New Analysis Concludes China CO2 Emissions Growing More Rapidly Than Expected
11 March 2008
The growth in China’s carbon dioxide emissions is far outpacing previous estimates, making the goal of stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gases much more difficult, according to a new analysis by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, and UC San Diego.
The authors of the study, Maximillian Auffhammer, UC Berkeley assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics, and Richard Carson, UC San Diego professor of economics, based their findings upon pollution data from China’s 30 provincial entities.
Previous estimates, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, say the region that includes China will see a 2.5 to 5% annual increase in CO2 emissions, the largest contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases, between 2004 and 2010. The new UC analysis puts that annual growth rate for China to at least 11% for the same time period.
The study is scheduled for print publication in the May issue of the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, but is now online.
The researchers’ most conservative forecast predicts that by 2010, there will be an increase of 600 million metric tons of carbon emissions in China over the country’s levels in 2000. This growth from China alone would overshadow the 116 million metric tons of carbon emissions reductions pledged by all the developed countries in the Kyoto Protocol. (The protocol was never ratified in the United States, which was the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide until 2006, when China took over that distinction, according to numerous reports.)
Put another way, the projected annual increase in China alone over the next several years is greater than the current emissions produced by either Great Britain or Germany.
Based upon these findings, the authors say current global warming forecasts are “overly optimistic,” and that action is urgently needed to curb greenhouse gas production in China and other rapidly industrializing countries.
Auffhammer said this paper should serve as an alarm challenging the widely held belief that actions taken by the wealthy, industrialized nations alone represent a viable strategy towards the goal of stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide.
Making China and other developing countries an integral part of any future climate agreement is now even more important. It had been expected that the efficiency of China’s power generation would continue to improve as per capita income increased, slowing down the rate of CO2 emissions growth. What we’re finding instead is that the emissions growth rate is surpassing our worst expectations, and that means the goal of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 is going to be much, much harder to achieve.—Maximillian Auffhammer
Researchers traditionally calculate the CO2 emissions for a region or country from data on fossil fuel consumption. Existing models then use those emission figures and factor in such variables as population size, a society’s affluence and technology developments to forecast the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
In explaining the startling differences in results from previous estimates for China’s carbon emissions growth, the UC researchers point out that they used province-level figures in their analysis to obtain a more detailed picture of the country’s CO2 emissions up to 2004.
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. In addition, there is a wide range in economic development and wealth from one province to the next, as well as major differences in population growth, all of which has an effect on energy consumption that cannot be easily addressed in models based upon aggregate national data.—Richard Carson
Since data on fossil fuel consumption is not reported at the province level in China, the researchers used waste gas emissions, available from China’s state environmental protection administration reports, as a proxy for CO2 emissions in this paper.
Moreover, the researchers said, the majority of other studies forecasting China’s CO2 emissions relied upon information from nearly a decade ago. During the 1990s, per capita income was growing faster than the use of energy in China, which typically relates to slower growth in carbon emissions.
A notable shift occurred in China around the year 2000, around the time when hope for an agreement with the US on the Kyoto Protocol began to diminish along with external pressure for China to reduce its emissions. Energy use started to grow faster than income, and much of the energy that was used wasn't efficient.—Richard Carson
The authors also pointed out that after 2000, China’s central government began shifting the responsibility for building new power plants to provincial officials who had less incentive and fewer resources to build cleaner, more efficient plants, which save money in the long run but are more expensive to construct.
Government officials turned away from energy efficiency as an objective to expanding power generation as quickly as they can, and as cheaply as they can. Wealthier coastal provinces tended to build clean-burning power plants based upon the very best technology available, but many of the poorer interior provinces replicated inefficient 1950s Soviet technology.
The problem is that power plants, once built, are meant to last for 40 to 75 years. These provincial officials have locked themselves into a long-run emissions trajectory that is much higher than people had anticipated. Our forecast incorporates the fact that much of China is now stuck with power plants that are dirty and inefficient.—Richard Carson
Maximilian Auffhammer and Richard T. Carson. Forecasting the path of China’s CO2 emissions using province level information. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Article in Press, doi:10.1016/j.jeem.2007.10.002
Reality check: look at CO2 emissions *per capita*
China has more than 4x the population of the US, so it's hardly surprising it emits a lot of CO2. The West has to be very careful to lead by example in order to have any chance of persuading China to opt for substantially more expensive technology today just to avoid serious consequences that may or may not materialize in the future.
