‘Almost half of the CO2 transfers into the US are caused by the American trade deficit’

From the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

Constraining world trade is unlikely to help the climate

Instead, researchers were able to pin down a number of factors explaining the pronounced imbalances between emission importers and exporters, the US current account deficit being one of them. Their conclusion: interventions in world trade, like CO2 tariffs, would probably have only a small impact on global emissions.

Steadily growing world trade leads – as earlier research has shown – to a substantial transfer of CO2 from one country to another. The traded goods effectively contain the greenhouse gas, as it originates from the energy used during their production. “Typically, in the West we import goods whose production causes a lot of greenhouse gas emissions in poorer countries – and it is a contested question to which countries these emissions should be attributed,” explains Michael Jakob from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), one of the authors. This is a delicate issue, because many Western countries have ambitious targets for emissions reductions. Simply transferring emission-intensive industries to third countries in order to achieve these goals would not serve climate protection – and might even damage the economy.

Almost half of the CO2 transfers into the US are caused by the American trade deficit

“For the first time, we have now broken down the known emission transfers into their components,” Jakob says. The economic analysis is based on an evaluation of estimates that were determined by other researchers in earlier studies. “We can show that of the CO2 flowing into the US in form of imported goods, almost 50 per cent are due to the American trade deficit alone,” Jakob explains. The US emits less CO2 in the production of its exports than is contained in its imports, simply because it imports more than it exports. “And only about 20 per cent of CO2 transfers from China into the US can be traced back to the fact that China is in effect relatively more specialized in the production of dirty goods,” Jakob says. But this is the only driver of emission transfers on which the currently controversially discussed climate tariffs could take effect.

Without world trade, the emission of greenhouse gases in countries like China could potentially be even higher than today, according to the study. Western countries often export goods like machines that need a lot of energy in the production process. Usually, this energy stems from comparatively clean production processes. On the other hand, China produces a lot of export goods like toys, whose production needs relatively little energy, but stems from emission-intensive coal power plants. If China with its fossil energy mix had to produce more energy-intensive goods itself instead of importing them, emissions would increase. “In the end, interventions in world trade could do more harm than good,” says co-author Robert Marschinski from PIK and Technische Universität Berlin.

“The crucial question is how clean or how dirty national energy production is in each case”

“Crucial for CO2 transfers is not only world trade, but also the question of how clean or dirty national energy production is in each case,” Marschinski emphasizes. To look only at CO2 transfers could be misleading. If for instance the European Union were to adopt new low emission production methods, its net imports of CO2 could increase even though there is no relocation of production.

“To really justify trade-policy interventions like the much discussed CO2 tariffs, further analysis would be needed – the observed CO2 transfers alone are not enough as a basis,” Marschinski explains. “Such measures cannot replace what it really takes: more international cooperation.” Binding global climate targets could give incentives for investors to promote low-emission technologies. Innovations in efficiency could get financial support, and regional emission trading systems could be linked with each other, Marschinski says. “All this could help to achieve climate protection targets in an economically reasonable way.”

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Article: Jakob, M., Marschinski, R. (2012): Interpreting trade-related CO2 emission transfers. Nature Climate Change [DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1630] (Advance Online Publication)

Weblink to the article when it is published on September 23rd: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1630

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40 thoughts on “‘Almost half of the CO2 transfers into the US are caused by the American trade deficit’

  1. The Trade Winds transfer the most CO2, always have and always will. The amount of CO2 they move dwarfs the human contribution.

  2. raise energy prices. let them “skyrocket”. manufacturing goes overseas. along with the manufacturing goes the jobs. along with the jobs goes the prosperity. along with the prosperity goes the national security. the CO2 will return, however.

  3. Simply transferring emission-intensive industries to third countries in order to achieve these goals would not serve climate protection – and might even damage the economy.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Might damage the economy?

    Well, OK, that’s probably a technicaly accurate statement.

    If they change “might” to “probably” then they’ll also have to change “damage” to “destroy”….

  4. It is now obvious the only way to remove growth in CO2 is for the world to stop making things. That can’t happen unless consumers stop buying things. That can’t happen until all their discretionary money is taken from them. Hence, cap and trade.

    Take a deep breath, Oz – you’re going first.

  5. Constraining world trade is unlikely to help the climate

    Constraining world trade is likely to lower the well being of all and have no noticeable climatic influence.

  6. I simply cannot read more than a few lines of anything dealing with carbon dioxide as a problem since I consider it a beneficial compound necessary for life. Discussions of carbon exchanges, carbon credits, carbon taxes, etc. just put me to sleep or make me angry.

