Those Europeans Say the Darnedest Things

by William Yeatman on 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.

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