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Keywords:

  • carbon dioxide;
  • fossil fuel;
  • China

[1] Release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel combustion and cement manufacture is the primary anthropogenic driver of climate change. Our best estimate is that China became the largest national source of CO2 emissions during 2006. Previously, the United States (US) had occupied that position. However, the annual emission rate in the US has remained relatively stable between 2001–2006 while the emission rate in China has more than doubled, apparently eclipsing that of the US in late 2006. Here we present the seasonal and spatial pattern of CO2 emissions in China, as well as the sectoral breakdown of emissions. Though our best point estimate places China in the lead position in terms of CO2 emissions, we qualify this statement in a discussion of the uncertainty in the underlying data (3–5% for the US; 15–20% for China). Finally, we comment briefly on the implications of China's new position with respect to international agreements to mitigate climate change.