Unsettled Science: How Much CO2 is China Producing?

by Greg Pollowitz

Brad Plummer from the Washington Post’s Wong Blog writes:

Let’s go ahead and state the obvious: It will be impossible to hash out any sort of global agreement on climate change if we can’t even agree on how much carbon-dioxide different countries are actually putting into the air.

Yet the data on this can be surprisingly unreliable — particularly in the case of the world’s biggest carbon emitter, China. A new paper in Nature Climate Change finds that there’s a real mystery as to how much carbon China is actually emitting. The national-level statistics say one thing. The provincial-level statistics say another. And the gap between the two numbers came to about 1.4 gigatons in 2010 — a staggering amount, equivalent to all the carbon-dioxide that Japan put into the air that year.

Um, if we don’t know how much CO2 countries are putting into the atmosphere, doesn’t that mean every single model on climate change can’t be trusted?

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