Monday, July 23, 2012

China Nearly Doubles USA's Carbon Emissions: Can Shale Gas Come To The Rescue?

Do you remember when the USA's carbon emissions were higher than any other nation?  You may well, since it was not long, long ago.  China passed in 2009 the USA as the world's largest carbon emitter.

Incredibly, by 2011, China emitted nearly twice as much carbon as America. In just three years, China is close to doubling the US carbon footprint!

China put in the atmosphere in 2011 a huge 9.7 billion tons of carbon, up 800 million tons from 2010.  US emissions were 5.42 billion tons in 2011 and going down.  See the report of the  European Commission's Joint Research Center and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

As of 2011, China now accounts for 29% of the world's carbon pollution; US 16%; European Union 11%; India 6%; Russia 5%; and Japan 4%.  According to the report, global carbon emmissions added up to 34 billion tons.

China remains overwhelmingly dependent on coal to run its economy, with nearly 70% of its total energy provided by combusting coal.  It is aggressively building nuclear plants as well as wind and solar.

But China still runs on coal. That could change, if China successfully produces its large shale gas resources--possibly the second largest in the world.  

US emissions are falling for a set of reasons, but the displacement of coal and oil by natural gas is the biggest. Indeed, US carbon emissions were back to 1996 levels in 2011 and may drop to 1991 or 1990 levels this year.

At this point, the rest of the world should hope that China can use hydraulic fracturing to produce lots of gas, and that it does so as quickly as possible.  Natural gas will be essential to slowing and reversing the Chinese runaway carbon train.

1 comment:

  1. Concerned ScientistJuly 23, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    James Hansen said about the tar sands in Alberta that their development would mean "game over for the climate." I think a more appropriate line would be that the rapid growth in emissions in China and India is "game over for climate." The fate of greenhouse gas emissions is largely in the hands of the Chinese and other rapidly developing countries. The US could cut its emissions by 50% and global emissions would probably still go up as a result of all of the coal burning going on in China.

    Hopefully the Chinese do have massive shale gas reserves and they can switch as quickly as possible from coal to gas. Hopefully they give no credence whatsoever to the anti-shale gas nonesense going on here as their current course is almost a guarantee to bake the planet. That is a case where following the course that Howarth et al would have us take would have disastrous consequences for the planet.