Busting a common myth.
China most important, but US still a big per capita emitter, hence plenty of room for reductions, most obviously in transport.
Hey, Isn’t China doing everything it can too right? I heard are investing a lot in renewable energy
I think you used the wrong words, for effect, in your claim. You validated the myth. 8% of emissions, 18% for the EU, is a massive contribution from a single segment to our annual emissions. As pushback against "the main driver," sure, that's useful. But this is a myth validated rather than debunked. The reality here matters, and it is big enough to change the mix of top 5 emissions by segment.
Agriculture, the smallest broken out segment, is only 11% of US emissions by economic sector according to the EPA. Commercial and Residential 13%. Transport leads the way at 27% and Electric Power is #2 at 25%. There are a load of fun Sankey diagrams that show where it all goes, much of power and transport is moving fuel around to enable power and transport and that's why electrification is so important. Industry sits just behind the leaders at 24% - suggesting we offshored a quarter of our industrial emissions! That's nothing to sneeze at. Yes, overall emissions per unit productivity is dropping - worldwide. That's great news. But also, more than one thing can be happening at the same time, and probably is. That offshored chunk of emissions has a big impact by changing the margins of where our dollars can have effective impact and attention - Industrial emissions move from #1 to #3 as segment leaders thanks to this. There is also a differential emissions cost of domestic vs. offshore emissions, depending on who's grid and transportation sector is greener. Offshoring decisions are economic in dollars, not carbon emissions or worker safety concerns.
Covid-19 only generated a one year pulse of 13% decline in emissions, and with offshoring we're talking about a multi-decade integral here that exist on paper in terms of attribution instead of in reality (accounting to someone else's responsibility pool). Look into Drax in the UK and how they zeroed their emissions by moving from domestic/European coal to international (US) wood pellets - while on the ground their emissions increased due to the decreased energy density of the fuel supply leading to more volume of fuel consumed. Boundary definition and fighting over messaging leads us to silly outcomes when the effects are global.
But overall, here, you did exactly the opposite of your claim. I'm not going to ignore 8-18% of my income or expenses or lifespan or members of my household. This isn't myth-scale on either end of the spectrum; neither tiny nor colossal. It is big enough to care about and interrogate, much more overall potential impact than banning plastic straws or funding Hydrogen for transportation. I'm not going to wake up excited to work on how to fix offshored emissions, but I would be right in prioritizing that topic far higher relative to other, more charismatic, myths that draw our daily attentions (e.g. all the funds flowing into DAX and CCS - money better spent just doing the full swap to wind or solar and leave the chemical industry on its own to sort out DAX and CCS for circular petrochemical feedstocks).
I appreciate your clarifying mythhs I had about outsourcing to China. I had to glaze over the graphs, but your written messages were loud and clear.
Seperately, whie I understand my efforts to ignite climate action in America will not influence China, I believe it never hurts to put positive vibes of awareness out there. Jack
Looking at the cumulative consumption CO2 emissions from the Global Carbon Project, it's interesting to see that China already surpassed the EU27 in 2018, although it still has some years to go to surpass the US, that day is fast approaching. China's not going to be able to use the historical responsibility for emissions argument very soon.
If carbon tariffs won't make much of a dent in reducing overall emissions, what are the incentives that would actually be effective in pushing China to do more?
As a former statistician, I’m always a bit skeptical about large scale stats like these and all the assumptions that went into generating them. But if this is all true, then we are indeed going to burn. We have China with India coming up right behind them, and our record in dealing with either country doesn’t exactly reassure. They have their own populations to consider, of course, and climate change will if anything affect them worse, but at the moment they’re both in survivor mode, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Maybe we need at least a partial change of emphasis from holding back climate change to getting prepared to cope with it.
I *see* all these charts about the difference between consumption-based and production-based estimates of CO2 emissions not being that much, but I'm still trying to *understand* them. You give me a bit at the end, with the discussion of how net manufacturing imports from China are less than 20% of manufacturing consumption. I think it also helps to realize that transportation and electricity generation each produce about as much emissions as all of domestic manufacturing, so that 20% of manufacturing is actually a small amount of total emissions. (This is the best chart I found quickly to see that, but maybe there are better ones: https://cfpub.epa.gov/ghgdata/inventoryexplorer/index.html#allsectors/allsectors/allgas/econsect/all )
It would also be helpful to know whether transportation emissions are ever significantly outsourced - does intercontinental shipping get accounted to the sender or to the receiver or does it get lost in the international accounting? how much of the emissions associated with the transportation of a physical object from inland China to inland United States occurs in the truck from the factory to the train, the train to the port, the ship across the ocean, the train to the local distribution center, the truck to the store, and the car ride home? (I'm guessing that the two trucks dominate, but maybe it's actually the car ride home?)