  7. “Simply transferring emission-intensive industries to third countries in order to achieve these goals would not serve climate protection – and might even damage the economy.”

    I mean…. DOH !!!!!!!!!!!

    And almost certainly INCREASES world CO2 output levels !!

    That’s what makes Australia’s carbon dioxide tax SOOOOOOOOOOO moronic !!!!

  8. what wonderful emotional balderdash they come out with. Help the climate indeed. Why is it on a limping on a crutch? or in a wheelchair? or such like ?. Or perhaps it belongs in a home for the bewildered?: which perhaps it might if it believed in all the inanities being talked about it. Since I doubt it takes any notice at all I imagine as it will do as it will do as it always has done.

    No the home for the bewildered I am afraid is for those who imagine their infantile outpourings and breast beatings have any effect at all on the vast natural forces that drive the world’s great weather systems. Well to paraphrase a great line in a great film sometimes you might believe the magic works but it doesn’t you know. Except on stage of course.

    Kindest Regards

  9. “Constraining world trade is unlikely to help the climate”

    Yes, Potsdam has noticed that trade only means REARRANGING the CO2 emissions deck chairs on the Titanic. What underlies this statement of the bleeding obvious from the German arch-Greens is their hair shirt ideology of the necessity to reduce world production altogether. We must produce and consume less. Either that or energy productivity has to increase – i.e produce more stuff from less fossil fuel.

    I suppose this does represent a tiny step forward in Green thinking IF you accept that CO2 is harmful in the first place. But China is already ahead of Potsdam in making energy efficiency/productivity the mainstay of their CO2 policy for old-fashioned reasons of economic efficiency. China may try to curb its energy consumption per unit of GDP, or “energy intensity” but it has no intention of reducing its production of either energy or stuff.

  10. Whoops
    “Darn it, how do we to get politician of either persuasion to READ these sorts of reports and GET SENSIBLE !!!

    When I said this, I had only read the first paragraph or so. When I see them then say, “Binding global climate targets could give incentives for investors to promote low-emission technologies”
    and then realised that it was from the ‘Damnpotty’ bunch… gees.. you have to worry about their mental state. !! Don’t even hint at this idea to politicians, especially not of the left-wing variety !!

  11. dp says:
    September 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm
    It is now obvious the only way to remove growth in CO2 is for the world to stop making things. That can’t happen unless consumers stop buying things. That can’t happen until all their discretionary money is taken from them. Hence, cap and trade.

    Take a deep breath, Oz – you’re going first.

    dp, I think you are more correct than you imagine. Basically, the Australian economy will be dp’d by our green-left government.

  12. If you export a log you export half its weight of CO2, so thats a good thing.. right?.. well no, because you’ve lost the tree that was sequestering the CO2 you exported and the recipient country has to produce CO2 to saw the log. But hang on.. you replace that tree with a seedling that will voraciously sequester CO2 with its young vigorous growth but hang on.. you still have the old stumps, roots and rotting leaves/needles from the old tree that you exported..

    At this stage (or before) you’ve lost control of the narrative and are left with a series of equations that you are explaining to a bewildered and/or skeptical public.. you only answer is “Trust us, we know what we are doing when we charge you more for everything”.

    Of course, thats only the start of the explanation of a complicated process involving felling trees, exporting logs, sawing and manufacturing and re-export of a near finished product, its consequent usage and CO2 status. In fact, as far as the public is concerned you are now close to trying to explain how many angels can dance on a pin or saying “Yes Virginia, there are indeed fairies at the bottom of your garden, you might not see them, but like killer CO2, they are there.

    JC

  13. The usual piffle from Potsdam. You can draw whatever conclusion you wish to with such vague might/maybe waffle. This is not science, it’s not even anything.

    As usual for Postdam, its riddled with stupid phrases refering to co2 as “dirty”. CO2 is a clean, odourless gas that has minimal impact on climate. They willfully ignore any progress made in understanding climate and prefer to remain stuck promulgating the errors of 1990’s.

    Oddly they don’t even try to make the same argument refering to the REAL chemical pollution that China is dumping in massive quantities.

    I see no sense in applauding this garbage because it fits (for once) with a free market ideal. It’s still piffle.

    We will see in comments the usual array of trained seals slapping their fins together sensing they have been thrown a fish.

    Let’s see who has the intelligence to condem this sort of garbage, whatever it’s apparent consclusion , rather than just deriding it when it goes against thier politics and stupidly applauding when it fits.

