By Rachel Roberts
For decades, the United States has held the infamous role of being the world’s largest contributor to global warming. This title, however, could soon be held by another major country: China. According to analysts, China is set to pass the United States as the main cause of man-made global warming since 1990.
The US Energy Information Administration estimates China’s total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will reach 151 billion tons since 1990, compared to the 147 billion tons produced by the United States.
David Waskow, the director of the World Resources Institute’s International Climate Initiative, told VICE news that over the past several years, China has consistently been the world’s top emitter of annual greenhouse gases.
That’s not to say, however, that China has not begun to take significant steps to slow down its rate of pollution. During the first 3 months of 2015, China decreased its total coal imports by 42 percent from last year. Coal currently supplies 70 percent of China’s energy, so this decline in coal imports serves as an important milestone for China. Only 2 years ago, China was the largest importer of coal in the world and in history.
Some attribute this decline in coal imports to China’s slowing economy, which is growing at its slowest rate in the last 25 years, while others point to stronger environmental regulations within the country. Government agencies are starting to encourage industries to invest in other sources of energy aside from coal.
This past November, China made a pledge to reduce its CO2 emissions. By 2030, the country hopes it will be able to harness at least one fifth of its power from renewable resources.
Although China will surpass the United States as the world’s largest contributor to global warming, it is important to keep in mind the population size of China relative to the United States, and what that means in terms of CO2 produced per person in each country.
It is vital that both countries continue to develop policies and action plans that will limit the amount of CO2 emissions released in the future. Climate change occurs on a global scale and unless we work together to curb emissions, the effects of climate change will only continue to worsen.
Said best by Ottmar Edenhofer, the co-chair of the U.N. Climate Report (2014) and Deputy Directory and Chief Economist of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, “All countries now have a responsibility. It’s not just a story about China—it’s a story about the whole world.”