China: World’s No. 1 Greenhouse Gas Emitter?

It seems so. A Dutch think tank today released figures showing China beat the United States, the globe’s reining offender, in a 2006 tally of carbon dioxide production. The score: 6.2 billion tons for China to 5.8 billion for the U.S.

If this is true, China’s impact on climate change appears to be even greater than climate scientists have been saying. Most recent predictions didn’t have China passing the U.S. in greenhouse gas emissions until next year at the earliest.

An article in the Guardian reveals how Los Oliver, the scientist responsible for the calculations, came to his conclusion:

To work out the emissions figures, Dr Oliver used data issued by the oil company BP earlier this month on the consumption of oil, gas and across the world during 2006, as well as information on cement production published by the US Geological Survey. Cement production, which requires huge amounts of energy, accounts for about 4% of global CO2 production from fuel use and industrial sources. China’s cement industry, which has rapidly expanded in recent years and now produces about 44% of world supply, contributes almost 9% of the country’s CO2 emissions. Dr Olivier calculated carbon dioxide emissions from each country’s use of oil, gas and coal using UN conversion factors. China’s surge beyond the US was helped by a 1.4% fall in the latter’s CO2 emissions during 2006, which analysts say is down to a slowing US economy. [Full Text]

It’s worth noting that several other sources of greenhouse gases, including methane from cattle production, were not included in the calculations, although the Guardian quotes Oliver as being confident China’s lead over the U.S. in cement and fossil fuel emissions is sufficiently large to secure it the top spot.

The BBC chips in with its own report, based on the claims of UK climate official John Ashton, that China is now building roughly two power stations every week. Ashton is quick to point out, however, that a huge chunk of the responsibility for China’s increased energy use falls on consumers of Chinese goods”i.e., all of us.

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