Specifically, the US cannot expect others to moderate their ambitions just so Americans can continue to live beyond their means, financially as well as ecologically.
Posted by: Rafael Seidl | 11 March 2008 at 03:52 AM
Have you seen china's desertification problem from global warming? They are suffering problems now, it's still not stopping them.
Posted by: Ben | 11 March 2008 at 06:31 AM
What is necessary is to assist China in finding and implementing clean-up-technology and to encourage the adoption of better energy production methods by setting a good example.
Sadly, the USA is borrowing the money China has available for improved infrastructure, and using it to fight a useless war with the objective of accessing even more oil.
Is this path to mutual destruction nuts????
Posted by: John Taylor | 11 March 2008 at 07:04 AM
In many parts of the world a lot of people don't have electricity or hot water and use hardly any energy (what they do use is mostly carbon neutral and renewable firewood.) These people need to, and have a right to, greatly increase their emissions. So those of us in the industrialized nations, who have been polluting and wasting for generations, need to cut our emissions well beyond the 80% reduction recommended for the planet as a whole.
China should be taking advantage of the lessons learned in the West, but it can, will, and should continue to increase emissions.
Posted by: Damon | 11 March 2008 at 07:39 AM
Just blame 'Globalization of the Economy' and the our insatiable greed for maximum profits.
Posted by: Bill G. | 11 March 2008 at 07:53 AM
“China’s forests are expanding; India’s have reached equilibrium – changes due in large part to urban migration, agricultural yield increases and reforestation policies.
Among the 50 nations studied, forest area in percentage terms… expanded fastest from 1990 in Viet Nam, Spain and China.
An increasing number of countries and regions are transitioning from deforestation to afforestation…
In countries where per capita Gross Domestic Product exceeds US $4,600 (roughly equal to the GDP of Chile), richer is greener”
Posted by: Andrey | 11 March 2008 at 08:17 AM
blah blah blah, the shy is falling. More communist propaganda from Berkley.
Posted by: blah | 11 March 2008 at 09:10 AM
Ummm...China IS communist, I would think THEY would be the ones issuing the propaganda.
Posted by: sjc | 11 March 2008 at 09:34 AM
China's toxic emissions are up, and once again lefties posting here, say its America's fault. They firmly believe that such things would never happen if the lefties organized society and governed.
Yet the entire East bloc was and is an environmental cesspool.
Is there anything in their world view that is not, or cannot be said to be, America's fault?
One poster even said it was greed for profit (?), an anathema to leftist economies, which China is the prime example, that was responsible in that wonderful, perfect, ideal, non-capitalist, non-profit, system of organizing society. How can that possibly be?
Only in democracies, where the people ACTUALLY CAN express their wants for things, such as clean air, and water, can any progress be made in controlling pollution. America is getting close, probably within the next decade, to being able to declare Victory, and that it has achieved the pollution cleanup needed when it started to do so after the first Earth Day.
Regardless if you believe the hype that increased CO2 emissions matter any longer; the other toxic emissions equally uncontrolled, certainly do matter.
Posted by: stan peterson | 11 March 2008 at 09:39 AM
"China should be taking advantage of the lessons learned in the West, but it can, will, and should continue to increase emissions."
In the end the earth doesn't care who has what standard of living. If we reach tipping points beyond which positive feedback is uncontrollable we're all going to have a hard time, China included (well at least our descendants...).
Posted by: marcus | 11 March 2008 at 09:40 AM
It doesn't matter what the per capita emissions are. Everyone needs to reduce emissions. But China will do no such thing, no matter what kind of example we set. Remember, US CO2 emissions have dropped slightly, even without being a Kyoto signatory.
