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Being honest on per capita emissions Julian Kenny

Tuesday, December 1st 2009

Being honest on per capita emissions Julian Kenny Tuesday, December 1st 2009 In 1965 Tom Lehrer,

In 1965 Tom Lehrer, the noted Harvard mathematician/entertainer in one of his witty songs entitled ’Who’s Next’ about nuclear proliferation, in his usual spoken preamble to the actual song, made the observation that if people can’t communicate the least they should do is shut up. He was of course being his irreverent self, but communication of ideas frequently becomes problematical on account of illogical thinking compounded by imprecise use of language.

We hear repeated from on high that global warming/climate change does not respond to per capita emissions, only absolute emissions (total would be a better word). Now I am sure that this conclusion does not originate with Mr Manning or any of his Ministers as they are extremely busy people who have to sort through and digest the many briefs that they get on diverse subjects, briefs prepared by technical people, some of whom may be scientists.

We must know, of course, what they mean. The world’s total carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to be about 29 billion tonnes while the world’s population is estimated to be about 6.5 billion. The world’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions rate is therefore about 4.5 tonnes. So if you take the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Environment at face value you would have to agree that global warming/climate change also does not respond to a per capita rate of emissions of 4.5 tonnes. Assuming the reality of the global warming/climate change phenomenon the statements must therefore be totally illogical, at least in the English language.

However, had they stated that the ’country per capita’ emissions instead of simply per capita, it would have made more sense. But there is still the equity or fairness argument in the light of the fact that the problem is supposedly on account of industrialisation of the developed countries of Europe and North America over the past two centuries.

Living as we do in a Third World country and on two small islands, it is inevitable that the political processes insofar as scientific matters are concerned will not be particularly well served. The principal agencies that support the role of science in government, barring those scientists and engineers with party affiliations who may be at either UWI or UTT, will obviously be the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the Ministry of the Environment, plus some other government-funded organisations. The

official policy regarding the environment, as required by the EM Act, was originally drafted by the EMA, passing though its Board, the Ministry, Cabinet and both Houses of Parliament. It was recently revised and approved presumably through the same process.

Now the EMA does not exactly have a creditable record of communication with the Government, Parliament and citizenry. The first State of the Environment Report required by the EM Act written by Canadian consultants was a disaster of gross errors and misinformation.

Steps were taken by the EMA to chart a new path in reporting using unpaid local consultants and since then its reports have maintained sound quality. But its other communications have slipped over the years with its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan leaving us with some choice but understandable nuggets such as reporting that the Guanapo Gorge is in the Aripo Valley. We also had that remarkable statement, which I see repeated recently, that the sea levels are rising faster in south Trinidad than in north Trinidad, giving actual measurements.

Its Revised National Environmental Policy however stands with its myriad grammatical and technical errors. It should therefore not surprise anyone that politicians often mangle the substance of their many briefs. In this particular case had the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Environment been properly briefed the T&T position might have been stated quite differently.

An enlightened national statement might have read: ’Trinidad and Tobago is a small country that has been heavily dependent on extracting a wasting resource and as a consequence has over the past century made a significant, for its size, contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Trinidad’s industrialisation has made it a heavily polluted island as reflected in its 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index of 36.3 and its 2008 Environmental Performance Index of 70.4, ranking respectively 22 out of 23 countries and 23 out of 26 countries in the western hemisphere.

’We recognise that our per capita carbon dioxide emissions of 26 tonnes are about five times that of the world per capita figure. We recognise, also, that if there is to be equity amongst nations we must join the rest of the world in reducing our emissions but make the reservation, and the plea to the world, that we are allowed to continue our pollution of the atmosphere on the understanding that we as a matter of national policy will impose a development programme that progressively reduces our per capita emissions.’

CO2 emissions: per country or per capita?

Some people ask why Breathing Earth focuses on the CO2 emissions per country, rather than per capita. After all, wouldn't the per capita rates give a better indication of who is being most wasteful? For example, the citizens of Australia, Kuwait and Luxembourg are among the world's worst polluters, yet their CO2 emissions aren't very prominent on Breathing Earth because of those countries' relatively low populations.

