USA meets Kyoto protocol goal – without ever embracing it

New EIA data shows USA inadvertently meets 1997 Kyoto protocol CO2 emission reductions without ever signing on thanks to a stagnant economy. Lowest level of CO2 emissions since 1994.

In 2012, a surprising twist and without ever ratifying it, the United States became the first major industrialized nation in the world to meet the United Nation’s original Kyoto Protocol 2012 target for CO2 reductions.

WUWT readers may recall that Kyoto was an international agreement proposed in December 1997 requiring nations (according to the U.N. press release then) to reduce CO2 emissions by 5.2% by 2012.  It became international law when ratified by Russia in November 2004. The United States never ratified Kyoto and is not legally bound by it, even though then vice president Al Gore signed it much to the annoyance of many.

It expired on December 31st, 2012, with no replacement agreement to follow it.

Well, it seems like killing the economy went hand in hand with CO2 reductions, imagine that. The graph below is from EIA with my annotations.

kyoto_met_1997-2012

From the EIA report:

Energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2012 were the lowest in the United States since 1994, at 5.3 billion metric tons of CO2 (see figure above). With the exception of 2010, emissions have declined every year since 2007.

The largest drop in emissions in 2012 came from coal, which is used almost exclusively for electricity generation (see figure below). During 2012, particularly in the spring and early summer, low natural gas prices led to competition between natural gas- and coal-fired electric power generators. Lower natural gas prices resulted in reduced levels of coal generation, and increased natural gas generation—a less carbon-intensive fuel for power generation, which shifted power generation from the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel (coal) to the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel (natural gas).

Other factors contributing to the lower emissions include decreased demand for transportation fuels and mild winter temperatures that reduced demand for heating. The warm winter months during 2012 (particularly in the first quarter) more than offset a slight increase in cooling degree days during the summer months. EIA recently published preliminary data for January-December 2012 in the March 2013 edition of the Monthly Energy Review, which includes statistics covering all aspects of energy. EIA will publish a full analysis of 2012 energy-related CO2 emissions later this year.

Source: http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=10691

CSV data available here: http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/chartdata/US_annual_carbon_emissions.csv

==============================================================

AZLeader (who provided this tip) writes:

Kyoto is the bedrock of international law that serves as the legal foundation used by all nations for their individual actions taken to reduce global CO2 emissions. The United States, the lone non-signatory, is now the only major polluter to have met the standard.

Today the EIA simply reports that U.S. CO2 emissions in 2012 were the lowest since 1994. Though amazing in itself, it is not headline news. Meeting the Kyoto Protocol standard should be front page news.

U.S. Meets Kyoto Protocol Standard

The downloaded data shows that U.S. total CO2 emissions for coal, oil and natural gas were 5,584 (million) metric tons in 1997.

It also shows that U.S. CO2 emissions rose to 6,023 (million) metric tons of CO2 in 2007 before they began to fall.

In 2012, U.S. CO2 emissions fell to 5,293 (million) metric tons. That is 291 (million) metric tons less than they were in 1997 and 730 (million) metric tons less than their 2007 peak.

Drum roll please…

291 (million) metric tons below 1997 levels is a 5.2% reduction in CO2 emissions. It EXACTLY meets the Kyoto requirement!

Graph of annual light bulb sales, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

Download CSV Data

Meanwhile, world CO2 emissions haven’t slowed, clearly the USA isn’t the problem.

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Mark Bofill

“Well, it seems like killing the economy went hand in hand with CO2 reductions, imagine that.”
priceless

And all they had to do was completely destroy their economy…
Thanks Barry, you saved the world again!

JDN

This doesn’t make sense unless the coal plants spend more time idling than gas generation stations. Is that the case, or, are this yet another bad computer model?

