China world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide

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China has overtaken the United States to become the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, a report released today by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. China’s emissions were not expected to overtake the U.S.’s this soon, with some reports placing the date several years in the future.

While this report is unlikely to bring too much undue pressure on China, State media will no doubt downplay, or even outright question the legitimacy of this report, it will again drive home the long term environmental effects of China’s continued industrial boom.  Both the U.S. and China have been under pressure from European Asian nations to come to agreement on climate change As the Guardian reported:

Jos Olivier, a senior scientist at the government agency who compiled the figures, said: “There will still be some uncertainty about the exact numbers, but this is the best and most up to date estimate available. China relies very heavily on coal and all of the recent trends show their emissions going up very quickly.” China’s emissions were 2% below those of the US in 2005. Per head of population, China’s pollution remains relatively low – about a quarter of that in the US and half that of the UK.

The new figures only include carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production. They do not include sources of other greenhouse gases, such as methane from agriculture and nitrous oxide from industrial processes. And they exclude other sources of carbon dioxide, such as from the aviation and shipping industries, as well as from deforestation, gas flaring and underground coal fires.

According to the report, industrial processes and the burning of fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – are the main causes of carbon dioxide emissions. Of those industrial processes, cement production is one of the principal sources of greenhouse gas. China accounted for 44 percent of global cement production in 2006, much of which went to developing and upgrading the country’s infrastructure.