The fact of the matter, however, is that what is most important is how many c02 emissions there are from the perspective of Planet Earth. Although some countries are clearly much worse polluters than others, the problem is ultimately a global one that humans of various nationalities have caused, and that humans of various nationalities must work together to solve.

One thing must surely be obvious though: The problem is largely a Western one. It is the Western countries who are leading the way in CO2 emissions, and when non-Western countries have high CO2 emission rates themselves, it's usually because they are adopting Western habits. Since we, the West, have been a leading cause of the CO2 emissions problem, surely it is we who must step up and be the leaders in the solution.

PM Manning rejects per capita emissions measurements

Prime Minister Patrick Manning has “categorically rejected” the per capita breakdown of greenhouse emissions. Mr. Manning made the comment at a news conference, one day before the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2009. The conference was hosted by the Prime Minister along with Commonwealth Secretary General, H.E. Kamalesh Sharma, at the International Financial Centre in Port of Spain. Manning added that while Trinidad and Tobago had a responsibility to reduce its own emissions and would do so on a voluntary basis, the per capita argument is “a convenient argument for countries with large populations.”

“When the earth responds to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it does not do so on a per capita basis. It responds on the basis of absolute emissions. The population of China is 1000 times the size of the population of Trinidad and Tobago and when we look at the question of absolute emissions, China is the largest emitter in the world, followed by the United States. Therefore the per capita argument is one that we consider unsustainable,” the Prime Minister said. Manning also commented on CHOGM’s intention to formulate a position on climate change for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. He said the CHOGM discussion is one where its diverse members will seek out a way to add value to the climate change debate.

“CHOGM is a session designed to discuss and to see how we can add value to a process that has been ongoing for some time, and which in the eyes of some is threatening not to have a successful and amicable conclusion. A political statement out of CHOGM is not a statement that one can take lightly; it comes with the weight of so many countries and

people,” Manning added. When asked about the attendance of non-Commonwealth members; Denmark Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, UN Secretary General Ban Kai Moon and French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to the CHOGM, Prime Minister Manning admitted that he had invited Rasmussen and Sarkozy after discussion with the UN Secretary General and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He also indicated that their presence was tied into the Commonwealth’s concerns about the direction of the imminent climate change meeting. He noted “We thought that we could add value and add weight to the voice of the Commonwealth if other non-Commonwealth agencies and countries are associated with us.

Manning deflecting attention with pollution stance' Phoolo Danny-Maharaj South Bureau

Saturday, November 28th 2009

Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s rejection of claims that Trinidad and Tobago is one of the world’s largest polluters on a per-capita basis is an attempt to deflect international attention and carry on with his plans to build even more polluting plants.

This is the view of University of the West Indies lecturers physicist Dr Peter Vine and environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, who said Manning’s stance on the issue was personal and not shared by citizens.

During a news conference on Thursday, the eve of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting, Manning dismissed claims that this country was among the world’s top ten offenders in carbon emissions on a per-capita basis. He said when the earth responds to concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it does not do so on a per-capita basis, but on the basis of absolute emissions.

Dr Vine said Manning was speaking for himself, ’not for his Cabinet and definitely not the country’, when he made those remarks. He said the country would pay heavily for those emissions.

Dr Kublalsingh said the measurements of the emissions were usually done in three ways-per capita, volume and per hectare-but Manning chose to look at it another way so he could escape easily ’and introduce 1.9 million tonnes of carbon emission in Claxton

Bay and La Brea’.

There are stalled plans to build an aluminium smelter in La Brea and a proposal to build a steel plant in Claxton Bay.

Dr Vine said Trinidad and Tobago was in the top five for carbon emissions.

Dr Kublalsingh wrote to Manning yesterday, stating, ’It is not cool to embark on high capital and energy intensive work without conducting diligence studies, or do high consumption health and ecological projects without cost benefit analysis.’

He stated that Manning and those at the top floor of the International Financial Centre must tell the nation the costs factored in for the smelter.

