Study estimates China’s emissions could double in the next 20 years

There certainly isn’t much good news coming out of China these days: The country’s plagued by reports of melamine-laced milk, lead-laden children’s toys, chemical factories pumping out foul odors, and even that scandal with its Olympic gymnastics team. This week brought even more distressing news: The country’s carbon emissions could more than double by 2030.

Beijing’s been shy to release official data on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, but the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimates that China emitted about 1.8 billion tons of carbon in 2007. The country now ranks as world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, surpassing the US as top emitter. Now, a new report from researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences predicts that number to increase exponentially in the coming years if fossil fuel burning continues at its current rate.

From a Reuters article:

By 2020, China’s burning of fossil fuels could annually emit carbon dioxide equal in mass to 2.5 billion metric tons of pure carbon and up to 2.9 billion tons, depending on varying scenarios for development and technology, the new report states. By 2030, these annual emissions may reach 3.1 billion tons a year and up to 4.0 billion tons.


That compares with global carbon emissions of about 8.5 billion tons in 2007. Emissions are also often estimated in tons of CO2, which weighs 3.67 times as much as carbon alone.

If that news really harshes your Friday mellow, brace yourself, because there’s more: These estimates only take into account carbon emissions generated by burning fossil fuels. This means that other carbon-generating factors, like deforestation, aren’t accounted for, nor are emissions of the five other greenhouse gases.

While China’s put forth a few efforts at curbing its carbon and air pollution, the country holds its coal-based economy near and dear to its heart. And so far, China hasn’t shown any indication that it will cut back on carbon if it comes at the expense of slowing rapid industrial growth. Even the study itself notes that “relative to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, economic development is even more important.”

In some good news, today three Chinese companies (including state-owned China Mobile) agreed to join Climate Group, an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Three down, about a zillion to go.



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