  14. “Constraining world trade is unlikely to help the climate”

    Sure because “climate” is a false problem with a falsely attribute cause. Whatever effect world trade may have on CO2 production and transport it WILL NOT help climate.

  15. two young fellows, charged with trying to convince a sceptical public to go along with the CO2 trading scam and handing over billions for uneconomical, ineffective and unnecessary renewables, by any means necessary. i almost feel sorry for them:

    Potsdam: Homepage of Dr. Robert Marschinski
    During 2012 Robert is a Visiting Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science. In the past he was a visiting researcher at The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, India, and a short-term consultant with the Development Economics Research Group of the World Bank in Washington DC.

    http://www.pik-potsdam.de/members/robert/index_html_bak

    Potsdam: Michael Jakob
    IPCC
    Contributing author to Ch. 9 of the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy, Renewable Energy in the Context of Sustainable Development .
    Contributing author to Ch. 5 of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)

    http://www.pik-potsdam.de/members/jakob

  16. Bummer. German geniuses find out that there’s actually a reason why people trade goods.

    I’d like to apologize for the rapidly declining scientific standards in German federal research institutes. The evil capitalists hire all the good people, and the Bund must take the remaining intellectual basketcases.

  17. Adding my voice to several dissenting commenters above, they FIRST need to scientifically quantify and demonstrate that CO2 has some deleterious impact on the climate before woefully proclaiming something needs to be done in its transfer.

    They’re getting the proverbial cart before the horse. But then, they always do.

    I strongly believe the benefits of CO2 far outweigh any negatives–which is unsettling pushback on a world-controlling device the Warmistas never anticipated. Accelerated plant growth from CO2 is far easier to demonstrate than any impact it has on the climate; indeed, it is common practice in microcosms called greenhouses. The irony is delicious.

  18. This point has already been discussed thoroughly in ‘denier’ circles.

    It’s blazingly clear that trade limitations WILL result in less pollution of all kinds, especially the real kind. Trade limitations will also have more important benefits, such as restoring the productive economies of Western countries and giving decent jobs to ordinary people in Western countries. This is so f*ing obvious that it’s unspeakable and unthinkable. Nobody on either political “side” dares to venture into the territory of “protectionism” because it would actually help people, and nobody in politics wants to help people.

    Always remember: the people who love free trade are the same people who love carbon pseudoscience. Free trade enriches the rich and starves the poor. Carbon pseudoscience enriches the rich and starves the poor.

  19. CO2 is not dirty, it is a clean gas which animals including humans breath out and plants take in. Industries which emit carbon dioxide or use energy from producers which emit carbon dioxide are not dirty. The article is just political/green nonsense.

  20. This research is worth publication and passes peer review? The “contained” CO2 in a widget is the sum of CO2 from all steps in manufacture and distribution to the end user. Importing it does not change that part of the CO2 footprint because it must be produced. It probably contains more CO2 because of less efficient manufacture and transport within the country of production. You also get the added CO2 from shipping to the end user’s country while keeping all the internal distribution. This was known in my science classes as “intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.” Wonder where we would be if bright folks like this did beneficial research and stopped feeding at the government trough of useless research.
    Let me know when well-measured CO2 starts dropping to under 200 ppmv, then I might really be concerned about it.

  21. It’s somewhat amusing that, of all people, it should be an economist stating that the carbon crowd is measuring the wrong thing for the given problem. It seems to much to ask of people that drive a Prius to understand that CO2 production occurs at the site of the power generation. Be it a nat gas plant, nuclear, or an internal combustion automobile.

  22. So have I got this straight? Imposing restrictions and costs on industry in the West, leads to output being transferred to developing countries, so emissions are not reduced.

    Furthermore, emissions standards are less demanding in developing countries, so for every unit of output there is likely to be an increase in CO2.

    And it takes a team of scientists to work this out? Do they work at the Dept of The Bleedin Obvious?

  23. polistra says:
    September 24, 2012 at 2:09 am
    “It’s blazingly clear that trade limitations WILL result in less pollution of all kinds, especially the real kind. Trade limitations will also have more important benefits, such as restoring the productive economies of Western countries and giving decent jobs to ordinary people in Western countries. This is so f*ing obvious that it’s unspeakable and unthinkable. Nobody on either political “side” dares to venture into the territory of “protectionism” because it would actually help people, and nobody in politics wants to help people.”

