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Illegal CFC emissions have stopped since scientists raised alarm (nature.com)
343 points by samizdis 59 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 90 comments

>China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment did not reply to several requests for comment in relation to the latest results and the actions it has taken to halt illegal CFC-11 emissions.

Is this normal behavior from a developed country?

It's Normal Behavior with Chinese Characteristics

Probably depends on who is asking to be honest. It was a nature site asking a foreign government department a question, I am not particularly surprised. It may not be their role to communicate with foreign journalists either.

Is this normal behavior from a developed country?

No, but China isn't a developed country yet. It's still classified as an "emerging" nation.

Step 1 Don’t get caught

Step 2 You’re screwed if you are

Step 3 Deny Everything

Step 4: accuse others of doing the same thing you’re being accused.

Ignoring entirely no, but it would be entirely normal to refuse to comment if there was an ongoing investigation.

In which case you’d expect to hear “we can’t comment due to an ongoing investigation”.

Whereas this situation is more consistent with the CCP’s inability to acknowledge any error.

Mistakes were made - by others.

It is in China ;)

I was going to say...where do we start...

Can anyone explain why these CFC emissions were necessary in the first place? Are they a byproduct of a manufacturing process that requires filtration or something else?

I only know of CFCs used in refrigerant and cans of hair spray where suitable alternatives are abundant.

Most of it was probably used as a foam blowing agent.

"Blowing It: Illegal Production and Use of Banned CFC-11 in China's Foam Blowing Industry"


CFCs are much easier to produce, and better-performing (non-toxicity, fireproofing, etc) than the alternatives.

I read also that a certain amount of the CFC releases were apparently coming from illegal sale of heavy tars (industrial waste) for use as weatherproofing. Which is dumb as hell, but also pretty typical.

I assume the suitable alternatives are not cheaper

My baseless prediction: A major conflict will be fought in the next 20 years over a direct "environmental pollution" disagreement. I used the word "direct" because there have no doubt been many conflicts that involve environmental concerns, mainly about resource protection.

I suspect that the conflicts will be mostly-economic. If enough countries can get together to form a carbon-taxation bloc, they can begin to impose duties upon countries and companies that don't participate.

Barring a quantum leap in technology, it is a social innovation like that one that might allow us to successfully address the climate crisis.

From a climate/environmental perspective, I believe one of the worst things that can happen is a global-scale war. When short-term survival is threatened, countries will think little of devastating natural reserves and cutting through environmental protections.

> If enough countries can get together to form a carbon-taxation bloc, they can begin to impose duties upon countries and companies that don't participate.

This is the only way humans will ever beat climate change.

It'll work because as soon as that bloc is operational, the bloc can charge ultra high tariffs for importing carbon-including goods. Supposedly those will cover the fact the amount of embedded carbon is hard to measure, but actually because it benefits all the countries in the bloc to overestimate the carbon of imports to the detriment of countries outside the bloc.

I predict that as soon as such a bloc is near to formation, politics will move super fast and within a few years dramatic economic changes will occur because no country wants to be last to get an invite to the bloc (and the more countries join, the more stringent joining requirements will become).

I heard this as the only way to get China/India to voluntarily start doing their own internal carbon program.

Essentially, you charge them when they try to import into your country a tax to account for that. They come back and say "this tax really stinks...how can we make it stop"? You then reply "start your own carbon tax and we'll remove it". They then have two options 1.) Pay a tax to another government, or 2.) Take care of it internally

I think this is entirely plausible.

To put the emissions of India in context: by cumulative emissions since 1750, India is number 7, having caused roughly half as many emissions as my home country Germany (number 4). The US is number 1.

Source: animated graphics at https://twitter.com/CarbonBrief/status/1120715988532629506

tariffs don't work like a tax to the producer they are an extra tax on the end customer.

A widget made in china that has a tariff on it doesn't cost the company in china anymore - it does increase the cost for the person buying here though.... but unless there is a competitor that can sell a competive product cheaper than that the only downside is to the customer.

Tariffs on a widget made in China would make that widget less competitive relative to competing widgets made in other countries. Chinese widget sales would fall, so it would “cost” them in the form of reduced sales and profits.

Even if there is no competing widget, sales still fall due to demand elasticity.

Has such a bloc been formally proposed?

