Thursday, May 16, 2013

China's Per Capita Carbon Emissions Will Soon Exceed Those Of New York, California, Vermont And Are Higher Than Washington DC

As the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide exceeds 400 parts per million and hurtles quickly toward 500, China is already responsible for about one-third of the world's annual emissions.  And Chinese emissions continue to skyrocket, even as emissions stabilize or fall in Europe and the USA.

When China's enormous and growing total carbon emissions are noted, as I have just done, a response is often made that China's per capita emissions are lower.  In fact, China's per capita emissions in 2011 of 7.2 tons were only slightly lower than the European Union's 7.5 tons and may well be higher by 2013.

While China's per capita emissions are today about one-half of US per capita emissions, China will soon have higher per capita emissions than those of New York, Vermont, and California--the three US states with the lowest per capita emissions, as of 2010.  

Per capita emissions of New York, Vermont, and California were respectively 8.8, 9.7, and 9.9 tons.

China's 2011 per capita emission of 7.2 tons are already higher than that of a Washingtonian. Residents of the District of Columbia averaged in 2010 just 5.4 tons.

Since 2011 China's emissions have continued to rise sharply, while US emissions have fallen significantly since 2010, as natural gas displaced significant amounts of coal to make electricity.  These trend lines make it highly likely that the per capita emissions of China will exceed those of New York and possibly California within the next 5 years.

Climate change is a true global problem and the USA, Europe, India, Canada, the Middle East, South America, Australia must address it. But increasingly what happens in China will determine at what level concentrations of carbon dioxide can finally be stabilized. That fact must be faced squarely.

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