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.