Those factors, he said, included the loss of three dams, 1,000 acres of forest, beekeeping industries, farms and orchards, the loss of oil wells and well capping, infrastructural costs, the costs of loans for the smelters, power plant and port; relocation loans for at least three communities; the cost of gas subsidies to the power plant for the supply of electricity to smelter, the costs of salaries to Alutrint for four and a half years, legal costs, the costs of rod mill, cable and wire plants; technical services, engineering, soil testing and consultancies, Environmental Impact Assessments costs and administrative costs.

Carbon emissions per person, by country

Looking at a country's total carbon emissions alone doesn't tell the full story of the country's contribution to global warming

Roll over the lines to get the data.

Looking at a country's total carbon emissions doesn't tell the full story of a country's contribution to global warming.

China, for example, is the world "leader" in total emissions (6018m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide) since it overtook the US (5903) in 2007. But all that really tells you is that China is a fast-developing country with a lot of people.

A more useful measurement is carbon emissions per capita (person). Under that measurement, the average American is responsible for 19.8 tonnes per person, and the average Chinese citizen clocks in at 4.6 tonnes.

Examining CO2 per capita around the world also shows us the gulf between the developed world's responsibility for climate change and that of the developing world. While Australia is on 20.6 tonnes per person (partly because of its reliance on CO2- intensive coal) and the UK is half that at 9.7 (explained in part by relatively CO2-light gas power stations), India is on a mere 1.2. Poorer African nations such as Kenya are on an order magnitude less again – the average Kenyan has a footprint of just 0.3 tonnes (a figure that's likely to drop even lower with the country's surge in wind power).

These differences – along with countries' historical contributions to global warming – are a crucial part of climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December. Even the former UK deputy prime minister John Prescott recently said that per capita emissions are the fairest way of thrashing out a deal in Copenhagen. Guardian readers believe it's fairer too.

World carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption and flaring of fossil fuels, 1980-2006

(Million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide)

Country

1992

2000

2006

Emissions per

% change

 

capita

since 1996

China

2475.26 2966.52 6017.69 4.58

105%

United States

5079.53 5860.38 5902.75 19.78

7%

Russia

2056.55 1582.37 1704.36 12

5%

India

664.96 1012.34 1293.17 1.16

55%

Japan

1078.48 1203.71 1246.76 9.78

10%

Germany

896.37 856.92 857.6

10.4

-4%

Canada

485.09 565.22 614.33 18.81

18%

United Kingdom

579.82

561.23

585.71

9.66

-1%

South Korea

294.53

445.81

514.53 10.53

27%

Iran

234.79

320.69

471.48 7.25

79%

Italy

415.62

448.43 468.19 8.05

10%

South Africa

323.55 391.67 443.58 10.04

24%

Mexico

313.55

383.44

435.6

4.05

31%

Saudi Arabia

235.46

290.54

424.08

15.7

70%

France

382.89

402.27

417.75

6.6

7%

Australia

271.58 359.8

417.06 20.58

37%

Brazil

237.8

344.91

377.24 2.01

23%

Spain

254.21

326.92

372.62 9.22

52%

Ukraine

535.94

326.83

328.72 7.05

-10%

Poland

330.33 295

303.42 7.87

-13%

Taiwan

132.27

252.15

300.38

13.19

52%

Indonesia

173.45 273.93 280.36 1.21

18%

World carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption and flaring of fossil fuels, 1980-2006

(Million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide)

Country

Netherlands Thailand Turkey Kazakhstan Malaysia Argentina Venezuela Egypt United Arab Emirates Belgium Singapore Pakistan Uzbekistan Czech Republic Greece Nigeria Iraq Romania Algeria Vietnam Hong Kong North Korea Austria Kuwait Philippines Israel Belarus Chile Colombia Portugal Denmark Hungary Finland Sweden Qatar Libya Former Serbia and Montenegro Syria

