China, the ticking carbon bomb

posted by Joshua Lang

In the People's Republic of China, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide, environmental standards for the energy industry are unsettling. Two thirds of the nation's electricity is produced in coal-fired power stations. In 2004, carbon emissions from coal consumption in China accounted for an estimated 14% of the world's total CO2 emissions at the time.

Additionally, Chinese products are produced in large quantities, not necessarily high quality. This fatal combination could bring about the worst consequences of phantom power.

Namely Chinese cell phones, for example,—especially the cheap models rampantly popular in rural areas—often lack such features as internet, MP3-playing capability and, most crucially, smart chargers.

By 2005, an estimated 361 million Chinese or 27.6% of the country’s population had been in possession of a cellular phone. Compare this to Germany, where there are more cellular phones in use than there are residents of the Republic.

China is a rapidly developing country, with a percentage rate of economic growth that hasn’t dropped below the double digits for nearly a decade. If even 60% of the Chinese population were to own and operate a cellular phone without a smart charger, it could spell devastating consequences for global CO2 levels.

Let’s assume 792 million Chinese each have a conventional phone charger needlessly plugged in each for a fifth of the time during the week. With an inconspicuously low standby power drain of one watt, this would equal 1,387,584,000 kilowatt-hours a year.

In China, for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced by coal power, approximately 0.002 metric tons of CO2 are emitted. If we multiply this by the number of kilowatt-hours required to supply our hypothetical 60% of Chinese using cellular phones with conventional chargers, we come up with 2,775,168 metric tons of CO2 needlessly emitted each year.

And this is only one relatively minor aspect of the immense dangers of energy abuse in developing countries.