BEIJING: China’s top climate negotiator said on Wednesday that the cause of global warming was still not clear but the problems it was creating were so serious that the world must anyway act to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Xie Zhenhua, vice-chairman of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission, also warned the United States it should not use domestic divisions over climate change as an excuse to pass its responsibilities off onto other countries.
“There are still two different viewpoints in the scientific field about the cause of warming,” Xie told a news conference on the sidelines of the annual session of China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament.
“At present, many people, or the most mainstream view, is that the combustion of large amounts of fossil fuel over the process of industrialisation caused an increase in greenhouse gases, which caused climate warming.”
“Another point of view holds that the main reason is changes in sunspots, or natural changes in the environment. There is an even more extreme point of view, that human influence on changes in nature can only be miniscule,” he added.
Influences on changes in the Earth’s climate includes cycles in solar activity — traditionally measured by sunspots — but that is far outweighed by recent increases in greenhouse gas emissions, most scientists say.
Public conviction of global warming’s risks may have been undermined by damaging admissions from a U.N. climate panel that it had published at least two errors and by the disclosure of hacked emails revealing scientists sniping at sceptics, who leaped on these as evidence of data fixing.
But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stood by its main 2007 finding — that it was more than 90 percent certain that human activities were the main cause of global warming in the past 50 years.
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There are powerful constituencies among China’s politicians and business community who would welcome a slowing of Beijing’s push for cleaner growth, although they are less vocal than their counterparts in the United States and Europe.
But despite Xie’s unusually sceptical comments, he made it clear that Beijing has no intention of rowing back from ambitious commitments to greener growth that it sees as vital to energy security and growth as well as tackling warming.
China has pledged to cut “carbon intensity”, or the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each yuan of national income, by some 40 to 45 percent by 2020.
“As far as governments around the world are concerned, as the existence and long term development of climate change will cause great damage to mankind, it is better to believe that it is happening than that it isn’t,” said Xie, adding that China was already experiencing rising temperatures.