March 10, 2008
China CO2 Emissions Rising Faster Than Expected

The Western debate over carbon dioxide emissions looks increasingly irrelevant given the trends in China's industrial growth and development.

The growth in China's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is far outpacing previous estimates, making the goal of stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gases much more difficult, according to a new analysis by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, and UC San Diego.

Previous estimates, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, say the region that includes China will see a 2.5 to 5 percent annual increase in CO2 emissions, the largest contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases, between 2004 and 2010. The new UC analysis puts that annual growth rate for China to at least 11 percent for the same time period.

A constant percentage increase per year turns into an absolute increase per year. If China maintains an 11% CO2 increase per year through the 2010s then by 2020 it will likely emit more CO2 than all the rest of the world put together. Will they do that?

The study is scheduled for print publication in the May issue of the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, but is now online.

Keep in mind that many Kyoto Accord signing countries are falling far short of meeting their pledges anyway.

The researchers' most conservative forecast predicts that by 2010, there will be an increase of 600 million metric tons of carbon emissions in China over the country's levels in 2000. This growth from China alone would dramatically overshadow the 116 million metric tons of carbon emissions reductions pledged by all the developed countries in the Kyoto Protocol. (The protocol was never ratified in the United States, which was the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide until 2006, when China took over that distinction, according to numerous reports.)

Put another way, the projected annual increase in China alone over the next several years is greater than the current emissions produced by either Great Britain or Germany.

Picture China's economy 2 times bigger. Picture it 3 times bigger. Huge demands for raw materials. Huge consumption of fossil fuels. Lots of pollution generated even from the solar photovoltaics industry.

Suppose rising CO2 emissions will cause global warming and that global warming will cause big negative impacts that outweigh the benefits. Well, we are going to have to use climate engineering techniques to stop and reverse the warming. Barring big breakthroughs to lower the costs of solar and nuclear power I do not see a substantial decrease in CO2 emissions until Peak Coal hits.

Most of this increase is coming from burning coal to generate electricity. If only they were building nuclear rather than coal electric power plants the emissions (and not just of CO2, also particulates, mercury, etc) would be far less.

China's installed nuclear power-generating capacity is expected to reach 60 gigawatts by 2020, a senior Chinese energy official said -- much higher than an earlier government estimate of 40 gigawatts. A gigawatt is the equivalent of one billion watts. The new estimate is equal to about two-thirds of Britain's total electricity-generating capacity today, although still equivalent to less than a tenth of China's current total.

If China ramps up to 60 gigawatts of nukes rather than 40 gigawatts then that will still only amount to 6% of their 2020 electric power capacity.

Faced with an energy crunch resulting from its fast economic growth, China has decided to develop more nuclear power. By 2020, the nation will have an installed nuclear power capacity of 40 million kw, accounting for 4 percent of its total installed generating capacity.

They still see nuclear power as too costly as compared to coal. Without cheaper ways to generate cleaner power the world is going to become a dirtier place.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 March 10 11:23 PM  Pollution Trends

brian wang said at March 11, 2008 7:07 AM:

China will also be trying to reach 300 GW of hydroelectric power by 2020.
Then after 2020 they will be kicking the nuclear program into higher gear.
The older 40GW by 2020 and 160GW by 2030 targets for nuclear.
Hopefully the new target of 60GW for 2020 will be exceeded as well and the 160GW by 2030 will increase to 300+GW.
Then they could have by 2030 350GW of hydro, 300+Gw of nuclear, and 100GW of wind.

They would also have to kick off stronger conservation and efficiency.
That is being promoted and considered Those efforts could make a big dent by 2030.

Lunger said at March 11, 2008 10:32 AM:

Jeez Louize! How do they even breathe over there in China? They're pumpin' out the pollution quicker than the rest of the world put together! No clean drinking water. No clean air. No safe food supply.

China's even having to import lots of the coal it burns, in spite of the thousands of coal miners who die every year to keep the smokestacks pumping black smoke!

Mr. Wang says what China's "trying" to do. That's not what they're doing and likely not what they'll be doing in the future. China plans clean energy. Plans. China's plans and $3.00 will get you a Starbucks Latte.

Brock said at March 11, 2008 2:47 PM:

Of course, it's not really the CO2 that's a problem; it's the particulates.

If they taxed pollution to foot the healthcare bills the pollution causes, they'd see the cost-benefit of nuclear. A total freeze on new coal plant construction now, and a coincident switch to nuclear production, would pay dividends in that scenario.

