Global carbon dioxide emissions for 2010

I’ve taken a closer look at¬†those shocking figures on 2010 emissions¬†released by the US Department of Energy last week. Just to remind you, global carbon dioxide emissions jumped by 6% over 2009, prompting gloomy media reflections that we are already ahead of worst-case IPCC projection scenarios.

Here’s three observations about the figures to keep in mind:

1. The UN is the recognised body for collating stats on emissions, for which 2008 is the most recent year published. The US energy department has a tradition of offering “preliminary emissions estimates for two years more recent than the end of the UN energy data set.” So even the 2009 figures are guesswork.

2. These emissions relate to burning fossil fuels and cement production. They don’t take account of agriculture or change of land use such as deforestation.

3. Like all stats, you can present a quite different picture by starting with a different year. The specialist in feel-good global warming articles is Lester R. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. Obviously in possession of the same figures, he made a pre-emptive strike two days before publication with a headline “U.S. Carbon Emissions Down Seven Percent In Four Years.” Using 2007 as the baseline, he was able to conclude triumphantly that:

the United States could become a world leader in cutting carbon emissions and stabilising climate

Mr Brown would be a good man to lurk in the corridors of the Durban conference.


this post was first published by OneWorld UK