Is U.N. Using Media to Spin CO2 Emissions of Developing Nations?
A truly extraordinary media event occurred Wednesday.
One news outlet reported: “Developing nations that are fast industrializing, such as China and India, have braked their rising greenhouse gas emissions by more than the total cuts demanded of rich nations by the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol.”
Practically at the same time, another reported: “Yet [China’s] coal habit means it will soon overtake the United States as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, some say as early as this year.”
Can’t be, right? Well, the first report by Reuters (h/t NB member dscott) dealt with a draft about to be released by the United Nations concerning CO2 emissions (emphasis added throughout):
"Efforts undertaken by developing countries (i.e. Brazil, China, India and Mexico) for reasons other than climate change have reduced their emissions growth over the past 3 decades by approximately 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year," according to a technical summary seen by Reuters.
It said that was "more than the reductions required from (developed nations) by the Kyoto Protocol." By contrast, France's annual emissions in 2004 were 563 million tonnes, Australia's 534 million and Spain's 428 million.
Seventy percent of China's energy comes from coal, the dirtiest of all fuels to produce energy. Coal is literally powering China's seemingly unstoppable rise to superpower status, but not without costs to people and the environment.
China will build 500 coal-fired power plants in the next decade, at the rate of almost one a week. This massive appetite for coal means equally huge greenhouse gas emissions.
Beijing needs coal to fuel economic growth — and guarantee its very survival. Yet its coal habit means it will soon overtake the United States as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, some say as early as this year.
So, which outlet is correct?
Certainly, as reports concerning China’s exploding appetite for fossil fuels needed to support its torrid economic growth are nothing new, it seems logical to consider the data in the NPR piece as being quite reasonable.
With that in mind, is there an agenda in the Reuters piece to support U.N. requests for American involvement in Kyoto?
The text of the article offered some clues:
President George W. Bush pulled the United States out of Kyoto in 2001, arguing it would cost U.S. jobs and that it wrongly excluded 2012 goals for poorer nations such as China.
"China is already doing a lot," said Hu Tao, of China's State Environmental Protection Administration.
Reuters offered a peculiar example:
He said China's one-child per couple policy introduced in the early 1980s, for instance, had a side-effect of braking global warming by limiting the population to 1.3 billion against a projected 1.6 billion without the policy.
"This has reduced greenhouse gas emissions," he told a conference in Oslo last month. China is the number two emitter of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, behind the United States and ahead of Russia.
Extraordinary. So, because China’s population has grown less than forecast, this means they’ve reduced greenhouse gas emissions? That’s some interesting logic, wouldn’t you agree?
Yet, nowhere did the Reuters piece actually address the explosion in CO2 emissions during this period as China’s economy boomed along with its burning of fossil fuels. Instead, it used a phrase that the media love to offer as a means of confusing the reader: "reduced their emissions growth."
Think about it. The headline of the Reuters piece read: "Poor nations brake greenhouse gas rise: U.N. draft." However, the article gave absolutely no specifics concerning what the actual total tonnes of emissions were for 2006 versus 2005. Instead, it offered this tally of reduction based on slower population growth that is largely irrelevant.
To put this in perspective, this is similar to what the media like to do when addressing attempts to slow the growth in federal spending. For instance, a reduction from a twelve percent increase in funding to a seven percent increase is reported as a cut so as to enflame public sentiment.
In this case, the wording, along with the headline, is designed to give the reader the illusion that China's CO2 emissions are actually declining when nothing could be further from the truth.
Could it be that Reuters is trying to advance the case why the United States shouldn’t use China’s exemption from Kyoto as a reason for not participating? Maybe more ominous, is the U.N. going to start making the case that participation in Kyoto should be more a function of population growth than CO2 emissions?
After all, if this were the case, Japan could be exempted, as could much of Europe at some point in the near future.
Maybe some day, regardless of what it does to curb emissions, only the United States will fit the U.N.'s parameters for Kyoto inclusion.
Or, am I just being too darned cynical for my own good?