348. CO2 EMISSIONS: REALITY CHECK
How is humanity doing on the CO2 emissions scorecard?
The IPCC uses 6 scenarios to forecast future CO2 emissions, and the worst case scenario is A1FI (fossil intensive). The following graph shows the situation as of 2004-2005 according to a study entitled "Global and regional drivers of accelerating CO2 emissions" by Raupach et al. published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Source):
These are the facts, from the paper cited above:
CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel burning and industrial processes have been accelerating at a global scale, with their growth rate increasing from 1.1% y–1 for 1990–1999 to >3% y–1 for 2000–2004. The emissions growth rate since 2000 was greater than for the most fossil-fuel intensive of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emissions scenarios developed in the late 1990s. Global emissions growth since 2000 was driven by a cessation or reversal of earlier declining trends in the energy intensity of gross domestic product (GDP) (energy/GDP) and the carbon intensity of energy (emissions/energy), coupled with continuing increases in population and per-capita GDP. Nearly constant or slightly increasing trends in the carbon intensity of energy have been recently observed in both developed and developing regions. No region is decarbonizing its energy supply.Sobering, isn't it? Since the Kyoto Treaty was signed, CO2 emissions have actually accelerated.
Efforts to control CO2 emissions remind me a great deal of the war on drugs. A lot of government programs, handwringing, breathless alarmism, multinational treaties, ad campaigns, calls to redouble efforts, education in the schools etc. But none of it has any impact at the usage level. Governments everywhere are basically powerless because the people want to use the product.
There is also a very similar culture of denial. If you tell a drug war supporter that their efforts aren't having any impact, it doesn't register in their brain. They don't want to hear it. Similarly, if you tell a global warming alarmist that CO2 reduction campaigns are pointless because they don't have any material effect, they get very defensive: "Don't say that! It might be the truth, but we shouldn't talk about it. It's bad for morale."
It's true that we have a moral duty to try to do the right thing. But we also have a moral duty to not delude ourselves into thinking we can achieve things which we actually can't.