Wednesday, April 23, 2008

China Already Surpassed U.S. as World's Top Polluter : Industrial Market Trends

China's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are growing much faster than anticipated and are on pace to double during this decade. In fact, according to a recent report, China has already overtaken the United States as the world's largest carbon polluter.
New research suggests China's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been underestimated and probably passed those of the U.S. in 2006-2007, claims a new report written by economic professors Maximilian Auffhammer of the University of California-Berkeley and Richard Carson of UC-San Diego.
Forecasts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had predicted that China's CO2 emissions would rise by about 2.5 to 5 percent each year between 2004 and 2010.
Yet these estimates are two to four times too low, according to the new research.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports (via Discovery News):
Researchers compiled information about the use of fossil fuels in various Chinese provinces and forecast an 11 percent annual growth of carbon emissions from 2004 to 2010. Previous estimates had set the growth rate at 2.5 to five percent.
The researchers' figures are based on provincial-level data from the Chinese Environmental Protection Agency. They studied pollution data from China's 30 provincial entities in order to obtain a more precise snapshot of GHG emissions.
"Everybody had been treating China as single country, but each of the country's provinces is larger than many European countries, both in geographic size and population," Carson said in the AFP report.
NPR states:
The average of all the scenarios predicts continued growth in emissions of about 10 percent to 11 percent a year. That is roughly what Auffhammer has observed over the last four years -- and it would lead to a doubling of emission levels every decade. By this reckoning, China overtook the United States as the leading emitter of carbon dioxide about a year ago. And its emissions are now increasing about 10 times faster than in the United States.
Auffhammer and Carson's team admits there is some uncertainty over the date when China may have become the biggest emitter of CO2, as their analysis is based on 2004 data. Nonetheless, they say analysis of the 30 data points is more informative about likely future emissions than national figures in wider use because it allows errors to be tracked more closely.
Today's increasingly complex global business environment, rising energy and transport costs, mounting compliance challenges and concerned consumers are driving organizations to self-scrutinize their sustainability, green initiatives and overall carbon footprint.
"Carbon footprint" is the popular term for the GHG emissions generated by the activities of an entity such as a manufacturing plant, or a set of manufacturing plants, Matt Banks, World Wildlife Fund senior program officer for business and industry, recently explained to IndustryWeek. The more technical term for a carbon footprint is a "greenhouse gas emissions inventory," which includes all greenhouse gases (such as methane and nitrous oxide) in addition to carbon dioxide, that contribute to climate change.
Scientists last tried to project China's "carbon footprint" contribution to climate change in the late 1990s, when Asia was in a recession and China's emissions weren't growing particularly fast. China, now the world's most populous country, has been developing at lightning speed.
As such, the spike in air pollution by China has largely canceled out efforts by other countries' attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol, the authors said.
The new study will be published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management next month.
Resources
Forecasting the Path of China's CO2 Emissions Using Province Level Informationby Maximilian Auffhammer and Richard T. Carson, Aug. 7, 2007
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