IEA: Recession => lower carbon emissions

Lynne Kiesling

The International Energy Agency has put a quantitative estimate on an effect that we all suspected — this year’s economic recession is contributing to a reduction in global carbon emissions. They estimate that 2009 carbon emissions will be 2 percent lower than 2008, with 75% of the reduction attributable to the economic slowdown and 25% attributable to carbon-reduction policies:

The close relationship between GDP and carbon emissions is well documented, so many commentators were expecting that the recession might cause emissions to drop.

But the size of the fall has come as something of a surprise.

The IEA estimates that the recession is responsible for about three-quarters of the fall.

As well as curtailing the business sector’s energy use by applying a general economic brake, the straitened circumstances have reportedly led to deferments on investment in new fossil fuel plants.

The remaining quarter of the reduction comes from policies designed to curb CO2 production, according to the IEA.

The BBC article also points out that compared with the recession of the early 1980s, which was a biggie, this one is likely to lead to larger carbon emission reductions. This is interesting, because it highlights the fact that the relationship between GDP and carbon emissions is 1. nonlinear and 2. not constant. Technology changes, policy changes, and they change the relationship between CDP and CO2.

It’s also interesting that the magnitude of the effects of economic drivers is so much larger than the effects of policy drivers.


3 thoughts on “IEA: Recession => lower carbon emissions

  1. Simple. The economic drivers are personal and compelling; and, they make intuitive sense. The policy drivers aren’t, aren’t and don’t.

    The coincident relationship between carbon emissions and climate is well (if inconsistently) documented, but causality is still very much in question. While “the science is settled” (?), there is no single scientific position regarding the percentage by which current carbon emissions would have to be reduced, or the time period over which that reduction would have to be accomplished, to avoid the forecast climate catastrophe. The forecast of impending catastrophe is based on the outputs of a number of global climate models which are not in agreement with each other and admittedly exclude certain major climate drivers which are not well understood.

    Someday, the members of the AGW choir may find themselves singing in harmony from the same hymn in the same hymnal. However, today is not that day.

  2. Actually, they would have to substantially shrink the economy to accomplish that, though they have not chosen to vocalize that reality.

    “Political Courage”, like “Political Vision” and “Political Candor”, appears to be an oxymoron.

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