China is famously reticent with its greenhouse gas emissions data. But a new report penned by researchers at theÂ Chinese Academy of Sciencessays China's greenhouse gas pollution could more than double in two decades.
Beijing has not released recent official data on greenhouse gas from the nation's fast-growing use of coal, oil and gas. The latest information held by theÂ UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which administrates the Kyoto protocol, dates back to 1994.
Foreign estimates, most originating in the US, suggest the nation emitted greenhouse gases equivalent to 5.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005, still short of the 7.2 billion tonnes emitted by the US.
In 2007, the International Energy Agency saidChina could outstrip the US by the end of the year, and some believe that milestone was reached. But until China releases its latest data, such numbers remain estimates.
Now, in a break with official reticence, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other major state-run institutes say that without dramatic counter-steps their nation's emissions will at least match US emissions by 2020.
The report,Â China Energy Report 2008, says that, by 2020, China's burning of fossil fuels could emit between 9.2 and 10.6 billion tonnes of CO2, depending on varying scenarios for development and technology.
By 2030, those emissions may reach 11.4 to 14.7 billion tonnes, it says. Global carbon emissions in 2007 were estimated to be about 31.2 billion tonnes.
The report does not give its own estimate of China's current CO2Â emissions, but cites data from a US Department of Energy institute that put them at 5.1 billion tonnes in 2004. The US Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a government lab, recently estimated that the US emitted about 5.9 billion tonnes of carbon in 2007, while China emitted 6.6 billion tonnes.
The report warns that inaction in the face of this projected growth in emissions will have drastic environmental consequences. Yet it also says economic development must not be hobbled.
"No matter how historical responsibility is defined, our country's development path cannot repeat the unconstrained emissions of developed countries' energy use," states the Chinese-language report. "We must soon prepare and plan ahead to implement emissions reduction concepts and measures in a long-term and stable energy development strategy."
The main author, Wei Yiming, was not immediately available for comment on the findings and why they appeared now.
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