This is an excellent article, and well written, but I think it's a good idea to submit another element to the analysis. Look at CO2 emissions on a country-to-country basis and you may be getting a distorted view. As the nominal manufacturing center for the world; China's emissions really aren't it's own. The conveniences of western countries are a byproduct of outsourcing a substantial part of the west's carbon footprint to a foreign manufacturing base. Were we to source the production of all goods globally to the countries they will ultimately be consumed in the scales would be tilled to the west immensely.
This reality also turns the mind to different kinds of solutions to CO2 problems. Let's look at a simple consumer product: the iPad. According to Apple's own numbers the current version of the iPad has a carbon footprint of 180kgs of CO2 (production through usage) with 121kgs of that from manufacture alone. Sales for the product are expected to break the 40 million unit mark in 2012. This is one product in less than one calendar year producing over 4.8 Billion KGs of CO2 and it's very hard to imagine saying that these figures are Chinese emissions. Yes the product is made in China, yes the product is subject to Chinese regulations (or lack thereof) but the most important factor is that the outsourced nature of consumer product manufacturing is that it can be changed by extra-national factors.
Here then are three examples of politically possible scenarios that could radically change a nation's CO2 emissions despite its own best efforts:
1. Consumer demand- Apple and other manufacturers could make a calculation to go to carbon neutral manufacturing. Decisions like this are more likely than you'd expect. Marketing often drives manufacturing choices.
2. One or more western countries decide to impose a modest carbon tariff (or carbon tax with a holiday for domestic production) on imports. This could be surprisingly popular. Every country is looking for ways to grow their jobs figures and outsourced work is a great political punching bag. The US could place a modest price on the carbon life of imports as a jobs-repatriation move. This could seriously effect the pan-asian manufacturing base and radically alter emissions.
3. Global economic growth resumes. A point and a half of global economic growth or decline radically alters CO2 ppm numbers not just for this year but for the entire curve moving forward.
The point of these arguments isn't their likelihood. It's to shed light on the reality that emission in 2012 are oversimplified when looked at on a nation-state to nation-state basis. You wisely point out, Robert, the per-capita difference between countries. That point, though, is worse than the numbers would let you believe and subject to more complicated factors.
Global Power Solutions, LLC