Posted by: Cervus | 11 March 2008 at 10:11 AM
You mixing up GHG and CO2 emissions. GHG emissions in many developed countries are indeed decreasing or stabilizing, mostly due to reduced emissions of methane and CFC (and smart Enron-style accounting), but CO2 emissions continue to rise practically everywhere, take a look for example here:
Posted by: Andrey | 11 March 2008 at 10:51 AM
Unless I'm reading the latest EPA report wrong, Cervus is correct. Total GHG -1.5% with CO2 -1.7%, more if your factor in the 'sinks'. In related news, overall consumption fell 1% in January 08.
Why doesn't China lead by example?
Posted by: Joseph | 11 March 2008 at 11:55 AM
Yes, there are limited resources in the world. No, we don't have the right to keep anybody poor. Yes, as of today, there is a strong corrolation between GHG emissions and quality of life.
We need to decrease the corrolation between aggrigate quality of life and GHG emissions through efficency and alternative energy. But in order to increase per capita quality of life and put greenhouse gasses where they need to be, not to mention reduce conflict etc, we're going to need to control the world's population. If China didn't institute the one child policy, reducing GHG emissions to where they need to be would be impossible.
Posted by: Dan A | 11 March 2008 at 12:34 PM
Stan, I am guessing you are a relic of the old Soviet cold war. Only in America do you see these gross extremes of politics, incited by the old fear of the communists. As a result, the capitalists hold up communist countries as the only alternative to a laissez-faire free capitalist system as in the US. I don't think anyone here is advocating communism. There are MANY MANY variations in between pure communism and pure capitalism. As is so obviously apparent, neither extreme will work.
For some reason Stan never mentions Sweden, which is quite far left socially and economically, yet has an economy well out-performing that of the US.
But ironically, North America and particularly the US has become more socialist than many official socialist countries -- but a different kind of socialism -- corporate socialism, the result of runaway capitalism.
Now, despite everyone's hard work and technological innovations over the last 50 years, comsumers are no better off now than they were 50 years ago. The power has shifted away from the consumer and government and onto the corporation. Add to this the massive debt as a result of the overseas oil wars to make profits for oil corps, which must be serviced through taxation of the consumer, and it serves a pretty clear example of what runaway capitalism and government/corporate corruption can result in.
Posted by: | 11 March 2008 at 01:12 PM
Posted by: MarkBC | 11 March 2008 at 01:12 PM
If you actually look at the background reference, the best country is Italy. It has increased both the area forested; and the density of its forests. So it is actively managing its forests.
The Countries quoted: Vietnam, China and even Spain added acreage to forests, but the new forests were no more dense than any others. IOW, native cover extended, but little silviculture management.
On the basis of measuring both forest density and increased acreage, Italy and then surprise! surprise! the USA are the best performing countries.
Even using the original standard Italy then the USA are in the top half dozen countries in reforestation. How come the lefties never mentioned that fact?
I have been saying here that for a long time that US forests have added 40% to the amount of standing timber since the first Earth Day. The cleanup and carbon sequestration of that large a volume of CO2 is totally unaccounted for in the "official statistics" for CO2 emissions reductions. Here in the USA, you must found a tax-dodge company like Algore has done, and only those officially planted trees count for CO2 sequestration. Of course its a tiny insignificant amount.
So the USA is the best large country in the world for reducing (actually increasing the least) Kyoto emissions. The official figures do not include the effect of all this increased reforestation.
The USA is doing a lot better on the carbon front then official statistics report; we are the only carbon neutral (actually decreasing) large country. This is confirmed on the gross level by measuring the CO2 levels entering the USA from the Pacific on prevailing winds, versus the CO2 levels entering the Atlantic after transiting the US.
And our real technologies for reducing CO2 are only now being readied for wide implementation. First, Electrified Ground Transport is coming. Secondly, a building boom is aborning for new last generation of fission nuclear plants. These new plants along with cleaner, much more efficient coal plants like IGCC, will retire the most ancient and polluting coal plants.
This is confirmed on the gross level by measuring the CO2 levels entering the USA from the Pacific on prevailing winds, versus the CO2 levels departing into the Atlantic after transiting the US.
Posted by: stan peterson | 11 March 2008 at 01:49 PM
You are right, Joseph/Cervus, thanks. However, for preliminary 2007 numbers CO2 consumption bounced back:
“During the first 49 weeks of 2007, CO2 emissions from U.S. power plants rose 3.3 percent versus the same period in 2006 (coal releases about 40 percent of the country's CO2).
