As someone who believes in the evolution of the planet as a system, I have questions as to the extent of human induced climate change. My concerns where I say action is needed stem more from the belief that sufficient environmental damage is being done by the massive release of carbon based gas into the air and ocean the planet needs to act. But as we contemplate the problem, let us have a look some of the basic statistical data from New Zealand and compare it with data from abroad.
In the 25 years since 1990 started, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions data has shown substantial changes. Below is a summary based on Greenhouse gas emissions source data 2015 (.csv opens in Excel):
- Since 1990 overall greenhouse gas emissions have increased 21% from 66.72 , to 80.96 million m.t. per annum
- Since 1990 overall carbon dioxide gas emissions have increased 42% from 38.07 m.t. to 54.2 m.t. per annum
- Since 1990 net removals have decreased 7% from 28.65 m.t to 26.76 m.t.
- Since 1990 the percentage of total greenhouse gases emitted in New Zealand that is carbon dioxide has increased from 57% to 67%
From these statistics, we can conclude that carbon dioxide is our largest contributing gas to the N.Z. greenhouse gas inventory and that its portion is growing. A 2012 Ministry for Environment report found that 46% of our total carbon dioxide gas emissions came from industry, and 42% from energy. Industrial processes were responsible for 7% and waste for 5%.
So, how do we compare to other countries?
In the United States, 82% of greenhouse gas is from carbon dioxide. The Environmental Protection Agency found that in 2013 electricity generation made up 37% of total carbon dioxide emissions; transport 31%; industry 15%; domestic and commercial 10% and all else 6%. Carbon dioxide emissions increased by 7% between 1990 and 2013.
China overtook the United States in carbon dioxide emissions in 2006. Up to 2012 it was a rapidly growing emitter of carbon dioxide, and far exceeded the United States. It still is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. However, the data on Chinese emissions is questionable in its accuracy because of misconceptions about how it was calculated. Amongst the problems with the data is misunderstandings about the type of coal, and about the carbon dioxide sources. And to cap the uncertainty off, China is now making substantial efforts to reduce its emissions.
Perhaps the major concern is India, whose economy has not enjoyed the same spectacular growth for a multitude of reasons, but whose carbon dioxide emissions appear to be accelerating. Although India has made significant promises to reduce its carbon dioxide output, for the immediate future there is no knowing when India’s accelerating carbon dioxide emissions rate will be brought into check.
Make what you will of this, but these are the facts. And I will add in one more just for good measure. The World Bank data on carbon dioxide emissions shows that New Zealand emits 7.1 tons per capita; the United States 17.0 tons per capita and China 6.7 tons per capita. In this particular regard the worst offender is actually Brunei Darussalam at 24.4 tons per capita.