By Catherine Brahic Within two years, Chinese emissions of greenhouse gases will have vastly outstripped the reductions achieved by all the countries that have signed up to the Kyoto protocol combined. Using data provided by the Chinese government, researchers at the University of California have calculated that China’s emissions by 2010 will be at least 600 million metric tonnes greater than they were in 2000. But the most likely outcome, according to the computer models, will be emissions of twice that figure. Even the minimum figure is five times as large as the 115.90 million metric tonnes in reductions which the US Energy Information Agency estimates will have been achieved by signatories of the Kyoto protocol by 2010. “The emissions growth rate is surpassing our worst expectations, and that means the goal of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 is going to be much, much harder to achieve,” says Maximillian Auffhammer of the University of California, Berkeley. Auffhammer and Richard Carson from the University of California, San Diego, used national data on pollution produced by Chinese provinces. Previous estimates have been based on national data only. The pair says that the level of detail provided by the data has allowed them to make a more accurate forecast of the growth of Chinese emissions. They estimate that CO2 emissions will rise by 11% per year in China between now and 2010. Previous estimates ranged between 2.5% and 5%. China is deemed a developing country by the United Nations and as such is not required to reduce its emissions under the Kyoto protocol. It may, however, agree to do so in future. At a UN climate summit in Indonesia in December 2007, China caved in to international pressure and pledged to consider cutting its emissions under a successor of the protocol. Negotiators are aiming for such a “son of Kyoto” to come into effect in 2012. Auffhammer and Carson’s findings have been made public just days after the world’s marathon record-holder declared he was unlikely to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “The pollution in China is a threat to my health and it would be difficult for me to run 42 kilometres in my current condition,” says Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia. The 34 year-old suffers from asthma, but will not withdraw from the games altogether. Instead, he will focus on his 10,000-metre run. In response to Gebrselassie’s announcement, the Chinese government reiterated on Tuesday its pledge to have clean air for the summer games. Zhang Lijun, vice minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration in China said the city had already met international standards on three major pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and organic pollutants in water. Beijing must now reduce the concentration of tiny airborne particles in order to fulfil its pledge. Although it is conceivable that the city will hold “clean air” games – it was given a positive progress report by the UN Environment Agency in October 2007 – this will do little to allay the concerns over its growing emissions of carbon dioxide. Journal reference: Journal of Environmental Economics and Management (DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2007.10.002) Climate Change – Want to know more about global warming – the science, impacts and political debate?