The United States recently released an official report as part of its participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) via its Department of States called the United States Climate Action Report 2014. A significant element of this report was a U.S. EPA report, Methodologies for U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections: Non-CO2 and Non-Energy CO2 Sources. The Department of State and Secretary of State John Kerry, by his preface and signature, are touting the marked reduction in CO2-equivalent emissions from 2007 to 2011 as a big success. That the interval included side effects of the economic downturn is not discussed. Nevertheless, there’s something going on, because the deep drop in emissions during the downturn recovered. And the projections of future emissions, in the words of the report, do not consider the effect’s of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
The report gives a 2020 target of about 5640 Tg CO2-equivalent. If the rate achieved — and touted — from 2007 to 2011 were sustained, 4960 Tg CO2-equivalent would be achieved. (See figure below. Obviously this figure implies an extrapolation, and makes related assumptions.) Nevertheless, the report says:
Given implementation of programs and measures in place as of September 2012 and current economic projections, total gross U.S. GHG emissions are projected to be 4.6 percent lower than 2005 levels in 2020. Between 2005 and 2011 total gross U.S. GHG emissions have declined significantly due a combination of factors, including the economic downturn and fuel switching from coal to natural gas (U.S. EPA/OAP 2013). Emissions are projected to rise gradually between 2011 and 2020. Emissions are projected to remain below the 2005 level through 2030, despite significant increases in population (26 percent) and GDP (69 percent) during that period. More rapid improvements in technologies that emit fewer GHGs, new GHG mitigation requirements, or more rapid adoption of voluntary GHG emission reduction programs could result in lower gross GHG emission levels than in the 2012 policy baseline scenario projection. (Emphasis added.)
The 2020 targets are, at least according to the interpretation of the United States, completely consistent with their commitments to the international community and negotiated agreements.
What’s really disappointing is that there is no acknowledgement anywhere in the reports that a target of as near-to-zero CO2-equivalent emissions is what’s needed, as if that proposal won’t be put on the table by the United States. Nevertheless that’s where we need to go.
I hope to read this report in depth some day, but, meanwhile, I offer these limited thoughts, limited because I have other pressing responsibilities.
(Click on figure below for a larger, more intelligible version.)