Consumption of petroleum, which emits another 40 percent of U.S. CO2, was also higher for the first eight months of 2007 for every sector.
Natural gas consumption, which accounts for 20 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions, was also up.”
And the reason for this is:
“The average U.S. temperature during the first three months of 2007 averaged nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) colder than the same months in 2006, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”
And for EU countries one should really look at CO2 numbers (see my previous reference), not total GHG, because the difference is quite substantial.
Posted by: Andrey | 11 March 2008 at 10:03 PM
You listed a “Reality Check of CO2 Emissions per capita, let’s look at another reality Check of CO2 per GDP. Try this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_ratio_of_GDP_to_carbon_dioxide_emissions
This spreadsheet shows that the US, while we do have a small portion of the population, are very efficient at what we do with the energy. This is 2004 data and doesn’t show China recently surpassing us in emissions. The US is ranked 74th in this survey. Our economy is 5.2 times the size of China’s, and just the growth in the US economy, since the Bush tax cuts, was larger than China’s entire economy. China’s population is 4.38 times (2007 data) the US population. My question is which is the more valid or a better indicator, the use per capita or the use per GDP, (which I would rate as efficiency)? Our CO2 use per GDP in the above website is also lower than all of Europe’s individual countries, even nuclear powered France.
My point is that anyone can quote statistics and make them say whatever they want them to say. Your point says the US has the most CO2 emissions per capita, which is quite true. My point is the US is one of the most efficient, also quite true. Which is a better measure? Personally, I’ll go with efficiency, but nobody on this site is hammering Chad, the worst country in the above list.
I am just sick and tired of everyone blaming the US for everything. It’s always our fault, or the oil companies, or the electric companies, or one of our companies, or Bush or Cheney, or Halliburton.
This relatively useless data doesn’t get us anywhere closer to what we need. Energy independence for the US, better use of carbon chains rather than burning them, and off of carbon based fuels. However, increased oil production will have to be an interim solution, or the world will go into depression as a result of oil prices, while we change modes of electric generation. Bush and Cheney had this in their energy bill, most of which was conservation measures, which went nowhere because of numerous mostly political reasons.
Human caused Atmospheric Global Warming is far from being proven, and there isn’t “Scientific Consensus” like Al Gore says. There are plenty of very qualified climate scientists who say it is a hoax, (see www.schnittshow.com) Max Mayfield and William Grey, to name just a couple of renowned anti-human caused Global Warming climatologists, however, that still doesn’t mean we should still burn hydrocarbons. I really suggest we leave it to the capitalist system to come up with the best solution. The only thing I’ve seen government manage effectively is the military, (I was a fighter pilot for 14 years), certainly not education (I was a Physics teacher for 5 years and still work for the school system though not teaching), and certainly not agriculture, (I was a USDA Inspector as a 2nd job while a teacher), and no stupid taxes to help the govt. manage anything, nor any carbon trading “risky scheme”.
I just wonder if the plants are joyous that we are increasing what they breathe from the trace .038% CO2 to something higher.
Posted by: Coke Machine | 12 March 2008 at 08:17 PM
Keep in mind, particulate, CO, SO2, etc. toxic pollutants in Beijing are 500% higher than World Health Organization maximums. All but two countries' Olympic athletes train outside China for this reason.
Posted by: chokin | 13 March 2008 at 01:32 AM
Many of us are very peculiar (even unfair) about China's rising CO2 emissions and GHG.
What shall we expect when we shove our dirty industrial production over there and keep the (much cleaner) service side of the equation here.
After a few more years, our GHG may be way down and their's way up. It's like shovelling snow in your neigbours yard.
To be fair, the imported and exported GHG must be fully accounted for. If we did, our per capita GHG may be closer to 45 tonnes instead of the current 23 to 25 tonnes and their's would be even much lower than their current very low level.
Posted by: Harvey D | 13 March 2008 at 08:44 AM
The US is not the most efficient country in terms of energy intensity which is defined in terms of the ratio of energy consumption to GDP. It isn't in terms of per capita energy use.