That's a very interesting resolution to the tragedy of the commons issue that heterogeneous state actors face. As long as you have a bloc sufficiently large enough that's willing to impose import duties on non-complying countries, then you've effectively brought everyone along for the ride.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade was shut down largely by the UK unilaterally declaring it illegal (although this was done in the context of the US planning on doing so as well), and then sending in its navy to force other countries to also agree to ban slave trading or seize ships that were violating it.

“carbon-taxation bloc”

This will be labeled imperialism with shades of white supremacy.

I'd predict a slightly different viewpoint, though also related to the environment.

If the circular economy and recycling of expired electronic devices back into raw materials cannot be solved in a satisfactory way, the next wars will be fought over the control of the deposits of various strategic minerals like PGMs and rare earths.

This will be even more important once nations and supranational entitites start increasing their strategic capability in e.g. chip fabrication.

To be clear, I don't mean WWII firebombing of Dresden level of war-making. I mean war as in grayzone "separatist"/"freedom fighter" vibe with the eventual "topple the government" actions.

>If the circular economy and recycling of expired electronic devices back into raw materials cannot be solved in a satisfactory way, the next wars will be fought over the control of the deposits of various strategic minerals like PGMs and rare earths.

I don't think we're at risk of actually running out of the materials. At least, not overnight. If resources become scarcer then prices go up, which 1) makes recycling more viable as it makes more expensive operations more viable, and 2) encourages companies to more aggressively research alternatives or designs which simply do without the material.

The real problem with expired electronic devices is externalities.

I like this topic especially with the theory that wars are never fought over resources, they are always fought over status. These two can appear to be the same thing especially when it's impossible to separate the resource from the status it symbolizes in the conflicted parties. Add it's often the practical case, in which case war is inevitable.

For this reason I like the project of ecological wealth-making as a planetary concern and a sort of pan-cultural tonic. I'm not sure it can apply in time to these particular cases - if someone takes your water, that's a fight. But I do think it's really the only global solution to resource wars. And it's a problem with both a technical and aesthetic solutions.

Not gonna be easy tho.

> I like this topic especially with the theory that wars are never fought over resources, they are always fought over status.

Couldn't it be that the wars are actually fought over resources, but are sold to the public of all involved countries (including the historians and philosophers) as being about status?

Could it be that wars are fought for no good reason, but that they are always justified in terms of something that sounds attractive or valuable to whoever they're being justified to at the moment? (This is in the context of modern, useless wars, not pre-1950s conquests which were obviously about stealing as much as possible.)

Why do you assume no good reasons when there were obvious economic and political incentives for the attacking parties in said "modern, useless wars" conflicts?

Note it doesn't have to be one obvious incentive. A government has many parties with differing incentives. But sometimes, a lot of those parties stand to simultaneously benefit from a war.

Basically, Hanlon's handgun[0], not Hanlon's razor.


[0] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21691282

It could be that wars are fought for many reasons and we cannot abstract a general rule that is valid for all or even most wars.

I yearn for the heady days back when politicians used to attempt to justify wars, now the media just pretends we aren't in what seven? of them currently.

I'd counter and say that natural resources are one, probably the most significant symbol of status with which wars and their outcome are negotiated. But the war outcome itself, rather than diplomatic or market solutions, is specifically the result of evaluation of relative symbolic status rather than underlying resource needs.

Examples: WW I was the result of royal jealousy over who had better navy boats. WW II was fought when a whole cultural identity perceived itself to have loss of status after the fall of Austrian Empire. Vietnam and the cold wars had to do with the ongoing symbolic struggle for status between different factions of aristocratic, government, or corporate interests, etc. And all the mercenary forces enabling the conflict were interested in those resources as status symbols rather than any underlying need for or lack of resources.

Same with global water supply. If the question is, how does everyone get enough water, then it's a practical problem which war only hurts. But if the question is, who controls access to what water, then it's a matter of symbolic status and war is inevitable.

This is why the argument is tough tho, because natural resources are a primary status symbol, so we say "resource war". But I think it's important to talk about the distinction because the difference is life and death.

If you think that historians, philosophers, international relations scholars and the general public have 0 critical thinking skills, you could reach that conclusion.

Realistically though, this is not the case. Although many wars are built on lies that may be believable at the outset, the public eventually tends to understand and the mood shifts. We have seen this in Vietnam and Iraq more recently.

