The New York Times reports that Chinese coal consumption has been 17% higher than official statistics suggested in the period 2000-2013 [image left].
And thus China's CO2 emissions, already the highest in the world, have been much higher than previously thought.
What this means in effect is that every important metric associating global economic growth and energy use (and thus emissions growth) must now be revised—in the wrong direction from a climate change point of view.
Complicating this picture is ongoing uncertainty regarding China's actual GDP growth numbers. It is clear enough that the official number, which was 6.9% in the latest report, is a political number. Most other guestimates say that China has recently overstated its GDP growth.
All this suggests that China has consistently under-reported emissions while overstating economic performance. These trends make a mockery of happy talk about the "decoupling" of growth and emissions at the global level.
At the Council on Foreign Relations, a veteran China-watcher delivers the bad news.
Assuming that Chinese industrial production and manufacturing statistics are accurate, the dramatic increase in coal consumption that is now reported suggests that the gains in Chinese energy efficiency, as well as the reductions in energy intensity (the amount of energy consumed per unit of GDP), that have been touted over the past decade are much less than assumed—or perhaps they are nonexistent.
China’s pledge that its CO2 emissions will peak around 2030 is suddenly much less significant than it was one year ago—and even then many analysts argued that it wasn’t significant enough. After all, we are now dealing with a baseline of CO2 emissions that is substantially higher than we originally believed. The question now is whether China will adjust its commitment to meet its newly revealed contribution to the problem.
I enjoyed this observation.
Once you head down the rabbit hole of what is fact in China and what is fiction, it is very difficult to crawl back out again.
That's for sure. But then the reporter continues:
If one is looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, however, let me suggest two...
Oh, c'mon — give me a break. There is no light at the end of this tunnel.