China’s “Carbon Intensity” Reduction

In response to Pres. Obama’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions, China proposed to reduce its “carbon intensity”. This concept simply means increasing energy efficiency in GDP, which just follows from what it means to be a developing country. (We need to reduce fossil carbon emissions, so both proposals are good, but don’t go far enough.)

I don’t have the data for China, but here’s the data for the U.S. First, here’s the plot of US per capita energy use and per capita GDP from 1949 to 2006:
energyGDPOur energy use became constant while we increased GDP. We became more efficient. Of course, as a country, we used more energy because our population grew:

percapThe above graph shows how much more energy we use than 150 years ago (we developed!), but the last few decades shows that our energy use leveled off. But our GDP continued to grow as the first plot shows.

Finally, constant energy with growing GDP means lower “energy intensity”, meaning lower ratio of energy use to GDP. Since energy use “equals” fossil carbon emissions, US carbon intensity decreased:

energyintensityIn sum, what China proposes equals simple development of a country.

Leave a Reply