Both are essentially about control one way or another essentially - if it is people or objects varies by situation and level of scope between personal and societal. Do they want gold because it gets them prestiege or because of crude evopsych "the trend gets them laid with ideal partners"?

Modern resource wars among major powere as a projection personally puzzle me. Raw resources tend to be the cheapest part period and expensive goods have many inferior subsitutes. Essentially even relatively lousy means of acquiring resources like say desalination would be cheaper than first world water wars that often are projected as doomsday scenarios. The undeveloped world engaging in them? That is sadly plausible and unfortunately not exactly novel.

History unfortunately shows people will happily screw over the weak and think it actively moral even if it harms themselves while thinking angering the strong immoral even if it makes things better for all. They wouldn't be neccessary for the developed world but they may be tempted if they see a vulnerable enough nation.

> I like this topic especially with the theory that wars are never fought over resources, they are always fought over status.

You're not exactly wrong about status and its perception, but it's more nuanced.

Japan in WW2 wanted to colonize Asia for resources, but they were also not happy with their treatment by the Allies after WW1.

And Germany in WW2 did invade Norway for iron ore, and wanted Alsace back. And then the Treaty of Versailles.

But when somebody takes your water, that is mainly a resource issue. And dams are fragile.

Agreed. My point tho is not that mercenary interests are not willing to go to war to exploit resources, it's that the their interest in those resources has more to do with their persuit of status than with an underlying need for resources.

I've always felt these things to be true, and understood the logic, but for some reason this is the immediate moment I had an emotional reaction to it and feel very anxious that indeed something needs to be done.

Population is growing. There are limited resources. One day someone's going to dam up someone else's water and wars will be fought.

I'm optimistic that technology AND population control can save us.

> After the Russian annexation of Crimea during the 2014 Crimean crisis, Ukrainian authorities greatly cut the volume of water flowing into Crimea via the canal, citing a huge outstanding debt on water supplies owed by the peninsula. When the Russian government offered to pay the debt, the Ukrainian government refused. This caused the peninsula's agricultural harvest which is heavily dependent on irrigation to fail in 2014.


A video with some narrative around it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqq8clIceys

> One day someone's going to dam up someone else's water and wars will be fought.

One day? Not a major conflict, but still... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_over_Water_(Jordan_river)

> Population is growing. There are limited resources. One day someone's going to dam up someone else's water and wars will be fought.

I remember taking a university lecture on "water history" and it was... surprisingly fascinating and enlightening.

Some of the earliest conflicts have been over water for farming. The concept of hydraulic despotism describes how the need to control and coordinate water resources across large populations and lands gave impetus for the first civilisations and complex governments, like ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, Peru, and others. They developed all kinds of technologies, measurement systems, and bureaucracies to deal with water.

They say that history doesn't repeat but it rhymes. There will certainly be more conflicts over water in the future. We have the civilisational 'technology' of national governments to manage intra-national resources, and we're seeing the active invention of new civilisational 'technologies' of international blocs and more to manage global resources.

Is there a population control policy that isn't just, terrifying or deeply harmful to lower income / poor people?

Widespread TVs, lowered infant mortality, women's empowerment and contraception education. Lowers the birth rate all by itself.

I wouldn't think of these first as "population control policies". Like, teaching people about contraception and birth control isn't a population control policy, it's (generally) a women's rights policy. And while it's definitely true that birth rates decline as women gain more reproductive rights, I don't think we should see that as a population control policy, but rather as a human rights policy.

Where these two perspectives really diverge is on the issue of enforcement. If we say women have a right to control their bodies, then the enforcement comes down against entities who deny or limit those rights. If we say women cannot have more than N children, then enforcement comes down against women (and oftentimes their families too, but not always), often in horrific and traumatizing ways. Or concretely, if India decides to implement population control via an education campaign and they are in danger of not meeting their goals, what do they do? Do they ramp up education efforts? Do they look at different women's rights policies? Do they crack down on employers and health care providers who are less than helpful when it comes to access to birth control? Or do they embark on a gruesome campaign of forced sterilization and abortion?

So while I agree you're technically right, I think it's unrealistic to rely on population control to combat global warming, and doubly unrealistic to rely on reproductive education (etc.) to indirectly combat it. I think the incentives and enforcement are too far removed from the problem at hand, and that's saying nothing of the cultural challenges.


The population of China is projected to drop by hundreds of millions over the course of this century, for instance.

