China is world’s largest carbon cesspool

Chinese air pollution seen from space in 2009. Credit/Wikipedia

Austin, November 21, 2014 — In 2013, China produced 27.6 percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. That’s up 2.6 percent since 2009, and it’s rising fast.

China’s mercurial emissions rise since 1990 has already put the earth at risk. In 2013, China produced nearly six times the CO2 emissions that it did in 1990 and is responsible for 63 percent of the earth’s total CO2 increases since 2002. That’s according to data collected by the Global Carbon Project and found in its Global Carbon Atlas.

China is the world’s second largest economy, soon to become the first. China must agree to major CO2 reductions at the 2015 United Nations Paris Climate Summit (COP21) if there is any hope for the world to hold temperature rise below the 2°C limit, assuming IPCC forecasts are correct.

China is a runaway CO2 nightmare in almost every statistical category.

China_CO2_by_Year_Netherlands_V4China single-handed controls the CO2 fate of planet earth. It produces more CO2 faster than the rest of the world combined. China’s emissions took off like a rocket in 2002 with no end in sight.

China only promises it “intends” to stop its rise by 2030, not that it will. That’s not good enough.

Credit/Steve Davidson using Global Carbon Atlas data
Credit/Steve Davidson using Global Carbon Atlas data

China disgorged a shocking 10 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2013. It’s nearly as much as the next five largest CO2 emitters combined, including the United States. China is in an emissions class unto itself.

At present, China and India, the largest and third largest emissions offenders, are not subject to any international CO2 restrictions or financial responsibility to poorer nations. The Russian Federation isn’t under any meaningful restrictions.

Credit/Steve Davidson using Global Carbon Atlas data
Credit/Steve Davidson using Global Carbon Atlas data

Savvy environmentalists understand that carbon intensity is the key metric in the fight against CO2 rise.

Carbon intensity measures the amount of CO2 emissions it takes for a country to generate a standard U.S. dollar worth of economic activity. A low carbon intensity is good. A high carbon intensity is bad.

For each dollar of economic activity, China generates 2 kilograms of CO2 compared to a third of a kilogram for the United States in 2012.

China spits out nearly six times as much CO2 per dollar than does the United States. China is grossly inefficient in the ways it generates and uses energy. It is no wonder it’s the world’s number one CO2 offender.

If the United States had the same carbon intensity as China, it would have generated 31 billion tons of CO2 in 2013. By comparison, total global atmospheric emissions were 36 billion tons in 2013.

Environmentalists usually suggest replacing fossil fuels with zero emission non-nuclear and non-hydroelectric energy sources, like wind and solar. That’s more easily said than done.

Fossil fuels will supply over 70 percent of the earth’s energy over the next 25 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Therefore, the most practical way to reduce CO2 now is to increase the energy efficiency of the fossil fuels that are burned.

Replacing coal burning with cheaper advanced combined cycle natural gas is the primary reason the U.S. has been able to reduced its carbon intensity by nearly 20 percent since 2005, more than any other nation. Subsidized renewables and mandated café standards contributed some, but nothing measurable.

Credit/Steve Davidson using Global Carbon Atlas data
Credit/Steve Davidson using Global Carbon Atlas data

The United States is often roundly criticized for its emissions gluttony. It produced 16 tons of atmospheric CO2 per person in 2012, the most of any of the top 6 emitters.

It is conveniently ignored that the United States is one of the most energy efficient nations in the world, as demonstrated by its very low carbon intensity. The U.S. has reduced its per capita emissions from 20 tons (16%) just since 2000. China’s per capita emissions are rising.

China still has a long way to go to match the United States. The UN and sympathetic environmentalists use this and its per capita income as the reasons China is given a pass as an “emerging” economy instead of treating it as an industrialized nation.


Is it fair to the rest of the world to continue treating China with kid gloves when it comes to CO2 emissions? China is, by far, the world’s largest CO2 offender and the most energy inefficient large nation there is.

That has to change for the UN to meet its goals. A promise that China “intends” to cap CO2 emissions at an unknown level by 2030 and that it “intends” to increase its renewable energy to 20 percent, as stated in the just released U.S.-China joint announcement, isn’t good enough.

China’s current runaway path is condemning the earth to a global warming holocaust, assuming the IPCC AR5 report is correct.

It’s time for the United Nations to get real. China needs to be redefined as an industrialized nation. It must be assigned strict CO2 emissions limits and assigned financial obligations just like all the other industrialized nations already have. That’s the main challenge for the United Nations Paris Climate Summit next year.

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  • Jorge Orwell

    It has been almost 9 years since the last major hurricane struck the US – the longest hurricane lull since reliable records began in the 1800s.