Study: US VS. China Household Emissions

The recent study The Greenness of China: Household Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Urban Development, a collaboration from researcher from UCLA, HArvard, and Tsinghua PhD candidates, takes a look at urban emission growth.. .using largely economic data.. and it is quite an interesting study. Download PDF here

China urbanization is associated with both increases in per-capita income and greenhouse gas emissions.
This paper uses micro data to rank 74 major Chinese cities with respect to their household carbon
footprint. We find that the “greenest” cities based on this criterion are Huaian and Suqian while the
“dirtiest” cities are Daqing and Mudanjiang. Even in the dirtiest city (Daqing), a standardized household
produces only one-fifth of that in America’s greenest city (San Diego). We find that the average January
temperature is strongly negatively correlated with a city’s household carbon footprint, which suggests
that current regional economic development policies that bolster the growth of China’s northeastern
cities are likely to increase emissions. We use our city specific income elasticity estimates to predict
the growth of carbon emissions in China’s cities.

Now, as a US Citizen living in China, and having worked on economic analysis for much of my time here, I think it needs to be said that the work that research that they are doing is darn complex as they had to develop a model that had to find links between economic growth in US and China, then apply that skin to China’s fragmented and fit/ start growth, and then apply it to a carbon model that was based on US data.. got it?.. oh, and the source of the data is ultimately from the NBS.

Here is an excerpt:

Even though we attempt to hold individual income constant, we find that richer cities have significantly higher household carbon emissions, which was not true in the U.S. One possible explanation for this fact is that richer cities may have invested more in infrastructure that complements energy use. In China, carbon emissions are particularly high in places with cold Januarys, because of centralized home heating. For example, Shanghai (without centralized home heating) is much greener than Beijing (with centralized home heating). The prominent role played by central production of heat indicates that carbon emissions could fall significantly if greener sources of energy were used by the government for that purpose, as argued by Almond et al. (2009).

.. which highlights a few interesting things for me:
1) the findings seem to show that at some point a city will reach an emission plateau ( why US cities remain constant)
2) That the studies seems to show that China has several different tiers of emitters, much like it has economic tiers

Which leaves me with one conclusion.. this study is the kryptonit to the commonly quoted China per capita emissions are 1/5th the US.  IT is a study that shows, or attempts to show, that while China as a whole may be 1/5, it is very quickly moving towards parity as its city economicallly move from 4th tier  to 3rd tier,3rd tier to 2nd, and so on.

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