I think this is totally wrong. China shifted their "one child" policy to "two children" but it only increased the birth rate to 1.6, and 2.1 is needed for stability [1]. It is true that birth rates decline as women gain reproductive rights, but I don't think that's what's happening in China.

[1]: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/07/asia/china-population-decline...

I'm not sure you understood what I meant by 'development'.

In poor 1980 China, population was exploding with draconian policies in place.

In better off 2020 China, population is set to decline, the still draconian government policy doesn't really matter.

I'm still unclear what you're pointing to re: development. I think maybe you're saying their baby boom is over because their economy has developed?

You make 2 claims: population of the poor in the 1980s was exploding despite the one child policy, and the draconian government policy doesn't really matter in 2020.

It looks like your first claim isn't born out by the data [1]; it's hard to find "poor" population growth vs. non-poor, but rural vs. urban doesn't seem like an unrelated approximation. You can see that urban population was growing at a far faster rate than rural, which is pretty close to flat. Certainly it's likely that a lot of this is the rapid urbanization of China, but either way it doesn't seem like the population of the poor was exploding in the 1980s.

Re: the one child policy not mattering, birth rates were already on the decline before the one-child policy was adopted, and that's likely due to China's family planning initiative in the 70s [2]. And if you look at the Reuters graph, it really does look like that's the defining effect here (birth rates mostly leveled off after the initial steep decline, even after the one child policy was adopted). This isn't 2020-specific, but I think the broader context is more relevant.

(I wasn't aware China had this family planning initiative until just now so, I was wrong above).

So I still think the dynamic that most controls birth rates are women's access to birth control and status of their reproductive rights.

[1]: http://blogs.reuters.com/data-dive/2013/11/18/chinas-one-chi...

[2]: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22176797/

Nearly everyone in 1980 China was poor compared to 2020.

Compare the PPP column at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_GDP_of_China (so that's adjusting for inflation and local production and so on...).

So the "poor" group is all of China in the 1980s.

I'm talking about the two child policy not mattering now, because few people are having more than 1 or 2 children. The policy likely mattered more when birth rates were higher (birth rates declined prior to 1980, but then leveled off, in the face of policy meant to discourage births):


It still seems to me that you're working backwards from your hypothesis a little. For example, that Wikipedia article doesn't even have PPP numbers from before 1980, when birth rates first started to decline (again, likely due to the reproductive education campaign).

You're doing a post hoc ergo propter hoc thing here. China's GDP increased dramaticaly, China's birth rates decreased dramatically afterwards, therefore birth rates decreased because GDP increased. In order for your claim to stand you at least have to narrow it significantly to "birth rates in China went through the floor once poverty decreased past a certain point", otherwise you have to explain why birth rates didn't subsequently fluctuate inversely with GDP. Further, you also would have to explain why male births so dramatically outnumber female births.

But I think more concretely, the timeline doesn't match. China didn't get above $1000 PPP until ~1990, and at that rate their birth rates should still have been very high [1]. However they'd been under 3 for 10 years at that point [2].

It's much simpler to say that China told people how to not have kids in 1970, the one/two child policies held the birth rate down subsequently, and couples took drastic measures to predominately have male children while also staying under the limit in order to satisfy a sexist culture. That's a more direct, parsimonious, and complete explanation, whereas the GDP argument has to also show why the reproductive education campaign and one/two child policies did effectively nothing, why birth rates fell dramatically before the Chinese people saw significant economic development, and why couples worked very hard to primarily have male children--work that weirdly also had no influence on the birth rate.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_and_fertility

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_China#Table_of...

Again, my argument is that the level of wealth now is sufficient to suppress birth rates whether there is a government policy or not.

It's clear enough that there were other more important factors in earlier periods.

Indeed. There are a lot of countries, some with very large militaries, who will not hesitate to choose war over economic stagnation.

The most vocal about climate change seem to think this isn't their problem.

Thankfully nobody will ever fight a war of pollution externalizations.

Over resources, yes, pollution, no.

Economic calamity if pollution directly affects some nation, possibly.

Not even as part of an escalation.

A war requires a lot of vested interests to 'care' add to that mechanisms for populism.

'ABC is polluting' is not enough of anything.

Also, non-market forces that care the most about things like pollution, are the one's that are also least likely to want war, or to put those kinds of cards on the table.

Plenty of wars have been fought throughout history for stupider reasons.

