Europe’s CO2 Emissions Rising Faster and Higher Than US Emissions

Those Europeans Say the Darnedest Things

Chris Horner

September 26, 2007

Today’s Washington Post story was replete with pompous and absurd proclamations – the pompous being the Danish Environment Minister claiming that she and her ilk “are getting a bit impatient, not on our own behalf but on behalf of the planet.” The condemnations of the US included “unusually blunt language” about how the rest of the world are waiting for the US to act, and that it is the US resistance to adopting a particular approach to addressing emissions that jeopardizes the climate. Not China, India, Mexico and 155 countries representing the vast majority of emissions seeing theirs skyrocket; certainly not the EU.

Although that specific assertion begs the question, no mention was made of actual emissions (sidebar: this story was written by Juliet Eilperin, who has this beat and is by no means new to the story. Putting aside that the administration has only once uttered something that can be called a robust comparison of US and EU performance, it remains baffling that she and her peers can continue writing as if what it is now well understood were never in fact revealed.)

givne that the European Environment Agency may play rhetorical games but it makes no secret of the fact that Europe is not lowering but increasing their emissions, which are up since Kyoto was agreed not down, this struck me as possibly clever groundwork-laying for that which ultimately must publicly come to pass: Europe explaining away the gaping chasm between global warming “world leader!” rhetoric and actual emissions performance. We would’ve cut them but we’re waiting on the US to do something. Don’t laugh, that wouldn’t be all that aberrant for Brussels, Berlin or Paris.

Regardless, yesterday’s vulgar display prompted me to tally the comparative, real emission increases in US and EU, given I have heard the counter “well, in percentage terms, but…” when I point out that EU emissions are increasing faster than the US’s under any modern baseline (that is, since Kyoto was agreed and the EU commenced its breast-beating).

We know that the US CO2 emissions are going up at a much slower rate than the EU-15 (“Europe” per Kyoto). We know that, as a result of the EU-15’s obvious failure to reduce emissions, even Cf. 1990 (with the gift that that baseline was to them, for reasons of unrelated UK and DE political decisions), the EU-likes to redefine Europe. They do this to boast on the EU-25 doing this or that — usually, being on target to meet its [sic] Kyoto promise…there not being an EU-25 Kyoto promise, but one collective promise for the EU-15 and 10 different other individual promises, plus 2 countries that are exempt from Kyoto. They do this now as a way to ride the economic collapse of Eastern Europe, reclaiming the hoped-for benefits of the 1990 baseline that slipped away for the more developed EU countries.

However, having a higher percentage increase for even an economy smaller than the US’s (EU-15) means that one might actually produce a larger real emission increase as great or greater than the US. One cost of redefining one’s self as is convenient is that it allows others to do so, possibly guaranteeing that a larger real emission increase is the case.

It turns out that a quick review indicates that real EU-25 CO2 emissions have increased more than the US since, say, 2000, by a third as much (133.1%) in fact. If my numbers are right, that means +177.7 MMT for the EU-25 in 2005 Cf. 2000, as compared to the US’s +133.5 MMT 2005 over 2000, per the Energy Information Administration numbers (I have only just done this and do not know how it holds for older baselines, e.g., 1997 being the only potentially relevant year).

And oh, dear, even without the EU-10, the EU-15, “Old Europe” – a smaller economy than the US’s – increased emissions by 161.67 MMT to the US’s 133.5 over the same period; that is our climate hectors have increased real emissions more than the US’s, in real terms, by 21%.

So there is no need to rely on the “in percentage terms” qualifier when noting that Europe’s emissions have risen faster than the US’s (as Kyoto defines Europe). Instead, it appears that Europe’s emissions (as Kyoto defines Europe, and certainly as Europe defines Europe, including for these purposes) have not only increased much faster than the US’s but also that the EU has increased CO2 emissions much more than the US.

It seems the only thing standing between Europe and a reality check is a White House calling them on their bluster.

Patrick Moore to CCNet:

Excellent comment by Chris Horner on the fact that EU CO2 emissions are increasing faster than the US. Does this confirm the US position that technology is the key, not political targets?

