If Carbon Matters — Don’t Ignore China

Anthropogenic carbon dioxide statistics tell an interesting story.  The world is changing and changing rapidly, but the rhetoric has been slow to adjust.  Climate politics continues to focus on the USA and Western Europe, and that is a mistake.

We in the USA have a large carbon footprint.  We use lots of coal in power generation, manufacture lots of stuff, heat and air condition our homes, and drive large vehicles.  The US per capita production of carbon dioxide peaked in 1973 at about 22.3 metric tons per capita.  We now (2008) stand at about 17.5.

Yes, we peaked almost 40 years ago.  I was not expecting that data.  Big houses, big cars….lots of electrical use.  Surprising!  And we continue to improve.  Our population grew at 9.8% in the first 10 years of the 21st century, and our carbon production as a country went down.

2012 will likely be a very good year on the carbon front in the USA.  We had a mild winter, used more natural gas in power generation (which means less coal), and our gasoline consumption is down.  It went down during the recession, and has continued down into 2012 as we have begun to see the benefits of fuel efficient vehicles.  Two offsets, the USA is now a net exporter  of gasoline  (which counts as US use in the statistics) and we are using more in manufacturing.

Qatar is the largest per capita user, the USA (using 2008 data) is 12th, just behind Australia and just ahead of Saudi Arabia.  We still have a long way to go, but we are improving. China has been doing the opposite.   A Reuters article dated June 8, 2011, reported China’s carbon output increased 10% in 2010 and was 25% of the worldwide total, number one in the world by a wide margin. The US, still second  has fallen to about 18% of the total.  We were 30% just 13 years ago.

China’s rise has been spectacular as the chart below demonstrates:

Chinese Carbon Dioxide Emissions

The Chinese economy is the rock star of 21st century economics.   A small player 20 years ago is now the second largest economy in the world.  Perhaps that is why Al Gore, James Hansen and so many global warming activists have been quick to blame the US and have been slow to recognize the problem that is China emissions.

China is overwhelming  the data.  In 1999 they were less than half the US total, In 2006 they passed us.  The recession slowed carbon production in the western world, but not in China.    Soon, (maybe 2013) China will  produce more than the USA and Western Europe combined.    China really matters.

If carbon dioxide production is a problem…and I said IF, then the solution to the problem lies East of the USA…..way East.  We in the USA could reduce our production to zero, and we’d still fail to meet UN goals for the world….because of China.


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