Carbon Villains, the Sequel

When I wrote last year about the Center for Global Development’s Carbon Monitoring for Action database last November when it launched, I noted what a wealth of information it offered on sources of carbon dioxide emissions throughout the world, from the worst actors down to whether your own utility is an angel or a villain when it comes to CO2 emissions. With its latest data, CGD shows again what a mess we’re in when it comes to reining in greenhouse emissions. Some highlights, which are more like lowlights:

  • China set a new world record this year, surpassing the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of CO2 from power generation (itself the source of just over one quarter of the world’s CO2 emissions). But Americans can still be proud that their power-sector emissions are still nearly four times those of China on a per capita basis—though not No. 1 globally. That “honor” goes to Australia, with 10 tons of CO2 per person per year compared to the U.S.’s 9.5.
  • China accounts for more than half of the increase in global CO2 emissions due to power generation over the past year, mostly due to the construction of, on average, one new coal-fired plant every week.
  • Chinese power plants will produce about 3.1 billion tons of CO2 this year, up from about 2.7 billion tons in 2007. Power plants in the U.S will produce about 2.8 billion tons of CO2 this year, about the same as last year.
  • Global emissions from power generation have grown just over 34 percent in the past eight years, to 11.4 billion tons per year from 8.5 billion tons in 2000. Those additional 2.9 billion tons are equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of Australia, France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined. I really don’t think you are turning down your thermostat in winter or your AC in summer, people. As CGD’s David Wheeler put it, “Emissions from power generation are racing in the wrong direction.” Did someone say Kyoto?
  • Since it’s always fun to know who are the worst villains, CARMA finds that the world’s biggest corporate carbon emitter is China’s Huaneng Power International, whose plants pump out about 285 million tons of CO2 per year, compared to 227 million tons produced by all of the power plants in the United Kingdom and almost as much as all of Africa (335 million tons). In the U.S., the biggest CO2 emitter is Southern Co. with over 200 million tons per year, followed by American Electric Power Company Inc. (175 million tons) and Duke Energy Corp. (112 million tons).

Does anyone really think we’re going to conserve our way out of a climate crisis? As CGD’s Kevin Ummel says, “The needed shift to renewable and low-carbon alternatives is happening far too slowly to avert dangerous climate change.” T. Boone Pickens, you have your work cut out for you.

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