Perhaps the Danish Environment Minister is not aware of the fact that Denmark has the highest CO2 emissions per capita of the EU 15? Yes, they have 18% wind energy but the other 82% is all fossil fuel. Denmark has no hydro-electric because it is flat and they have no nuclear because they are anti-nuclear. Denmark produces 11 tonnes CO2 per capita whereas Sweden, the lowest per capita of the EU 15, produces 6.3 tonnes per capita, in a colder climate. Sweden’s electricity is 50% hydro-electric and 50% nuclear, i.e. no carbon. France has the second lowest at 6.8 tonnes per capita, primarily due to 80% nuclear electricity. Germany produces 10.2 tonnes per capita with only 30% nuclear and a lot of fossil fuel. It is clear that given comparable per capita GDP, CO2 emissions per capita are largely governed by electricity generation technology. The more nuclear, hydro-electric and wind the lower the emissions.

France and Germany provide a stark comparison. France has 80% nuclear, low per capita emissions, and is the only country in Western Europe with a large surplus of electricity for export. Their electricity technology is in line with climate policy. Germany, under the Social Democrat/Green alliance, voted to phase out all their nuclear plants. The only possible replacement is either domestic dirty brown coal or Russian gas, both of which would increase CO2 emissions above present levels. At the same time the German government has committed to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 by 2020. These two objectives can not be attained simultaneously thus Germany has logically inconsistent and dysfunctional policies for energy and climate. Meanwhile Germany is importing billions of dollars worth of nuclear energy from France. And Chancellor Schroeder, who presided over the decision to shut down the nuclear industry, took the job of European representative for Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, immediately after stepping down. Talk about creating your own job.

It is clear to me that until the “green” movement recognizes that nuclear and hydro-electric are the primary technologies capable of getting us off fossil fuels, they will remain a primary obstacle to the realistic achievement of CO2 emissions reduction.

Patrick Moore []

27 Responses to Europe’s CO2 Emissions Rising Faster and Higher Than US Emissions

  1. Ann Novek September 28, 2007 at 9:41 pm #

    ” And Chancellor Schroeder, who presided over the decision to shut down the nuclear industry, took the job of European representative for Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, immediately after stepping down. Talk about creating your own job”

    One of Europe’s biggest environmental scandals is the pipeline ( natural gas) from Russia to Germany.

    Hardly no one , except for the Baltic States speaks up about the pipeline that will pose a great threat to the marine environment etc. This should be a big issue for the NGOs, but they seem to be all silent.

  2. Ann Novek September 28, 2007 at 9:46 pm #

    The pipeline is Gazprom’s , drawn from the Finnish Gulf through the Baltic Sea.

  3. Lamna nasus September 28, 2007 at 11:55 pm #

    The US government has failed to even meet the ‘voluntary’ targets it agreed and ratified at the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.. From 1992 to 2000 US CO2 emissions increased by 16.8 percent…

    ‘USA: Vehicle CO2 emissions soar 25% in 13 years’
    Just Auto, 11 August 2005

    It seems the only thing standing between the White House and a reality check is Europe calling them on their bluster.. although the recent White House lecture to the rest of the world on the dangers of climate change rated an eleven on the irony scale scale of one to ten…

  4. mccall September 29, 2007 at 5:08 am #

    “1992 to 2000 US CO2 emissions increased by 16.8 percent…”

    Weren’t those the Clinton-Gore years…
    the Kyoto signing (though not ratification by a 97-0 vote) years?

    “Instead, it appears that Europe’s emissions (as Kyoto defines Europe, and certainly as Europe defines Europe, including for these purposes) have not only increased much faster than the US’s but also that the EU has increased CO2 emissions much more than the US.”

    I guess that depends on when one measures?

  5. Schiller Thurkettle September 29, 2007 at 11:10 am #

    Even so, the USA absorbs all of its CO2 emissions–so we’re not actually contributing to global CO2 saturation.

