Tuesday, October 31, 2006

EU outpaces US in emissions growth

The Kyoto Protocols aren't being lived up to by their signatories. I've seen several stories reporting that only two or three of the 166 nations that have ratified their commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions are actually on pace to do so. The US, although a signatory, hasn't ratified the agreement and consequently isn't binded by the Protocols. Portrayed as pigs, it should be pointed out that committing to reducing emissions and actually doing so are two very different things:
"The rising trend is the worrisome part of it," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Since 2000, as their economies revived, countries in Eastern Europe also increased their emissions, rising by 4.1% according to the agency.

From 2000 to 2004, according to the U.N. data, the U.S., which isn't a party to Kyoto, had a slower increase in emissions (1.3%) than members of the European Union (2.4%). EU members have committed to drop their emissions by 8%, compared with 1990 levels, by 2012.
That the EU is increasing the rate of emissions faster than the US inspite of its members pledge to reduce them illustrates how difficult it is to curtail emissions through restriction. Stateside, we're doing a better job of curtailing emissions growth without hampering economic growth. Oil prices probably have something to do with that, as US consumers switch from SUVs and other gas-guzzlers to more fuel efficient vehicles. Nonetheless, last year, the US economy grew 3.5%, while the European Union limped along at 1.7%. So the EU is growing its emissions faster but its economy slower than the US! No wonder the WSJ-types ridicule the Kyoto Protocols so relentlessly.

Even if anthopogenic warming is occuring, I'm not convinced it'll be bad, especially for those in cooler climates (largely the developed world). It'll boost agricultural yields, increase economic activity (mild winters are good for retail and entertainment), decrease natural gas prices, make more accessible fish and oil in the Arctic (estimated to contain about a quarter of the world's supply), and hopefully make mostly uninhabited freezers like northern Canada, Greenland, and Siberia more inhabitable, so that surrounding high IQ populations can 'settle' them and procreate.

But if it is catastrophic, the environmental movement needs to find a better way to get nations to respond to the threat. This seems to illustrate how mandating emission-reductions stifles economic growth. If you agree to take part, you're going to be shooting yourself in the foot now for some perceived benefit in the future that will be shared by all. Those refusing to reduce emissions putatively still benefit from your reductions without having to sacrifice economic growth. It's a win-win for those not actively trying to reduce emissions, and a rough situation for those who do. It seems to me the way forward has to be through innovation. Make greener technologies that are economically viable (photovoltaics, fuel cells, etc) and the problem fixes itself. Green crusaders need to invest in companies conducting this sort of research. SRI is preferrable to governmental regulation (especially on an international scale).



Anonymous said...

The Kyoto Protocols were enacted to "punish" the US for being so successful economically. I eagerly await the usual suspects to attack the Europeans for being gas hogs, environmental despoilers etc... with Al Gore leading the charge from his private jet and motorcade. The fact is that there is no proof that global warming is even existing, and at best there is divergent data see here: http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/view.php?StoryID=20060825-091321-7556r

Or here: http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/opinion/columns/article_1245606.php

Then again I am not shocked that the righteous lefty europeans have not managed to live up to their own high standards (and then the environmentalists in this country pile on). Then again, those standards whether they are environmental, human rights, whatever are only around to use against the US when it is convenient.

Fat Knowledge said...

I agree with you that Kyoto isn't really working. But, I wouldn't lay the EU's economic troubles solely on Kyoto. Seems like the inflexible labor market is more responsible.

Also, the US started with emissions per capita over twice as high as the EU (almost 3 times as much as nuclear France). So in absolute numbers the 1.3% increase in the US is still a greater increase in carbon emissions than the 2.4% in the EU.

I agree with you that ultimately we are going to need economically competitive green technologies to reduce carbon emissions, but government can play a role here by instituting a $1 gas tax and possibly a carbon tax/cap and trade market based system. This will allow those technologies to mature much faster. I agree that we don't want regulations like the CAFE mileage standards which just get abused anyway. Let the market determine the most efficient ways to reduce carbon emissions.

I am skeptical that such a tax would lower economic growth much if it all, especially if it was setup in a revenue neutral way (by decreasing the payroll tax for example). The people that are telling us that the economy will be harmed are the same ones that estimated that each $10 increase in oil prices would lead to a .25% decrease in world GDP. If that happened when oil went from $20 to $60 I must have missed it.

Of course if you aren't buying that line of argument for the gasoline tax, let me sell it another way. The US will never be able to disengage from the Muslim world as long as we are importing oil. Having a gasoline tax will reduce demand and also make it easier for alternatives to be economically competitive. As soon as our energy independence day comes we will never have to see our President kissing the King of Saudi Arabia again. Without a gasoline tax, he is going to be puckering up for some time to come.

Angry Al said...