Magus

Wonder how much press this will get (my guess is none)

Chip Knappenberger

Anthony,
I think we were supposed to reduce our emissions by 7% below 1990 levels.
-Chip
REPLY: Yes, that is one aspect, but see this U.N. press release:
Kyoto, 11 December 1997 – After 10 days of tough negotiations, ministers and other high-level officials from 160 countries reached agreement this morning on a legally binding Protocol under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2%.
http://unfccc.int/cop3/fccc/info/indust.htm
-Anthony

Latitude

yea….and yet somehow I don’t feel like celebrating

The downloaded data shows that U.S. total CO2 emissions for coal, oil and natural gas were 5,584 metric tons in 1997.
Basic scientific literacy is needed here. The number is off by a factor of a million.
REPLY: Just a typo, fixed.
Note also EIA in their spreadsheet makes the same labeling error
http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/chartdata/US_annual_carbon_emissions.csv
– Anthony

Spyral

Can’t you see that the energy-related carbon dioxide emissions graph follows the global temperature graph well?? You fools… 😉

JP

Mission Accomplished

Jimbo

A low carbon economy is a third world economy.

scarletmacaw

I thought the treaty required emissions below 1990, not 1997. Did this get changed?
REPLY: Note the press release where they headline 5.2% – Anthony

village idiot

It was the fracking fracking that did it! Tony, you made your contribution with your fotovoltaic things on your roof (same incentive – money) Clever move!
The next thing the Warmistas will moan about is that it is a global problem. Let’s just say that it is the Chinese’s fault – everyone will beleive that.
http://www.google.dk/imgres?imgurl=http://www.pbl.nl/sites/default/files/cms/afbeeldingen/pbl-2012-global-co2-emissions-per-region-1990-2011.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.pbl.nl/en/publications/2012/trends-in-global-co2-emissions-2012-report&h=313&w=435&sz=69&tbnid=YznYptLn4yGLWM:&tbnh=93&tbnw=129&zoom=1&usg=__mMVIa2PLpua52MY4nmnGA-bjl0w=&docid=rmyQkDN0k2Wf7M&hl=da&sa=X&ei=lTdfUdnrM7PR4QTDr4HQCQ&ved=0CEwQ9QEwAw&dur=1602

JDN says:
This doesn’t make sense unless the coal plants spend more time idling than gas generation stations. Is that the case, or, are this yet another bad computer model?
————————————————————————————————-
Coal-fired electric plants are being replaced by natural gas fired ones… that is how it works.

lsvalgaard says:
April 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm
Basic scientific literacy is needed here. The number is off by a factor of a million.
=========================================================
Whoops! You are right… missed that little “billion” reference… correction to be made.
What is being a tiny, little 6 orders of magnitude off among friends? LOL!!!!

Louis Hooffstetter

Wait just a minute…
If one of the major industrialized nations in the world met the Kyoto protocol, why isn’t that Mauna Loa CO2 graph still climbing? It should be starting to decline…
Something’s just not right….

This trend has been going on for years. Not only do we get no credit for the reductions, but we never seem to hear a peep about countries like China:
http://c3headlines.typepad.com/.a/6a010536b58035970c0115721895d5970b-pi
Some good graphs here.

Personally, I think that is fracking fantastic. 🙂

Yes, Poverty = less CO2

john

So if we keep in world wide recession we can save the world? Can’t say I like the sound of that.

Russ R.

