The Coal Monster: China

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has just put out a horrible chart on Chinese coal consumption (here, click for larger image):

China's Coal Consumption  jpg

Current consumption translates into a 150% increase in 11 years (a per annum growth rate of nearly 9%), putting China close to consuming half of global coal. Much has been talked of the miracle of compound interest; China’s coal consumption shows the tyranny of compounding. Even if you slash the growth rate by half, what happens in another 10 years? Chinese coal consumption would still hit 6.2 billion tons, dwarfing non-Chinese consumption today.

Accordingly, if you wish to know what the climate will look like in 2050, you need to know who much China will grow by the year 2050—and how it will power that growth. Not easy.

4 responses to “The Coal Monster: China

  1. A truly scary chart….

    • Phillip. Yes, very scary. Especially, if we look at PWC’s Low Carbon Economy Index report. Unless you believe China’s GDP growth rate will collapse (and I am pessimistic but I don’t think it will collapse), the feasible decarbonisation rate is just too low to stop China driving CO2 emissions higher globally. So unless we do get lucky with respect to climate sensitivity, we will lock in warming rates of 3 degrees or higher. Not good.

  2. Agreed. I too expect a slower trend rate of growth in China, but as you say that still leaves us looking at a very significant increase in coal consumption over the years to come.

    What’s happening in India on coal consumption? Is it like China was 20 years ago? If the answer is yes, maybe it would be wiser not to answer!

  3. The PWC Low Carbon Economy Index Report has a look at India’s carbon intensity in Figure 4:

    Click to access pwc-low-carbon-economy-index-2012.pdf

    A pledge by India of a 3% reduction in carbon intensity by 2020 against the background of an economy growing 86% by then (all PWC numbers) looks pretty small. I haven’t drilled down into the source of India’s carbon emissions, but that is something I would like to do in the future.

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