    Hmm… it’s a little more complicated. You want a job, but you surely also want that iPhone, right? Now, here’s a suggestion. You work for Chinese wages. How about that? Oh, violates the minimum wage requirements, I see… Other suggestion: An American made iPhone will cost 5,000 bucks. Hmm… nobody will buy it…

    Help me out there. What do you prefer – less Dollars for your work or less product for your Dollars?

  24. As usual, studies like this examine here and now conditions, not the China of the future, which is planning upwards of 600 nuclear plants by 2030 and 1800 by the end of the century. Buying Chinese goods enables these plants to be built, and they will enable China to surpass the Western nations in terms of low emissions and affordable electricity, making their country even more competitive. China now has the capability of constructing gen 3 nuclear power plants without any help from the “advanced” Western countries, as does India.

  25. EU AIRLINE CARBON LAW VETOED BY U.S.

    Following China’s lead, which had threatened a trade war with the EU over their airlines’ “carbon emissions,” the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill over the weekend that would shield US airlines from paying for their carbon emissions on European flights, pressuring the European Union to back down from applying its emissions law to foreign carriers. The European Commission has been enforcing its law since January to make all airlines take part in its Emissions Trading Scheme to combat global warming, prompting threats of a trade fight.

    The Senate approved the bill shortly after midnight on Saturday, as it scrambled to complete business to recess ahead of the 6 November congressional and presidential elections. Republican senator John Thune, a sponsor of the measure, said it sent a “strong message” to the EU that it cannot impose taxes on the United States; “The Senate’s action today will help ensure that US air carriers and passengers will not be paying down European debt through this illegal tax and can instead be investing in creating jobs and stimulating our own economy,” Thune said.

    The House of Representatives has passed a similar measure, and could either work out differences with the Senate’s version or accept the Senate bill when Congress returns for a post-election session.

    The EU’s tax seems doomed if the EU airlines now protest that they are being unfairly taxed. Under WTO fair trade rules, either all the airlines must pay or none of them.

  26. Western countries often export goods like machines that need a lot of energy in the production process. Usually, this energy stems from comparatively clean production processes. On the other hand, China produces a lot of export goods like toys, whose production needs relatively little energy, but stems from emission-intensive coal power plants.

    Real machines like lathes and mills and nearly all production equipment use bases (that which the moving parts are mounted to) of cast iron or steel, which are cast then machined. Given the humongous amount of machinery imported from China and Taiwan, with real 100% Made in USA virtually nonexistent, I doubt America has retained much casting ability for anything larger than an 18-wheeler’s engine block.

    So we farm out the dirtiest most carbon-intensive work to China and nearby. Often we import complete machines, just try getting a manual mill or lathe or surface grinder that isn’t an import without paying at least 4 times more for new “American made”. You’ll get reamed from buying used American instead of new import, anything being sold needs rebuilding.

    But it seems a given that even “American” machinery will use a base that was at least a casting from China or thereabouts, even if we machine it here, that we then assemble the final machine on and around. Plus whatever other cast parts are used.

    And these geniuses have determined we export machines made usually with “clean” Western-style energy? Did they only look at the machines, and not at all the steps and parts involved and where they came from?

  27. Always finding something to worry about. Who really cares where the CO2 comes from? Does it really make any difference? So many important things to worry about, especially now. Can’t these people find a way to be productive in society? We need economic growth. Let’s all agree to worry about CO2 later, after the economy is back on track.

  28. Let’s not forget the source of the article. I think the reason for this article is not found in the headline “Constraining world trade is unlikely to help the climate.”

    The reason for the article is found is last paragraph of the press release. “Marschinski explains. ‘Such measures cannot replace what it really takes: more international cooperation.’ Binding global climate targets could give incentives for investors to promote low-emission technologies.”

    The paper is really an argument for “binding global climate targets”

  29. Constraining trade only has one consistent and reliable effect – that of constraining trade. The chief inconsistent and unreliable effect is that of adding friction to the economy. Depending on which sectors of the economy have been constrined, various other sectors will be slowed or stalled.
    The effect is like that of trying to steer a ship at full steam by lowering anchors over the sides, rather than letting the engines run and using the rudder. The trouble is, most of the politicians playing these games are seeking self-gratification and an illusion of control over the economy, but they have no clue what that big wheel on the poopdeck is for.

  30. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    September 24, 2012 at 6:17 am
    “So we farm out the dirtiest most carbon-intensive work to China and nearby.”

    kadaka, a year or two ago SGL carbon has started building a factory for carbon fibres in Washington. It’s about the most energy intensive product you can produce, and they went there because of the abundance of cheap hydropower.

