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May 24, 2007

Carbon Emissions

We really, really, do need to do something about carbon emissions you know. Get them down otherwise Bangladesh will both drown and boil as it sinks beneath ever warmer water.

In fact, we need a 60% cut in emissions by 2050, so we're told. This is something like 1.3% per year.

How are we going to do that?

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped slightly last year even as the economy grew, according to an initial estimate released yesterday by the Energy Information Administration.

The 1.3 percent drop in CO{-2} emissions...

Do you think it might be a wise idea to copy what they're doing?

May 24, 2007 in Climate Change | Permalink


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It has got to be easier to cut emissions when you are already by far the worst polluter and waster of energy per head of population. They still far out-pollute us - no I don't think it is a good idea to copy them!

Posted by: Neil Harding | May 24, 2007 12:25:46 PM

well if you can sort it so that the UK ,like the US, has a milder winter than 2005 and a milder summer than 2005 so reducing the use of both central heating and air conditioning, which is where the vast majority of the decline happened, then we can copy them.

Otherwise no not really.

Posted by: KB | May 24, 2007 8:01:07 PM

Since there is a multplier for these factors (icecaps melting and such) you need to cut at a higher rate earlier in the timeframe. That way, you have the wind at your back. Plus, since it is easiest to cut at the beginning (going from no action to some action) you should expect the biggest gains earliest when looking at US measurements. And the US also needs to cut at a higher rate to balance out China and India's expected increase in CO2 emissions. Global problem, after all.

Using an average is not the correct way to forecast how these levels would need to progress on an annual basis. Think of it the same way you would a start-up business.

I know what you are saying, but the expression of that statistic really does not mean anything. And it demonstrates that a lot more needs to be happening.

Tim adds: Yes, I know, but boring, boring, when
the US cuts CO2 and Europe, which takes it much more seriously, does not, well......alllow me the one post, eh?

Posted by: HP | May 24, 2007 8:15:02 PM

You need a 2.1% cutback every year to get to a 60% reduction in 43 years. Think of it as an amortization.

Tim adds: Thanks, my math was never very good. I went with straight line which, as you point out, is wrong.

Posted by: Reluctant Republican | May 24, 2007 9:16:08 PM

US CO2 went down because of the dual impact of "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars". That took about 12 hours out of every citizen's weekly schedule, hence less drving and pollution.

Honestly, that is all that I can fathom given my fellow citizens lack of awareness or concern for the issue.

Posted by: HP | May 24, 2007 10:29:43 PM

It has got to be easier to cut emissions when you are already by far the worst polluter and waster of energy per head of population.

This is bollocks, which given its source is not surprising. The USA produces more carbon dioxide in total than any other country, but it does not top the table of greatest energy use per person. IIRC, the Arabian Gulf countries are at the top of the table, with several others coming in ahead of the US on this score.

Posted by: Tim Newman | May 25, 2007 3:15:52 AM

It doesn't matter as the world is going to end in the next 5-10 years.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go work on my ark...

Posted by: Steve | May 25, 2007 4:44:11 AM

As a natural born U.S. citizen, I see the pollution caused by cars, SUV's, and light trucks everyday. I honestly think the best way to reduce air pollution is to double or triple the price of gasoline.

Tim adds: A man after my own heart. I've been saying that the Federal Gasoline Tax should at least double for a decade now. Greg Mankiw, who used to be Chair of hte Council of Economic advisors, agrees too (but his opinion carries rather more weight than yours' or mine of couse).

Posted by: Charles Holden | May 28, 2007 5:04:58 PM

The problem is: Americans want to spend hours each week driving. Contrary to what many people believe, I think many more Americans would drive hybrids, or economical three or four cylinder cars. American automakers produce more expensive vehicles to make a profit. General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler have long held a significant amount of power in Washington, but their influence is waning.

I really think automated methods of manufacturing could dramatically change the auto industry. The manufacture of hybrids, and economical three or four cylinder cars by machines utilizing computerized automation is feasible. New businesses could implement this innovative technology to revolutionize the worldwide auto industry very quickly.

Posted by: Charles Holden | May 28, 2007 6:26:05 PM

Unfortunately, that decrease had less to do with human initiative, and more to do with changes in the weather. A much milder winter led to less fuel burned for heat. WaPo claims that some of it can also be attributed to less driving due to higher gas prices, but I haven't seen evidence that Americans are actually cutting back.

I also suspect that the figures given (1.3% reduction in emissions, 3.3% economic growth) are less certain than you'd assume. We, who can only predict a presidential race with a 3% margin of error, are able to judge the entirety of economic activity to within 0.1%? Probably not. Then there is the question of what constitutes economic activity and economic growth, but that's a rant for another day.

But the big thing to remember is that none of the causes listed are repeatable for more than a few years. If driving is decreasing, it certainly isn't going to continue to do so without either big investments in mass transit, mass migration towards urban cores, or possibly everyone just buying all their goods and services off eBay. Weather can't be counted on to depress heating demand next year. We can only get so much of our energy from natural gas.

I haven't seen any new policies, partnerships, or incentives from the Bush administration that would account for anything close to this drop. I'm curious to know what he thinks they are.

Posted by: Bryce | May 30, 2007 1:23:16 PM

Why don't we find the country with the lowest carbon emissions and copy them?

Tim adds: The new economics foundation did this didn't they? Vanuatu? Thus we all need to wear penis sheaths and worship the Duke of Edinburgh.

Posted by: Snafu | May 31, 2007 4:07:12 AM