Chinese Island Building
In a timely manner for this blog, the Chinese are exerting their power and influence on the South China Sea, by building islands. This fits in well with the theme of islands that the blog has been running over 2014.
On the Spratly Island chain which lie between the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia the Chinese are quietly (and literally) building a presence. In fact the Spratly Islands are closer to Malaysia than China. At Johnson South Reef the Chinese are constructing islands that will enable it to have a military base here. Islands are being created by dredging material from the sea bed. Back in 1988 Beijing took control of Johnson South Reef after a battle with Vietnam. The battle left 70 Vietnamese sailors dead.
Historically control of the South China Sea area has been disputed between various nations. Over time there have been treaties to give nation states access to the sea that surround them: the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) typically gives states an exclusive economic zone up to 200 nautical miles from their coastline. China has larger visions: out to this “first line of islands” in the South China Sea (many are around 800 nautical miles from China) and then out to the Pacific beyond Japan.
Chinese naval power is building rapidly and this rate is set to increase. The balance of power is being removed from Chinese neighbours and concentrated. For further details and more of an insight see this BBC article.
Hong Kong Protests
Peaceful protests continue in Hong Kong after the Chinese government insistence at having pre-approved candidates stand in elections only. Other candidates will not get an option to take part in an election from 2017. This goes against the UK’s 1984 agreement that gave Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for 50 years. It appears that Hong Kong is to be subsumed into the Chinese motherland sooner than agreed back in 1984. The local population obviously fear this change and are willing to make a peaceful stand. It is strongly likely that the protests will not be considered from mainland China.
Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels Rise Again
2013 has seen an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere, the Global Carbon Project reports. The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide was 5.4 (plus or minus 0.2) GtC (gigatonnes Carbon) in 2013. This represents an increase of 2.53 (plus or minus 0.09) parts per million in the atmospheric concentration. There is some uncertainty in this data, but this is in the range of around 0.18 GtC per annum. The figure is based upon measurements from 1980–2011 when more observation stations were available to record levels.
This is a disturbing development in global trends as this next 12 month period will be critical to a two degree Celsius warming of the planet. Ideally emissions should stop entirely to remain on course for the warming of two degrees. What this figure represents is the potential for more positive feedback events and the release of significantly more methane into the atmosphere. There is likely to be tropical climate changes that start to release more gases to the atmosphere, through further drying caused by this apparently small increase in temperatures. An impact will also be the drying of tropical rainforests and the removal of carbon sinks that are currently absorbing carbon dioxide, thus releasing even more to the atmosphere. As a human species we can see our destiny but are not acting on the hard facts of empirical evidence. Collective ignorance?
If, which is very likely, emissions continue or increase then the warming of the planet will increase faster than now with more consequences for everyone. The positive feedback events which we are seeing now will lead to further anthropogenic climatic disruption (ACD). Time is running out and the human species has now contributed to the highest atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide for the last 800,000 years.