China leads on environmental impacts

BEIJINGChina is now by far the world’s biggest driver of rainforest destruction, according to a new report by Greenpeace that documents vast deforestation due to soaring demands of China‘s enormous timber trade, the world’s largest.

Citing figures from the International Tropical Timber Organization, the study says that nearly five out of every 10 tropical hardwood logs shipped from the world’s threatened rainforests are heading for China, more than to any other destination.

Deforestation is only one of the problems posed by an economy of 1.3 billion people, the UK Independent notes. China has overtaken the United States as the world’s leading consumer of four out of the five basic food, energy and industrial commodities: grain, meat, oil, coal and steel. It still lags behind in consumption of oil, but is rapidly catching up.

Due to increasing reliance on coal-fired power stations to provide energy, the Chinese may soon become the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, and thus the biggest contributors to climate change. Unless strong steps are taken to alter the current trend, Greenpeace predicts that the growth of China‘s carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years will dwarf any cuts in CO2 that the rest of the world can make.

According to Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, China‘s scarcely imaginable growth in the coming years means that the world’s population will run up against the limits of the planet’s natural resources sooner than anyone imagines.

China‘s population is expected grow from 1.3 billion to 1.45 billion in 26 years. By that time, its per capita income is expected to equal that of the United States today. If current trends continue, it could be consuming 99 million barrels of oil per day and have 1.1 billion cars. Total world oil production is currently 84 million barrels daily, while the current world fleet of cars stands at 800 million.