Climate change | Air | Ecotrope

Ending the economy vs. environment duel

Ecotrope | Nov. 21, 2010 6:23 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:44 p.m.

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New figures suggest global carbon dioxide emissions increase with economic growth and decrease in economic recessions. Are the environment and the economy always at odds with each other?

New figures suggest global carbon dioxide emissions increase with economic growth and decrease in economic recessions. Are the environment and the economy always at odds with each other?

Global carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 1.3 percent in 2009. David Biello at Scientific American writes that suggests the Great Recession “helped stave off climate change.” Increases in CO2 emissions this year suggest the global economy is back on track, he writes. But that begs the question: Will economic health and environmental health always be at odds?

“Of course, recessions aren’t exactly “good” for the environment—economic worries spur backpedaling on environmental commitments and the pursuit of enriching but destructive practices such as illegal logging.

The question is whether the health of the economy can ever align with the health of the planet. Until it does, economic growth will come at a cost to the environment and environmental health—at least when it comes to climate change—will come at the expense of economic well-being.”

Are the increases and decreases in global CO2 emissions simply an indicator of economic growth (or lack thereof)? That’s what this story from Scientific American suggested last week (in addition to reporting that most countries are exceeding the emissions they committed to in international agreements):

“The 38 countries that pledged to restrain their emissions of climate change–inducing greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide (CO2), are failing, according to new figures released today. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the body charged with overseeing global emission reduction efforts, says that, overall, greenhouse emissions—measured in terms of the most ubiquitous: carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)—dropped by 894 million metric tons between 1990 and 2006 (the latest year for which figures are available).

But the UNFCCC found that emissions had grown by 2.3 percent—403 million metric tons of CO2e—from 2000 to 2006, and that the 16-year dip was due entirely to the drop in economic activity (factory and power plant shutdowns) in former Eastern bloc countries such as Russia after the 1989 fall of communist governments, which led to a decline of more than two billion metric tons of CO2e emissions. Those countries’ economies have recovered since 2000, leading to an increase in CO2e emissions of some 258 million metric tons, according to UNFCCC.”

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