China as a zero Carbon energy powerhouse


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Figure courtesy of the International Energy Agency.


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2 Responses to China as a zero Carbon energy powerhouse

  1. jlredford says:

    And they need it! Since China emits more CO2 than the US, EU and Japan combined. The developed world’s emissions have been going down for a decade, but all those gains have been wiped out by China’s increases.

    • Your claim is technically true, but misleading. The United States emits more than half of what China does, and a good chunk of China emissions are due to manufacturing products which Americans consume. Same applies to the remainder of the OECD countries.

      For these purposes, the basis of comparison needs to be proper. In particular, the first order cause of climate disruption is not emissions intensity but, rather, total cumulative emissions. (See the updated bottom of the post for a figure.)

      Emissions intensity is first a question on what needs to be done to get all emissions to zero, and, second, may have second order effects upon climate disruption we do not yet entirely understand. The latter is complicated because, for instance, the ENSO phenomenon in the Pacific helps sequester both CO2 and excess radiative forcing as heat during ENSO- and releases it during ENSO+, and these are not necessarily direct effects, either, since they include retaining heat in water via precipitation.

      Accordingly, the total amount of China’s solar buildout is less significant than its rate of buildout. Note the total is slightly bigger than even Germany’s, and Germany has been at it much longer.

      Total solar penetration as a percentage of total energy market is doubling every two-to-four years. As any process of exponential growth, that means domination within a few decades, even if bumps are hit in the road, and even excluding technological accelerators like improvements in energy storage. The question is, when domination occurs, who will own the biggest piece of the pie? People who are rapidly growing theirs? Or people who sit back, burning fossil fuels in their homes and cars, and buy tons of stuff, and assuage their consciences and their neighbors by pointing fingers at places like China?

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