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I'm surprised you had to write this post, at least for your readership.

That GDP and carbon emissions are proxies for each other, within certain bounds defined by the efficiency with which we convert one to the other, seems like it should be accepted on its face without a bunch of mathematical formulas to confuse the issue.

Even a draft horse doing work -- and thus creating measurable GDP -- emits CO2 in the process. The only difference is that the carbon emitted wasn't originally pulled from an underground sink. It was recycled within the biosphere, within the bounds of the throughput speeds that natural systems can handle.


In the US, it seems GDP can continue to rise while CO2 emissions fall *in the short term*, due exploitation of relatively cleaner energy, but ultimately, those subtle trends are dwarfed by exponential increases in CO2 emissions in Asia. There's a lot of piety in America over reducing one's "carbon footprint" but even a 100% all-out nationwide commitment has no appreciable impact on global CO2 emissions. At least we can be smugly self-righteous while the world is being destroyed around us...

Mike Roberts

As noted near the end of the post, a move to dirtier fuels (as in Japan) can raise emissions even if the economy is stagnant. So, energy use is certainly a good proxy for GDP but carbon emissions is a less good proxy.

I'm not sure that looking at a single country's performance is completely valid. I don't think any country has a completely isolated economy. That is, emissions arising from economic activity can occur in other countries as manufacturing and services are outsourced. As countries strive to find the energy to grow, they could fail in that objective but still grow their emissions due to use of dirtier and lower quality resources in the manufacture and provision of goods and services, from wherever they are supplied.

Chris Korda


The Fatih Birol quote is erroneous, not because it was incorrectly reported, but because Birol actually misspoke. The IEA's position is that the current trend is towards 6 degrees Celsius by 2100, not 2050. In an April 2012 Guardian interview, IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said "On current form ... the world is on track for warming of 6C by the end of the century."
This unfortunate error was widely repeated and has caused considerable confusion as explained here:
Of course this isn't exactly a reprieve since six degrees C would destroy civilization regardless of whether it occurred in 2050 or 2100. Still it's best to be as accurate as possible because mistakes provide more fodder for deniers.

Also, I must again respectfully object to focusing on AIM 6.0 and MiniCAM 4.5 (or more correctly RCP6 and RCP4.5) instead of RCP8.5. It doesn't make sense to discuss the IEA's assessment while dismissing RCP8.5, because RCP 8.5 is in fact synonymous with the IEA's assessment, until at least 2035. The other IPCC scenarios are merely wishful proposals, as I explained in my comment on "How To Think About The Future (Redux)."

Chris Korda

For you to infer from my attempt to correct a factual error that I don't support your work, well that would be, to my way of thinking, a rather odd way of looking at it. On the contrary, it should be seen as proof that I care enough about your work to bother correcting it.

Mike Roberts


Yours is one of the first sites (and sometimes the first site) I go to each day to get a reality check. But I do comment, sometimes, with trepidation that I might say something ... well, wrong. I hope I didn't do that with my last reply.

Your insightful analyses certainly broaden my outlook but it can take a while, sometimes, to get to grips with what you're saying. That's my problem, rather than yours.



I going to go off topic but I hope it is not irrelevant.

I attended the public lecture -- no make that dog and pony show -- at UH Manona the pair of bozo anthropologists the ones with the "walking" statues of Easter Island: http://www.marklynas.org/2011/09/the-myths-of-easter-island-jared-diamond-responds/ put on.

They had them eat out of palms of their hands. At one point a member of the audience did ask: "had Jared Diamond responded to your clearly brilliant work?"

They said "well, yes but it was only in a blog."

I thought of getting up and saying: "yes it may have been only been "a blog' but he did site peer-reviewed research that proves you two are full of horseshit". But, I did not. I guess am not you.

Mediocre wins out. Do not forget watch NOVA next Wednesday to see the Statue that walked at Kualoa Ranch. A place where so much movie magic had been made including the hit TV series LOST.

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