1992

2000

2006

Emissions per

% change

 

capita

since 1996

213.2

251.73

260.45

15.79

14%

100.72

161.86

245.04

3.79

44%

138.1

202.38

235.7

3.35

39%

265.09

143.45

213.5

14.02

50%

72.93

112.14

163.53

6.7

61%

109.94

138.42

162.19

4.06

25%

111.72

134.46

151.97

5.93

14%

93.83

119.32

151.62

1.92

40%

102.05

115.72

149.52

35.05

44%

124.8

148.57

147.58

14.22

3%

68.11

107.64

141.1

31.41

43%

70.27

109.11

125.59

0.78

32%

95.95

106.35

120.84

4.43

17%

- -

113.45

116.3

11.36

-13%

79.5

101.27

107.07

10.02

24%

94.09

80.75

101.07

0.77

-1%

57.69

73.58

98.95

3.69

29%

129.94

93.33

98.64

4.42

-22%

82.08

83.65

93.16

2.83

10%

18.46

48.49

91.62

1.09

132%

45.4

55.93

84.86

12.23

74%

106.71

70.17

77.61

3.36

7%

57.06

64.74

76.39

9.32

17%

23.51

59.5

74.79

30.92

52%

46.16

71.17

72.39

0.81

20%

41.99

60.68

67.33

9.8

35%

91.63

60.07

65.2

6.68

8%

31.63

55.28

64.8

4.01

42%

53.82

57.83

62.04

1.42

9%

47.73

63.76

61.71

5.82

27%

61.63

54.72

59.13

10.85

-19%

62.74

55.86

58.65

5.88

-1%

49.63

50.32

58.31

11.15

9%

59.08

60.78

57.37

6.36

-15%

25.59

34.7

54.17

61.19

75%

36.56

41.89

53.51

9.07

28%

45.32

42.96

52.15

4.81

5%

35.38

50.99

51.08

2.71

21%

World carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption and flaring of fossil fuels, 1980-2006

(Million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide)

Country

1992

2000

2006

Emissions per

% change

 

capita

since 1996

Turkmenistan

20.47

23.94

50.28

10.03

176%

Bulgaria

57.64

49.11

48.94

6.63

-9%

Trinidad and Tobago

17.4

27.51

47.23

44.32

95%

Ireland

27.59

40.75

46.86

11.54

47%

Switzerland

45.77

45.45

45.56

6.06

1%

Norway

35.7

41.28

45.15

9.79

13%

Bangladesh

16.51

29.38

42.74

0.29

88%

Puerto Rico

23.35

27.72

41.43

10.55

71%

Azerbaijan

60.14

43.76

39.82

4.94

2%

New Zealand

31.27

35.13

38.36

9.38

18%

Slovakia

- -

36.56

38.15

7.01

-13%

Oman

13.53

21.79

34.73

11.19

138%

Morocco

22.54

31.25

34.53

1.04

26%

Peru

20.15

26.97

29.93

1.05

16%

Cuba

28.88

32.86

28.64

2.52

-5%

Bahrain

13.57

20.26

26.85

38.44

69%

Ecuador

18.39

20.08

25.46

1.88

29%

Croatia

16.6

20.13

21.43

4.77

23%

Angola

7.5

13.03

21.19

1.77

74%

Tunisia

12.81

19.67

20.98

2.06

36%

Jordan

11.2

15.63

19.89

3.37

40%

Estonia

25.75

16.26

18.61

14.06

-5%

Yemen

12.23

13.18

18.08

0.84

66%

Slovenia

12.7

15.72

17.62

8.77

5%

Dominican Republic

10.35

15.8

17.42

1.89

50%

Bosnia and Herzegovina

18.91

14.13

17.41

3.87

284%

Lithuania

23.28

13.28

15.73

4.39

-1%

Panama

12.24

12.94

14.43

4.52

16%

Lebanon

8.16

16.46

14.32

3.69

8%

Burma

4.62

9.01

12.87

0.27

106%

Virgin Islands, U.S.