You gotta read beyond the headline.
First: 5.2% was a weighted average collective target for all participating developed nations. The US target was 7%.
“The 5.2% reduction in total developed country emissions will be realized through national reductions of 8% by Switzerland, many Central and East European states, and the European Union (the EU will achieve its target by distributing differing reduction rates to its member states); 7% by the US; and 6% by Canada, Hungary, Japan, and Poland. Russia, New Zealand, and Ukraine are to stabilize their emissions, while Norway may increase emissions by up to 1%, Australia by up to 8%, and Iceland 10%.”
Second, while the treaty was signed in 1997, the base year for reduction calculations was 1990 (or 1995 for certain GHGs).
“The agreement aims to lower overall emissions from a group of six greenhouse gases by 2008-12, calculated as an average over these five years. Cuts in the three most important gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N20) – will be measured against a base year of 1990. Cuts in three long-lived industrial gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) – can be measured against either a 1990 or 1995 baseline. If compared to expected emissions levels for the year 2000, the total reductions required by the Protocol will actually be about 10%; this is because many industrialized countries have not succeeded in meeting their earlier non-binding aim of returning their emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000, and their emissions have in fact risen since 1990. Compared to the emissions levels that would be expected by 2010 without emissions-control measures, the Protocol target represents a 30% cut. The Protocol should therefore send a powerful signal to business that it needs to accelerate the delivery of climate-friendly products and services.”
So, if I’m going to nitpick details… 7% below 1990 level is a bigger target than 5.2% below 1997 levels.
But that doesn’t take away from the main point that the US has indeed reduced emissions substantially in the last 5 years, thanks to a shale gas boom and an economic bust.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

Meanwhile, CO2 emission increases by China and India have exceeded our reduction several times over.
So just what did Kyoto achieve?
Actually, does anyone know exactly how EIA arrives at a figure for CO2 emissions? They certainly aren’t measuring it, so I assume they just take fuel produced + fuel imported – fuel exported and assume that much is burned?

Gary Pearse

JDN says:
April 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm
“This doesn’t make sense unless the coal plants spend more time idling than gas generation stations.”
Natural gas gets energy out of its hydrogen content and carbon; coal only carbon.
So when do you guys go after the rest of the world and demand your compensation for the CO2 pollution that is still rising! Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

All those hard-won reductions from a depressed economy and I can’t even see the slightest dent in that Mauna Loa graph of CO2 emissions. Could it be that Mother Nature is still in charge?

John Trigge

So, how are US temperatures reacting to this reduction in CO2 emissions?

Leif and Anthony…
I quoted numbers off the EIA spreadsheet.. that is where the typo originated…. sorry about that!
I should have noticed that the EIA graphics were labeled correctly. The numbers seemed low but I just went with the spreadsheet.
lsvalgaard says:
April 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm
The downloaded data shows that U.S. total CO2 emissions for coal, oil and natural gas were 5,584 metric tons in 1997.
Basic scientific literacy is needed here. The number is off by a factor of a million.
REPLY: Just a typo, fixed.
Note also EIA in their spreadsheet makes the same labeling error
http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/chartdata/US_annual_carbon_emissions.csv
– Anthony

David L. Hagen

Thanks dbstealey
China’s 45% CO2 increase swamped the US’s 3% decline. Freeman Dyson notes the benefits of rising CO2 is an important issue to evaluate.
A much greater challenge than anthropogenic global warming, are the consequences of declining oil exports. See Gail Tverberg
Our Energy Predicament in Charts
How Resource Limits Lead to Financial Collapse
How Oil Exporters Reach Financial Collapse

thisisnotgoodtogo

Does this mean that the US is owed reparations from Maldives?

Rob Potter

In fact, the US has done so well in reducing CO2 emissions while NOT being a signatory, that Canada decided to opt out as well! /sarc
Not sure where Canada’s emissions are these days though. Despite the federal government pulling out of the treaty obligations, some provinces have gone for it big time. Stupidly large amounts of money are being paid by electricity consumers in Ontario for boondoggle renewable schemes and BC instituted a scam of a Carbon tax (check out Donna Laframboise’s coverage of the auditors report here http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2013/04/02/auditor-general-slams-carbon-offset-system/ – WOW). I am sure the CO2 emissions figures are out there somewhere which show how “successful” they have been…..

FergalR

We obviously need more fracking and all-out nuclear war against India and China to stop them from building their evil coal-fired power plants.

