Let’s Face It: As Poor Nations Grow, CO2 Emissions Rise

  • Date: 03/07/14
  • Jack Dini, Canada Free Press

Prakash Javadekar, India’s environment minister has taken a bold stand on the carbon emissions issue and stated a stark and inevitable truth: “Unless we tackle poverty, unless we eradicate poverty, we cannot really address climate change.”

Though he emphasized the fact that India is committed to reduce carbon emissions, they may increase in the process of development and poverty eradication. He stressed the fact that India, as a developing nation, needs to grow and prosper and in that process there is no denying that fact that carbon emissions will substantially increase. (1)

“We have to reduce our carbon emissions. But I have not created the carbon emission problems, which have been done by others. But I am not into any blame game. The issue is that I have a right to grow. India and developing countries have the right to grow. These are emerging economies,” he said. Calling poverty and ‘environmental disaster’, Javadekar further said, “Unless we tackle poverty, unless we eradicate poverty, we cannot really address climate change. To that end, we need to grow. Our net emissions may increase.” (1)

In his honest and forthright statement, Javadekar is echoing what has been obvious for a long time. Peter Huber said it succinctly in 2009:

“Cut to the chase, we rich people can’t stop the world’s five billion poor people from burning a couple of trillion tons of cheap carbon that they have within easy reach. We can’t even make any durable dent in global emissions because emissions from the developing world are growing too fast, because the other 80 percent of humanity desperately needs cheap energy, and because we are now part of the same global economy. What we can do, if we’re foolish enough, is let carbon worries send our jobs and industries to their shores, making them grow even faster, and their carbon emissions faster still.” (2)

So, what about coal consumption? Jane Orient adds this on the futility of reducing emissions.

“In a symbolic gesture, the Forces of Darkness, a dark-sky preservation group, urged people to turn off their lights for an hour between 8:30 and 9:30 PM local time. Bjorn Lomborg calculated that if 1 billion turned off their lights for 1 hour, it would have been the equivalent of shutting off China’s emissions for a full 6 seconds.” (3)

It’s noticeably on the rise. Coal dominated world energy markets last year, supplying the biggest share of demand since 1970. Consumption grew three percent, driven by coal consumption in developing nations. The findings are another indication that countries are prioritizing cheap fuels over efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. (4)

China is by far the largest producer and consumer of coal. It burns through about as much coal as the rest of the world combined. Over the past 10 years, China alone accounted for 83 percent of the increase in global coal demand, which has more than offset its achievements in wind and solar installations. (5)

Eric Larson reports:

* In just 5 years, from 2005 through 2009, China added the equivalent of the entire US fleet of coal-fired plants.

* From 2010 through 2013, it added half the coal generation of the entire US again.

* At the peak , from 2005 through 2011, China added roughly two 600-megawatt coal plants a week for 7 straight years.

* According to US government projections, China will add yet another US worth of coal plants over the next 10 years, or the equivalent of a new 600-megawatt plant every 10 days for 10 years. (6)

Economists predict that by 2040, China’s coal power fleet will be 50 percent larger than it is today. Once these coal-fired plants are built, they typically run for 40 years, or longer, which means a commitment to decades of CO2 emissions. The climate impact of those emissions will be nearly impossible to reverse say Eric Larson. (6)

Although China receives the most attention, it is not the only Asian nation where this concern is present. India is also growing rapidly, and its major cities experience particulate levels eight to ten times higher than the worst American cities. India now has worse air pollution than China. (7)

Then there’s the Obama administration’s proposed carbon dioxide restrictions for the coal industry in the US. The administration is attempting to build support for its proposed restrictions by claiming the restrictions will reduce non-CO2 pollutants. However, the restrictions will bring few emissions benefits in the United States, as EPA reports power plant emissions of the six principal pollutants have already declined by 70% since 1980. On the other hand, the new restrictions will force US electricity prices substantially higher, chasing energy-intensive industries to nations like China where power plants are much more polluting. Reuters reported this spring that only 70 percent of Chinese coal power plants have basic pollution reduction scrubbers that are required on all US power plants. Moreover, many of the Chinese power plants with the scrubbers don’t use them because they substantially raise electricity production costs. (8)

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