Europe has much bigger carbon footprint – when trade is factored in
China’s soaring greenhouse gas emissions are significantly fueled by Western consumerism. That is the conclusion of a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
According to an article in Time magazine, ’22.5% of the carbon emitted in China is actually exported to other countries’.
So in a way, unofficial ‘carbon markets’ are already well in place – with China creating more emissions by manufacturing products for export to richer, more developed nations. The rich nations effectively outsource their own greenhouse emissions via having China or other developing countries make their cars, toys and clothes, thereby driving up emissions there.
In a few rich nations, such as France, Sweden and Britain, more than 30% of consumption-based emissions could be traced to origins abroad; if those emissions were tallied on the other side of the balance sheet, it would add more than four tons of CO2 per person in several European nations.
The largest trade in carbon is between China and the U.S., but in terms of per capita emissions when a consumption-based system of accounting is employed, it is Western Europe’s carbon footprint that inflates most. European carbon footprints go up twice as much per person as those in U.S., while they actually drop 0.9 tons in China.
Another article on the subject comes from The Economist, which includes a graphic from the authors of the study at the Carnegie Institution. The Economist‘s analysis is a bit more complex and gloomy, but luckily includes a nifty graphic and employs a bit of simile:
Trying to understand the scale of these flows in absolute terms is hard, but here is an illustration. It is as though more than 500 large (1,000 megawatt) power plants in China were sending all their electricity to other countries, but all their emissions still counted as Chinese.
by Graham Land