U.S. vs. China: Working Together on Global Warming?
Global warming is a problem that spans the entire world, but when it comes to figuring out how to stop it, the burden will largely fall on two countries: the U.S. and China. The U.S. is the world's largest historic carbon emitter, responsible for putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over the past century and a half than any other nation. China recently surpassed the U.S. as the top emitter and will be responsible for more greenhouse gases in the future than any other country. "These two countries hold the key to sustainability or catastrophe," says Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
If that's the case, it might seem as if the world is headed toward catastrophe. Over the weekend, world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit made explicit what had long been expected — that a legal, global treaty to reduce carbon emissions was no longer possible at next month's U.N. summit in Copenhagen. The deadlock between the U.S. and China is a big reason: Beijing expects Washington to take the lead on cutting carbon, but the U.S. won't sign on to a deal that doesn't including measurable action from the Chinese. From that perspective, climate change is one more competition between the world's reigning superpower and its No. 1 challenger. (Read "Is There Any Hope for Agreement at Copenhagen?")