Global Warming Links

by Richard on June 23, 2004

The Science Museum has a worthwhile online exhibition, Climate Change: the Burning Issue. It’s in bite-sized chunks rather than extended analysis, but none the worse for that. One quote will suffice

The world’s biggest polluter is the United States. It produces 20.4 tons of carbon dioxide per person, per year. In the UK we release 9.5 tons per person, per year, while in China, carbon dioxide emissions are only 1.9 tons per person, per year.

If you want technical stuff, they have it in spades at the International Energy Agency Greenhouse R&D Programme. There’s some good stuff on sources and ’sinks’ of various greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane.

It is perhaps surprising that the US Environmental Protection Agency has a site devoted to Global Warming and it is by no means dismissive of the evidence for the effect of human activity on the world’s climate. Maybe some US politicians should read it!

Maybe more speculative is the Global Warming: Early Warning Signs site, with separate maps for each continent showing “fingerprints” of global warming. Here are a couple of these fingerprints for Europe:

“A study of the timing of leaf unfolding for four tree species shows that from 1969 to 1998 the beginning of the growing season has advanced by 8 days. The earlier leaf unfolding corresponds with increasing early spring temperatures over the last 30 years. The greatest warming occurred in Portugal, where average air temperatures in early spring (February to March) increased by nearly 1.1ºF (0.6ºC) per decade, and the beginning of the growing season has advanced by about 14 days since 1969.”

“Central England — Cold days declining, hot days increasing, 1772 to present. 1995 brought 26 days above 68ºF (20ºC) versus an average of 4 days per year since 1772. “

Still not convinced? Then have a look at the website of those trendy green eco-hippies at BP

“We believe that precautionary action is justified: we have set a target to stabilize our greenhouse gas emissions … In November 2003, BP Group Chief Executive, John Browne, set out our latest thinking. Our new target, he explained, reflects a growing scientific consensus: ‘that to avoid serious impact upon societies or the environment, society should plan to stabilise atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) at around 500-550 parts per million (ppm).’ “

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Joshua Claybourn 06.23.04 at 6:37 pm

You write, “The world’s biggest polluter is the United States. It produces 20.4 tons of carbon dioxide per person, per year. In the UK we release 9.5 tons per person, per year, while in China, carbon dioxide emissions are only 1.9 tons per person, per year.”

You should also include that the United States is the world’s largest producer, which ahs a lot to do with that.

2

Joshua Claybourn 06.23.04 at 7:26 pm

The United States accounts for almost 20 percent of the world’s man-made greenhouse emissions. We also account for about one-quarter of the world’s economic output.

3

Richard 06.23.04 at 8:28 pm

I *didn’t* write that Josh. I was quoting the Science Museum. And of course, there’s a link between production and pollution. But if you believe that the world needs to take global warming seriously (and I do), the US — as the largest producer of greenhouse gases and the richest nation in the world — is going to have to take a lead. Signing up to Kyoto would be a good start.

4

Joshua Claybourn 06.24.04 at 5:52 am

Kyoto ignores the offenses of developing countries and taxes unfairly. The world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases is China. Yet, China was entirely exempted from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. India and Germany are among the top emitters. Yet, India was also exempt from Kyoto. Why should the United States sign that sort of treaty?

Kyoto also failed to address two major pollutants that have an impact on warming: black soot and tropospheric ozone. Both are proven health hazards. Reducing both would not only address climate change, but also dramatically improve people’s health. The targets themselves were arbitrary and not based upon science.

That’s why the United States Senate voted 99-0 to reject the Kyoto protocols. It uses the environment as an excuse to diminish the U.S. Let’s clean up the environment fairly.

5

Richard 06.24.04 at 7:19 am

It is precisely because of developing nations like China and India that the US should show some leadership Josh. After all, if the US doesn’t accept any targets for reducing or capping greenhouse emissions, why should China? If theChinese were to start producing CO2 at the level of the US, even Britain, the world has a problem.
You say “uses the environment as an excuse to diminish the U.S”, but surely the point is that if the scientific consensus is correct (and there is a very broad consensus, whatever Fox News may say) then the whole world is paying for the prosperity of the United States. How would you characterise that as “fair”?

I agree that Kyoto is flawed. But it would be a start.