JohnC

JDN : Regarding why replacing coal with natural gas reduces CO2.
Natural gas is composed of short chain hydrocarbons (methane, ethane, butane). Coal is composed of long chains of “organic” carbon compounds. Proportionally more carbon vs hydrogen is burned using coal. Carbon vs Hydrogen in Methane is 1 to 4, in coal it’s about 1 to 1 (or less). Of course, coal has higher energy density and is safer and easier to store. Of course, burning natural gas yields more of that most significant GHG, dihydrogen monoxide.

David Schofield

Major development in UK MSM reporting. Geoffrey Lean is alarmist environmental journo in the Telgraph newspaper. He seems to have had an epiphany! If you have been following him for years you’ll realise the significance of this. See bishop hill also.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/globalwarming/9974397/Global-warming-time-to-rein-back-on-doom-and-gloom.html

Baa Humbug

Meanwhile, Mother Gaia, who is NOT a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has emitted 90,000 metric tons (sic) of CO2 into the atmosphere without a care in the world.
p.s. Leif will fix my basic scientific illiteracy

Windy

Further Down the press release it states specific targets by individual countries to attain the 5.2% decrease. The US target was 7% according to the press release.
“The 5.2% reduction in total developed country emissions will be realized through national reductions of 8% by Switzerland, many Central and East European states, and the European Union (the EU will achieve its target by distributing differing reduction rates to its member states); 7% by the US; and 6% by Canada, Hungary, Japan, and Poland. Russia, New Zealand, and Ukraine are to stabilize their emissions, while Norway may increase emissions by up to 1%, Australia by up to 8%, and Iceland 10%.”

Douglas2

Not news to me — I lived in Europe for much of the Bush presidency, and used to tweak my friends there whenever they complained about Bush “not signing Kyoto”. According to the US figures I could find all through that time, the USA growth in CO2 output essentially stopped in 2000, and it was certainly no greater when the 2008 crash hit than it was in 2001. Western European countries, however, had ever-increasing energy use — and the only reason they could plausibly claim to have a chance of meeting Kyoto commitments was because they had gamed the 1990 target by placing it conveniently AFTER the full implementation of the US Clean Air Act but Before the “Dash for Gas” and fall of the iron curtain in Europe.

Donald Mitchell

The reason that burning natural gas delivers less of the necessary plant nutrient carbon dioxide than burning coal is that the hydrogen in the natural gas also gets burned, which produces the vital chemical called water.
The lower heat of combustion (he higher heat of combustion uses the latent heat in the produces water which is of no value in a boiler) of 21,500 Btu/lb for methane and 14,108 Btu/lb of carbon (which is the majority of the useful part of anthracite coal). However 1 lb of methane only has only .749 lb of carbon so we get 28,717 Btu/lb carbon when burning methane. Of course natural gas is seldom pure methane, but the other constituents that contain carbon also contain hydrogen so they retain a considerable advantage over coal unless you are actually trying to assist the growth of food crops by providing them with carbon dioxide.
Since all petroleum products will contain hydrogen, this would even include the byproducts that Canada will get from their cleaning up the mess that mother nature made and is referred to as tar sands.

Windy

Let me add that from 2010 to 2011 only the USA and Germany reduced CO2 emissions out of all Kyoto participants and all developed countries. all countries. From 2011 to 2012 the USA saw another reduction in CO2 emissions while Germany increased emissions by 3.2%. The USA still did better than most Kyoto participants and in the end participating in Kyoto was meaningless.

Maybe this is why global warming stopped?

