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Carbon Dioxide: U.S. Emissions Down, European Emissions Up

Despite the E.U.'s carbon markets and vast renewable energy subsidies

EUWindmillsAlexandrZharikovDreamstimeAlexandr Zharikov/DreamstimeNegotiators from 197 countries will be meeting for the next couple of weeks in Germany, where they're preparing for a larger United Nations climate change conference in Poland this fall. So how are all those countries doing when it comes to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases?

As the International Energy Agency recently reported,

Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 1.4% in 2017, reaching a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes (Gt), a resumption of growth after three years of global emissions remaining flat. The increase in CO2 emissions, however, was not universal. While most major economies saw a rise, some others experienced declines, including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan. The biggest decline came from the United States, mainly because of higher deployment of renewables.

The U.S.'s performance contrasts with that of the European Union, whose carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.8 percent last year. This, even though many E.U. countries participate in a carbon market and are engaged in vast efforts aimed at replacing fossil fuels with wind and solar power.

Although the Trump administration is generally hostile to international climate change agreements, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that the U.S. reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 2 percent in 2016. This drop is largely attributable to a continuing market-driven switch from coal to natural gas, to more renewable generation, and to a relatively mild winter.

The upshot is that both the U.S. and the E.U. have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions substantially over the past decade. In fact, a World Resources Institute report last fall concluded that the greenhouse gas emissions of 49 countries (including the U.S.) have already peaked. The majority of countries whose emissions have peaked did so well before any international climate agreement such as the Kyoto Protocol came into effect.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...they're preparing for a larger United Nations climate change conference in Poland this fall.

    Groooooooan.

  • SQRLSY One||

    In Poland, the Important World Powers will conclude that your actual national carbon-emission statistics do NOT matter, ANYWHERE nearly as much as what your verbal and legal pronouncements are, and what your INTENTIONS are, and what your FEELINGS are, and HOW MUCH you love Gaia! All hail!!!

    (Anyone have any Pollock jokes about that, to offer? PLEASE??!?!)

  • SQRLSY One||

    OK then, maybe I have to get this thing started...

    Q: How many Pollocks does it take, to udderly LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Gaia, the Earth Goddess?

    A: The same number of Pollocks that it takes to fill a one-gallon plastic jar full of "mayonnaise", that will then be sold at a discount, at Sam's Discount Club!

  • Sevo||

    What's printed on the bottom of that jar?
    C'mon, folks...

  • Rat on a train||

    Why are auto emissions higher in Poland than surrounding countries?
    They don't know how to turn the engine off.

  • CapitalistRoader||

    Pollock (pronounced /p ɒ l ə k /) is the common name used for either of the two species of North Atlantic marine fish in the genus Pollachius.
    Wikipedia

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This drop is largely attributable to a continuing market-driven switch from coal to natural gas, to more renewable generation, and to a relatively mild winter.

    One of those things less impactful than the other two? Maybe even significantly so?

  • ||

    Just because we had one warm winter does not conclusively mean the globe is warming or that there's any sort of feedback mechanism between a warming globe and fossil fuel consumption.

  • ||

    I think what's being implied is simply that people used their heaters less, and that this was a factor in emissions going down.

  • General_Tso||

    When has any of this really been about emissions?

  • Sevo||

    "...This drop is largely attributable to a continuing market-driven switch from coal to natural gas,..."

    "Last Word: Are you cooking with gas?"
    [...]
    "The many avid cooks in my circle of friends swear by their gas stoves, but in the state's march toward a clean energy economy, they must go. The California Energy Commission will vote May 9 on new building energy efficiency standards that, if approved, point to electric cooktops as the future."
    https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/
    article/Last-Word-Are-you-cooking
    -with-gas-12861713.php

    CA! Always in the lead of idiocy!

  • MAGA my NAGGA||

    So weird...

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Unpossible! Europeans are more woke!

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Remember to say "That's how they do it in Europe!" the next time someone complains about rising CO2 levels.

  • ||

    The biggest decline came from the United States, mainly because of higher deployment of renewables.

    And there it is! We called this almost a decade ago. Even if we solved the problem without cutting carbon, without implementing policies, and without the stupidity of renewables, the success of carbon cutting and renewable policy would inevitably be declared as the cause of the success. I've seen plenty of "in part due to renewables" before but this is "mainly", which is patently false.

    So, is it an anti-science movement yet, Ron? Could the movement ever do more damage to science, economics, history, and human cognition than it could ever possibly hope to fix by replacing carbon?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Humans are great at hypocrisy. I wonder if we could monetize that skill?

  • ||

    Humans are great at hypocrisy. I wonder if we could monetize that skill?

    Yes. Yes we can.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, there you go.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Despite the E.U.'s carbon markets and vast renewable energy subsidies

    Perhaps because of?

  • Dizzle||

    Nah, they just realized the miss all that acid rain from using leaded gasoline into the 90s. It makes all their old things look even more weathered and old, so they want the classic look back

  • soldiermedic76||

    You joke but the reduction in acid rain really has created a few unintended consequences. One of the largest is that we have seen a decrease in soil sulfur levels. Farmers used to not worry about soil sulfur and rarely ever needed to include it in fertilizer. Now they are having to supplement sulfur. Nothing is ever a free lunch.