As for the list, compare it to every major industrialized country. I believe you're looking at it wrong. The list is ranked by GDP/CO2. The only one it beats is Canada, which is always been known as the least energy efficient industrialized country.
AGW is based on well documented scientific reasoning. No international or national scientific organization does not recognize it's validaty including the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which was the last to reject the basic findings of human influence on recent climate with a statement in 2007 and admit the validity of AGW. Gee, wonder why they were the last hold out?
As for the capitalist system. What makes people think that capitalism equates to the best fastest solution. The only way captalism will even take into account is if there are price indicators in the market of the negative effects. If even the negative effects are not attributed to AGW then what are the market indicators? If prices are kept artificially low, where are the indicators? The various powers try to keep the price low for the their own good and eventually that is going to snap. When that happens, price shocks and market collapses result. No government relies on the market to completely regulate it's economy. Not even the US.
I would like to ask one question of the group. Why is it that people (at least the most vehement) who believe that AGW is false almost universally fall into a small ideological group usually based on economic/politicol beliefs.
As for the scientists. These are the same guys over and over again. Frankly as the evidence keeps building against them they seem to be get more strident. They have had years to get scientific opinion on their side with their views. Obviously they failed. Emotional/ideological appeals to prejudices are not and never were scientific proof of anything.
A recent shot of Grey
Posted by: aym | 13 March 2008 at 09:09 AM
GHG vs GDP becomes meaningless when you selectively have your neighbours supply dirty oil from sands and you import GHG producing industrial manufactured products but locally produce mostly white collar services.
USA, with it's huge trade deficit, is doing that on a very large scale.
Total GHG per capital (including GHG related to all imported goods + trade deficits) but (excluding GHG related to exported goods + trade surpluses) is a much better GHG foot print measurement tool.
Of course, you will still have to add and substract GHG from deforestration and reforestration etc.
People riding bicycles and eating cereals, fruit and vegetables don't normally create much GHG.
People riding monster gas guzzlers, overeating meat and prepared products and overconsumming just about everything normally create much more GHG.
Posted by: Harvey D | 13 March 2008 at 09:31 AM
Aym / responding to your question of:
[I would like to ask one question of the group. Why is it that people (at least the most vehement) who believe that AGW is false almost universally fall into a small ideological group usually based on economic/politicol beliefs.]
I personally don't subscribe to AGM being mostly human, though I know we humans aren't helping the situation. I don't think you should pigeonhole those that don't believe in it based upon the group's loudest members. I know you state the "loudest members" specifically, but the implication is there for anyone that doesn't believe in it. I recycle everything I can, drive a good mileage car (as little as possible), and cut energy corners wherever possible. On the flip side, Mr. Gore has a 10000 square foot house and jets around everywhere for conferences (Internet conference anyone?). If I were to classify a group based on it's loudest members, many of the left start looking pretty hysterical as well, as well as parts of *any* group. That's like believing what the mainstream media presents (or just one random Google search) as the whole story. If you have a jab to say to someone (Stan maybe?), then just state it clearly.
Posted by: EarlThePear | 13 March 2008 at 12:42 PM
In keeping with my New Year's resolution to reschool myself on the science of climate change, I have been looking into the science and have found that one side is definitely right and one is definitely wrong. It would be a waste of time to try to persuade anyone of the truth here because it is the ideology that drives the choices we prefer, not the science. The idea that people who dispute AGW fall into a single narrow ideological group is untrue; but it was never really about the science anyway. It's really about the collectivists versus the individualists. Always has been, always will be. The science is just a cloak over the real issues.
The UN says that 2 million people are dying every year RIGHT NOW from indoor air pollution because they don't have access to cheaper, cleaner energy than indoor wood burning. Energy availability makes education and wealth creation possible and lets people live longer, healthier lives.
Ideologically, I prefer to provide energy to better the lives of people who are dying NOW, than to worry about some future possibility that may never come. Even if coastlines were to flood and Manhattan were 20 feet under water, I would stick to this choice.
Ideologically, the alarmists (collectivists) prefer to keep people dying and in poverty (remember DDT?) and to drag the rest of the world down to the same miserable level. Claiming authority (and demanding authoritarianism) through science is just a means to an end.
Posted by: Arthur | 13 March 2008 at 03:07 PM