The thermal power station in Taichung produces the single largest amount of carbon dioxide of any power plant in the world, an article in the British scientific journal Nature reported recently.
And another plant in Mailiao comes in sixth.
These figures may not surprise anyone who understands Taiwan's environmental issues. Predictably, the Taiwan Power Co and government agencies will respond with figures proving the nation's power plants are actually fairly efficient. Yet we must look behind these figures to grasp the truth of the matter.
Between 1990 and 2005, Taiwan's carbon-dioxide emissions rose from 5.19 tonnes to 10.2 tonnes per capita, the fastest rate of growth in the world.
In 2004, the average carbon dioxide emissions per capita in Taiwan ranked 18th internationally. Excluding the oil producing nations of the Middle East, Taiwan would be first in Asia, ahead of countries with higher national income, such as South Korea and Japan.
For every US dollar of national income generated, Taiwan produces 0.829kg of carbon dioxide, placing it fifth in the world.
Without a doubt, Taiwan's carbon emission rate is too high. More shocking, however, is the fact that the situation is getting worse. Bureau of Energy estimates show that between this year and 2015, electricity demand is expected to rise by 36 percent. More power plants will have to be built to "promote sustainable energy consumption."
Who should be held accountable for this situation? Reprehensibly, it is apparent that both the government and the general public are unwilling to tackle the problem. Everyone appears willing to rely upon the Environmental Protection Administration's environmental impact assessment (EIA) mechanism to resolve carbon emission problems. This does not give the issue the attention it deserves.
Since last year, I have been a member of an EIA team investigating a proposal for a new coal burning thermal station. Most members of the team are very conscientious about their responsibilities. Because of the tenacity of the established view, however, the attention given to greenhouse gas emissions remains inadequate.
My notes show that out of the 524 comments made during our meetings, only 11.8 percent were concerned with greenhouse gases, electricity demand estimates, energy efficiency, alternative energy and other related issues -- a tiny proportion when weighed against the importance of the topic.
Practical discussion was difficult because whenever a team member raised questions about greenhouse gases or similar issues, government representatives and development organizations either avoided the basic questions or dodged responsibility by saying the development of new energy sources was the nation's established energy policy.
Apparently, the EIA mechanism is intended to simply provide input after policy has been determined, not to question the premises upon which the development plans were established.
Given the claims that economic development and environmental protection must both be prioritized, the evaluation team ruled that the proposed coal burning thermal station had passed the assessment criteria.
If the plant is actually built, Taiwan's annual output of carbon dioxide will increase by another 3 percent. Have economic development and environmental protection really been placed at the same level of priority?
Obviously, in this instance, the EIA mechanism, like the government and the public, does not give serious consideration to possible alternatives for true sustainability. Instead it is bogged down by the notion that as long as the demand for development exists, greenhouse gas emissions can be justified. The end result is that Taiwan continues to significantly increase its carbon dioxide output, while the international community cries out for action to stem climate change.
Perhaps this is not so surprising: Our politicians occupy themselves daily with political issues; the upper middle class occupies itself with getting wealthy and boosting its children's competitive advantages. Every member of society with political or economic influence can find adequate excuse to ignore global warming, allowing the responsibility to fall upon the EIA mechanism.
While we may not fear punishment from the international community, how can we own up to our moral responsibility toward the disadvantaged victims of environmental damage in other nations and the future of our own children?
Tai Hsing-sheng is an assistant professor at the Hualien University of Education.
Translated by Angela Hong
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) chairman Mark Liu (劉德音) said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would render the company’s plants inoperable, and that such a war would produce “no winners.” Not only would Taiwan’s economy be destroyed in a cross-strait conflict, but the impact “would go well beyond semiconductors, and would bring about the destruction of the world’s rules-based order and totally change the geopolitical landscape,” Liu said in the interview, according to the Central News Agency. Bloomberg columnist Hal Brands wrote on June 24: “A major war over Taiwan could create global economic
Amid a fervor in the global media, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her congressional delegation made a high-profile visit to Taipei. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) awarded a state honor to her at the Presidential Office. Evidently, the occasion took on the aspect of an inter-state relationship between the US and the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan, despite no mutual state recognition between the two. Beijing furiously condemned Pelosi’s visit in advance, with military drills in the waters surrounding coastal China to check the move. Pelosi is a well-known China hawk, and second in the line of succession to
A stark contrast in narratives about China’s future is emerging inside and outside of China. This is partly a function of the dramatic constriction in the flow of people and ideas into and out of China, owing to China’s COVID-19 quarantine requirements. There also are fewer foreign journalists in China to help the outside world make sense of developments. Those foreign journalists and diplomats who are in China often are limited in where they can travel and who they can meet. There also is tighter technological control over information inside China than at any point since the dawn of the
Almost as soon as the plane carrying a US delegation led by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi took off from Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) on Thursday, Beijing announced four days of live-fire military drills around Taiwan. China unilaterally cordoned off six maritime exclusion zones around Taiwan proper to simulate a blockade of the nation, fired 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles and conducted coordinated maneuvers using naval vessels and aircraft. Although the drills were originally to end on Sunday, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theater Command issued a statement through Chinese state media that the exercises would continue,