President Obama has designed a plan to combat climate change without the help of Congress, because Congress is a place where even Democrats do things like cut TV ads in which they fire rifles at cap-and-trade legislation. Unfortunately, while the administration may be able to work around Capitol Hill on this issue, the same cannot be said of China.
The painful truth is that without cooperation from the world's largest carbon dioxide emitter, any effort the United States makes to slow global warming likely won't amount to much. China, where rapid economic growth has been powered with copious amounts of coal, accounted for more than a quarter worldwide emissions in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The United States was responsible for just under 17 percent.
And, while U.S. emissions have fallen since 2005, China's are still increasing right along with the output of its factories. The Rhodium Group estimates they were up by roughly 3.4 percent last year.
This is why a sizable chunk of Obama's climate plan is dedicated to International engagement. Convincing China, as well as fast-growing developing economies like India, to limit their emissions is as crucial to combating global warming at this point as convincing the developed world to wean itself off of oil and coal. The next big chance to do so will likely be the 2015 UN climate conference in Paris.