Wednesday, October 03, 2007

China, coal, and CO2

UPDATE (2/12/2008): China's coal and CO2 problems continue to be an important story in the lead-up to the Olympics.

Just a few days after reading Bush's climate change proposal, I read a blurb on Grist about China's own CO2 emissions proposal. This led me to wonder if there are numbers estimating China's CO2 emissions up to now, and projections of CO2 emissions into the future.

Doing a quick Google search for "China coal" and "China CO2" netted a few different graphical analyses, and I found something that (I thought) was interesting. Use of a metric which is effectively "CO2/GDP". This is an interesting metric, because it allows for someone to measure the energy "efficiency" of China's economy viz burning coal. It can also be used to guesstimate the amount of CO2 production through economic means. However, it does have some issues (which I will not get into at this point).

In their 2007 paper ("Forecasting the Path of China's CO2 Emissions Using Province Level Information"), Maximilian Auffhammer and Richard T. Carson state:

Our results suggest that the anticipated path of China’s Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions has dramatically increased over the last five years. The magnitude of the projected increase in Chinese emissions out to 2015 is several times larger than reductions embodied in the Kyoto Protocol. Our estimates are based on a unique provincial level panel data set from the Chinese Environmental Protection Agency. This dataset contains considerably more information relevant to the path of likely Chinese greenhouse gas emissions than national level time series models currently in use. Model selection criteria clearly reject the popular static environmental Kuznets curve specification in favor of a class of dynamic models with spatial dependence.
If you've taken a course in environmental economics, the environmental Kuznet's Curve is something that you have to learn about. Since I'm not an expert in economics, nor focusing on that topic here, I will leave for now, with only the link (I am sending this draft on to some people who I know might be interested in it, though). However, I will draw people's attention to the list of graphs toward the end of the paper (pages 24-27). The numbers seem to agree with the estimates presented below (just more evidence of reliability, perhaps even of verifiability).

Another point that I find interesting is how estimates of China's future CO2 emissions become higher with each passing year. Starting with the World Resource Institute's estimate, they noted in November 2006, "Surging Chinese Carbon Dioxide."

Graph taken from here.

And over at Mongabay, there are a couple stories about CO2 emissions - globally (in 2005) and in China (in 2006). I took the graphs presented on each web page, matched up their trends, and displayed the two forecasts outward from 2010 (produced in 2005 and 2006) of China and the United States. You will notice that the US forecast is effectively the same forecast from 2005 to 2006, but China's forecast was shifted upward by roughly 1,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions by 2025.
Modified from Mongabay

(Get ready for the conceptual bridge statement coming up.) The IOC had concerns about pollution and population at the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968 - something that is much more of a concern at Beijing 2008 (even greater than when Athens held it). If the 2008 Games are going to be China's equivalent to a debutante ball, then it had best make sure that it's streets are truly bright, clean, and inviting. (I really don't like using the metaphor of a debutante ball, but it was the best thing that came to mind when thinking about how to metaphorize a "coming out" party.)

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