China’s per-capita coal consumption has today caught up with Britain’s 150 years ago

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Here is a fascinating graph that I will have to use for something. It shows that China’s per-capita coal consumption is now what it was in Britain 150 years ago. Britain kept above those levels for a century.ukversuschina

What’s clear here is that China’s coal consumption (and its air pollution) are far from historically unprecedented, except on aggregate. China is simply running the historically normal course. Develop rapidly; pollute highly; clean up later.

The British data comes from the UK government’s official statistics, which go back to 1850s. China’s are from BP. The energy content of a tonne of coal varies a bit from country to country and in time. So, the above graph needs to be adjusted for this. As far as I know the UK government does not provide reliable estimates of the energy content of coal going back very far. The American government takes it back only to the 1950s.

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3 thoughts on “China’s per-capita coal consumption has today caught up with Britain’s 150 years ago

    johnrussell40 said:
    November 18, 2014 at 5:16 pm
      Robert Wilson said:
      November 18, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Thanks. Though, China is now at the UK level in terms of total per-capita emissions.

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    […] pessimistic view is that as UK coal use has plummeted, China has more than taken up the slack. Its per capita coal use of nearly three tonnes per year is about the same as seen in the UK way back in the […]

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