Greenhouse Gas Pollution Up Despite Economic Downturn

David Biello of the Scientific American writes on world carbon dioxide emissions. China, at the front of the pack with 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions, is of particular concern.

Despite a slowing global economy, carbon dioxide emissions continued to rise in 2007, according to energy use figures from oil company BP—jumping to 8.47 billion metric tons of the most common greenhouse gas responsible for global warming or 2.9 percent higher than last year’s total. Leading the charge: the U.S. (up nearly 2 percent to 1.58 billion metric tons) and China (up more than 7 percent to 1.8 billion metric tons).

These figures outpace even the worst-case projections of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned last year that unless pollution is reduced, global average temperatures could rise by between four and 11 degrees Fahrenheit (two to six degrees Celsius).

[…]Developing countries currently account for more than half of global carbon dioxide emissions—led by China and India. But that statistic is tempered by the fact that somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of Chinese emissions are the result of manufacturing for developed countries. On the other hand, Chinese emissions may be underestimated by as much as 20 percent by this study, according to author Gregg Marland, a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

For more on China’s carbon emissions track record, see a February 2008 story in the Christian Science Monitor:

Try this statistic on for size: If China’s economy continues to grow at its current pace, and the Asian giant doesn’t cut its rate of energy use, by 2030 it could be emitting as much carbon into the atmosphere as the entire world does today.

And here’s another: As you read this, China is bringing on line coal-fired power plants – major sources of greenhouse-gas emissions – at the mind-boggling rate of two per week.

[…]The question of how China can both cut emissions and grow its economy at the same time “poses one of the greatest challenges of this century,” declares a recent analysis in the journal Science.

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