Peak CO2 Has Passed, Except…

for China.  Here’s something that is not perhaps widely noticed:

Chart of CO2 by Region and Year

Source: US Energy Information Administration (EIA), click for spreadsheet

The CO2 emissions from the USA and Europe have dropped substantially since their peak in 2007.  The US is now down about 9% from its peak, to late-1990s levels.  Europe and Japan are down to mid-1990s levels. The developed world is on the right track.

It hasn’t mattered –  China has more than made up the slack.  The savings from the entire OECD is wiped out by one year’s growth in China.  At current growth rates, China will emit about as much in 2013 as the US, Europe and Japan combined.

World Co2 Emissions Percentage

China emits almost as much as the rest of the world excluding the other top emitters.  It’s producing about 7 tonnes of CO2 per capita, about the European average, although it’s getting far less GDP/tonne than the rich Europeans do.   India is on its way up too, but is still in the noise.

Now, the drop for the developed world has been about half due to the global recession, about 40% due to the switch from coal to natural gas, and maybe 10% to efficiency and renewables. The EIA forecasts that emissions will rise again when the economy recovers. However, they’ve been expecting that to happen for a while and their US forecasts consistently over-estimate future increases:

Click for source

Click for source. Every forecast is set lower than the previous year’s

All three of the above factors are not behaving as expected: the recovery is taking longer, gas is coming on very strong, and so are renewables. Germany now gets 25% of its power on average from renewables, peaking up to 40%. I personally get 100% of my electricity from wind sources in upstate New York and Maine, thanks to NStar Green.   I pay an extra 8 cents/kWh, which comes to  $30 to $50 a month.

That’s visible, but minor to a middle-class American household.  It would be crushing to a Chinese family.  Thus they’ve gone for the world’s worst energy source, coal.  Well, maybe it’s not as bad as burning cow dung in an unventilated hut, but it’s close.  It kills miners, ruins landscapes, and poisons the air with sulfur and the land with heavy metals in its ash.  It’s making Beijing uninhabitable:

Beijing, 2013-01-13 (AP)

Beijing, 2013-01-13, their worst day so far (AP)

The US is now exporting coal to China, which seems like a win-win. We get blasted lunar landscapes in Wyoming and super-storms in the Northeast, and they get a poisoned populace. We’ll fix this over-population problem yet!

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2 Responses to Peak CO2 Has Passed, Except…

  1. Pingback: Peak Tragedy Is Long Past… | A Niche in the Library of Babel

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