Dr. Minqi Li spoke to students about the rising energy consumption in China. Gilbert Cisneros/UVU Review

Speaking as part of the International Center‘s Global Spotlight on China program, Dr. Minqi Li discussed the relationship between China, oil production and the effects on the climate during a recent speech entitled “China, Peak Oil and Climate Change.”

Dr. Li, currently an assistant professor of economics at the University of Utah, spoke of China’s rapidly expanding role in regards to the world’s energy consumption, rising from just under 10 percent in 1990 to just under 20 percent in 2009, and compared that to the United States’ declining role, falling from 25 percent in 1990 to just under 20 percent in 2009.

“China’s energy consumption growth rate would double every nine years at the current rate,” Li said.

He followed by showing how China’s increase in energy consumption could be problematic when taken in context of the recent peak in world oil production, stating that 28 significant oil producing countries have passed their peak, which in turn accounts for over 50 percent of the world’s oil production.

“Despite the surging of oil prices…the world oil production has hit a ceiling,” Li said.

Because of the increase in energy consumption and the decrease in oil production, Li concluded that the current climate is rising steadily, stating that 2010 was the warmest year since 1880.

“For the moment, the global average temperature is one degree Celsius higher than pre-industrial times,” Li said. “At the current rate, the temperature is rising by 0.2 degrees each decade.”

He said that global temperatures rising by 4 degrees Celsius would constitute a catastrophic scenario for the world’s population, which, according to Li, is exactly where the world is headed.

Asked to offer solutions for the current 21st century crisis, Li stated that disaster is only avoidable through the reformation or end of capitalism.

Barring that, according to Li, we could be heading towards an ecological catastrophe, possibly resulting in the end of civilization and humanity.

“That, basically, is the fundamental problem that we have to deal with this century,” Li said.