Thursday, May 24, 2007

The danger of a one year drop in US emissions

The Washington Post reports that US carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 1.3% in 2006.

A good sign? Perhaps. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration is attributing the change to "effectively confronting the important challenge of global climate change through regulations, public-private partnerships, incentives, and strong economic investment."

Oy. Just as we can't look at one warm year and declare global warming has happened, we can't look at a one year drop and claim an emissions policy is working. CO2 emissions vary year-to-year because of the weather (reduced heating required during the warm winter), changes in the economy (higher gas prices, less fuel use), etc. There's no evidence any Bush administration initiatives, it's not even clear what policies or investments that statement could possibly be referring to, are having any measurable effect on emissions.

The danger, here, is that the one-year drop may convince some people the US is on the right track. Cover your ears as that 1.3% is tossed about by opponents to federal emissions controls during the impending debate over climate legislation in the US Congress.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

According to DOE's Energy Information Administration:

"The EIA credits the decline [of CO2 emissions in 2006] to mild weather conditions, a drop in demand caused by high energy prices, and the use of less carbon-intensive energy sources in the production of electricity."

So, for the Bush administration policies to have caused the drop, one or more of the following must have been true


1) made the weather mild
2) contributed to the relatively high energy (especially oil) prices
3) made the electrical companies use less carbon-intensive energy sources

I'd say the chance of 3 is pretty close to zero.

The chance of 1 may be high though the (six year) Bush contribution to mild weather is undoubtedly small.

On the other hand, the chance of number 2 being true may be pretty close to 100%, and this could account for a large part of the drop in emissions in 2006.

So, the Bushies might be right!

Their policies very well may have led to the drop in 2006 -- but undoubtedly not in the way they would have us believe.