Myth: China is the largest polluter, emitter of carbon emissions in the world—it is responsible for Climate Change globally.
Fact: China today emits about 27% of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use, and the United States today emits about 15% of the world’s emissions. However, the United States is responsible for one-third of the total excess CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere, while China is responsible for less than one-sixth of the total. This is because, between 1850 and 1960, the industrialized capitalist economies of the West, including the United States, while colonizing a majority of the world, dominated global emissions. From 1960 to 2005, the United States was the biggest CO2 emitter in the world. It was not until 2005 that China surpassed the United States as the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.
Moreover, with just over 4% of the world’s population, the United States uses over a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources. China, on the other hand, has a population of 1.4 billion people, about 20% of the global total. As a country with a history of colonialism and underdevelopment, China has had to develop its industry and infrastructure rapidly to meet the needs of its population. Despite this, China actually burns less than half as much fossil fuels per capita as America.
While in the United States some prominent American politicians believe climate change to be a hoax, and while the Trump administration has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement since 2017, China is on track to meet its climate change goals nine years earlier than planned under the Paris Climate agreement. While China is being portrayed as the bogeyman of global climate diplomacy by the US government, it is in fact the world’s largest investor and producer of wind and solar technology and energy. China’s spending on renewable energy has gone from $3 billion in 2004 to $103 billion in 2015. China provides more jobs in solar energy than in coal mining. China is investing in clean energy on an unprecedented scale, and has installed more renewable capacity than any other country in the world; China is responsible for one-third of all wind turbines and solar panels in the world. It now has almost half the world’s electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, and 99% of the world’s electric buses.
China’s rise in the green technology sector globally is a result of the Chinese government’s planning, reorganizing, and prioritizing policies, subsidies, and economic measures allowing it to lead the effort to fight climate change and combat ecological degradation, not just within China but globally.
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