green technology that it can sell worldwide. And while most countries around the world were giving the highest priority to dealing with unemployment and other repercussions of the economic collapse, China's government and industry haven't broken stride on green...
  • U.S. Now the World's Climate Laggard

    The hardest thing about being Barack Obama may be handling the high expectations of voters and world leaders. The gap between fantasies of Obama fixing all the world's problems and the reality of American politics is particularly wide on global warming. Even before leaders sit down at Copenhagen, where they are charged with forging a new agreement on climate, we know the summit will be a bust.Most fingers are pointing to America as the spoiler. Just last month the alliance of developing countries threatened to walk out of the Copenhagen talks unless rich countries made firm, binding agreements for deep cuts in emissions. That issue has put America's climate diplomats in a tough spot because they don't want to make promises they can't keep. Meanwhile, even poorer countries like China and Brazil that were once thought too focused on other priorities have promised big changes in policies that affect warming gases. The gulf between what Obama's America offers the world and what the rest...
  • Asia's Achilles Heel

    As China and India lose control of their economies, they are failing to provide reliable power to their citizens. How will they manage to curb carbon emissions? 
  • Global Warming: Hot Air Is Not Enough

    President George W. Bush averted a nasty rift when he agreed in the final hours of the recent G8 summit to "consider seriously" the need to halve the world's emissions of global-warming gases by 2050. Canada, the European Union and Japan had already embraced that goal, leaving America the dirty stand-out. The deeper truth is that these eight industrial countries controlOnly part of the world's emissions, and the industrial activities that cause emissions are slow to change. Coal will be the hardest to tame because it is so cheap and abundant. Many coal-power plants coming online today will still be in service by 2050, and advanced plants that store effluent safely underground won't be used widely for many more decades. The geopolitical hurdles are also high. The plan introduced with much fanfare earlier this month by China, which next year will become the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases, contains nothing beyond what Beijing already had in place. The world, therefore, is in...