Carbon Emissions Outsourced in a Big Way

Credit: Steven Davis/Carnegie Institution for Science.

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A new study finds more than a third of carbon dioxide emissions associated with consumption of goods and services in many developed countries (Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, the United Kingdom, and France) are actually emitted outside their borders.

For some small nations, including Switzerland, their outsourced emissions exceeded the amount of CO2 emitted within their national borders. The findings in PNAS:

  • In the US, about 2.5 tons of CO2 are consumed per person but produced somewhere else.
  • In Europe, 4 or more tons of CO2 are consumed per person but produced somewhere else.
  • Most American and European emissions are outsourced to developing countries, notably China.
  • Nearly a quarter of the emissions produced in China are ultimately exported to the US, Japan, or Europe.

The study used published trade data from 2004 to create a global model of the flow of products across 57 industry sectors and 113 countries or regions. By allocating carbon emissions to particular products and sources, the researchers were able to calculate the net emissions “imported” or “exported” by specific countries.

The researchers conclude that regional climate policy needs to take into account emissions embodied in trade, not just domestic emissions. The authors, from the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, suggest:

“Sharing responsibility for emissions among producers and consumers could facilitate international agreement on global climate policy that is now hindered by concerns over the regional and historical inequity of emissions.”
 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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