Greenhouse gas pollution from China and India rose steeply over the last decade, but rich countries, including the United States, remain the world's biggest polluters, a World Bank official said Wednesday.
WASHINGTON Greenhouse gas pollution from China and India rose steeply over the last decade, but rich countries, including the United States, remain the world's biggest polluters, a World Bank official said Wednesday.
The United States accounts for nearly a quarter -- 24 percent -- of all emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas linked to global warming, said Steen Jorgensen, the bank's acting vice-president for sustainable development.
The countries of the European Monetary Union contribute 10 percent.
But China and India are catching up.
"(Greenhouse gas emissions from) China and India are growing very rapidly at the moment, very much because of inefficient investments in energy, in power generation," said Jorgensen.
China, the world's second-largest polluter after the United States, increased carbon dioxide emissions by 33 percent between 1992 and 2002, according to the bank's "Little Green Data Book," a survey of world environmental impact released Tuesday. India's emissions rose 57 percent over the same period.
Jorgensen said those likely to suffer most from the consequences of these emissions, including the increasingly severe weather patterns associated with global climate change, are farmers in the poorest parts of the world.
'GLOOM AND DOOM'
"The gloom and doom (is) if you are a farmer on a small island state somewhere, looking at sea level rise, looking at more severe weather -- those are really the people we should be concerned about," Jorgensen said in a telephone interview from New York. "It's an unequal distribution of the people who pollute and the people who suffer from the pollution."
He said the main reason emissions from China and India are rising so fast compared to the rest of the world, which had a 15 percent rise in carbon dioxide emissions between 1992 and 2002, was older, inefficient coal-fired power plants in both countries.
While cleaner coal-fired plants are possible, India and China cannot afford to make the switch.
"They can't afford to take (the old, heavily polluting power plants) out of commission to repair them because basically, if you don't have power for even three months, that has huge economic costs for them," Jorgensen said.
Even as emissions rose rapidly in these two growing economies, the growth of emissions slowed in some of the richest industrialized nations, the bank's report found. And still, people in the developed world used about 11 times as much energy per person as those in poor countries, Jorgensen said.
More information and a link to the report are available online at www.worldbank.org/environmental indicators.