Solar power station in Jiangsu province, China. Photo: iStock
A solar power station in Jiangsu province, China. Photo: iStock

Man-made global warming is on everyone’s mind these days. Whether one believes man is responsible or not, the fact remains that the Earth’s temperature has changed in the past few decades and that has coincided with an increased output of so-called greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane.

The response of Western governments has been to spend an inordinate amount of money and time shaming and blaming average consumers for simply living their lives. 

The Western elite’s solution, which isn’t a solution at all, is to regulate, restrict, and tax natural gas, oil, and other “dirty” fossil fuels while forcing investment in “sustainable” alternatives, such as solar and wind energy. 

Yet neither conventional solar energy nor wind power offers the kind of efficiency and cost-effectiveness that fossil fuels afford to average consumers. These facts do not matter to wealthy, rent-seeking Western elites. What matters is that these bored and corrupt elites feel good about doing something to “save the world” (at your expense). 

In China, the world’s leading polluter, the regime recognizes the threat that man-made climate change poses to its continued rule. The Communist Party of China’s raison d’être is less about imposing Marxism on the masses and more about delivering the goods to their people to prevent those masses from rebelling and overthrowing the regime, as has happened many times throughout Chinese history. 

Nowadays, Beijing’s government recognizes the threat to future productivity that continued environmental degradation poses to it. Loss of future productivity means a decline in China’s overall prosperity, which could pose a severe threat to the CPC’s continued monopoly on power. Thus there can be no debate among China’s leadership about the necessity of mitigating, or even resolving, the threat of global warming.

Since resolution or mitigation of the threat is required, Beijing appears to have cracked the code for managing the crisis in ways that the US (and the other Western nations) simply cannot.

Breaking the problem of man-made global warming down to its component causes – the pollution from fossil fuels – Beijing, unlike Washington, is not so stupid as to punish the vibrant middle class by restricting access to the “dirty” fossil fuels that have powered the rise of China and so many great industrial powers, including the United States.

It is likely the recent coal shortages in China had less to do with concerns about global warming than with Beijing’s ongoing row with Australia.

Instead, Beijing seeks to pioneer the development of alternative, sustainable fuel sources. 

Not only has China become a key producer of solar panels, but its space agency has become obsessed with the possibilities that space-based solar power could provide.

Unlike terrestrial solar power, which suffers from “intermittency” (meaning the sun is only available for certain times of the day), space-based solar power removes that problem by placing a collector in geosynchronous orbit around Earth, collecting sunlight 24 hours a day, and beaming that energy back to collectors on Earth in the form of microwave radiation.

My colleague Jim Rice, a former NASA scientist, has stated that China’s interest in space-based solar energy has greatly increased over the last 10 years. 

Gee, I wonder why. 

China has also built the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, known as the Three Gorges Dam. By capturing the roiling energy created by the natural water flow of the Yangtze River, the controversial project now supplies as much as 18% of China’s energy needs, cleanly.

No restrictions on ordinary Chinese consumption patterns are needed (yes, the personal rights of many citizens were infringed upon during the construction of the dam, but the prosperity of Chinese citizens in the face of anthropogenic climate change was protected). 

This also explains why China, not the United States, has the world’s hottest-burning tokamak reactor for nuclear-fusion research and development.

Long believed to be the “Holy Grail” of alternative energy, nuclear fusion could provide seemingly limitless energy, cleanly, for humanity. Not only would such a powerful technology allow China to mitigate the problem of rapid industrialization causing pollution, but it could also allow China to become the epicenter of next-generation scientific development. 

What’s more, China’s successful harnessing of nuclear fusion could give the country immense first-mover advantages in what is likely to be the most important development in practical alternative energy. Should fusion be made possible, it will be the energy that drives all human development in the future. 

The US dominated the oil and natural-gas revolutions of the previous century. Imagine what will happen if China creates the nuclear-fusion revolution of this century. 

Rather than ignoramuses carping endlessly about the validity of the science; instead of punishing ordinary, middle-class consumers – the life-blood of any advanced economy – China’s leaders are taking the threat of man-made global warming seriously while creating real solutions that do not stunt human – specifically, Chinese – progress.

They are sensing new opportunities in the budding green economy and are making long-term investments in unique innovations that the Americans have either ignored or wrongly derided. 

The US won’t be able to deny the necessity for mitigating climate change for much longer. Yet punishing the American middle class with onerous regulations and back-door taxes on fossil fuels, without offering viable sustainable alternatives, is unethical. 

“Red China” is figuring out how to go green without going broke. Maybe that’s because, unlike America’s elites, the Chinese elites don’t want to punish their people for the country’s economic success.

The US should encourage investment in and development of viable alternative energies, such as hydropower, space-based solar, and nuclear fusion … while simultaneously refusing to punish ordinary Americans for their consumption patterns – just as China has done.

Brandon J Weichert

Brandon J Weichert is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower. He is a geopolitical analyst who manages The Weichert Report: World News Done Right. His work appears regularly in The Washington Times and Real Clear Politics. Weichert is a former US congressional staffer who holds an MA in statecraft and national security affairs from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC, and is an associate member of New College, Oxford University.