6

Joshua Claybourn 06.24.04 at 2:10 pm

As a percentage, the Chinese DO produce CO2 at the level higher than the US. Relative to how much China produces, China does pollute more. How can any treaty that ignores the number 2 and 4 polluter be fair or productive?

Further, I don’t think you’re being completely open about US policy. There are enormous amounts of CO2 caps on US companies imposed by the US government. The difference here, though, is that the US rightfully sees no advantage to the world in tying those restrictions to an international treaty when the other major polluters can continue unihibited.

The effect of the Kyoto treaty will be to force the closure of US factories who will then immediately relocate to China and India where they will continue to pollute. Indeed, because those countries do not self-impose restrictions, as the US does, they’ll even feel free to pollute more. This is already happening to a certain degree, but the incidence will increase with Kyoto.

You write that the world is paying for the prosperity of the United States. But you forget that we do not consume all taht we produce. In fact, most of the goods we produce which account for so much pollution are sent overseas. We’re the world’s producer in many ways, and so until technology catches up we’ll also be the world’s poluuter. Kyoto will accomplish nothing but give that title to India and China.

7

Richard 06.24.04 at 2:48 pm

Further, I don’t think you’re being completely open about US policy. There are enormous amounts of CO2 caps on US companies imposed by the US government.
My understanding is that Bush was introducing voluntary cuts in CO2, and offering incentives to make them. That isn’t quite the same thing.

8

Joshua Claybourn 06.24.04 at 3:22 pm

You might not fully understand that the US’ federalism structure places much of this responsiblity on states, not the federal government. In July 2002, California Governor Gray Davis signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1493 into law, requiring the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to develop and adopt, by January 1, 2005, regulations that “achieve the maximum feasible reduction of greenhouse gases emitted by passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks and any other vehicles (…) whose primary use is noncommercial personal transportation in the state.” This applies to vehicles manufactured in the model year 2009 and later, giving the manufacturers four years to develop compliant vehicles.

In New Hampshire a rule requires fossil fuel plants to reduce emissions of four pollutants, including carbon dioxide. Reductions are to 1990 levels of carbon dioxide emissions by 2010 (consistent with the Climate Change Action Plan adopted by the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers).

In Massachusettes a law requires six power plants to reduce their CO2 emissions by 10 percent from their 1997- 1999 average emissions baseline by October 1, 2004. And in Oregon any new or expanded power plant in Oregon that releases only 0.675 pounds per kWh of CO2 (17% below efficient natural gas plants now) must reduce its emissions. This is just a sampling of state laws.

But even though these are really state responsiblities, the federal government, including the US, has still taken steps toward reform. President Bush committed the United States to cutting its GHG intensity — how much it emits per unit of economic activity — by 18% over the next 10 years. Further, President Bush gave $70 million for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), to help developing countries better measure and reduce emissions, and invest in clean and renewable energy technologies. In addition, the President pledged $50 million for tropical forest conservation, including $20 million under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act to help countries redirect debt payments toward protecting tropical forests, which store millions of tons of carbon.

9

Richard 06.24.04 at 4:00 pm

Thanks for that clarification, Josh.
But if I understand the Bush plan correctly — and I think I do — linking the “reduction” of ghg to economic output will slow the growth of total ghg output, but will not reduce it (because the economy continues to grow).
We need real targets to reduce total emissions, not pretend reductions. Of course, slowing the growth of emissions is good. But if you accept that there is a need to address global warming, then you must see that action must be taken to reduce CO2 (and other ghg) levels.

10

Joshua Claybourn 06.24.04 at 4:26 pm

I know of no US politician currently in office that doesn’t feel there’s a need to address global warming, nor do I know of any that don’t think action must be taken to reduce CO2 levels. But nearly all agree that Kyoto is not the way to do it. While the international community continues to negotiate ways to best collectively reduce emissions for ALL countries fairly, the US continues to reign in pollution on its own until an agreement can be reached.

11

Richard 06.24.04 at 5:15 pm

But do accept that the 18% of Bush’s plan does not amount to a real reduction - merely a slowing of the growth rate?
I hope you’re right that every US politician in office wants to address global warming, but I hope you’ll forgive my scepticism.

12

Anonymous 02.19.07 at 6:46 pm

i agree, although china seems to have figures that support its case in emmitting the amount of green houses gases it produces by producing far less per person.

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