Climate change: Who is the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitter?


Indonesian factory shows steel output
China has overtaken America again: The Asian powerhouse is now the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. The United States is second. Indonesia is third. (The photo today shows an executive giving a tour of an Indonesian factory.)

Ten nations—only ten—spew forth 80% of the world’s carbon dioxide.

Want to see the future?

Take a look at a map showing expected CO2 emissions by 2030, provided by NPR and based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Climate Analysis Indicators Tool. Click on “% change” and you’ll quickly see where the big growth will be: Asia and India.

China’s rise to the top in the greenhouse gas sweepstakes, along with the projected increases for all of Asia, present a dilemma for the world’s developing nations. Until now, developing nations have argued that they are eco-victims: they bear the costs (deforestation, coastal flooding, etc.) for the polluting actions of the developed nations, but not the benefits of economic development.

The last thing they want is binding agreements to cut their CO2 emissions and risk slowing their fast economic growth.

The cost/benefit argument has some merit, but it diverts attention from the deeper issue: It’s time for all nations—developing or developed—to make legally binding agreements to cut emissions. The more developing nations delay, the more they will invest in traditional technologies that add to greenhouse gases. The further down that path, the harder it will be to reverse course.

Refusing to commit to cutting emissions thwarts the development of alternative technologies—technologies that would be spurred by the requirement to cut greenhouse gases.

Isn’t it time to just get on with it?

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