A new analysis by economists has shown that the growth in China's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are far outpacing previous estimates, making the goal of stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gases much more difficult.
Economists at the University of California, Berkeley (UC), and UC San Diego made the analysis.
Previous estimates, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, had said that the region that includes China will see a 2.5 to 5 percent annual increase in CO2 emissions, the largest contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases, between 2004 and 2010.
But now, the new UC analysis puts that annual growth rate for China to at least 11 percent for the same time period.
'A notable shift occurred in China around the year 2000, around the time when hope for an agreement with the U.S. on the Kyoto Protocol began to diminish along with external pressure for China to reduce its emissions,' said Richard Carson, UC San Diego professor of economics.
'Energy use started to grow faster than income, and much of the energy that was used wasn't efficient,' he explained.
The researchers' most conservative forecast predicts that by 2010, there will be an increase of 600 million metric tons of carbon emissions in China over the country's levels in 2000. This growth from China alone would dramatically overshadow the 116 million metric tons of carbon emissions reductions pledged by all the developed countries in the Kyoto Protocol.
Based upon these findings, the authors say current global warming forecasts are 'overly optimistic,' and that action is urgently needed to curb greenhouse gas production in China and other rapidly industrializing countries.
According to Maximillian Auffhammer, UC Berkeley assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics, 'Making China and other developing countries an integral part of any future climate agreement is now even more important,' said Auffhammer.
'It had been expected that the efficiency of China's power generation would continue to improve as per capita income increased, slowing down the rate of CO2 emissions growth. What we're finding instead is that 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,' he added.