Is Kyoto All for Naught?

Yangshuo's poor visibilityThe life of someone looking to support the environment is a tough one, especially with news like this. The Kyoto Protocol was supposed to be Earth’s savior; or at least a benefit concert. But new information provided by the Chinese government has shown that by 2010 Chinese greenhouse gas emissions will have managed to eclipse the reductions achieved by all the countries underneath the Kyoto protocol.

Researchers at the University of California worked with the data and calculated that China’s emissions by 2010 will equate to at least 600 million metric tons greater than the countries was in 2000. Note the ‘at least’ in there, because according to the majority of the computer models, their emissions will actually be twice that figure.

Even hoping for the best possible scenario, the smallest figure calculated is five times as large as the 115.90 million metric tons in reductions that the US Energy Information Agency estimates will have been achieved by the Kyoto protocol members.

“The emissions growth rate is surpassing our worst expectations, and that means the goal of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 is going to be much, much harder to achieve,” says Maximillian Auffhammer of the University of California, Berkeley.

Prior to now, estimates have been focusing only on national data of pollution. However Auffhammer, and Richard Carson from the University of California, San Diego, used national data on pollution produced by Chinese provinces. The increased detail in the data has allowed them to make a more precise and horrifying calculation.

China, a country that is deemed a developing country under the United Nations, is thus not required to reduce its emissions under the Kyoto protocol. Of course it can agree too, and in the wake of the upcoming Olympic Games there has been some move to do so, but as of yet they have set no firm targets. As such, the UoC pair estimate that CO2 emissions will rise by 11% per year over the next two years. Previous estimates ranged between 2.5% and 5%.

This most recent finding concerning China’s emissions comes only days after the world’s marathon record holder, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia, declared he was an unlikely entrant in the 2008 Olympic marathon. “The pollution in China is a threat to my health and it would be difficult for me to run 42 kilometres in my current condition,” says Gebrselassie.

And while this only forced the Chinese government to reiterate that they pledge to have clean air for the summer games, it brings to mind a question: what are the Chinese sacrificing so that Games’ venues are clean?

New Scientist – China emissions to swamp Kyoto reductions by 2010

Photo Courtesy of fortes via Flickr

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