The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has just put out a horrible chart on Chinese coal consumption (here, click for larger image):
Current consumption translates into a 150% increase in 11 years (a per annum growth rate of nearly 9%), putting China close to consuming half of global coal. Much has been talked of the miracle of compound interest; China’s coal consumption shows the tyranny of compounding. Even if you slash the growth rate by half, what happens in another 10 years? Chinese coal consumption would still hit 6.2 billion tons, dwarfing non-Chinese consumption today.
Accordingly, if you wish to know what the climate will look like in 2050, you need to know who much China will grow by the year 2050—and how it will power that growth. Not easy.