Tuesday, March 06, 2007

China on Verge of Becoming Number One Greenhouse Gas Polluter

Less than a year ago we were told that China would surpass the US as the top emitter of greenhouse gases by 2020. Several months ago the date was surprisingly revised to as soon as 2009. It has now been revised again. According to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, China will become the world’s top greenhouse gas polluter as early as this year or perhaps in 2008. Thanks to China’s booming economy consumption of fossil fuels grew by over a whopping 9% last year, a typical figure since 2001. In the US, which is no slacker when it comes to burning fossil fuels, the growth rate was a mere small fraction of China’s rate, 1.2%. For those optimistic about the ability of the world’s nations to reduce greenhouse gas emission by a sufficient amount to avoid potential catastrophic climate change, hearing the figures coming out of China has to be a reality check. What could be less comforting than to realize the fate of the world might be in the hands of a country with 1.3 billion people governed by one party that is hell-bent on attaining a level of prosperity that is comparable to that of Western countries and without the technological know how to try to achieve their goal without very heavy reliance on burning coal, the fossil fuel that creates the most carbon dioxide when burned. Something has to take the place of China’s building about one new coal-fired power plant a week as they have been doing if the global warming problem is going to be successfully addressed. The question is, exactly what?

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