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China & carbon control – some arithmetic drama

China emits about 5 MT of CO2E for each person per year.  Although this is low by developed country standards (less than 1/4 of both Australian and US emissions) it is high by international standards and must be more than halved  by 2050 if carbon emissions are to be at the average global level consistent with a temperature increase of 2 degrees C.   This sounds like dramatic arithmetic but the worst of it has not yet been told. Over the 39 years to 2050 the Chinese economy will grow to be between 10-16X its current size as Chinese growth ranges between 6.5-7.5%.  So far China has committed to at least 40% emission intensity cuts to 2020 which is a dramatic objective but by no means enough. Decarbonisation of the largest carbon-emitting economy on earth is a must.   Current proposals to introduce market based schemes are an important adjunct to this endeavours. They need to supplement an active CCS program and a major move towards decarbonisation of transport and better building design for energy conservation.

Am I selectively picking on China? Not at all. The US and Australia must cut their per capita emissions from 21+MT to around 2MT by 2050. The developed country task is even more dramatic in terms of reducing carbon emissions although we have the luxury of comparative affluence. We also face an additional moral imperative that affluence suggests – the sacrifices as a consequence of required adjustments cost us less.

What no-one has is time to fiddle around finding a path to act. Time is now very scarce.  All countries must act now to address the problem of climate change or face potentially catastrophic consequences.   The science is clear and those clear-headed individuals who can think and who understand the situation need to advance their views now.

In later posts I’ll justify the specific arithmetic I use above.

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