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EU vs. USA on CO2:

European nations have assumed the mantle of global leadership on climate change while the United States sits on the sidelines. This standard narrative contains some truth, but it also grossly overstates Europe's demonstrated commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The reality is more complex.

While talking tough about the need to reduce emissions, many European nations are moving in the opposite direction. Only two (the United Kingdom and Sweden) look likely to meet their Kyoto targets, while some are falling woefully behind. In parts of Europe there is actually movement away from emission-free energy sources, such as nuclear power, toward carbon-based fuels due to other environmental concerns.

The implmentation of the E.U.'s emission trading scheme has facilitated this trend. Thus far, E.U. nations have refused to adopt emission caps that require actual emission cuts. To the contrary, the volume of emission allowances sought by E.U. nations has been greater than past emissions, making the trading scheme virtually worthless as an emission reduction scheme.

An editorial in today's WSJ (for subscribers only) adds some interesting statistics to this picture. From 1990-1995 and 1995-2000, the growth of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. was significantly greater than in the E.U. Since 2000, however, this has changed, as illustrated below.

U.S.E.U.
1990-19956.4%-2.2%
1995-200010.1%2.2%
2000-20042.1%4.5%
Consider also that from 2000-2004, the U.S. economy also grew at a much faster rate than did that of Europe, as did the U.S. population. Clearly, then, the U.S. must be doing something right when compared to the nations of Europe.

There is much to fault in U.S. climate policy, including the failure to cut subsidies for fossil fuels or provide greater opportunities for market-driven innovation in the energy sector, but Europe is hardly providing a model the U.S. should follow.

J. F. Thomas (mail):
So here's the million dollar question, do the 2000--2004 numbers include the eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004. If so, your comparison is completely invalid. Even if it doesn't, the only valid comparison is still the per capita emission of carbon dioxide, not gross reduction or growth numbers. And for those figures, we are still far ahead of Europe.

Once we have reduced our per capita production to rates around that of western Europe, then we can criticize them for failing at further reduction efforts. Until then, we need to worry about our own production, not point at others and say, "see, they're not doing enough either." When we engage in such finger-pointing we sound like petulant third-graders.
12.18.2006 9:06am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
I take it you meant to say "far behind Europe" at the end of the first paragraph.
12.18.2006 9:24am
John T (mail):
Once we have reduced our per capita production to rates around that of western Europe, then we can criticize them for failing at further reduction efforts.

Well, then I guess we can at least criticize Canada, whose per capita production now exceeds ours, thanks to growing quickly in 2000-2006.

Even if it doesn't, the only valid comparison is still the per capita emission of carbon dioxide, not gross reduction or growth numbers. And for those figures, we are still far ahead of Europe.

Although at the same time per capita figures are clearly higher in all countries with a lower population density. That's why Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have per capita emissions at roughly the same level as the USA or slightly higher.

Luxembourg's emissions are for some reason higher than the USA's. I'm not sure why.

It's also unreasonable to say that per capita emissions are the only valid comparison. Some countries have a much better ratio of GDP production to emissions; while that number is not perfect, surely from an environmental perspective it's better to get more output, more worth out of each ton of emissions. If two countries produce similar amounts of emissions but one is much more efficient in its use, that is a difference. Secondly, some countries have industries which produce goods used by the entire world and also produce emissions. It is a bit unfair to not account for a country's consumption of goods that required emissions and pollution to produce, merely because it was produced elsewhere.
12.18.2006 9:30am
John T (mail):
So here's the million dollar question, do the 2000--2004 numbers include the eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.

Depends partially on if all the numbers include them. I believe that the 1990-1995 numbers as usually quoted give Germany "credit" for all the reduction in East German pollution caused by (highly inefficient) East German factories shutting down.
12.18.2006 9:32am
John T (mail):
At the same time, of course, Australia, the US, Brazil, Canada, Argentina, and New Zealand produce a lot of methane through cattle and other meat production, which is possibly more significant than the CO2. Yet of course other countries consume the meat.
12.18.2006 9:33am
John T (mail):
Even if it doesn't, the only valid comparison is still the per capita emission of carbon dioxide, not gross reduction or growth numbers. And for those figures, we are still far ahead of Europe.

Also, of course, some countries have more severe weather, which causes greater consumption of fossil fuels for heating and the like.
12.18.2006 9:37am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Well, then I guess we can at least criticize Canada, whose per capita production now exceeds ours, thanks to growing quickly in 2000-2006.

