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A Global Climate Change Agreement is Impossible When Countries Lie About Emissions

As if the world needed more evidence of why a global agreement on climate change is a stupid and impossible idea, the Washington Post‘s Wonkblog has this story today:

new paper in Nature Climate Change finds that there’s a real mystery as to how much carbon China is actually emitting. The national-level statistics say one thing. The provincial-level statistics say another. And the gap between the two numbers came to about 1.4 gigatons in 2010 — a staggering amount, equivalent to all the carbon-dioxide that Japan put into the air that year.

Greenhouse gas emissions are very difficult to measure, just as climate change prediction models involve a myriad of measurements and speculations. This makes the job of climate scientists more than difficult enough. But when the original data is problematic or downright false, especially data from China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, those prediction models and emissions statistics become almost unusable.

Who else fudges their GHG emissions statistics? China surely isn’t the only one. We knew a global agreement on climate change was nearly impossible; this story should at last put it down for good. Who expects China, India, Russia, or Zimbabwe to sign an agreement that limits their economic growth? Who expects any country in this world to sign an agreement that empowers a regulatory agency capable of messing around with or penalizing a country’s economy? Because that’s what such an agreement would require; without penalties or enforcement, no one will pay attention to it at all.

But sadly this unicorn hunt just won’t die. World leaders — admittedly of a lesser caliber than the much-vaunted Copenhagen Summit, which got lots of attention and high-level status — will convene in Rio in a few days to hash out a bland statement or two that glorifies their past achievements and the Important Steps they’ve taken on the road to an emissions agreement that will never come, at least not until the skies darken with soot and the ocean devours the Maldives, only then will world leaders decide to act, but by then it might be too late. And that’s a tragedy for us all.



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