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More Bad News on Global Warming

As Americans argue about how to tackle the issue of climate change, the astonishingly rapid industrialization of China is threatening to negate whatever progress we might achieve in reducing greenhouse gases. According to a new analysis by economists at two University of California campuses, China's carbon dioxide emissions are growing at a far faster pace than previously estimated -- and earlier estimates were worrying.
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Maximillian Auffhammer, an assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley, and Richard Carson, a professor of economics at UC San Diego, studied pollution data from 30 Chinese provinces. Based on their research, they forecast Chinese carbon dioxide emissons will increase 11 percent per year between the years 2004 and 2010.

Previous estimates, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, estimated a much smaller growth rate of 2.5 to 5 percent per year for China and surrounding nations.

The poorer provinces are particularly problematic, according to the report. "Wealthier coastal provinces tended to build clean-burning power plants based on the very best technology available, but many of the poorer interior provinces replicated inefficient 1950s Soviet technology," Auffhammer and Carson report. As a result, "Much of China is now stuck with power plants that are dirty and inefficient."

Given this reality -- and the fact these highly polluting power plants will be on line for 40 to 75 years -- current global warming forecasts are "overly optimistic," they warn.

Bottom line: Climate change is a worldwide phenomenon, and no one nation, or even hemisphere, can solve it alone.