U.S. Still Largest Per Capita Greenhouse Gas Emitter


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"China Passes U.S. In Greenhouse Gas Emissions" is a headline you'll see in wide circulation today. It is a headline that will be used to deflect attention away from the need for the U.S. to do something about its carbon emissions. What the misleading headline doesn't tell you is that on a per capita basis, the U.S. is still just over four times that of China.

According to an article in the Guardian, link below, China's total CO2 emissions reached 6,200 million metric tonnes last year. That easily surpasses the 5,800 million metric tonnes released by the United States last year. Does that mean we're off the hook to solve the problem? Hardly.

Let's take a look at those numbers on a per capita basis:

China has 1.32 billion people. If you divide 6,200m by 1.32 billion, you get 4.69 metric tonnes, or 4,690 kilograms, or 10,318 pounds per capita.

The United States has 300 million people. If you divide 5,800 million by 300 million, you get 19.3 metric tonnes, or 19,300 kilograms, or 42,460 pounds per capita.

For comparison's sake, I'll throw in the U.K. which has a population of 60.8 million people and produces 600 million metric tonnes of CO2. If you devide 600 million by 60.8 million, you get 9.87 metric tonnes, or 9,870 kilograms, or 21,714 pounds per capita.

I do not believe China should get a free pass just because it is behind the industrialized world on per capita carbon emissions. Everyone should do what they can to reduce emissions. What concerns me is that China's numbers will be used as an excuse for those of us in the U.S. to do nothing. This will be all over the news and talk radio. "Hooray for us, we're not the largest producers anymore!" we'll hear them cry. Some cynical people will actually point to the numbers as proof that the Bush Administration is on the right track vis-à-vis global warming. Do not let this kind of disinformation go unanswered.

I have no doubt that headline like that will only fuel Bush's conversion from doing nothing about global warming to "let's talk about it until I'm out of office." Gore was right to call the G8 deal a disgrace. Bush isn't solely to blame anymore however. Congress is considering legislation that would preempt states from taking their own initiative in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

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