Once I start digging through all this, I start to understand how we can import so much from China, and yet still have this only represent a small fraction of our total greenhouse gas emissions - so much more of it is just from moving *ourselves* around, and running our local electricity and services.
If you knew that much of the solar panel supply chain relied on fossil fuel electricity and forced labor in China would you buy those panels? If you view solar as environmentally responsible, the entire supply chain should be built on renewables, not fossil fuels.
The manufacturing of polysilicon, the primary component of solar panels, requires significant electricity capacity. This is the reason that much polysilicon manufacturing in the US was in regions known for lower cost electricity, specifically Pacific NW hydro. I worked in one of those plants.
The production of solar grade polysilicon in the US largely moved to China around 2006 since electricity generation costs (*subsidized coal*) were lower. Only about 16% of current Chinese poly production is based on hydro electricity production, the rest is fossil fuels. In the US, only REC Silicon Moses Lake (WA) is 100% hydro (closed a number of years ago due to the US - China solar trade war, the lower cost of subsidized fossil fuel electricity, and the cost of American labor-- but maybe reopening). And the forced labor issue?
My only point is that the supply chain for solar panels can be "clean", in regards to primary inputs of raw materials and labor, but in a lot of cases, that lower cost is indicative of a "dirty" supply chain. That analysis of the supply chain should merit more than a passing glance. The Clean Power Alliance is working to clean up the labor portion of the supply chain, and US companies like First Solar are using alternative semiconductor materials.
We’re the country (and with the EU) the economic/trading blocs that are rich enough to find and demonstrate a way to a low/no carbon future. If we can’t or won’t, we can’t expect China, India and other Asian countries to blaze the trail. We led in growing emissions (we in the US are at about 25% of cumulative CO2 - add the EU and we’re just shy of 50%), we are leading in reducing them, and if we show a society can be both prosperous AND low/no carbon, others hopefully follow. If we don’t show them that, well, all of us lemmings will just keep running off that cliff …..
The focus on CO2 emissions is a very recent phenomenon. US companies weren't thinking about CO2 emissions when they started offshoring production. They were focused on labor costs and non-carbon environmental regulations. What we offshored was labor, smog, and water pollution, not CO2 emissions. That is not just China. That includes Central America, India, and much of Southeast Asia.
China actually has a reasonable amount of hydropower and is building solar power. They are much more reliant on coal because we replaced coal with natural gas over the past three decades, but that is just another carbon emitting energy source. The US energy mix isn't dramatically different from China on a carbon emission basis, but it is very different regarding smog production which is why we have relatively clean air and they don't.
Above link gives a more balanced view on the Pakistan floods.
A point you seem to miss is an important one and generally harmful. You list many tweets of individuals that basically misrepresent the facts on outsourcing of carbon. Why do they do so? Climate change is known for misinformation. They also misrepresent the facts on extreme weather events. They use improbable scenarios that even the IPCC reject as extremely unlikely.
Are you sure those consumption-based counts are fully counting emissions related to offshore manufacturing and transport? What about imported intermediates and investment goods? I haven't checked how they're doing this but strikes me as implausibly low and probably not counting lots of things they should be.
Still not out of the last ice age. Nothing we can do about warming. We need to divert our energies away from hair shirt/auto flagellation/self-loathing activities into finding ways to enjoy and prosper in lives in a warmer world.
> It’s no longer possible for any reasonable person to deny the existence of human-generated climate change.
Are we allowed to dispute how *much* anthropogenic sources are contributing to the change, or does your religion require absolute submission?
> It’s too late to prevent major climate change, but if we make a mighty effort we will be able to limit the damages.
But... why would you *want* to prevent an increase in the ability to produce food?
Ctrl-F "nuclear" (and related terms): zero hits
So... how *do* you plan to prevent the deaths of billions when you decarbonize our civilization?
This post helped change my mind about this, thank you for writing it. 🐇
I linked it here, btw:
Cheers 💚 🥃