  31. “Typically, in the West we import goods whose production causes a lot of greenhouse gas emissions in poorer countries – and it is a contested question to which countries these emissions should be attributed”.
    ——————————————
    So it’s not the fault of China and India that their CO2 levels are increasing – they are passive, innocent recipients of CO2 being forced upon them by the wicked industrialised West.

  32. Steve R says:
    September 24, 2012 at 6:55 am
    “Can’t these people find a way to be productive in society? ”

    There is no evidence for that. Rahmstorff’s wife tried to sell silver jewelry with the number of a carbon credit imprinted; and some other guys from PIK tried to sell a climate change related board game. Both enterprises failed.

    The Null hypothesis therefore stands: PIK people cannot find productive activities in society.

  33. “Typically, in the West we import goods whose production causes a lot of greenhouse gas emissions in poorer countries – and it is a contested question to which countries these emissions should be attributed,”

    Does this mean the UK is in credit as it was an exporter for well over 100 years

  34. Gosh, Guys! Don’t you understand — CAGW is going to destroy everything we hold dear! Gee, if only we had a really big dose of destitution, poverty and starvation to help save our life style!

    (Do I really need to put a “sarc” tag on that?)

  35. German energy intensive industries are already considering leaving Germany because of the lack of grid stability and cost of electrical energy following all the billions wasted on “green” energy.
    I imagine German workers will be very happy to realize when their jobs are lost to the third world that it didn’t even reduce CO2 emissions (as if that was a good thing).
    An old book set in Italy noted that “they were a nation of crooks ruled by scoundrels.” I have come to believe that all Western nations are made up of fools ruled by idiots.

  36. From DirkH on September 24, 2012 at 10:29 am:

    kadaka, a year or two ago SGL carbon has started building a factory for carbon fibres in Washington. It’s about the most energy intensive product you can produce, and they went there because of the abundance of cheap hydropower.

    http://green.autoblog.com/2011/09/09/bmw-sgl-open-state-of-the-art-carbon-fiber-facility-in-washingt/

    Central Washington could soon become a future automotive hub, if BMW’s vision of carbon fiber plug-in vehicles catches on. Standing next to BMW’s upcoming i3, chairman of the German automaker, Norbert Reithofer, told a crowd of 150 in Moses Lake, WA that carbon fiber is key to the evolution of plug-ins. Reithofer stated:

    Passenger cells are made from carbon fiber to compensate for the greater weight of batteries. Using carbon fiber on this scale has never been attempted before.

    As Reithofer spoke, the 600-foot carbon fiber machine operated in the next room, winding multiple strands of the high-tech fiber onto spools to be shipped to Germany. There, the fiber will be transformed into passenger cells.

    Robert Koehler, chief executive officer of SGL Group – BMW’s carbon fiber teammate – stated that an additional machine is on order and says it should be operational in less than 18 months. (…)

    IF plug-in electrics with lightweight carbon fiber construction are indeed the wave of the future, and specifically the BMW versions, then the plant will succeed.

    Given the popularity of plug-in electrics, outside of the CO₂-phobic EU and certain small enclaves of Southern California, I do not expect the expectations to be met.

    Thus I suspect the US choice was related more to tax laws and economic incentives. If a plant fails in China, it’s dead. It’d be too prohibitive to even start one in Europe. Here in the US we’re rewarding failure, as long as it’s a Green failure. A carbon fiber plant dedicated specifically for plug-in electrics, that should qualify.

    Plus those reels of carbon fiber are the low-value end. Why don’t they make those passenger cells in the US as well, and ship that higher-value product to Germany as needed, or even complete cars? Why does it make more sense to send US fiber to Germany, then ship it back to the US as higher-value products? Isn’t BMW expecting a large US market for their “wave of the future” lightweight plug-ins?

  37. Wouldn’t it have been easier for them to just look at the coal train loadings headed for Pacific ports destined to China, and the cargo containers of goods returning? This isn’t exactly a secret.

    Heck, Warren Buffet, via BRKA Birkshire Hathaway bought out BNS Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad to cash in on the “Coal to China” lever being pulled by all the ‘emissions reduction’ folks.

    Similar gains in Australian Coal to China shipments. At least until the last couple of years when we ran out of money to send along with the coal….

    Next thing you know, they will discover that Maurice Strong and others are making money off of the shipping of Jobs to China too… Almost like it was planned that way…

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