USA Today had an article last week with the worst good news for carbon emissions that I’ve read in a while. The good news was that U.S. emissions fell to the lowest rate since the mid-1990s, dropping 200 million tons, or 3.8 percent. The bad news is that world carbon emissions rose by 1.4 percent in 2012 to a record high of 31.6 billion tons.
China is now the world’s largest emitter of carbon, with growth in emissions up 300 million tons or 3.8 percent since 2011. Developing countries now account for 60 percent of global emissions from energy use, up from 45 percent in 2000.
So what does that tell us? Does it mean that the people who have resisted any national energy policy for the United States, much less having the United States sign international carbon treaties are right – there is nothing that the United States can do that makes any difference? On a happier note, does it mean that the United States is actually doing quite well, making steady progress towards the goal of reducing its carbon emissions to sustainable levels?
I would answer those questions “no” and “no.” There are no simple answers in the search for sustainability. At a headlines-level, the report is bewildering and disheartening. But the report provides layers of data, precisely because achieving carbon sustainability is not going to be possible if you don’t look behind the headlines.
Continue Reading Hope, Despair and the Challenges Going Forward: The IEA 2012 Report on World Energy Statistics