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Is the BBC Anti China?|
May 7th, 2007 by Rob Scott
Last week when I was reading some more about climate change, following the UN summit on Climate Change, I had a look on the BBC website. I noticed in one of their reports that, whilst they had quotes about many of the material facts from the summit, they had mentioned not once, but twice, that the general vibe coming out of the summit was that China was dragging its heels over many of the ideas that had been put forward.
This seemed a little strange, given that every other item covered in the report had been directly quoted, though these ideas - that China was opposed to taking many of the measures - were put forward by “several delegates” and not actually attributed to a person or group in particular.
This report has since been changed, however, and I can’t find it on the website, though it did prompt me to have a look at how the BBC has reported China over the past year or so. It is very interesting…
I’m going to try to base much of this around Climate Change, as it is something I have written much about in the past few months.
Thursday 2 November 2006 - “Addressing China’s Climate Challenge” - in this report, it is claimed that “China is on course to overtake the USA as the worlds biggest greenhouse gas emitter.” So, lets get this straight, China, despite having the largest population, is not currently the worlds biggest problem with regards climate change, the USA is.
As I reported in previous posts, Sir Nicholas Stern, who conducted an 18 month investigation into the economics of climate change, when making his speech to the Australian Press Association, actually drew a direct comparison between China and the USA. He stated that most US new cars were such poor performers in terms of emissions, that by Chinese law, they could not be imported and sold in China! Yet the BBC failed to mention this in any of their extensive coverage of Sir Nicholas Stern’s report. Selective journalism? An anti-China agenda? Who knows, lets go back to the report.
The “Addressing China’s Climate Challenge” report seems at best a naive attempt to assess the level of carbon emissions. There is no scientific evidence or analysis, in fact, there is nothing more than the hearsay of one reporter, who thinks that:
1. it is smoggy in Shanghai;
2. he can’t breath very easily in an industrial area
My main bone of contention with his report is not the fact that it is categorised under “Science and Nature” (despite the lack of any “science”) though, it is this: David Shuckman, the reporter, speaks of China’s technology and then makes a fairly strange and extremely unscientific claim.
“I hear about the latest boilers at Changshu, designed by the British firm Mitsui Babcock. They burn hotter and therefore produce more power for less greenhouse gas.
The industry calls them “clean”. But I keep watch on the smoke rising from that chimney.”
Ok, so you have damned this power station because you can see smoke coming out of a chimney?! In actual fact, this could be an extremely ‘clean’ power station, however, you have not asked for any statistics whatsoever. I could do the same thing anywhere there is a chimney - where’s the science? Where’s the cutting edge reporting? At least get some industry authority to back up your claim that “Genuinely clean generation from coal is a long way off, maybe 10-15 years.” Otherwise, we might think that you don’t have any.
“The traffic is relentless,” an irrelevant comment, and I fail to see what it adds to the argument that China is any worse than any other country. Has the reporter seen the traffic in most capital cities? When one considers what I state above regarding cars, it may well be that the “traffic” of which he speaks is emitting far lower levels of greenhouse gases than the same in the US, or any other more developed country. However, as is the case with all points in this report, China’s poor performance is hinted at, but there no clear evidence either way.
We’ll move on. In “Climate Change ‘Affecting’ China” Tuesday 6 February 2007, it is reported that “China is the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gases, after the US.”
I’m not entirely happy with the syntax there. How about ‘China is the worlds second biggest producer of greenhouse gases.’ Or, do we see many reports stating that ‘the US is the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gases?’ In fact, searching the BBC website for “the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gas” came up with China in 4 of the top 10 positions.
As I keep saying, they are not the biggest producer, the US is. Why else is this idea explained in this way if not to make China appear to be worse than it actually is? Whether this be for the purposes of a report bashing China’s performance, or for a more across the board victimization of the country as the world’s biggest climate problem (which isn’t, currently, true), the fact is that this reporting is unhelpful, and distorts the true picture somewhat.
Again, China as a growing problem is stressed at the end of the article, “(China) is expected to surpass the US as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the next decade.” By whom? And could the time-frame be a little more vague?
China has HALF the carbon emissions that the USA does. That’s huge. So who is the real culprit? I appreciate that China isn’t performing as well as she could. However, the main problem; the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases by far; the country which pulled out from Kyoto citing economic reasons: is the USA.
As much, if not more of a problem in relative terms is Indonesia. This country is the third biggest greenhouse gas emitter. Furthermore, there is much reported illegal logging occurring in Indonesia, which is surely impacting Carbon levels adversely too (especially when one considers the amount of burning which goes on) . All this, despite having a population a quarter of the size that China has to contend with.
In conclusion, I think it is fair to say that the BBC does give China a fairly bad rap on climate change. I have read reports about the positive things China are doing - i.e. investing in hydro-power - to reduce their carbon emissions which play down this aspect and concentrate solely on the negative human impact of creating new dams.
In fact, there are hundreds of items on the Three Gorges, and other hydro-dams, all of which show the Chinese government in a negative light. There is not one which states that it will, at least, prevent more coal burning power stations, about which the BBC have told us China is building “a new one every day.”
Nobody reported on the huge numbers of dams which were built in the US in the 1930s under Roosevelt’s various work schemes saying that they displaced many people, which they did. Nobody chastised the British factory owners during the industrial revolution of the 19th century for not being ‘green’.
China faces the unenviable task of trying to rapidly develop its industry to compete with the “west” - in today’s world, where reducing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change is a massive issue. The USA, an already developed country has signalled its intention to continue with the status quo for the time being, and it is producing twice the amount of carbon emissions that China does. Yet, the BBC reports seem to point the finger of blame very squarely at China.
But, lets be honest, who is the director general of the BBC? And, does he have his own axe to grind?