The United States has done a great deal in recent years to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions; however, recent data shows that while the United States and others are cutting back on carbon emissions, developing countries like China and India are producing emissions at a much higher rate.
The United States closed a record number of fossil plants in 2012, according to a mid-2012 Energy Information Administration (EIA) analysis that projected 57 coal plants would be retired. The United States also built an empire of wind turbines, as 12,000 megawatts were planned for completion in 2012 alone, according to the EIA.
In addition, the average citizen’s usage of oil and petroleum products has fallen by 4 percent since 2008, according to the San Antonio Express-News, reducing one of our biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main contributor to greenhouse gases, with 84 percent of greenhouse gases in 2010 being composed of CO2, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
On the total world scale, about 8,000 million metric tons of CO2 are being produced, according to data from the EIA, and those emissions are expected to rise to approximately 10,000 million metric tons by 2025.
By about 2018, developing countries like China and India are expected to surpass already industrialized countries in CO2 emissions. Currently, industrialized countries produce about 3,750 million metric tons of CO2, while developing countries are just rounding 3,000 million metric tons, according to the EIA data.
In 2008, the United States contributed only about 19 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA, and that number is decreasing slightly, as the United States has cut CO2 gas emissions by approximately 500 million metric tons since 2008.
According to a report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, China has already surpassed the United States in CO2 emissions. In 2006, China surpassed the United States by an 8 percent increase in CO2 emissions. The year before, the United States was still the world’s largest producer, but with China only 2 percent below.
The United States is currently the world’s second-largest CO2 producer, with China now in the lead. Other developing countries such as India continue to push ahead and may close the gap in the future. There is much international attention on carbon emissions, amid fears that developing countries are turning a blind eye to greenhouse gases.
This year’s Ninth International Carbon Dioxide Conference will be held in Beijing, China, in early June. Members will attempt to address the current climate situation related to carbon emissions and work on “carbon management and carbon sequestration for climate change mitigation/adaptation and sustainable development,” according to the conference website.
In addition, according to the EPA, cleaner air is healthier for humans and saves lives. The agency’s 2011 analysis concluded that the Clean Air Act Amendments prevented 160,000 premature deaths in 2010 and will prevent another 230,000 in 2020. Thus, the economy is also boosted from the money not supplied to health care costs, not to mention the 17 million days of work that will not be lost due to illness.
However, with developing countries outpacing the United States and others, these positive trends could turn the other way, and it remains to be seen whether or not those developing countries will join more developed countries in reducing emissions.
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