Just as world leaders–well, world leaders without China, India, and several other important fossil fuel-using countries–gathered at the UN Climate Summit in New York on Tuesday, a curious piece of news crossed the wires. The Financial Times reported that, for the first time, China’s per capital emissions of carbon dioxide exceed those of the U.S. and European Union combined:
China is for the first time emitting more carbon pollution per person than the EU, birthplace of the industrial revolution. In a notable turning point for the world’s most populous nation, China produced 7.2 tonnes of planet-warming carbon dioxide a head last year, compared with 6.8 tonnes in the EU. Its total C02 emissions outstrip those of both the EU and the US combined, scientists reported.
Without China (and India, and other energy-inefficient, carbon-intensive) nations on board, there really is no point to global compacts on climate–even if they could trim the modest increase in global surface temperature that is likely to bring some environmental changes (both costs and benefits). California can subsidize all the electric cars it wants: China is simply going to keep emitting greenhouse gases in its ambitious push to grow.