In 2006, China surpassed the U.S. to become the leading producer of green house emissions. But a big reason for its higher emissions is that China has become the industrial heartland of the world. Developed countries that claim to have reduced carbon emissions have, in effect, shifted their factories and pollution to China (this is one outsourcing no politician in the U.S. complains about). As consumers, all of us are now a party to China's green house emissions. Each time we buy a plastic toy, a blender, or an iPhone, we inject a blast of CO2 over China.
In a new article and the animation below, George Monbiot describes the bogus accounting that's de rigueur in measuring carbon emissions. It only accounts for territorial emissions, not outsourced emissions. With proper accounting that's linked to consumption, the U.S. is still way ahead of China in its contribution to climate change. The difference is even starker if we consider emissions per capita.
When nations negotiate global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, they are held responsible only for the gases produced within their own borders. Partly as a result of this convention, these tend to be the only ones that countries count. When these “territorial emissions” fall, they congratulate themselves on reducing their carbon footprints. But as markets of all kinds have been globalised, and as manufacturing migrates from rich nations to poorer ones, territorial accounting bears ever less relationship to our real impacts.