It is a result of changes in economic decision making, these changes have been ongoing in the power generation fields for a long time as upgrades are incorporated when available during periodic maintenance, that have resulted in the increased efficiency of operation.
Most of the coal fired technology, I have spent the past 10 years making parts for while on my CNC Milling machine job, for Alstrom Power Preheater have been dual gas/powdered coal burners, that can be adjusted from 100% NG to 100% powdered coal, starts with Natural gas to preheat boiler then adds in additional powdered coal to a set blend based on supply/price and on hand availability at the time. The combination of fuels can be adjusted on the fly, for optimal power/price/CO2 output as required.
The rest of the output from the shop was mostly retro fitting older units to the newer powdered coal blower technology, with heat exchangers recapturing most of the post boiler exhaust heat back into the input to combustion side, raising efficiency. Centrifugal particle separators before final filtering that lowers the filter load greatly, were a common item we made, as well as water spray cleaning of output process gasses from other commercial material processing equipment, intricate huge pieces of total Stainless steel and inconiel art work that lasts a long time.
The job I had before that was recycling tires by shredding then into chunks the land filling them, they converted over to the process of chopping the tires into golf ball sized chunks and mixed with coal (about 10%-15% tires to coal ratio) for co-burning them in older style coal fluidized bed type boilers. output is ash, CO2 water and drops of melted iron from the wire in the tires, sorted out magnetically and sent to refineries for making more iron again.

Doug Proctor

Won’t change the coming carbon taxes. CO2 is a linear-threat, no-threshold item: no eco-green will say cutting back X amount is “enough”. And the feds need more money.
Meet Kyoto twice over and this nonsens will still be going on. The EPA didn’t shrink its offices (and powers) after getting rid of the terrible 60s air pollution, did it?

Sean

US CO2 emissions will probably go down further after the next economic crash, that Obama is setting you up for right now. It seems that one sub-prime housing crisis was not enough for him:
The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with bad credit, an effort that officials say will help “power the economic recovery” (LOL) but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/obama-administration-pushes-banks-to-make-home-loans-to-people-with-weaker-credit/2013/04/02/a8b4370c-9aef-11e2-a941-a19bce7af755_story.html
Maybe you should consider charging your president with malfeasance.

atarsinc

John Parsons AKA atarsinc
Magus says:
April 5, 2013 at 1:36 pm
“Wonder how much press this will get (my guess is none)”
Your guess is wrong. At least 68 news outlets have picked up the story so far. JP

Ben D.

I’ve often wondered if the Kyoto protocols were, to some extent, meant to handicap the growth of developing nations like China, india, Brazil etc., to allow the industrialized leaders to maintain their lead.. If so, and since China, etc., did not go along with it and subsequently are looking to take over the lead, some part of the reason for the AGW meme in the first instance is being neutralized.

Mac the Knife

Dang!
I have to admit, I haven’t been doing my part to increase CO2 output this last winter. The + 4 cords of white oak firewood that I cut and split 2 years ago burns much slower and uniformly than the typical fir, alder, cedar, and big leaf maple that is the usual firewood fare here in The Great North Wet. It does take 2 years to get the dang white oak to dry sufficiently, given our relatively short and cool drying season though. But it is wonderful, only stoking the stove half as often and having that much more uniform heat available, when you come in from another cold, wet winter day!
My apologies for being a CO2 slacker…. I’ll try to do better,
MtK

The sad truth is that CO2 never made a difference. Self righteous zealots cannot take the data and must protest loudly.

atarsinc

John Parsons AKA atarsinc
Jimbo says:
April 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm
“A low carbon economy is a third world economy.”
Top Three Greenest countries
1 Switzerland 95.5
2 Sweden 93.1
3 Norway 93.1
Fail. JP

James at 48

Plus we are ever more energy efficient. Quietly, smartly, apolitically …

thisisnotgoodtogo

The 2010 spike was not durable. But the downward slide is

u.k.(us)

You can twist it anyway you want, the economy sucks.
Government policy indecision is the cause.
The private sector will find a path, it just needs a map showing where the roadblocks have been placed (that includes the duration of the impact, along with any route changes that might blow in with the wind).
Then, they can start to plan.
Oops, the grand-children have pre-approved all benefit plans, funded or not.

u.k.(us),
Excellent comment. Agree wholeheartedly.
• • •
atarsinc:
Those countries are far from being “low carbon”. You want ‘low carbon’? See here.

Bob Diaz

Not that world CO2 output matters much, but it would be fun to put a chart showing China’s CO2 increase on top of our reduction.