The Dirty Seven

There’s an interesting article here about the seven largest producers of greenhouse gases. They are China, the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. I found some of the issues mentioned in the article remarkable non sequiturs. Does it really matter what your emissions per square mile or even per person are? There’s also a surprising omission: trends are not mentioned. In the United States the total emissions and emissions per additional dollar of GDP have been stable or falling. In China and India they’re rising sharply. Germany, too, has seen its emissions increase recently albeit from a much, much lower level. See this chart.

Nonetheless, the U. S. still has a lot of low-hanging fruit left to pick in this area and a lot could be done without tremendous cost. Conversion from coal to natural gas may even do a lot of the heavy lifting for us, as it has been doing in recent years. As in so many areas I’d rather have our hand than China’s.

11 comments… add one

  • Jimbino

    Yes,

    I matters greatly what emissions per person are. There are two ways to reduce the emission burden on the planet: make everyone more miserable by cutting his consumption OR make everyone richer and happier by putting a stop to the breeding!

  • Ben Wolf

    Coal use in the U.S. increased last year and the EIA is estimating a 2% rise in carbon emissions.

    http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=14571

  • Ben Wolf

    Also the chart above does not take into consideration greenhouse gas emissions other than carbon. There’s evidence methane emissions have increased along with our use of natural gas which, if true, means the situation in context of radiative physics may be worse than if we hadn’t started switching to natural gas at all.

  • Red Barchetta

    If one desires some sort of apples to apples comparison of course it matters. A 100 person nation that puts out as much CO2 and GDP as the US would have a horrific CO2 to person ratio, but a much different CO2 to GDP picture.

    Of course, the whole theory is in massive empirical chaos, so who cares?.

  • Zachriel

    China puts out far less than the U.S. per person. Furthermore, the West has been emitting for a much longer period of time. From their viewpoint, while they recognize the problem, they have as much right to emit as any other person. They think the solution is for the West to reduce their emissions having cause the problem in the first place.

    http://www.tececo.com/images/graphics/climate%20change/Hansen5PerCapitaEmissionsbyCountry.gif

  • TastyBits

    @Drew

    Of course, the whole theory is in massive empirical chaos, so who cares?

    The guys who started this have gone to ground, but a many people have a lot of money and emotion invested in AWG. You can expect them to become more and more unhinged as it becomes more and more untenable.

    Those with the least scientific understanding will be the last holdouts.

  • China puts out far less than the U.S. per person.

    Why is that important? Do fewer emissions per person cause less climate change? Or, possibly, is the absolute amount of emissions more important? Similarly, why is history important? And when does history begin? Is there a “right to emit”?

  • Zachriel

    Dave Schuler: Do fewer emissions per person cause less climate change?

    Given a stable population, it does.

    Dave Schuler: Or, possibly, is the absolute amount of emissions more important? Similarly, why is history important?

    Climate change is due to the sum total emissions. The sum total historical emissions = per capita per year * years * number of people. Look at cumulative emissions from a Chinese standpoint.

    Dave Schuler: Is there a “right to emit”?

    There’s a right to development. There is no way to completely eliminate emissions in the short term. There’s a necessary transition.

  • I assume that I don’t understand your first two remarks above. Otherwise, they’re either irrelevant or incoherent.

    I’m skeptical of the practicality of an unrestricted rights regime WRT development. Unless the modality, rate, or method of development can vary over time and with circumstances, what becomes of India, Indonesia, Brazil, or Nigeria’s right to develop and emit? Europe, the U. S., and Japan could all cut their emissions to zero and it still wouldn’t be enough.

  • Ben Wolf

    @Dave,

    I would second your skepticism and enhance it by suggesting there is no right to development which destroys the planet’s life support systems. Yeah, it’s unfair that China and India don’t have the opportunity to pollute without destroying themselves, as the West was able to do. Nevertheless, in the words of Audrey II, “tough titty”.

  • Zachriel

    Dave Schuler: Unless the modality, rate, or method of development can vary over time and with circumstances, what becomes of India, Indonesia, Brazil, or Nigeria’s right to develop and emit? Europe, the U. S., and Japan could all cut their emissions to zero and it still wouldn’t be enough.

    The problem is that they can not follow the trajectory of the West, which was a century of emissions followed by a century of transition. It’s just not sustainable. On the other hand, you can’t effectively convince someone emitting a tenth what an American does, a hundredth what the American has over time, that he is the problem. It’s going to require new technologies in order to allow continued development, while controlling emissions.

    Ben Wolf: Nevertheless, in the words of Audrey II, “tough titty”.

    That would only lead to a tragedy of the commons. People have a right to development, and will take it whether you give it or not.

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