Just a couple weeks ago, the U.S. government reported the depressing fact that carbon emissions are up nearly 40% since 1992, and that China has overtaken the U.S. as the world's biggest polluter.
If China continues under a business-as-usual trajectory, without seriously cutting back on its carbon emissions, then its greenhouse gas output could double -- or more -- by 2030. By that time, China's emissions would be equal to nearly half of all the world's emissions in 2007. And that estimate includes only pollution from burning fossil fuels, not from clearing forests, farming or other land uses, which can typically account for a third or more of a nation's emissions.
That's according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as detailed by Reuters.
Whether and how the global economic slowdown would affect those projections isn't clear.
Also unclear is how the report might influence global negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The United Nations hopes to negotiate a new treaty in 2009 in Copenhagen, though the ongoing reluctance of both the U.S. and China to accept binding targets for reducing greenhouse gases, and the world economic crisis, are two major handicaps.
The bottom line is that the world needs to cut emissions in order to stave off the worst consequences of global warming. U.N. scientists have said a 50% cut below 1990 levels of pollution by 2050 is a good target, though several more recent studies suggest that global warming is happening faster, and having more consequences, much earlier than expected.
Looking for a bit of good news in all this?
A new case study concludes that American consumers could save money even as electricity prices rise from carbon-cutting regulations. How? If governments invest in energy efficiency programs with the revenue generated by carbon cap-and-trade regulations on power plants and other industries, overall cost will decrease as consumption decreases, even as cost per kwh increases.
The study looked at Maryland, part of the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
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