Accounting for carbon dioxide emissions: A matter of time
K. Caldeira & S. Davis
Carbon dioxide emissions happen where fossil fuels are burned to provide energy. But goods and services made with that energy are often exported to be consumed somewhere else. Because of this, policies that only account for emissions where they happen may not reduce global emissions, but instead encourage consumers to import goods from places that do not restrict emissions. Peters et al. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011) published results showing that since 1990, developed countries have increasingly imported goods from developing countries. In fact, although emissions happening in developed countries decreased slightly between 1990 and 2008, the emissions related to goods consumed in developed countries has increased by 7%. This commentary on Peters et al. replots their results to show that developed country emissions still exceed developing country emissions when you consider imported goods. However, emissions per person in the developed world remain much greater than those of people in developing countries, even taking into account traded goods.