Not really, since Canada's rapid growth is almost entirely due to tar sands oil extraction in Alberta, which produces huge amounts of CO2. And guess who is the biggest customer for the crude from those sands?

Some countries have a much better ratio of GDP production to emissions; while that number is not perfect, surely from an environmental perspective it's better to get more output, more worth out of each ton of emissions.

But that is a highly deceptive number, since countries that have big financial industries would get a free ride (banking generates very few greenhouse gases) while those countries that are more dependent on agriculture, manufacturing, and extractive industries (which I assume Australia and New Zealand have per capita emissions similar to ours, not because of their low population density) would have deceptively high numbers.

As for Luxemborg, because it is such a small country (the population is just under 500,000), one emitting industry or coal fired power plant will distort the entire country's per capita rate.
12.18.2006 9:42am
Ted Frank (www):
The relevant number should be carbon emissions per $/GDP, not per capita. The US has higher carbon emissions per capita than India, but that's because it is a much more productive economy; the most bang for the buck in carbon reductions can be found in the Third World.

Severe weather doesn't cause consumption of fossil fuels, it causes consumption of energy, which can just as easily be nuclear.
12.18.2006 9:45am
alkali (mail) (www):
Luxembourg's emissions are for some reason higher than the USA's. I'm not sure why.

On any given weekday, there are something like 1.5 million people living in Luxembourg. On the weekend something like a million of those people go back to their home countries. I'd guess that's the source of that particular statistical glitch.
12.18.2006 9:47am
lucia (mail) (www):
So here's the million dollar question, do the 2000--2004 numbers include the eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.

The numbers in the WSJ article are for the EU-15 and does not include the 10 recent eastern European countries.

I agree with John T that gross consumption per capita isn't the only useful criterion for evaluating the success of a policy. I don't think it's evem the primary criterion for assessing the success of a program designed to reduce or control growth. For that purpose, I'd look first to the growth rate and consider the overall level afterwards.
12.18.2006 9:49am
BGates (mail) (www):
And for those figures, we are still far ahead of Europe.
Is an interesting thing to say, given that When we engage in such finger-pointing we sound like petulant third-graders.
12.18.2006 9:51am
Jake (Guest):
The slowdown in growth may be a sign that Clear Skies Act style cap-and-trade programs work to slow growth in the long run. It's good to see that the Europeans are following American leadership on this front.

On a side note, it's always struck me as unfair that carbon dioxide emissions numbers don't allow countries to net out the carbon dioxide consumed by forests on their land.
12.18.2006 10:28am
Mr L:
When we engage in such finger-pointing we sound like petulant third-graders.

'Finger-pointing' is a pretty fair summary of this whole emissions reduction/Kyoto/environment movement, though; big ol' bad ol' fat Americans belching smog from their gigantor SUVs while scarfing down fossil fuels and bulldozing the rainforest or somesuch.

The fact that some of the biggest backers (and supposed adherents) of these programs are just as bad (if not worse!) seems distinctly relevant not only to the debate over what measures are realistic and worthwhile, but also to its character. It's not like blaming Americans for destroying the earth was going to make anything happen, anyway.
12.18.2006 11:44am
rosignol (mail):
If so, your comparison is completely invalid. Even if it doesn't, the only valid comparison is still the per capita emission of carbon dioxide, not gross reduction or growth numbers. And for those figures, we are still far ahead of Europe.

Wow, lookit those goalposts go!

[...]

What is being compared is not per-capita emissions, but how well various countries that are party to Kyoto have done in honoring their commitment. Kyoto is about cutting national emissions, it says nothing abour emissions per-capita. If you want to assert that per-capita emissions are higher in the US than the EU, well, duh... but it's a strawman argument because it has nothing to do with what is being discussed.
12.18.2006 11:46am
alkali (mail) (www):
I note for what it's worth that the data presented by the WSJ editorial appears to come from this document, specifically Table 6 on page 14 thereof.
12.18.2006 11:52am
American patriot:
So Bush is slowing the growth compared to the Cliton/Gore rapid growth of pollution.
12.18.2006 12:10pm
bigtroutz (mail):
All this makes the assumption that anthropogenic CO2 has some significant effects we would wish to avoid. This idea remains a theory, not a fact. Making policy on the basis of theory means bad policy period.

