Connecting the Dots: U.S. CO2 Emissions

Has a sunny morning in the middle of winter ever fooled you into thinking that spring has arrived? Or a brief let-up in traffic made you think that the jam was over? Do you remember back to your high school days and your science experiments, when you were plotting out data points on a graph and drawing straight lines through them? Apparently President Bush doesn't recall back that far. Instead, he prefers to deduce trends by looking at single data points, ignoring the rest of the graph...

The issue in question here? U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, the gas chiefly responsible for causing global warming. In 2006, the second warmest year on record in the U.S.,  emissions dropped compared to 2005 levels, causing an exultant President Bush, who until relatively recently of course did not accept that global warming was real or caused by human emissions, to claim victory. The Washington Post quoted him saying that "We are effectively confronting the important challenge of global climate change through regulations, public-private partnerships, incentives, and strong economic investment. [...] New policies at the federal, state, and local levels -- such as my initiative to reduce by 20 percent our projected use of gasoline within 10 years -- promise even more progress."

 Not so fast, Mr. President. A quick look at emission trends from previous years paints a very different picture. Incoporating 2007 data from DOE-EIA's recent (Dec 2008) report on U.S. emissions, the trend looks like this:

Yes, emissions have been growing steadily for decades now in an unquestionable upward trend, with only a couple of downward blips since 1990. It seems that Mr. Bush needs to revisit his old science textbooks after his term is over and he has more free time in his hands. In fact, DOE's Energy Information Administration last year projected that carbon dioxide emissions between 2006-2030 in the U.S. will grow by 16%. The reference case for the 2009 Annual Energy Outlook is scheduled for release on Dec 17, 2008. Yet again it is expected to reaffirm the same alarming trend: without concerted policies to reduce global warming emissions, the steady climb is going to continue. The longer we wait before we take action, the harder it will be to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels to acceptable levels. The time to stop this uncontrolled experiment is now. Let's hope that the new Congress and Administration will listen to the world's scientists and act decisively.