60-Second Earth

Who Is to Blame for Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Global trade, outsourcing and climate change prove how interconnected economic and environmental problems are. David Biello reports

We're not just outsourcing jobs to China and India. We're outsourcing pollution. So says a new analysis of global trade published in the March 1 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to scientists at the Carnegie Institution in Palo Alto, The analysis reveals that more than 2.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide are "used" by individual Americans per year but emitted elsewhere.

From my own travels I can confirm this. I’ve seen a good chunk of coal shoveled into Chinese power plants, generating electricity for the factories that crank out trinkets, clothes and gadgets destined for the U.S.

It's even worse in theoretically green Europe: each French, German and Spanish person consumes nearly four metric tons of CO2 per year that’s released elsewhere. It gives new meaning to the E.U.'s vaunted emissions trading scheme.

This new analysis reveals that the U.S. imports some 435 million tons of embedded CO2 emissions from China alone in 2004. And previous analyses have shown that as much as one-third of Chinese emissions can be traced back to Europe or the U.S. The Middle Kingdom may now be the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases but part of the blame for that lies with us.

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