There’s a gap the size of Japan in China’s declared carbon emissions.
When researchers added up the emissions declared by each of the 30 provinces in 2010, they found the total was greater than what the country declared as a whole – by the equivalent of 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.
That’s the same amount that Japan – the world’s fourth biggest emitter – pumps into the atmosphere each year, and amounts to about 5 per cent of annual global emissions.
It’s not clear how much of this is due to the provinces over-declaring, or the national agency under-declaring.
As the sense of urgency about climate change grows, we should expect to see every major CO2 emitting country (and likely some of the minor ones, as well) lie about their numbers. There’s a huge incentive to doing so, and there’s no real cost, so it will happen. It’s that simple.
I’ve mentioned several times on this site that I expected to see this issue surface first in the form of scientists pointing out that the year-to-year increase in atmospheric CO2 implies a much high level of worldwide emissions than the sum of the reported country-level numbers. This would create an uncomfortable situation if one of the countries with, shall we say, erroneous reported numbers were to be called out in a way that revealed the previously unrecognized monitoring capabilities of some other country. Or perhaps the second country, also shaving a few millions of tons from their yearly total, would be happy to keep quiet, and maintain the secrecy surrounding their ability to track emissions, and also avoid being called out for their own number fudging.
In any case, anyone who thinks we can count on reported emissions numbers as this little piece of theater plays itself out is being hopelessly naive.