Counting Carbon
Did China Already Hit Peak Carbon?

Another week, another study that suggests that alarmist green climate models have seriously overestimated Chinese CO2 production, which may have already peaked. The FT reports:

China’s carbon dioxide emissions are likely to peak by 2025 — and may even have done so already — according to a new paper that suggests the country’s economic slowdown and transition, combined with rapid adoption of renewable energy, mean previous projections of China’s emissions are far too pessimistic. […]

The new study assumes that even under a “high-growth scenario”, annual economic growth will be just 6 per cent for the coming decade — compared with an average of more than 10 per cent in the first decade of this century.

With the slowdown accompanied by a government-planned economic shift from carbon-intensive heavy industry to services, the authors expect a decline of at least 4 per cent in the country’s energy intensity over the next decade.

This latest study, conducted by researchers from the London School of Economics, echoes similar reports last week that China’s coal consumption dropped 3.7 percent last year. But while this report, like those that preceded it, will hearten greens the world over anxious to anoint Beijing as some model environmental steward, it comes with some important caveats.

First, China’s numbers should be treated with a heavy dose of skepticism—the country has a long history of reporting dubious statistics. Second, this is less a story of eco-ideals on the rise, and more of a story of China’s economy faltering after years of double-digit annual growth. At the same time that green groups were lauding China’s slowing emissions last week, it was reported that the country was losing 1.8 million jobs as its industrial sector faltered.

If China’s carbon emissions really have peaked, it’s not because Beijing just discovered some deep abiding love for nature—it’s instead a result of economic contraction and the country’s recognition that its heavy coal consumption make it reliant on energy imports while also fomenting unrest. This emissions corrective also suggests previous projections for China’s climate impact were overly pessimistic—a perhaps unsurprising turn of events, given the Chicken Little tendencies of the modern environmental movement.

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