Same goes for the Western world too, of course, but the "crisis" over here is not anywhere near what it is in China. I expect a radical solution to this issue will come from China before it comes from the West.

I'm not so worried about the global warming bit:

"[M]odern [climate] researchers ... relied upon equations derived over 80 years ago ... which left off one term from the final solution. [The] equations for the greenhouse effect ... ignored boundary conditions by assuming an "infinitely thick" atmosphere. So Miskolczi re-derived the solution, this time using the proper boundary conditions for an atmosphere that is not infinite. At low [CO2] levels, the new term means ... as greenhouse gases rise, the negative feedback predominates, forcing values back down.

The conclusions are supported by research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research last year from Steven Schwartz of Brookhaven National Labs, who gave statistical evidence that the Earth's response to carbon dioxide was grossly overstated. It also helps to explain why current global climate models continually predict more warming than actually measured.

Miskowlczi has used his theory to model not only Earth, but the Martian atmosphere as well, showing what he claims is an extremely good fit with observational results. "

Brian Wang said at March 12, 2008 7:45 AM:

China is adding 10-20GW of hydro power per year. Three Gorges is just one of many mega projects that are already started or completed.
Damming the rivers also allows for 10,000 ton barges to go deep into the interior of china for less road usage and
cheaper shipping for trade.
$8 billion contracts for 4 AP-1000 reactors. Deals with Areva and other companies too.
China is paying for the hydro, reactors and wind at a build rate consistent with those goals.
So more than $3 more like $50 billion per year.
China is spending the money on energy efficiency too.
Millions of people coughing up black, protesting the dead rivers and one million deaths per year. The people
know what is happening and the leaders are serious about fixing it.

IEA ref case forecast is that China would add 897GW of coal by 2030 and only 26GW of nuclear.
The nuclear build case will greatly exceed that amount. 160-300GW by 2030. The most in the world and more than the US current 100GW and maybe 150-200GW in 2030.

Randall Parker said at March 12, 2008 6:06 PM:


China will up their nuclear build rate. Okay, that's nice. But they are still building a mind boggling amount of coal plants and they have a huge base of existing coal plants.

We can't guess what the Chinese government will do 30 years from now. But in the short to medium term emissions in China will keep going up.

brian wang said at March 13, 2008 7:43 AM:

It takes time to turn these things around. At least some tens of billions are being spent every year to do so in China.
There are indications of the pace of improvement increasing.

Some developments which could make a huge difference - IEC (bussard) fusion success (hope to hear good results from prototype work this year), General fusion (magnetized target fusion, VC funded 4-6 years if it works), Tri-alpha energy (colliding ion beam fusion, $50 million in private funding 6-8 years).

Fission - AP1000 and other 3rd gen reactors (licensing and hopefully closer to $1200/kw installed), Iris small reactor by 2015 (Maybe $1000-1200 price target plus faster to construct and can build module at a time so never need more than $600 million for the project as opposed to raising 2-4 billion. Uranium hydride reactor (nuclear battery) could be working by 2012. (mass produceable, first use would increase or sustain oil usage by helping recover oilsands and oilshale.)

But even in the best cases looks like 2 decades to turn it around.

Other tech solutions - converting the CO2 in the air into fuel or rock. Scale up those processes to remove what we do not want from the air into economically

carl wettig said at July 30, 2008 2:42 PM:

Brian Wang, if China is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, why are they installing 2 coal plants per week with no provision for carbon capture and storage of the CO2? It is prohibitive to add this technology to plants that are not designed to add this later on, so this reveals China's leadership's real intentions. This absolutely dwarfs any hypothetical, pie-in-the-sky scenarios you have imagined for new nuclear. New nuclear takes 10-15 years to build, after approval, and so do they have plans already in place for the gigawatts you propose? Of course they d o not. As to new hydro, the rivers are already dangerously low, and what happens to hydro and river navigation when the glacial snowcap melts due to global warming? Chinese emissions of greenhouse gases will exceed 20 billion tons of CO2 equivalant in 2020, exceeding total global emissions in 1990. We only have maybe 2 decades to prevent runaway global warming, which will occur with the melting of the permafrost. Bear in mind the International Rice Research study that shows a 15% decline in rice production for every 1 degreed C rise in nightime temps ( same for wheat and corn too), and we have a recipe for global starvation, because the climate models show a 7.7 degree C rise in temps if the melting permafrost is factored in. It looks absolutely apparent that China's leaders are intent on ushering in a million years of shame, and that they are pushing the world toward living in interesting times.

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