China‘s cumulative greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, when governments were becoming aware of climate change, will outstrip those of the United States in 2015 or 2016, according to separate estimates by experts in Norway and the United States.
“A few years ago China’s per capita emissions were low, its historical responsibility was low. That’s changing fast,” said Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo, who says China will overtake the United States this year.
Using slightly different data, the U.S.-based World Resources Institute think-tank estimated that China’s cumulative carbon dioxide emissions will total 151 billion tonnes for 1990-2016, overtaking the U.S. total of 147 billion next year.
Beijing says the best yardstick for historical responsibility is per capita emissions since the 18th century, by which measure its emissions are less than a tenth those of the United States.
Should heat-trapping methane gas emitted by rice paddies in Asia in the 19th century, now omitted, count alongside industrial carbon emissions by Europe? Should Britain be responsible for India’s emissions before independence in 1947?