  6. Ian Mott September 29, 2007 at 11:14 am #

    But who could possibly forget the new, subsidised, German coal mines and associate power plants that are simply left out of the official stats altogether. An “inconvenient truth” perhaps?

    Kyotos Interruptus was always a sleazy scam to allow the Europeans to share the burden of their pollution problems with the whole world while carefully protecting the wealth and affluent lifestyles that created that pollution. We have new terminology and new players but the thought processess are all the same old protectionist bull$hit in association with a fetish for exporting their tightarse ideology.

    Caveat emptor.

  7. Jim September 29, 2007 at 11:20 am #

    Every simplistic ideology needs a reliable bogeyman – even better one that can be attacked with impunity.

    For the perpetual adolescents of this generation it’s the US personified by Bush.

    Europe’s got to get over this envy/fear fascination with the US and find a purpose other than perpetual critic and sermoniser.

  8. Pinxi September 29, 2007 at 12:13 pm #

    If you get past the moronic evil-pure b&w arguments, you could some additional questions over the causes. For example, has anyone made a EU-US comparison of % change in emissions per % change in debt-adjusted GDP, ie as a reflection on real economic performance? For that, you could also consider change in currency value as a proxy. Is anyone following?

  9. Schiller Thurkettle September 29, 2007 at 12:53 pm #

    Burning biomass is environmentally friendly.

    Coal is biomass.

    Any questions?

  10. Louis Hissink September 29, 2007 at 3:22 pm #


    I suspect doing the comparison as you suggest was probably done and showed Europe in an even worse light. If that comparison improved Europe’s position on emissions then I bet you London to a brick that we would have heard about it by now.

    Don’t like losing do you.

  11. Steve September 29, 2007 at 3:36 pm #

    THen of course there’s always the fact that US emissions per capita are still much higher than in Europe, so looking at % changes in emissions without remaining aware of this fact is just hyperventilation.

    If you believe the wiki article:

    The USA’s emissions per capita are more than twice those of Germany or the UK for example, or over 5x higher than those of China.

    So it doesn’t mean as much of a damn as some of you might hope that emissions might be rising a third as fast in Europe, or China. Pretty easy to get some easy emissions reductions when your economy was so greenhouse intensive to begin with. Lots of low hanging fruit to use a corporate buzz phrase.

    IT still amazes me that people attempt to compare China and US emissions, when China has over a billion people and much lower emissions per capita than the US.

  12. rog September 29, 2007 at 4:43 pm #

    Maybe kev07 can look at germany and say “me too” thereby sidestepping having to repudiate Kyoto.

  13. rog September 29, 2007 at 5:48 pm #

    The Gazprom situation has suddenly alarmed the EU, France is now drawing attention to Irans undeclared nuclear ambitions whilst Russia ignores the situation. The end game is to see how far the UN and the US will go.

    With strong links to Iran and the Caspian Russia could be pivotal to all of the EUs energy sources and could hold them to ransom.

    Wind farms will be for nought in this scenario, the EU are now very worried about their security.

  14. rog September 29, 2007 at 6:08 pm #

    To put into focus, energy is the key to future wealth – everybody wants it and not everybody has it.

    The Burmese may find that they are sidelined much as Nigerians and Iraqis have been whilst their resources are exploited and redistributed. Its a cruel world, one persons gain is anothers pain.

  15. Paul Williams September 29, 2007 at 6:11 pm #

    Well Steve, hyperventilation just vents more CO2 from the body, so I suppose it is a bad thing?

    It is a bit surprising that the Kyoto Protocol didn’t actually specify the per capita emissions that each country should achieve, just the overall national level. I wonder why that was?

  16. Luke September 29, 2007 at 6:19 pm #

    Does the global atmosphere recognise this high level of political debate?

  17. rog September 29, 2007 at 6:31 pm #

    If energy was freely available and not subject to god-knows-how-many planet saving pirates then much of this mess could be avoided.

    But we have major players conducting a proxy war thru the UN and OPEC and WWF and Greenpeace and Kyoto etc, all vying for some market control.

