Global warming is the product of emissions from every nation in the world. Every molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2,) whether it’s North America or Asian has the same impact in the atmosphere.
The top two countries in terms of GDP, population, and emissions are the United States and China. The world cannot effectively address global warming without us. Europe is already a participant in the Kyoto Protocol, as is Japan. The key to the future will be decisions made in Washington and Beijing.
Fortunately, though, we will certainly see continued action in Europe. A new round of emissions targets is being set under the European Emissions Trading System.
We talked earlier about the prospects for U.S. action. I’d like to look at what’s happening in China. Recently it was announced that China would pass the U.S. in terms of emissions much earlier than expected: by 2009. This doesn’t mean, though, that China will, in 2009, become the chief perpetrator of climate change. In terms of per capita emissions, the United States is far ahead of China. The average American uses seven times more energy and twelve times as much gasoline as the average Chinese. Additionally, China’s fuel economy standards are far stronger than those in the United States.
While China has given no sign that it is willing to take on mandatory, internationally
driven limitations on its emissions, it has developed a set of energy efficiency measures and mandates. These measures and mandates are part of a response to their own priorities, not to global priorities, that nevertheless serve to place China ahead of many other nations in terms of climate policy. As a part of these efforts, China is developing green technology industries, which brings us back again to the question of whether we’re going to see global climate change simply as a cost or whether this is a question of how to seize opportunities to sell the technologies that will be demanded by tomorrow’s markets.