Monday, March 05, 2007

China About to Pass US as World's Top Generator of Greenhouse Gases

From the San Francisco Chronicle

by Robert Collier

Far more than previously acknowledged, the battle against global warming will be won or lost in China, even more so than in the West, new data show.

A report released last week by Beijing authorities indicated that as its economy continues to expand at a red-hot pace, China is highly likely to overtake the United States this year or in 2008 as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

This information, along with data from the International Energy Agency, the Paris-based alliance of oil importing nations, also revealed that China's greenhouse gas emissions have recently been growing by a total amount much greater than that of all industrialized nations put together.

"The magnitude of what's happening in China threatens to wipe out what's happening internationally," said David Fridley, leader of the China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"Today's global warming problem has been caused mainly by us in the West, with the cumulative (carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere, but China is contributing to the global warming problem of tomorrow."

New statistics released in Beijing on Wednesday by China's National Bureau of Statistics show that China's consumption of fossil fuels rose in 2006 by 9.3 percent, about the same rate as in previous years -- and about eight times higher than the U.S. increase of 1.2 percent.

While China's total greenhouse gas emissions were only 42 percent of the U.S. level in 2001, they had soared to an estimated 97 percent of the American level by 2006.

"The new data are not encouraging," said Yang Fuqiang, China director for the Energy Foundation, a San Francisco organization that works extensively with Lawrence Berkeley scientists and the Chinese government on energy-saving programs. "China will overtake the United States much faster than expected as the No. 1 emitter."

China's top environmental official admitted Wednesday that the results show the government's environment agenda of the past few years has been ineffective.

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