I'm not sure how much to read into this myself. My suspicion is that your suspicion (the switch to hybrid cars) probably has EVERYTHING to do with the reduction in emissions in the US-- out on the West Coast, hybrid cars are so popular that there's a waiting list for months to get one, and indeed, rising gas prices are at the root of it. Hybrids are less popular in Europe (though relatively cleaner variations on diesel have caught on). Also, we have the same problem of sampling error on both sides of the Atlantic. Hybrids are extremely popular along the coasts, far less so in the US interior, and so the impact on greenhouse gas emissions is so variable that it's hard to draw national trends in general. Ditto for Europe-- many Eastern European countries are still stuck with that horrible old decrepit Soviet industrial model, and as subsidies flow to those countries from the EU core, they effectively subsidize industrial bases w/o anything approaching the cleaner technologies of the US or Western Europe. In countries like Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany, wind and solar power are as advanced as anywhere in the world (except for maybe Japan) and they actually have supported much of their economy with them, probably less so elsewhere. It's a hodgepodge.

As to whether or not anthropogenic global warming is a full threat, I'm not entirely convinced of it either, but then, I'm not convinced it's *not*. I can tell you that in Britain and in the Netherlands-- two European countries that should be our closest allies-- there is an almost fulminant hatred directed toward the US over a perception of our blase attitudes about it, since any rise in sea levels really would be catastrophic for such an island country and one reclaimed from the sea. And there *is* evidence that malaria in many countries is making a nasty resurgence with increased temperatures, though how much of that is anthropogenic, I'm not so sure.

In any case, whether such warming is anthropogenic or not, unfortunately the hope that Siberia and Greenland e.g. could thaw-- and allow high IQ populations to multiply-- is likely forlorn. Global warming has a differential effect on different latitudes (e.g. in the immediate aftermath of a big volcanic eruption) and it likely would not warm up such polar latitudes enough to make settlement possible, nor would it do much of anything to enrich the soil there-- such effects would take many, many centuries at the very least. Any thawing of such northerly climates might do nothing more than melt some glaciers and just create a few more very cold lakes like in Alaska.

It's also possible that global warming could make things catastrophically worse by altering ocean currents and paradoxically *freezing* much of North America and northern Europe that currently has a temperate climate. Probably the highest-IQ (and most productive) place in recent history was 19th-century Germany, where basically the foundations of much of modern medical and technological society were developed. That society in turn probably arose in part due to the climactic "sweet spot" that it and similar cold-but-temperate regions occupy-- forested, snowed over during winter but not so cold they're frozen out, with the sort of agriculture that requires a particular kind of technical competence that, over centuries, selects for more high-IQ farmers and craftsmen. (Well over half of Americans, after all, currently hail originally from this "temperate band.")

This temperate band, in North America as well as in Europe, arose in part due to the interaction between ocean currents and the latitudes there, and it's possible that it might be frozen out with global warming-- there are some rather complex studies in the literature on this, which I'll try to find a link to (though they mostly be in the academic literature). Then again, IMHO the jury's still out on how much the recent warming trend has been anthropogenic. A high degree of oil use, of course, also puts an incredible amount of ready cash in the hands of more radical Islamist countries, but that's another matter entirely...

nzconservative said...

One reason why you can't apply the same standard to all countries is because of differing rates in population growth.

The US and Australia have rapidly expanding poulations, which makes it much harder for them to comply with Kyoto (regardless of whether or not Kyoto is a good idea).

The fact that the US has cut emmissions growth is quite impressive, considering its poulation is still growing rapidly.

In Europe they have probably hit a bit of a ceiling in terms of cutting emmissions. Most Europeans already have small fuel-efficent cars, and well insulated houses.

They also pay very high fuel taxes so a significant rise in gas prices doesn't really have a big impact on fuel prices as it does in the US and Canada.

Europe's poor are already priced out of the car market, while its middle classes will just grumble and put up with higher gas prices.

As far as Kyoto is concerned, it simply won't work unless China is involved and China. China's a big boy now, and shouldn't gets preferrential status as a developing nation.

crush41 said...


I'm not in disagreement with you. A revenue-neutral fossil fuel tax is not something I oppose.


I've a friend who bought a Prius two years ago and sold it one year later for $3,000 more than he purchased it for.

Well, there are companies and investors licking their chops about a warmer Arctic and sub-Arctic. I'm currently looking for an ETF and real estate companies focused on holdings in northern latitudes.


Excellent point. To quantify:

By 2012, the plants in three key countries - China [1.926 billion], India [486 million], and the United States [275 million] - are expected to emit as much as an extra 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to a Monitor analysis of power-plant construction data. In contrast, Kyoto countries by that year are supposed to have cut their CO2 emissions by some 483 million tons.

And as we see, the 166 Kyoto rah rahs aren't even managing to pull that paltry reduction off.