8.35

9.85

12.85

118.3

51%

Sri Lanka

5.63

11.33

12.54

0.61

56%

Luxembourg

11.29

9.03

12.47

26.28

37%

Bolivia

6.24

9.26

12.41

1.38

70%

Sudan

5.17

6.51

12.26

0.32

209%

Jamaica

8.52

10.83

12.03

4.36

19%

Guatemala

4.36

9.07

11.23

0.9

78%

Netherlands Antilles

9.55

11.62

10.9

49.13

-4%

Kenya

6.57

8.7

10.79

0.3

44%

World carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption and flaring of fossil fuels, 1980-2006

(Million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide)

Country

1992

2000

2006

Emissions per

% change

 

capita

since 1996

Armenia

11.14

8.61

10.34

3.48

25%

Zimbabwe

16.71

13.56

10.33

0.84

-31%

Brunei

3.65

3.79

9.89

26.89

185%

Cyprus

6.04

7.53

8.91

11.37

32%

Latvia

12.77

7.35

8.74

3.84

-11%

Mongolia

9.92

6.69

8.45

2.91

-3%

Moldova

20.65

5.89

7.53

1.74

-20%

Honduras

2.74

4.59

7.46

1.02

92%

Tajikistan

7.97

5.95

7.36

1.06

56%

Ghana

3.41

5.32

7.29

0.32

78%

Macedonia

9.3

8.41

7.17

3.5

-27%

Cameroon

3.59

6.83

7.16

0.41

6%

Uruguay

4.52

6.52

6.36

1.85

28%

Cote d'Ivoire (IvoryCoast) 3.86

7.36

6.3

0.36

10%

El Salvador

3.22

5.51

6.28

0.92

43%

Costa Rica

3.64

5.01

5.76

1.41

29%

Senegal

2.92

4.43

5.73

0.47

46%

Congo -Brazzaville

0.85

3.01

5.53

1.49

79%

Ethiopia

3.64

3.46

5.13

0.07

199%

Bahamas, The

2.22

3.5

5

16.48

40%

Mozambique

1.19

1.28

4.98

0.24

365%

Kyrgyzstan

14.07

7.23

4.95

0.95

-30%

Equatorial Guinea

0.12

2.05

4.88

8.37

214%

Albania

4.17

3.26

4.69

1.31

140%

Tanzania

2.58

2.73

4.68

0.12

87%

Georgia

15.51

4.63

4.66

1

-18%

Papua New Guinea

2.58

2.6

4.66

0.82

74%

Nicaragua

2.35

3.7

4.57

0.82

56%

Gibraltar

3.09

7.3

4.47

160.22

38%

Gabon

6.06

5.07

4.34

3.04

-22%

Botswana

3.23

4.41

4.27

2.39

38%

Mauritius

2.14

3.5

4.04

3.22

67%

Paraguay

2.33

3.56

3.76

0.58

39%

Iceland

2.32

3.18

3.44

11.5

25%

Malta

2.38

2.91

3.11

7.78

19%

Mauritania

3.31

3.24

3.03

0.95

-13%

Nepal

1.11

3.11

3

0.11

80%

Reunion

1.4

2.51

2.77

NA

48%

Namibia

1.12

1.81

2.7

1.32

100%

World carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption and flaring of fossil fuels, 1980-2006

(Million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide)

Country

1992

2000

2006

Emissions per

% change

 

capita

since 1996

Benin

0.77

1.65

2.65

0.34

156%

New Caledonia

1.78

2.01

2.6

11.85

42%

Madagascar

1.07

1.81

2.59

0.14

102%

Zambia

2.99

1.9

2.57

0.23

17%

Togo Democratic Republic of

0.72

1.4

2.51

0.45

298%

the Congo

4.35

2.71

2.51

0.04

-35%

Martinique

1.47

2.06

2.39

NA

18%

Macau

1.13

1.58

2.28

5.02

54%

Guadeloupe

1.39

1.81

2.11

NA

24%

Suriname

1.44

1.61

2.01

4.31

34%

Djibouti

1.78

1.85

2

4.12

10%

Guam

2.51

2.87

1.89

11.06

-41%

Haiti

0.88

1.52

1.79

0.21

61%