The mass adoption of solar power–the Chinese have purchased 35 million solar water heaters, more than the rest of the world combined–is only part of the equation. China is also encouraging investment and research in wind farms, bioenergy, and fuel cell and hybrid vehicles, and aiming to improve energy efficiency by a sizeable 4 percent annually. "It's historic," says Kishan Khoday, head of the United Nations Development Program's energy and environment program in China. "It's going to take efforts on all angles of the issue to get it done."Link
If China fails, the implications for the rest of the world could be grave. Sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide from China already travel across the Pacific, causing acid rain in North America and Europe. Last year in Japan, two city governments issued formal warnings about pollution from the country's western neighbor.
Environmental conditions are already approaching apocalyptic in a country where coal provides 70 percent of the country's power. Chinese scientists have predicted that the Yangtze River will die by 2011, and with two-thirds of other rivers polluted, more than 340 million Chinese lack access to clean drinking water. An estimated 400,000 Chinese die of pollution every year. By the government's own estimates released in December 2006, climate change is occurring in China at alarming rates, with temperatures due to increase by 1.3 to 2.1 degrees Celsius by 2020. China is unveiling forward-thinking policies and pushing alternative energy because it has no other choice.
Update: Brent sez, "In the latest issue of Wired (15.05), there's an excellent article about an effort underway in China to build a green city from the ground up on Chongming Island, set to house 500,000 people."
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.