  18. rog September 29, 2007 at 6:33 pm #

    Like this comment from a Greens member known well to me; “I am too busy now, with saving the planet!’

  19. Louis Hissink (my real name) September 29, 2007 at 7:19 pm #

    Ranking CO2 emissions by GNP or other specious economic factors seems problematical. How about ranking absolute CO2 emissions by number of humans living in the study area?

    That is if Luke or Pinxi or SJT actually understand this sampling principle.

  20. Louis Hissink September 29, 2007 at 7:24 pm #

    And remember folks, humans live on, what 10%? of the 30% that is dry land? The rest is water?

  21. James Mayeau September 29, 2007 at 8:35 pm #

    I don’t understand this argument at all. CO2 is plant food. Human longevity, presumably along with all forms of life, has increased proportionally as co2 levels rose.
    Before you can claim something is a problem you have to show the harm.

  22. Jim September 29, 2007 at 9:17 pm #

    Yes Luke, Gaia is probably watching the political debate carefully – it’s only via political debate and consequent political change that we’ll actually reduce the CO2.

    Funny , this disdain for discussion about relevant mathematical comparisons of actual CO2 emissions is something not heard from you previously?

  23. Luke September 29, 2007 at 11:42 pm #

    James – so is water a vital thing for plants but you can still drown in it… and what does dcay or plants and animals emit – ummm CO2. It’s also in my beer.

    Jim – just musing while we debate and procrastinate the ol’ CO2 level just keeps going up and up.

  24. Paul Biggs September 30, 2007 at 7:48 am #

    China has a population of 1.3 billion – People (at rest) exhale approximately 11,000 liters @ ~4.5% carbon dioxide per day or roughly 500 liters CO2, which is roughly equivalent to 1Kg of CO2 (@ 1 atmosphere and 0 °C). 365 days x 1Kg = 365Kg/year (or ~100Kg Carbon/year)each.

    We need ‘breathing credits’ – people who want to breathe more, need to purchase credits from those who want to breathe less.

  25. braddles September 30, 2007 at 10:12 am #

    FYI, latest figures:

    Denmark – CO2 emissions up 16.1% in 2006 alone. They managed to do this even though energy consumption rose ‘only’ 6.3%. Actual emissions are now around 74 MT CO2, although the Danes say that this is 52.5 MT when “corrected” (don’t you love that). Their Kyoto target is 55.6 MT.

    Apparently you don’t have to cut actual emissions to achieve targets; just find enough correction factors.

    USA – actual CO2 emissions fell 1.3% in 2006. Economic growth in 2006 was +2.9%.

  26. Pinxi September 30, 2007 at 12:07 pm #

    you don’t have to cut actual emissions to achieve targets; just find enough correction factors eg our logging & GHG accounting policy

    “Wind farms will be for nought in this scenario, the EU are now very worried about their security”
    Yep, the nth-west european nations want to depend on pipes running in from east europe, not independent energy sources. Ditto the US wants to keep depending on the ME for oil (not).

    It IS a security issue: for everyone in the world, the haves the havenots and the in-betweens. That security issue involves assessments of longterm risks (probability & magnitude of effect) & systemic factors. It’s not an issue of nation v’s nation (as Steve says) as that’s just old-view petty politics. Continue down that path and you WILL lose your way of life, one way or another.

    Even rog admits that one person’s gain can be a another’s expense. Most of the world’s population needs a chance at energy and material gain. GHGs mix, the cause & the manifestation if the direct & indirect effects is a global problem. This makes the population question relevant (ditto GDP & influence over international insitutions), and without addressing these root issues and inequality in an increasingly interdependent world culture & economy, then the worldwide security problems will intensify. Following? If not, at least try to understand that the nationalistic contest on this blog is a myopic conversation between dinosaurs & fossils.

  27. Schiller Thurkettle October 3, 2007 at 1:19 pm #

    Well, like I say, if the world could simply follow the example of the USA, they wouldn’t be complaining about…

    What’s that? Complaining about the USA? Oh, my! Well, there are some who are “offended” by invitations to consider facts.

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