The bottom line for you do-gooders remains if you wish to control any possible deleterious effects of man, you need fewer men.
12.18.2006 12:15pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

Considering we're still in the tail-end of the last ice age I find the whole argument over global warming to be extremely non-compelling.

You're worried about global warming gasses? Good. Turn off your air conditioner, heat and electricity. Don't use the car. Don't use mass transit. Don't breathe too much. Turn off the computer.

I'll be much happier that way.
12.18.2006 12:23pm
alkali (mail) (www):
Here are some more figures derived from the document cited by the WSJ.

Tables 4 and 5 in the document present emissions of all greenhouse gases ("GHG"). Table 4 presents the emissions figure without adjusting for land use, land use change and forestry ("LU"); Table 5 presents the adjusted figure. (Jake comments above that he was interested in seeing a land-use adjusted number.)

Tables 6 and 7 break out the CO2 emissions included in Tables 4 and 5 (other tables break out the figures for methane, etc.) without and with adjusting for land use. Table 6 is the information cited by the WSJ article.

(Because I can't set up tables in comments, note that for each row of figures, the first three percentage figures represent the changes over the periods '90-'95, '95-'00, and '00-'04, respectively, and the last figure is the total for the entire period ('90-'04).)

Table 4 (All GHGs, no LU adj)
EU: -2.5% -0.4% 2.4% Total: -0.6%
US: 6.1% 7.7% 1.3% Total: 15.8%

Table 5 (All GHGs, LU adj)
EU: -3.5% -0.7% 1.7% Total: -2.6%
US: 12.9% 6.0% 1.1% Total: 21.1%

Table 6 (CO2 only, no LU adj)
EU: -2.2% 2.2% 4.5% Total: 4.4%
US: 6.4% 10.1% 2.1% Total: 19.6%

Table 7 (CO2 only, LU adj)
EU: -3.4% 1.9% 3.8% Total: 2.2%
US: 15.0% 8.4% 2.0% Total: 27.2%

By any measure, US performance versus the EU over the period studied looks pretty lousy. If we didn't have $3/gallon gas for the '00-'04 period things would probably look much worse.
12.18.2006 12:29pm
Fen (mail):
The United Kingdom's performance in meeting standards has more to do with Thatcher moving them away from coal in the 80's.

Global Warming - where the pressure fronts of European Jealousy and the Kyoto Hoax collide. Bad Americans! Bad!
12.18.2006 12:49pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I think governments' having climate policies is very funny.
12.18.2006 1:06pm
James of England:
Alkali, no one would dispute the figures look bad for the US "over the period studied". The period commented upon, though, is the last third of the period studied, since the US emerged from the gaia-hating Clinton-Gore regime, and in that period the figures look wonderful for America. By any of the measures you suggest.
12.18.2006 1:16pm
JonBuck:
Bigtroutz:

A theory, in science, is not what you think it is. Please look it up.


In science, a theory is a proposed description, explanation, or model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through empirical observation. It follows from this that for scientists "theory" and "fact" do not necessarily stand in opposition. For example, it is a fact that an apple dropped on earth has been observed to fall towards the center of the planet, and the theory which explains why the apple behaves so is the current theory of gravitation.



Emphasis added.
12.18.2006 1:22pm
snoey (mail):
Odd of Fen to mention Thatcher in a denialist post.

She has a real Oxford Chemistry degree and publicly acknowledged the science of Climate Change nearly twenty years ago.
12.18.2006 1:22pm
TheProudDuck (www):
"denialist"

Sno, want to clarify what you mean by that term?

Does it mean:

(1) a person who denies that the earth is getting warmer;
(2) a person who denies that anthropogenic emissions of C02 are causing some of this warming;
(3) a person who denies that it is reasonably certain that anthropogenic emissions of CO2 are causing the majority of this warming;
(4) a person who denies that anthropogenic emissions of C02 are causing the majority of this warming, and that as a result it can be reasonably expected that catastrophic climate change effects (increased storm violence, disease outbreaks, agricultural disruption, major sea level rises, etc -- i.e. the full Al Gore disaster scenario) is likely to occur in the reasonably near future

Because I'd place myself somewhere between (3) and (4), based on my reading of what the actual scientific consensus is.

The fun thing about cute little buzzwords like "denialist" is that you get to lump everyone who disagrees with the most apocalyptic scenario, with a person who irrationally denies that human activity can have any effect on the climate whatsoever. Plus it has that little chill of a reference to Holocaust denial -- with the result that since millions of people are just marginally literate scientifically, you can marginalize your opposition across a wide swath of the public.

