January 12, 2009
Cutting Emissions While Increasing Them
Here is a remarkable display of incoherence. According to a report commissioned by Greenpeace and discussed by The Christian Science Monitor, the economic stimulus package now under debate by the U.S. Congress will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What does the report mean by "reduce"? It means that some future emissions that might have occurred will be avoided. Emissions will therefore increase, just not as much as under some other scenario. The difference between that other scenario and the scenario implied by the stimulus package represents a "reduction" in emissions. Yes, you are reading that right.
The great thing about this approach to emissions reductions is that it is an infinite resource. For instance, I just decided not to buy a Hummer and reduced my future emissions by an enormous amount. You can do the same, and if we all pitch in, maybe it will solve the problem. Or as the head of resaerch for Greenpeace observes:
The fact that the federal government could spend so much money and actually help slow global warming means we've really turned the page as a country," said Kert Davies, Greenpeace's Research Director, in a press release.. "This is a real sign that we're starting to move beyond the era of fossil fuels."
The fact of the matter is that the goal of the stimulus bill is to stimulate the economy. Absent a reduction in the ratio of carbon dioxide emissions to GDP, emissions will go up in the real world, regardless of silly accounting tricks. Of course, silly accounting tricks on emissions are to be expected by those seeking to present BAU as progress, but I'm really surprised that it is Greenpeace that is engaging in such shenanigans.