Only fifteen percent of the population lives in the high-income countries, but they use 50 percent of the world’s energy and emit 50 percent of its anthropogenic CO2. These grim figures are not unfamiliar, but they are now corroborated by a UNFCCC analysis based on the increasingly sophisticated “national communications” required by the climate treaty. (June 2003)
The UNFCCC analysis, Rich countries see higher greenhouse gas emissions, lays out the news pretty clearly: the rich world, which stabilized its greenhouse gas emissions during the 1990s, will likely see these emissions rise again by the end of the current decade. Indeed, the combined emissions of Europe, Japan, the US and other highly industrialized countries could grow by 17% between 2000 to 2010, despite domestic measures currently in place to limit them.
The US DOE Energy Information Agency recently published a rollup of 1990 to 1999 carbon emissions for most countries. As you can easily see from the tables collected on the Carbon Dioxide Emissions page, the bottom-line realities are pretty clear.
Take a look, for example, at the table named World Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Consumption and Flaring of Fossil Fuels . It shows that China decreased its CO2 emissions by about 17 per cent from 1997 to 1999 and is now back at its 1992 emission level. It also shows that since 1990 the U.S. increased its fossil fuel related carbon emissions by 12 percent, Canada by 18 percent, Norway by 27 percent, Japan by 14 percent… You get the idea.
Go to the coal table and you’ll see the main reason why China’s emissions have dropped – it has radically reduced its subsidies for, and thus its consumption of, coal.
Quick, someone tell Washington. And while you’re at it, tell them that they have a good opportunity here to one-up the Chinese. We could not only we could not only phase out fossil fuel subsidies, we could take care of the workers who will be hurt when we do so.
John Holdren is a pretty important guy. He’s a professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard, where he directs the Program on Science, Technology and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, and that’s just for starters. He’s also a member of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (or at least he was under Clinton, we haven’t checked) and he chaired its panel on Energy R&D Strategy for the Climate Change Challenge.
All of which makes it significant that Holdren publicly advocates a phased transition to a climate regime based on per-capita carbon emissions allocations …