Obama’s Funny Numbers for Carbon Reductions

TaniaHaldarHartThis week’s Sea Change Radio News Analysis comes from Tania Haldar Hart:

Last week’s Sea Change News Analysis covered the White House announcement of the President’s visit to the Copenhagen Climate Conference, where he will officially unveil US carbon reduction goals.  Today, we focus on the story behind the emissions reductions data.  The White House press release claimed a target of 17 percent reductions by 2020, and 83 percent reductions by 2050.The US targets may sound impressive, but they use 2005 emissions levels as their baseline. Most countries have set their baselines at 1990 levels, as required by the Kyoto Protocol.  If this were a foot race, the US would be running 85 yards while implying it is a 100-yard dash.

So says Sarah Perry, a student at the Marlboro Sustainability MBA, who found the US choice of a 2005 baseline “arbitrary and extraordinary.” Based on US Energy Information Administration data, Perry crunched the numbers for the climate change course taught by today’s guest, Roger Saillant.  She translated US goals from 2005 as the baseline to show how different the reduction levels would be if the US used a 1990 baseline.

The 2050 goal of 83 percent reduction drops to 77 percent, and the 17 percent reductions goal for 2020 plummets to 4 percent.  The catch is, if the US had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, then our goal would have been 7 percent reductions by 2012.  According to Perry, Obama’s plan would get us halfway to the Kyoto goal in triple the time.

Stay tuned to Sea Change Radio for the next two weeks, as our Climate Correspondent Cimbria Badenhausen will be reporting live from the Copenhagen Conference on how this proposal is received.

For the Sea Change News Analysis, I’m Tania Haldar Hart.