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Greenhouse Emissions Drop Less During Economic Downturn Than Expected 87

An anonymous reader writes with a quick bite from Nature World News: "The contribution of economic decline in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is very low, reveals a new study. Researcher Richard York of the University of Oregon studied data collected between 1960 and 2008 from more than 150 nations in order to analyze the impact of economic decline on greenhouse gas emissions." From the paper: "In Model 2, the percentage of the population living in urban areas and the percentage of GDP from the manufacturing sector were included as control variables. This model has lower data coverage than Model 1 (154 versus 160 nations, and 4,134 versus 5,630 nation-year observations) owing to missing data on the control variables. The coefficients, at 0.752 for growth and 0.346 for decline, are similar to those from Model 1 and, as in Model 1, are both significantly different from 0 and significantly different from each other."
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Greenhouse Emissions Drop Less During Economic Downturn Than Expected

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  • my guess (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @03:11AM (#41593939) Journal
    My guess is, that despite the cut in GDP, and the long, painful period of high unemployment, the economy hasn't actually been that bad. And that most of us have not had to change our habits much to cope.
  • No surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nomad-9 ( 1423689 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @03:55AM (#41594033)
    This is not really surprising.

    Apart from people generally not changing their habits during a recession, there is the fact that the recession itself didn't hit all countries with the same intensity. Some (e.g. China, India and South Korea) are still doing well, and as a consequence, their greenhouse emissions haven''t decreased much.

    While the developed countries did diminish their total emissions (e,g, UK, Japan, US, Germany), there is still the fact that the manufacturing sector ha been mostly transferred (outsourced or lost to) to the developing markets.Not surprising that the overall emissions have not dropped, at least in the same proportions that it increased during economic expansion.

    150 nations + not all going in the same direction. Do the math.
  • Re:my guess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr0bvious ( 968303 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:08AM (#41594061)

    My guess is, that the effects of the recent economic downturn has yet to be realised - it's been kicked down the road by the creation of trillions of dollars and increased debt to offset its effect - it's been absorbed (hidden) by more debt and inflation.

    So I think it's a little too early to be making any judgements or conclusions.

  • Re:my guess (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @07:23AM (#41594671) Journal

    however there will be more CO2 produced as people go back to heating with coal and heavy oils, so it may be a wash.

    You have really nailed it with that last part. I would not be so quick to blame coal for carbon emissions though (another discussion). The truth is poverty not affluence leads to environmental crisis. Affluence is why the USA has more forest now than it did 100 years ago. Affluence brings choice and when people have choice they do choose to protect the world around them.

    I think we don't see the drop in emissions we might expect because even though the total ecnomic activity is decreased or at least the rate of growth is, the improvements and investments in clean technology are not being made. If I am a manufacturing business doing well, maybe I upgrade to new higher efficiency ovens; on the hope that the fuel savings will make me more profitable in the future and if nothing else less exhaust gases will be better for me, my employees and my family today. If I am struggling I am going to keep what I got, conserve capital and try to get through the hard times.

    Autos are a good data point. By some estimates we have as many as 9 times the number of cars on the road in the USA today as we did in 1970, yet the total pollution from all those cars is about the same. There we a number of boom years in there were people bought new more efficient cleaner cars. During the big dip orders for autos fell to lows not seen in decades, as people kept their aging fleets.

    Poverty is what forces people into destroying the environment, that is why you see a deforested Hatti, that is why you see so much disease in parts of India and China, they haven't the affluence to treat waste water.

  • Re:It's a model (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @07:49AM (#41594799) Homepage

    It's a model. A model is a hypothesis. The "results" are correlations and as we all know, correlation is not causation.

    I agree: The only way to definitely prove that AGW causes the Earth to burn to a crisp is to actually burn the planet to a crisp via greenhouse gas emissions, with no other variables that could affect the result. With an identical control Earth except for the CO2 and methane emissions, so we know that we have isolated the right variable. And double-blinded, so the researchers' biases don't creep in. And then repeat the test under the same conditions, so we know it wasn't just a fluke.

    Do you have some spare planets I can use for this test? In the meantime, I'm going to accept the correlation combined with the lab-tested mechanism for one variable of that correlation causing the other variable as the best we can muster.

  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @09:37AM (#41595675) Journal

    Americans are so obsessed with the idea that cutting down CO2 emissions would also cut down the economy.

    That is basically a brain dead idea.

    Lets see where CO2 is coming from:
    o heating of houses (coal/gas/oil)
    o heating and cooling of houses (electricity)
    o cars / trucks
    o power plants (coal/gas/oil)
    o cargo ships / diesel trains
    o and everything that uses electricity, but the prime source is the plant where that electricity is produced
    o industries with a huge energy hunger like steel plants / or any other factory that partly or in whole produces its own power (glass or porcelain producers, brick producers etc.)

    Now we have to look what kind of industries or businesses are effected in an economic crisis and how much that does affect the energy consumed.

    Do houses need less heating or cooling? Or do people change their cooling/heating habits during a crisis? Is there a significant different amount of homeless people during a crisis (wich don't power their own flat)?

    Same for cars, commuting, trucks with goods etc. etc. etc.

    I would say there is only a small group of industries that is affected by the crisis (look whose shares are dropping and whose are rising). And even if a factory is laying off 10% of its staff, I doubt it is directly reflected in 10% energy savings and CO2 reduction.

    As far as I know the american economy is far over 70% based on services. So only the remaining 30% are industries and manufactoring etc. To reduce CO2 emissions by 15% you would need an effect/crisis that drops the 30% above significantly. I doubt a change in services (people employed, people buying a service etc.) has any noticeable effect on CO2 emissions.

    And finally: no one is asking the USA to cripple their economy. We only ask to switch to more efficient machines, better insulation, more efficient means of transportation, burn less oil and build up a better grid. All those activities would create a lot of jobs and instead of having a crisis you would have a boom.

If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.