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New Analysis Concludes China CO2 Emissions Growing More Rapidly Than Expected

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




Harvey, point made. Who knows what the state of the chart shows. It may very well be just plain overall GDP, in which case the US is even worse, or it could be just from the industrial sector. There are charts that just do the industrial sector. I have access to one that dates back to 85 before US imports became so huge and they show similar rankings.

Actually my commentary is from what sticks in my mind from the other views about anti-AGW is it usually includes a sort of political, nationalistic and/or corporativistic slant as well. Some of quite polarized from the middle ground and some of which is,.. how shall we say paranoid.

Like I said, I meant it for the loudest most vociferous members. Looking at the demographics, it almost breaks down into other beliefs affecting whether or not AGW is acceptable. It's very similar to evolution in that respect. Even before talk of AGW I was conserving, because that how i am.

As for Gore, well, people need to do what they need to do. If he didn't travel, then he wouldn't be an effective spokesperson. The house he lives in, well we live in a socially stratified society. He isn't Buddha and he didn't promise to give it all up, did he? Believing in AGW isn't a religious calling and I don't see why he should become a monk is his habits.

Arthur, go to dailytech which one of your links to. M.Asher one of the anti-AGW wonks and is so fanatical and so many people link to that well, it makes your examples' idea of surpression look like a walk in the park. The scientist wasn't surpressed. He was denied the ability to publish in the perview of NASA. It is only an issue because it is on the topic of AGW. If he wishes he can write it up in any number of other journals. That's the nature of peer review and only a conspiracy nut like M.Asher would go looking for it as proof of surpression.

Also would like to point out, what does conservation and pushing green technologies have to do with denying anyone in the thrid world? From developing biodiesel co-ops in India to the transfer of billions of developement dollars from carbon taxes that otherwise would've went elsewhere that arguement is old and tired.

Also I couldn't any go weirder with the idea of collectivists (which is just another word for socialism) than if I called myself Jack D. Ripper and started to talk about bodily fluids.(Dr Strangelove)

When I see and hear some weird pie in the sky ideas from the left, ya I roll my eyes too and I think hmm, smack or not but Earlthepear, what do you do with some of the other posts. They do come from ....


Ah there's nothing like the blind faith of the free marketeer. Tell me coke machine did the market institute catalytic converters or lead free petrol for, to cite just two of endless examples? Industry fought tooth and nail against these changes even though they have had such a vast beneficial effect on human health. The fact is that industry will fight against any changes that increase production costs even in the face of what is in the public interest.

The market has a role, it can find the most efficient solution to a problem, but don't kid yourself that things will always turn out for the best when you leave the market to itself without government regulation.


China's per capita usage of wattage to produce a unit of GDP dropped in 2007 compared with the previous year. They are building wind turbines at one of the highest rate in the world. In 2007, wind power generated electricity of 5.6 billion KW hours last year, a growth of 95.2 percent over the previous year. There are more solar heaters in China than the rest of the world combined. There are many vacuum tube solar heater manufacturers in China.

They shut down many small(inefficient) coal powered power plants last year. They are adopting American technology in some new steel plants that need less energy to produce. They are using American technology to produce power using coal bed methane. But against a GDP growth of 10%, that can hardly be enough.

The issue is always cost. That is why solar cell, although manufactured massively in China, is applied only piecemeal there. Just imagine if they have just a quarter of the US per capita GDP. There will be more cars on the road, but with the popularity of PHEV and all electric vehicles, there will not be a corresponding increase in pollution if they are charged during off peak hours.




You obviously haven't drunk the koolaid. Good. Though, I do enjoy getting the hardcore AGW believers to go ballistic at me. It's akin to my Indian ancestors "counting coup" to me. Insults are a product of intellectual bankruptcy. Reasoning human beings should be able to discourse civilly.

