China: renewables and emissions

Co2 emissions

The world hangs in the balance. Countless reports keep reminding us that all the main indicators of ecological sustainability continue to get worse. Global atmospheric Co2 levels are now 398.78 and are still rising. All countries need to reduce Co2 emissions. The graph above shows how Chinese emissions have skyrocketed. There is however hope: China may be on the verge of a rapid reduction in emissions.

In 2014 China’s coal production fell for the first time in ages. Its emissions per unit of GDP are falling, and it seems conceivable that overall emissions may soon start to fall. In 2014 China invested $89.5 billion in renewable energy technology, a 32% year on year increase. China is extremely vulnerable to climate change: its water security depends on Himalayan glaciers and its main cities are located on the low lying eastern seaboard. Also the atrocious air quality in many cities is a focal point for political protest. China is struggling to improve things, and it has vast financial reserves to invest in clean technology. If over the next few years we see continuing increases in investment in the best clean technologies, and increasing cracking down on pollution, then it is possible Chinese emissions may soon start to rapidly fall, and local air quality improve.

solar roofs in China

The above picture shows new housing in the village of Qingnan. Note that each house is orientated to maximize solar gain utilizing plenty of south facing windows for passive solar space heating, solar photovoltaic panels for electricity and solar water heaters.

Globally 2014 was a very good year for new investment renewable energy technologies, particularly solar and wind: solar seeing a 25% year on year increase, to $150 billion, and wind an 11% increase to $100 billion. These are hopeful indicators that global carbon emissions may soon start to make the increasingly steep reductions necessary to avert climatic catastrophe.