Thursday, December 08, 2005

Kyoto statistics 

Well, you know what they say about statistics.
The CBC story 'Opposition leaders attack Martin's environmental record' says without attribution or reference: "The Kyoto Protocol calls for a six per cent cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2012, but Canada's have so far actually risen 24.4 per cent, while U.S. levels have grown by barely half that amount. "
This is the type of statement newspeople make when they are talking about pure, proven, accepted facts, like that the sun rises in the east. But these statistics didn't make sense to me, so I looked further.
Well -- it turns out that the percentage statistics come from the press backgrounder . But when you look at the complete report, this is what you find, on pages 14 and 17:
1990 greenhouse gas emissions: 595.86 (3.24 per cent of the world total)
2003 emissions: 740.21 (4.28 per cent of the world total)
Percentage increase 24.2 per cent
United States:
1990 emissions: 6,082.51 (33 per cent of the world's total)
2003 emissions: 6,893.81 (39 per cent of the world's total)
Percentage increase 13.3 per cent
As I suspected, there is a ten-fold difference in magnitude between the US and Canada. The US increase over the last 13 years is actually greater than Canada's total emissions.
In trolling through all this data, I also noted that because Russia only signed onto the Accord in February of this year, that is technically when Kyoto actually became official. The period targetted for emissions reductions doesn't actually start until 2008. As the press release at the beginning of the the Montreal conference stated "Under the Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force 16 February 2005, more than 30 industrialized countries are bound by specific and legally binding emission reduction targets. As a first step, these cover the period 2008-2012." Remembering this is a world-wide effort, the release also notes that developed countries like Canada can earn carbon allowances by investing in other developed countries, "in particular central and eastern European transition economies", and also invest in sustainable development projects in developing countries.
So I think its a little premature, and a little misleading too, for the US or the media to be hauling Canada over the coals for missing any Kyoto targets. At least, not yet.

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