Carbon emissions and basic algebra

When the countries around the world announced emission reductions, cuts, plans the media cheered. However, if we all did some basic algebra it would be different.

For example, the US announced its plans based on 2005 rather than the 1990 conventional numbers used in Kyoto. Why? Because US emissions grew a lot from 1990 to 2005 and reductions from a large base is easier. Australia is using 2000.  China uses 2005 and India another number. So every country is talking a different benchmark. So, we cannot actually compare.

May be we should GDP per capita as a benchmark.

On the second set of numbers.  US announced reduction in carbon emissions and China, India announced carbon intensity reductions. Both are as different as apples to oranges. But the press misses this. For an example check out the Ny Times. Just to clarify, I support the carbon intensity focus of the developing countries. My gripe is with media reporting.

Some good analysis from Matthew Khan,

I am happy to hear that China has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity by 40% by 2020 but does this guarantee a smaller global carbon footprint? Recall that carbon intensity = tons of CO2/GNP. China’s economy has been growing by 8% per year. Make the big assumption that this average growth rate will continue until 2020 and ignore compounding. So, in ten years their economy will be 80% bigger and their carbon intensity will be 40% lower than it is now. So, according to my logic relative to today, China’s total carbon emissions will be .6*80% or 48% higher. From Al Gore’s standpoint, is that progress? At the same time that President Obama is pledging a 20% reducing in CO2 emissions (under these growth assumptions), China’s government is pledging that their emissions will be 48% higher.

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