UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2018 Part 1 – The BBC Response

Over the past year I have mentioned a number of times to UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2017. The successor 2018 EGR (ninth in the series) has now been published. This is the first in a series of short posts looking at the issues with the report. First up is an issue with the reporting by the BBC.
On the 27th Matt Macgarth posted an article Climate change: CO2 emissions rising for first time in four years.
The sub-heading gave the real thrust of the article.

Global efforts to tackle climate change are way off track says the UN, as it details the first rise in CO2 emissions in four years.

Much of the rest of the article gives a fair view of EGR18.  But there is a misleading figure. Under “No peaking?” the article has a figure titled

Number of countries that have pledged to cap emissions by decade and percentage of emissions covered”.

In the report Figure 2.1 states

Number of countries that have peaked or are committed to peaking their emissions, by decade (aggregate) and percentage of global emissions covered (aggregate).

The shortened BBC caption fails to recognize that countries in the past peaked their emissions unintentionally.  In looking at Climate Interactive‘s bogus emissions projections at the end of 2015 I found that, collectively, the current EU28 countries peaked their emissions in 1980. In the USA emissions per capita peaked in 1973. Any increases since then have been less than the rise in population. Yet Climate Interactive’s RCP8.5, non-policy, projection apportionment by country assumed that 

(a) Emissions per capita would start to increase again in the EU and USA after falling for decades

(b) In China and Russia emissions per capita would increase for decades to levels many times that of any country.

(c) In India and African countries emissions per capita would hardly change through to 2100, on the back of stalled economic growth. For India, the projected drop in economic growth was so severe that on Dec 30th 2015 to achieve the projection the Indian economy would have needed to have shrunk by over 20% before Jan 1st 2016. 

Revising the CO2 emissions projections (about 75% of the GHG emissions EGR18 refers to) would have largely explained the difference between the resultant 4.5°C of warming in 2100 from the BAU scenario of all GHG emissions and the 3.5°C consequential on the INDC submissions. I produced a short summary of more reasonable projections in December 2015.

Note that EGR18 now states the fully implemented INDC submissions will achieve 3.2°C of warming in 2100 instead of 3.5°C that CI was claiming three years ago.

The distinction between outcomes consequential on economic activity and those resultant from the deliberate design of policy is important if one wants to distinguish between commitments that inflict economic pain on their citizens (e.g. the UK) and commitments that are almost entirely diplomatic hot air (the vast majority). The BBC fails to make the distinction historically and in the future, whilst EGR18 merely fails with reference to the future.  

The conclusion is that the BBC should correct its misreporting, and the UN should start distinguishing between hot air and substantive policy to could cut emissions. But that would mean recognizing climate mitigation is not just useless, but net harmful to every nation that enacts policy that will make deep cuts in actual emissions,

Kevin Marshall

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