What does it profit a man to gain the agreement of the whole world, and lose his intellectual soul? Quite a bit, apparently, to some people.
12.18.2006 1:56pm
Philip Cassini (mail):
And a chemistry degree is now equivalent to an atmospheric science degree, snoey? I strongly suspect Mrs. Thatcher is a "denialist" (as you "hystericists" call them), because simply acknowledging the _science_ of climate change is not an endorsement of the environmentalist anthropogenic global warming hysteria.

And yeah, per capita rates are irrelevant, since anyone who actually cares about preventing global warming (if it really is man-made) would only be interested in the actual growth rates, and how to reduce them; Only people who are interested in bashing Americans discuss per capita rates.
12.18.2006 2:18pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Phillip Cassini,

To be fair, per capita rates aren't irrelevant. All other things being equal, it's easier to reduce use when the resource was previously flat out wasted or used very inefficiently. That's why the Eastern European countries reduced their use after the 90s -- energy was simply wasted under communism.

That said, when trying to assess reduction or growth, it's best to first examine the growth rate-- as the WSJ article cited by JHA does. The absolute consumption rate, and details regarding efficiency of use should be examined afterwards.
12.18.2006 2:26pm
alkali (mail) (www):
The period commented upon, though, is the last third of the period studied, since the US emerged from the gaia-hating Clinton-Gore regime, and in that period the figures look wonderful for America.

I agree that the US figures for the '00-'04 period are slightly lower than the EU figures for that period, depending on which measure you choose. The difference is largest in Table 6, which is the measure the WSJ chose to cite (hopefully it was not chosen only for that reason!). Even there, however, the US "margin of victory" over the EU is substantially smaller than the difference for the two previous intervals.

The difference is even less compelling if you look at the year-by-year changes (i.e., '00-'01, '01-'02, '02-'03, '03-'04):

EU: 1.9% -0.1% 2.0% 0.6%
US: -1.2% 0.4% 1.1% 1.9%

I don't think there's any basis in these numbers for concluding that the EU policy failed and the US policy succeeded over this period.
12.18.2006 3:26pm
snoey (mail):
Duck,

I pegged Fen for a "(0) it's all a conspiracy" and responded in kind. Sorry to bring the tone down.

Focus on the CO2 forcing, not the warming, and your analysis will be clearer. It's like steering a tanker - that the rudder is hard over is more predictive than whether the bow is coming about yet. On your list, only major sea level rise is in serious doubt - depends on the Greenland icecap. Storms and disease are second order effects. We can only predict that we will make the preconditions for them more favorable. Agricultural disruption is more than enough of a disaster scenario for me.

Philip Cassini,

A chemistry degree will educate you in what science is and how to recognize solid work. Based on that she founded the Hadley Centre. To be fair, she did mvery much later publicly regret how the politics of it all had played out.
12.18.2006 3:47pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Can anyone tell us how much of the temperature increase is due to natural cycles, and how much is due to man-made greenhouse gasses?

In particular, at present levels of greenhouse gas production, how much will the temperature rise over the next fifty years? What percent of this increase will be due to natural cycles, and what percent will be due to man-made greenhouse gas?

Also, what will be the temperature effect in degrees celcius over the next fifty years if all Kyoto goals are met?

Without such information, what is the basis for claiming there is a man-made problem, and what is the basis for claiming men can change anything?
12.18.2006 4:03pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
It's worse than that, Elliott. It isn't even proven that the surface of the globe is warmer. The consensualists typically say that today is half a degree C. warmer than a century ago, b but nobody was measuring global surface temperature a century ago. So how do they know what they say they know?
12.18.2006 4:22pm
bigtroutz (mail):
Geewillikers JonBuck, I guess I didn't learn ANYTHING in the 5+ years I spent getting a MS and PhD in biologic/ environmental science, did I ?

Concluding that anthropogenic CO2 is the cause of global warming, with dire future global consequences is a theory, not a fact. It has NOT been "tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through empirical observation". Nor has it been demonstrated as a fact and therefore it remains a theory. All theories are equal, since none are fact. Several decades ago global climate observers were predicting a future ice age; that was also a theory and every bit as valid as the Global Warming theory du jour, which spawned monstrosities like Kyoto.

