Recession Only Cutting CO2 Emissions Slightly


With an economic slowdown comes a drop in manufacturing. With a drop in manufacturing, comes a drop in carbon emissions. Therefore, a recession is good for the environment, right? Not so fast.

It’s not exactly a one to one relationship between global output and carbon emissions. It’s closer to a 1 to .9 relationship, actually. And even that is iffy.

Guardian: Overall, experts say the impact of the recession on global warming will not be very significant, because, despite ­policies to cut carbon emissions, the scale of a country’s carbon emissions is still tied closely to its gross domestic product (GDP).

Bowen said the rule of thumb used in the Stern review was that a 1% change in GDP brings a 0.9% change in carbon pollution. That means the 2.5% decline in worldwide GDP for 2009 projected by the International Monetary Fund would reduce emissions by 2.25%.

Figures for the past five years ­suggest carbon emissions have risen by 2.5% each year, which indicates they could still rise by 0.25% this year, despite the economic downturn. The rise will continue to be driven by ­coal-fuelled economic growth in China and India, Bowen said, but more slowly than before.

Pieter Tans, a scientist with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which ­monitors CO2 in the atmosphere, said: “I see no sign of any slowdown of the global trend.” Carbon dioxide levels have risen by between 2 and 3 parts per million (ppm) each year over the past decade. Tans said a 6% drop in emissions — equivalent to a near 7% drop in GDP — would reduce that annual growth rate only by 0.24ppm. “This is well within the year-to-year natural variability of the CO2 increase we have observed over many decades.”

Preliminary measurements show the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere reached a new high of 386.6ppm in December 2008.