The Rhodium Group, a climate research organization based in New York, reported Thursday that China’s greenhouse gas emissions now exceed the entire rest of the developed world combined.

According to the Rhodium report, China passed this threshold in 2019, the most recent year for which comprehensive data could be assembled. The group compiles data on the six greenhouse gases named in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide. The six gases are collectively known as the “Kyoto basket.”

“China alone contributed over 27% of total global emissions, far exceeding the U.S. – the second-highest emitter – which contributed 11% of the global total. For the first time, India edged out the EU-27 for third place, coming in at 6.6% of global emissions,” the Rhodium Group reported. EU-27 refers to the 27 member nations of the European Union.

The report found China’s 52 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions were about 36 million metric tons higher than the combined total for the EU and the 37 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which includes the United States, the U.K., Israel, Japan, and Australia.

The Rhodium Group tried to soften the blow by noting that China “is a large country, home to over 1.4 billion people,” so its per capita emissions have been “considerably lower than those in the developed world until now.” 

This should not make a difference to the Earth’s atmosphere under climate change theories. In any event, the per-capita factoid is fast becoming irrelevant, because the Rhodium Group projected China’s per-capita emissions would be comparable to the OECD average when 2020 numbers are compiled, in part because the coronavirus pandemic greatly reduced gas-emitting industrial activity. China’s emissions increased by 1.7 percent even as the coronavirus reduced emissions from nearly every other country last year.

The report added:

While China exceeded all developed countries combined in terms of annual emissions and came very close to matching per capita emissions in 2019, China’s history as a major emitter is relatively short compared to developed countries, many of which had more than a century head start.

This, again, is not much of a comfort given China’s meteoric trajectory and the uncomfortable fact it shows little interest in scaling back its industrial activities, although it loves to talk about doing so at some point in the future

As the Rhodium Group observed, China’s per capita emissions almost tripled over the past two decades. China’s emissions were only a quarter of the developed world’s total in 1990, but today China emits more greenhouse gases than all other developed nations combined.

CNBC noted that much of China’s emissions come from coal-fired power plants, which now provide over half of China’s domestic energy production. The Chinese are building even more coal plants and brusquely rejecting pleas to scale back on coal power.