Orville Schell: Climate Change and How It Complicates US-China Relations

November 16, 2010

Orville Schell

On November 11 and 12, Winter Park Institute Scholar in Residence Orville Schell presented his views on Climate Change and US-China relations in a pair of presentations to the Rollins Community. Schell is a published author, award-winning journalist, and the director of the Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations, where his efforts support constructive dialogue between these two powerhouses on the world’s stage. During the presentations, Schell centered his discussions on the rapidly melting glaciers in the Himalayas and the global implications of China’s ongoing development. 

At Thursday evening’s event, titled Climate Change and the Melting Glaciers of the Himalayas, Schell emphasized the importance of the Himalayan glacier system as the source of fresh water supply for billions of people. Comparing photographs taken over the past several years to ones from the 1920s, Schell showed the audience how severe a problem it is. Where there were once piles of pristine snow, there are now expanses of bare rock. Many of Southeast Asia’s major rivers, including the Ganges and Indus, rely on the glacial run-off.  
Schell explained that one of the main causes of this accelerated melting process is coal emissions generated from electricity production. The US and China are the world’s leading users of coal. However, Shell noted that, “China’s leaders have realized the impact of climate change and the market opportunities that green energy presents to the world.”

“Sustainable development is the second act of the information technology revolution. In the last year, China has taken the lead in the development of green energy technology because its people believe in government and its leaders have set policies to help the industry rise to this occasion.” 

Schell’s presentation on Friday morning entitled What’s Happening in China and Why It Matters outlined China’s increasingly critical role in global markets and politics. Throughout the discussion, Schell described the country’s contradictions, momentum, and surprising direction. 

“If you feel confused by what China is doing, you are not alone. China is going somewhere with great energy and enthusiasm but lacks a clear sense of destination,” he said. 

Schell elaborated that China’s lack of resolution stems from numerous reinventions and a fear of instability. Behind its amazing success, there is a tremendous sense of nervousness. He believes “China must realize that, whether it likes it or not, it is a world leader and needs to act like one.” As a world leader, Schell explained, China must understand how intertwined its economy and actions are with the rest of the global superpowers, citing currency manipulation and the embargo on “rare earths.” 

During the event, Schell shifted his focus to the United States and its citizens. “The U.S. has been especially arrogant in the past decade.  Our struggles following the global financial crisis have allowed us to finally learn that all of the world’s people are equal. History is always evolving and our position in it will always be changing.” Schell then began a critique of recent politics. “There is a tremendous responsibility on all of us to be more informed and not be duped by the crazy people running for office. If you believe in an education, then you must believe that all leaders need it. The great weak link in this country is the fact that education is no longer valued.” 

Schell’s presentations follow on the heels of the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. keynote address, and conclude the fall season of the Winter Park Institute. For the second half of fall semester, the Institute’s focus has been on enlightening students with topics related to social and political awareness and environmental sustainability.

“We feel that the Institute’s programming this fall has truly stimulated conversations in the academy and the community, and that is precisely our mission. The spring line-up will certainly do so as well,” notes the Institute’s executive director Gail Sinclair.

For more information on the Winter Park Institute’s spring season, please visit www.rollins.edu/wpi.

By Justin Braun (MBA Class of 2011) with the assistance of Jennifer Ritter (Class of 2013)

Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
For more information, contact news@rollins.edu.

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