My conclusion is that given the state of our knowledge of the complexities of global climate prediction, global butterfly wing strokes are just as likely a cause for the "observed" increases in global temperatures; both theories are unprovable at this time. Our understanding of global climate remains in it's infancy, let's not make too much of ourselves or our capabilities to understand and predict.

I seem to recall predictions of a severe hurricane season this year after the USA was pummeled by Katrina and others last year. A quiet year ? Ooops ? Predicting weather with any precision for one town tomorrow is chancey at best - predicting global climate on the basis of increasing CO2 concentrations given our incomplete understanding is merely absurd. Making policy like Kytoto based on our level of understanding is just plain criminal.

We would be better off spending the money consumed by Kyoto type policy on scientific investigation of global climate and its regulatory parameters. Perhaps in a few decades or perhaps a century or two, we can revisit this theory and determine if it is fact.

The bottom line remains the same however. If you wish to limit the impact of humans on earth, the simplest means is to limit the numbers of humans on earth. We can do it now or earth will do it to us later.
12.18.2006 4:47pm
JerryM (mail):
For you greenies, here is a list of skeptics and deniers from history. I would rather be on this list than on a list with AlGore.

James Logie-Baird - Television.
S. Chandrasekhar - Black Holes.
Sir Richard Doll - Smoking and Cancer.
Ernst Doppler - The Doppler Effect.
Galvani - Bioelectricity.
William Harvey - Blood Circulation.
Galileo - Copernicanism.
Copernicus - Geocentrism.
Robert Goddard - Rockets.
B Marshall - Ulcers caused by bacteria.
Barbara McClintock - Transposons.
J. Newlands - pre-Mendeleev Periodic Table.
George Ohm - Electrical Resistance.
Louis Pasteur - Germ theory of disease.
Stanley Prusiner - Prions.
Alfred Wegner - Continental Drift.
12.18.2006 5:06pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

Frankly what I think is the most amusing hypothetical scenario is one where another little ice age erupts, the temperatures plummet, snowfalls rise dramatically, food crops fail and massive devastation occurs due to ice storms ....

and everyone beats the living bejesus out of the screaming environmentalists who forced us all to cut CO2 emissions that might have forestalled it.

LOL.
12.18.2006 5:09pm
Greg F (mail):

In science, a theory is a proposed description, explanation, or model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through empirical observation.

If you are at all familiar with the IPCC's climate models you will know they refer to the model outputs as "scenarios". The reason for this terminology is as stated by the IPCC:

Scenarios are neither predictions nor forecasts of future conditions. Rather they describe alternative plausible futures that conform to sets of circumstances or constraints within which they occur (Hammond, 1996). The true purpose of scenarios is to illuminate uncertainty, as they help in determining the possible ramifications of an issue (in this case, climate change) along one or more plausible (but indeterminate) paths (Fisher, 1996).


We have a theory but no suitable model and thus no way to make a "prediction".
12.18.2006 8:38pm
James Aach (mail) (www):
As an energy professional, I'd like to comment that when discussing our energy future, it's clear that most of our citizens have little understanding of our energy present. Each power source must all be genuinely understood and compared if we are to make the best choices. My own area of expertise is nuclear power. I've written a lay person's guide to it, available online at no cost at RadDecision.blogspot.com. Readers seem to like my unique approach, judging from their homepage comments.

I'd encourage everyone interested in climate and energy issues to look closely at all possibilities, via a variety of sources. In the end, nature does what nature does, and it ignores political arguments.
12.18.2006 8:51pm
Pertti:
"Can anyone tell us how much of the temperature increase is due to natural cycles, and how much is due to man-made greenhouse gasses?"

No, no one can do that. However, the CO2 content in athmosphere is the highest in about 200 000 years (if I remember correctly). Whether it affects on the temperature or not can be disputed. But what if it does? If it will ever be scientifically proven, it might be too late to change anything.

I feel it is rather childish to argue about what Europe, US or some other country is doing or not doing. It is too easy to go behind your neighbours back and argue that since they are doing nothing I do nothing.
12.19.2006 12:23pm
Lev:

For you greenies, here is a list of skeptics and deniers from history. I would rather be on this list than on a list with AlGore.


You might consider adding Semmelweis to the list - on the importance of washing hands. Seriously. Doctors and nurses still seem to have problems in this area.

---------------------------------

Otherwise, I have a question. I think it is accepted by one and all that the earth's climate changes in cycles. Yes?

Why would human activities change the natural cycle, as opposed to accelerating the next phase of it.
12.20.2006 1:26am