Try 5 years. The CCP is diverting the Himalayan headwaters to Xinjiang from several neighbors, including India and Pakistan. Half of their populations rely on that water.

That's not environmental pollution, but you're not wrong about the potential for conflict. War could erupt between Egypt and Ethiopia at the drop of a hat over the GERD. Usually cooler heads prevail, but water is going to displace oil as the primary driver of resource wars. Arguably it already has, but we're simply in a resource war lull for the moment.

I had to look up GERD. This refers to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, an under-construction hydropower dam on the Nile that is controversial due to its potential negative effects on Egypt's water access.

I know it as gastro-esophageal reflux disease, so I'm glad you commented with this clarification

The dam project is causing a lot of heartburn, so you weren't far off either...

I mean ideally, the Nile would be made navigable all the way up there, allowing Egypt to benefit from Ethiopian trade (as Ethiopia is landlocked).

Ethiopia will boom in the next decade. It houses many institutions of the African Union and Addis Abbaba is the sister city of both Bejing and Washington.

Turkey, Syria and Iraq are other candidates.

Or US bases start popping up all over ASEAN due to water rights on the mainland or fishing rights on the archipelago

I'm surprised there hasn't been a bigger fuss about this in the press.

I would like to see a calculation of how many extra people will die of skin cancer in each country as a result of this treaty violation.

I remember CFC's were used to clean PCB's Used to be know by the trade name Freon

"Illegal CO2 emissions have continued since scientists raised alarm"

How influential was the fact that Margaret Thatcher:

1. Studied chemistry in university.

2. Was respected by Ronald Reagan.

to creating consensus to act among political leaders?

When will china bring up environment protections up to par?

When it harms the ill-gotten profits of party insiders, and not sooner.

When there is a trade bloc that imposes tariffs on countries outside the bloc that don't have adequate environmental, labor or carbon laws.

Companies outsourcing their pollution or being out-competed by foreign companies that do pollute has to stop.

Let's say it took the US 80 years to industrialize, from 1760 to 1840, and then another 130 years after that to form the EPA in 1970 with the Clean Air Act.

So, then let's say it took China 40 years to industrialize, from 1960 to 2000. So if things move twice as fast these days, China should be advanced enough to start transitioning to a clean industry by 2065.


What's par? Many countries in China's income quantile have environmental problems. China happens to be especially large, and India especially environmentalist, so they stick out like a billion sore thumbs.

Move just a little down the list and Indonesia and Brazil have both been all over the news for environmental destruction, while in Mexico, Pakistan and Nigeria, environmental issues are overshadowed by simmering civil wars.

Well, if you want actual data, here's one (composite) metric.

China performs poorly, compared to par/GDP here, similarly to India. Brazil meanwhile ranks better.


That report places India behind the following countries in terms of political stability - Colombia, Bahrain, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Togo. A country which got democracy 7 years ago is ranked higher than one that got it almost 60 years ago. That data point alone makes me question the rest of the report.

The age at which you got democracy isn't necessarily correlated with the quality of that democracy. Ask the US.

The metric is political stability, not quality of democracy. Are you saying that years of elections, smooth changes in leadership, free and fair elections as observed by international observers doesn't account for anything? That's the kind of reporting typically expected from folks who have no idea about the ground realities in developing countries. To contrast, the report has France at a high political stability score of 80 whereas it has had 5 prime ministers in 6 years. How is that politically stable?

Mind sharing links on India being especially environmentalist?

See here:


India has a decent HPI. It's one of the few metrics that seems to avoid correlation with GDP without simply stratifying.

Brazil, Indonesia and other countries with similar levels of development are simply "late to the game" in regards to environmental destruction. Countries that developed sooner destroyed their own environments before there was scrutiny.

If western countries want to stop developing countries from using their own resources, some financial compensation should be involved.

The early US and other economies were built on slave labor. Should we compensate Brazil, Indonesia and other countries if we don't want them to use slave labor?

In fairness, Brazil had plenty of slavery for a long time.

I object to this slavery analogy entirely. I do not believe it is appropriate.

Those countries also have the benefit of 100 odd years of technological improvements. It’s not unreasonable to expect they take advantage of that.

How about sanctions + aircraft carrier? It works for almost all developing countries.

What simmering civil war in Pakistan?

When other people stop relying on them for all imports? Have to have a new iphone every year, right?

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