  • Ron Bailey||

    DR(P): Perverse incentives?

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Well I suppose it depends on how the carbon trading scheme works and how the renewables subsidies compare to the "price" of carbon. It is not hard for me to imagine a situation where the subsidies encourage companies to overconsume reneweables, while also being able to sell the carbon allowance that they otherwise would have used for themselves.

  • ||

    ^ This.

    Way, way back in the late-80s, early 90s I was a bona-fide, card-carrying member of Greenpeace and CalPIRG and went door to door telling people about various environmental issues, including global warming.

    We recognized this upside-down incentive structure on carbon credit systems right when it was proposed.

    In fact, I've told this story here before, but it's been awhile - one of the older activists I worked with who'd been involved in the environmentalist movement since the early 70s declared to me in about 1990 that the environmentalist movement was just about to die because the government was about to get involved.

    I was about 19 at the time, so this confused me since I thought getting the government involved was the whole point. He explained in what I now see was a very rational way that the government is not actually interested in solving problems, it is only interested in pretending to solve problems while in fact perpetuating them.

    He predicted that the government would first work to simplify the issues by turning them into "One Problem" by picking one seemingly large-scale problem and tying all other problems into that one problem, at which point they will start proposing "solutions" that really only provide the appearance of a solution while in fact enabling the problem to continue, while distracting people from actual problems that actually need to be addressed.

    I am continually struck by how accurate he was.

  • susancol||

    What a wonderfully succinct description of many government actions!! (See "opioid epidemic" for another illustration . . . )

  • Sevo||

    "Well I suppose it depends on how the carbon trading scheme works and how the renewables subsidies compare to the "price" of carbon. It is not hard for me to imagine a situation where the subsidies encourage companies to overconsume reneweables, while also being able to sell the carbon allowance that they otherwise would have used for themselves."

    You can be sure that the intent and result will soon diverge; gov't 'stated preference' rarely coincides with result except as a trailing indicator.

  • Kaatje||

    Let's not forget that because of the EU scheme of carbon emissions offset, this decade record amounts of brown coal were shipped to Europe. From the US, according to The Economist. The Law of Unintended Consequences never fails!

  • SukieTawdry||

    We were the first, and one of the few, among the industrialized nations to meet the Kyoto Protocol emission reduction goals and we weren't even signatory. Funny how this works.

  • LifeStrategies||

    "...This drop is largely attributable to a continuing market-driven switch from coal to natural gas,..."

    So the free market, as a direct rebuke of government imposed mandates, shows the effectiveness of individual choice.

  • Zyryab||

    This article selectively cites percentages from different sources and ignores absolute numbers because it would make the point more complicated. MSNBC/advocacy journalism material.

    According to the report (http://www.iea.org/geco/emissions/)
    - US CO2 dropped 0.5%. Small percentage that would likely be considered noise in any other place than climate research. That's why there's a rush to cite the 2016 numbers by another agency (2% according to the EPA).
    - US CO2 was 4,835 million tons. Dropped 0.5% to 4,810.
    - EU CO2 was 3,333 million tons (working backwards from a rise of 1.5% or 50 Mt cited in the link).

    In summary, US drop is made to feel more (2% vs. 0.5%) by citing numbers from another time and another agency. And EU's already lower absolute numbers were ignored to highlight the fact that their emissions increased.

    No value judgments on the direction of change. But an article this deceptive and/or innumerate does not belong in a magazine called "Reason." It's also an insult to think that the readers would not pick up on these obvious tricks.

  • ||

    So, you refute the headline; Carbon Dioxide: U.S. Emissions Down, European Emissions Up by more definitively stating that the US emissions dropped and the EU's emissions rose?

    I can understand why you might think reason is working against you.

  • Zyryab||

    Not at all. The headline is strictly correct. I just felt that the use of statistics was not completely honest, and that Reason and its readers should expect more from a piece.

  • BillyG||

    The upshot is that both the U.S. and the E.U. have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions substantially over the past decade.

    Well, depends on how you measure it. If you include each countries imports (and subtract exports) it'll change and increase due to all the imports from China. You know, that country with horrible emissions controls and a huge increase in CO2 production that's producing everything since they don't have to follow US or EU emissions? Count countries imports against them (ok, and subtract exports) THEN tell me of the GHG emissions are actually down or not. You shouldn't get away with claiming a reduction just for exporting the pollution to China.

  • susancol||

    ^ This!!

  • Devastator||

    Come on guys we know Libertarians don't care about carbon emissions LMFAO. This is just a HAHA *points* moment for reason.

  • Devastator||

    The best explanation is that the biggest absorber of sunlight is the world's oceans and land, a trace element like CO2 is not going to be enough to cause any problems. The current average is about 0.04 PERCENT of the atmosphere. Water vapor has much more to do with trapping the suns heat than CO2. It's a big fucking money grab. I don't mind "public cost" taxes on shit that gets spewed out like heavy metals and poisonous gases that asshole corps want to dump at no cost to themselves, but CO2 is a harmless, basically inert gas. Give me a fucking break.

  • Devastator||

    *ack I meant trace molecule

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