Beijing China has overtaken the United States as the world's top producer of carbon dioxide emissions - the biggest manmade contributor to global warming - based on the latest widely accepted energy consumption data, a Dutch research group says.
According to a report released Tuesday by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, China overtook the U.S. in emissions of CO2 by 8 percent in 2006. While China was 2 percent below the United States in 2005, voracious coal consumption and increased cement production caused the numbers to rise rapidly, the group said.
"It's an expression of their fast industrial production activities and their fast development," Jos G.J. Olivier, the agency's senior scientist who compiled the figures, said Wednesday. The agency is independent but paid by the Dutch government to advise it on environmental policy.
The study said China, which relies on coal for two-thirds of its energy needs and makes 44 percent of the world's cement, produced 6.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2006. In comparison, the U.S., which gets half its electricity from coal, produced 5.8 billion metric tons of CO2, it said.
The group's analysis makes sense and had been predicted to happen by 2009 or 2010, said experts from the United Nations and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and outside academics.
Bert Metz, a senior researcher at the Dutch agency and a leading expert on efforts to battle global warming, said the analysis was done using methods and data that "are the best currently available."
This means that "Chinese contributions to global CO2 emissions are getting more important," Metz said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Telephone calls to China's State Environmental Protection Agency and the National Development and Reform Commission, the Cabinet-level economic planning agency, were not answered Wednesday.
Earlier figures indicated China would likely surpass the U.S. in greenhouse gas emissions as early as 2009, although other predictions said it could happen this year.
Chinese environmental officials have said that while total emissions are going up, they are still less than one quarter of those of the United States on a per capita basis. Because China's population of 1.3 billion people is more than four times that of the United States, China spews about 10,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per person, while in the United States it is nearly 42,500 pounds per person.