We Can’t Stop World CO2 Emissions

article top


BY JACK DINI – “Cut to the chase. We rich people can’t stop the world’s 5 billion poor people from burning a couple of trillion tons of cheap carbon that they have within easy reach. We can’t even make any durable dent in global emissions—because emissions from the developing world are growing too fast, because the other 80 percent of humanity desperately needs cheap energy, and because we are now part of the same global economy. What we can do, if we’re foolish enough, is let carbon worries send our jobs and industries to their shores, making then grow even faster, and their carbon emissions faster still,” reports Peter Huber. (1)


Fareed Zakaria observes, “The combined carbon dioxide emissions from the 850 new coal-fired power plants that China and India are building between now and 2012 are five times the total savings of the Kyoto accords. So you can put in all those curly light bulbs and drive all the Priuses you want; India just ate that for breakfast and China will eat the next round of conservation for lunch.” (2)

Jane Orient adds this on the futility of reducing emissions; “In a symbolic gesture, the Forces of Darkness, a dark-sky preservation group, urged people to turn off their lights for an hour between 8:30 and 9:30 local time. Bjorn Lomborg calculated that if 1 billion turned off their lights for 1 hour, it would have been the equivalent of shutting off China’s emissions for a full 6 seconds. (3)

Let’s look at some statistics for China:

-Energy Consumption

China has overtaken the US as the world’s biggest energy user, emphasizing that developing nations are driving global growth. The reliance on coal saw China surpass the US in carbon emissions in 2007. China released 6.533 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2008, compared with 5,832 million for the US. (4)

China is likely to consume about 11 percent more electricity this year than in 2009. The annual growth compared with a 21.6 percent rise in the first six months. (5)


Coal makes up 70 percent of China’s total primary energy consumption, and China is both the largest consumer and producer of coal in the world. In 2008, China consumed an estimated 3 billion short tons of coal, representing nearly 40 percent of the world total and a 129 percent increase since 2000. (6)

China is building a new coal-fired power plant every week and India will double its coal-based electricity generation by 2020. As mentioned above, the combined carbon emissions from the new coal-fired power plants that China and India are building between now and 2012 are five times the total savings of the Kyoto accords. (2)

-Steel and Stainless Steel

China is the largest steel industry in the world. In 2007, the country produced 489.2 million tons of crude steel, a production growth of 15.7% from the previous year. Ranked behind China were Japan and the US, with  a production of 120 million tons and 97.2 million tons, respectively. (7) Do the math—this is 2.25 times the production of Japan and the US combined.

Global stainless steel flow-into-use increased by more than 30% between 2000 and 2005. This growth was mainly driven by China, which accounted for almost half of the global growth in stainless steel crude production and which tripled its flow into use between 2000 and 2005. Within just 5 years, China passed such traditionally strong stainless steel end-of-life users as Japan, USA, Germany, and South Korea to become the dominant player of the stainless steel industry. (8)


Chinese competition could put half of all solar manufacturers out of business this year. As many as 50 percent of the more than 200 solar manufacturers, mired in red ink with current selling prices about $2 per watt may not survive. Making matters worse, lower cost products from China are projected to drop below $1 per watt in 2010 and 50 cents in 2011. (9)


Why don’t our politicians and supporters of carbon controls get this? For every one step we take forward, 80 percent of the world is pushing us two steps backwards and stifling our industries.

All the proposed CO2 ‘control’ treaties to date have given a ‘free pass’ to the poor underdeveloped world on the theory that they needed special favors to ‘catch-up’ to the evil west that had suppressed them. Well, China, for one, has caught up, and in fact, has surpassed the US as the world’s largest energy consumer. India and others are not far behind.

Any CO2 treaty or Cap-and-trade plane is doomed to fail. They would increase costs to produce in the countries that sign up for such plans, and those increased costs will move the most energy intensive industries to the lowest cost producers. The lowest cost producer is now China, and we see such industries already moving to China at a dizzying pace. Adding more ‘forcing’ to that process will only accelerate it notes E. M. Smith. (10)


  1. Peter W. Huber, “We Cannot Make a Dent in Global Emissions,” https://www.opposingviews.com/articles/opinion-we-cannot-make-a-dent-in-global-carbon-emissions; accessed August 27, 2009
  2. Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World, (New York, W. W. Norton & Co., 2008), 90
  3. Jane Orient, “Earth Hour Celebrates Darkness,” Civil Defense Perspectives, 25, 2, March 2009
  4. “China Passes US as World’s Biggest Energy Consumer,” Bloomberg Business Week, July 20, 2010
  5. Chen Aizhu, “China power consumption to rise 11 percent this year-NEA,” reuters.com, July 20, 2010
  6. “Coal,” US Energy Information Administration, https://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/China/Coal. html; accessed July 29, 2010
  7. “China Steel Industry,” chinaknowledge.com, accessed July 28, 2010
  8. Barbara K. Reck, et al., “Global Stainless Steel Cycle Exemplifies China’s Rise to Metal Dominance,” Environ. Sci. Technol., 44, 3490, 2010
  9. “Report: Lights out next year for many in solar industry,” Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, September 4, 2009
  10. E. M. Smith, “China Makes Western CO2 ‘Control’ Pointless,” chiefio.wordpress.com, July 20, 2010