China’s rapid economic growth means that Chinese environmental problems are also global problems. It would require several Earths to support the global population if every Chinese (not to mention the Indian population as well) consumed resources at, or even near, the level of the average citizen in wealthier, developed countries.
The deputy group leader of the China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, David Fridley, has estimated that China’s huge carbon emissions have serious potential to adversely affect the rest of the world (Warburton and Horn, 2007). Nobody, however, is more troubled by this picture than those in China who work on sustainable development issues. After the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, and especially after the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit), a loose-knit group of individuals from diverse backgrounds, but united in their commitment to the environmental cause, emerged in China.
They included scientists, government officials (particularly those from agencies responsible for the environment and natural resources), people associated with environmental NGOs, social scientists, and individuals from the private sector. After years of trying to be heard and taken seriously, the group and its cause have both gained increasing recognition over time and begun to have some influence on public discourse and legislation. The magnitude of China’s environmental problems and what these problems mean for the world as well as for China itself are urgent issues for them. This book will explore these challenges, and introduce the perspectives of leading Chinese thinkers working on cutting edge environment and development issues.