Conservation and green technologies are good within their limits. You won't energize the third world at this stage of technology with them and pushing solar panels on remote clinics won't even let the fridge and the lights work at the same time. "Hmm? Do we operate or keep the medicine from spoiling?" They need serious power and they need it yesterday. People are dying for want of power.

A few years ago, as 1.5 million people were dying of malaria each year, there was much hand wringing about 3 or 4 birth defects per capita from using DDT. The choice is kind of obvious to someone with a reasonable value of human life. Funny how the wacko left wants to arrest businessmen and politicians but can't see how criminal it is to deny energy and clean water to people who are dying without it.

As to suppression, I wasn't talking about that, but it is a natural part of "peer review" for publication. The "peer" will naturally be reluctant to recommend for publishing what he doesn't like. The beauty of the Internet is that you can get around publication peer review and get on with post-publication peer review. Most people don't seem to know that peer review happens on a variety of levels. It starts for most writers well before it goes to a publisher and continues well after.

I didn't link directly to dailytech and don't recognize the name M. Asher. The point was that there are people on the left who have been solidly behind Kyoto and AGW that are being persuaded by new presentations and rising above their politics. Sorry if you found the link less than satisfactory. I missed that you were talking about the more strident objectors.


I don't know what sort of primitive solar power system you're talking about Arthur but any modern system will have no trouble handling a reasonably efficient fridge, lighting and a few other appliances besides.

About the DDT, I don't think that you mean three or four birth defects per capita as this would mean every baby born had three or four birth defects. Either way DDT is still a serious residual environmental poison.

The mistake that Bjorn Lomborg, yourself et al always make is that you set up a false dichotomy between action on climate change and poverty. Malaria is a prime example. Climate change is taking it into new areas that were previously malaria free, stop climate change and you stop the geographic spread of malaria. A win-win for the poor and the environment.



Historically, malaria was common up to 64 degrees north latitude. It is not a tropical disease and climate change won't take it anywhere new.

Have I been using that term wrong? When I've seen "per capita" statistics, it has been expressed per 100,000 persons; so that's what I thought the term meant. Teach me to look things up occasionally. I always appreciate this kind of correction.

Please show me a solar cell system that will reliably run a remote clinic with operating theater and refrigeration, in a jungle where it rains a lot. Then show me one that will power rural industry. If you insist on limiting the third world to inadequate power, you certainly do perpetuate their poverty.


One thing that China did right is the continuation of the one child policy for another ten years. This policy makes sense for many third world countries too.


The idea of remote clinics being "forced" to use alternative power is not really true. It's a myth perpetrated by a very lousy movie. In the unstable social/politcal strata that is in africa, the belief that we can impose the kind of life we take for granted in the west and it's infrastructure requirements is not feasible. I've seen that movie and looking at it, there is no reason to believe that if there was conventional power, that it wouldn't have been disrupted by any number of things. And there was no operating theatre or such in it at all.

There are no power lines, there isn't the money to install the kind of infrastructure and it's maintenance costs and certainly not in a small villiage. I've seen reconverted vehicles that run on burning wood. The highest per capita penetration of solar power in the world is in Kenya. That's from their own private money. A solar panel, a lead acid battery to charge and people have a reliable way to for light at night and to run a radio or tv.

There was a british tv show where british millionaire entrepeneurs took their own money and tried to use their expertise to create and build and help people in the third world. Guess what, some project failed. And some of these were normal conventional projects. Native people let infrastructure fall apart including vehicles and buildings. Just because someone with an axe to grid puts it on the screen doesn't mean the idea is unworkable.

Solar is grid parity cost in Hawaii and California. What do you think it is in Africa which is more located in around the equator and has less infrastructure to rely on. Small 12 volt systems are easy and fairly cheap. Go to a camping store and you can see them. If the Kenyans are buying, not subsidized solar panels, and using them for night lighting and radio use, it is not beyond reason to see the advantages to a remote villiage which does not have power lines and no reliable way to get fuel on a regular basis to use a low maintenance self recharging system like solar.

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