A new study shows that between 1992 and 2007 emissions in China nearly tripled. The study explores not only the emissions but their causes and revealed something interesting, in the past two decades China’s emissions culprit has shifted from manufacturing and exports to the building of infrastructure. Despite their recent commitment to renewable energy the country’s emissions are still on the rise. Though the growth in infrastructure will eventually level out, some are worried that this quick construction is resulting in less than perfect projects that will need to be rebuilt someday — e.g. recent issues with their high speed rail and massive problems with their ambitious Three Gorges Dam. The study’s authors also note that if China’s not building the right kind of infrastructure, their rapid growth could get them stuck in a carbon emissions cycle for decades to come.

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The study showed that as the country’s population grew and became more prosperous the government started rapidly building infrastructure — like a trans-continental railroad, billions of dollars worth of renewable energy projects and huge green developments — which caused emissions to rise.

“The high levels of CO2 emissions from capital investment might only be temporary as, with economic development, investment moves into more high-tech and greener technologies,” added Dr Baiocchi, a senior lecturer in business and climate change. “However, it is crucial that China now invests in the right kind of infrastructure to limit the growth of CO2 emissions that causes global warming. The type of infrastructure put in place today will also largely determine future mitigation costs.”

The study also shows that these infrastructure projects aren’t only happening on the country-wide level but within families as well. As the country urbanizes and people move to the city they buy cars, appliances and electronics that they previously didn’t use, which causes the family’s energy consumption to rise — and manufacturing CO2 levels to rise as well as more objects are made.

Though some studies show that China’s energy consumption will level out in the middle of this century, it will surely level out at a much higher place than it is right now. The study, called, “A ‘Carbonizing Dragon’: China’s fast growing CO2 emissions revisited” pointed out that it is possible that China will choose the right path — recent growth in renewable energy is a positive sign — but it is imperative that they choose it sooner rather than later so as to not glue themselves to infrastructure that will cause their energy consumption and emissions levels to stay at an elevated rate for years to come.

Via Science Daily