China Doesn’t Care About CO2 Emissions, It Cares About Hitting GDP Targets
The United States and China are the top two polluters in the world, although Chinese carbon dioxide emissions are double that of the US – China released over 10 million kilotons of carbon dioxide in 2013.
Carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant. It is plant food.
China plans to spend over US$361 billion on renewable energy by 2020, and has made low-carbon growth one of its top priorities. Last year it invested US$88 billion in renewable energy, the highest amount in the world, and spent a record US$32 billion on renewable projects abroad.
China is buying GDP growth, and thinks it is gaining some soft power with Europe. Except when Europe’s populists take over, all this effort will be for nought.
China has promised to cut its carbon emissions by 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 and reach peak emissions by 2030 or earlier. Experts believe the goal is within China’s reach.
Demographics are a beautiful thing. If the U.S. restricted immigration, it would hit emissions targets without any change to environmental policy.
If the US decides to withdraw from the deal, it will immediately undermine the country’s position as a global leader, paving the way for China to step up and fill the vacuum. While it is not the first time the US has reneged on a deal it helped lead – George W Bush abandoned the 1997 Kyoto accord negotiated by Bill Clinton – a turnaround on the Paris deal will inevitably draw the ire of US allies and push China closer to European nations.
Renewable energy delivers slower economic growth and capital destruction. It is worse than wasted investment, by changing the mix of energy, it causes long-term changes in energy supply, and ultimately drives up the cost of energy. Rising energy costs are a GDP-killer. The greatest economic threat of the past decade was the concern (proven wrong) about peak oil. China’s not running a big risk because it’s also investing like crazy in every form of energy. Renewable for China is a bonus, rather than a replacement for cheaper energy as in California, Spain, Germany and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the science continues to show the impact of CO2 emissions is less than believed.
The climate sensitivity due to CO2 is expressed as the temperature change in °C associated with a doubling of the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. The equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) refers to the equilibrium change in global mean near-surface air temperature that would result from a sustained doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. The transient climate response (TCR) is defined as the average temperature response over a twenty-year period centered at CO2 doubling in a transient simulation with CO2 increasing at 1% per year. The transient response is lower than the equilibrium sensitivity, due to the “inertia” of ocean heat uptake.
Scientists made numerous estimates of climate sensitivity over the last few decades and have yet to determine the correct value. The figure shows the change in published climate sensitivity measurements over the past 15 years (from here). The ECS and TCR estimates have both declined in the last 15 years, with the ECS declining from 6C to less than 2C. While one cannot extrapolate from past results, it is likely that the true figure is below 2C, and may continue to decline. Based on this historic pattern we should reject the studies that falsely exaggerated the climate sensitivity in the past and remember that global warming is not the most serious issue facing the world today.