I had to snicker when I read an article stating that China had surpassed the U.S. as the largest producer of CO2 on the planet:

China has overtaken the United States as the world’s biggest producer of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, figures released today show.

The surprising announcement will increase anxiety about China’s growing role in driving man-made global warming and will pile pressure onto world politicians to agree a new global agreement on climate change that includes the booming Chinese economy. China’s emissions had not been expected to overtake those from the US, formerly the world’s biggest polluter, for several years, although some reports predicted it could happen as early as next year.

But according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, soaring demand for coal to generate electricity and a surge in cement production have helped to push China’s recorded emissions for 2006 beyond those from the US already. It says China produced 6,200m tonnes of CO2 last year, compared with 5,800m tonnes from the US. Britain produced about 600m tonnes.

I did a quick calculation of tons of CO2 per person in each three nations. It works out to 4.69 tons per person in China, 19.26 in the U.S., and 9.87 in the U.K. CO2 is also a quick way to measure a nation’s productivity, because industrial processes will produce CO2 as a byproduct. This means that China would need to be twice as productive to reach the level of England, and four times as productive to catch up to the U.S. The Kyoto Protocol failed to be ratified in the U.S. because of the growth of production in China and India. It was easy to see, even back in 1997, that China and India were both growing industrial states, and granting them exemptions from the CO2 emissions limits made the treaty into a joke.

But there is good news — the Washington Post reported that the CO2 produced in the U.S. dropped last year:

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped slightly last year even as the economy grew, according to an initial estimate released yesterday by the Energy Information Administration.

The 1.3 percent drop in CO2 emissions marks the first time that U.S. pollution linked to global warming has declined in absolute terms since 2001 and the first time it has gone down since 1990 while the economy was thriving. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in both 2001 and 1991, in large part because of economic slowdowns during those years.

But why did our CO2 emissions drop last year? The WaPo article explains:

A number of factors helped reduce emissions last year, according to the government, including weather conditions that reduced heating and air-conditioning use, higher gasoline prices that caused consumers to conserve, and a greater overall reliance on natural gas.

Interestingly enough, the countries of Europe suck at dropping their CO2 emissions, based on this article:

EU-15 countries will need to step up their efforts if they are to meet their overall target to reduce emissions of global-warming gases and meet their Kyoto commitment, the EEA warned on 27 October.

According to a new report by the Copenhagen agency, ‘Greenhouse-gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2006′, existing policies will have slashed greenhouse-gas emissions in the EU-15 by only 0.6% in 2010 – a far cry from the 8% it committed to achieve by 2012.

Let’s think about this a bit: the U.S. hasn’t ratified or participated in the Kyoto Protocols as Europe did, but the U.S. has achieved double the CO2 reduction in a single year as all of Europe has pledged to accomplish by 2010. Interesting, no? But the bottom line is that American carbon dioxide drops in absolute amounts. And that’s good news, right? Well, apparently not to the sourpuss whiners on the Left:

Critics of the administration, including Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists, said the one-year decline did not prove Bush’s voluntary approach to cutting greenhouse gases is working. They noted that the emissions have been rising worldwide since 1990 and that the rate accelerated to 3 percent a year between 2000 and 2004.

“This is more proof that this President just doesn’t get it when it comes to combating climate change,” Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement yesterday. “The house is on fire, and he’s trying to douse the flames with a watering can. The science tells us that we need to reduce our emissions by 60-80% by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic damage.”

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We need drastic government action to distribute hard-hats to all Americans in order to avoid catastrophic damage! Yeah, right. I’ve already mentioned that mankind’s total contribution to all greenhouse gases is comparable to less than one-third of a penny out of a dollar. So Senator Kerry is saying that to avoid catastrophic damage, we need to drop that to one-sixth of a penny. Frankly, I can’t get all worked up about going from concentrations of 0.0028 to 0.0014.

[hat-tip to Ed Morrissey for his article bringing the three links together. -- CM]

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