for National Geographic News
China's greenhouse gas emissions are rising much faster than expected and will overshadow the cuts in global emissions expected due to the Kyoto Protocol, according to a new study.
Forecasts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had predicted that China's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would rise by about 2.5 to 5 percent each year between 2004 and 2010.
(Related: "Global Warming Can Be Stopped, World Climate Experts Say" [May 4, 2007].)
But the estimates are two to four times too low, according to new research led by Maximilian Auffhammer of the University of California, Berkeley.
The study calculated that for the period from 2004 to 2010, China's CO2 emissions will have grown by at least 11 percent a year.
"The emissions growth rate is surpassing our worst expectations, and that means the goal of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 is going to be much, much harder to achieve," Auffhammer said.
The new findings threaten to throw a damper on the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Most countries—including all major industrialized countries except the U.S.—have signed on to the Kyoto Protocol. (Related: "Australia Signs Kyoto Protocol; U.S. Now Only Holdout" [December 3, 2007].)
But a major sticking point for the U.S. is that the agreement only mandates reductions for developed countries, mostly in North America and Europe. These areas are currently responsible for most of the CO2 that's causing global warming.
Developing nations such as China, India, and Brazil are exempt from any reduction targets.
But China, the world's most populous country, has been developing at lightning speed—perhaps faster than any country in history.
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