Sunday, November 29, 2009

GHG Emissions and Demographics; Japan and the US

Prime Minister Hatoyama announced that he would push for a GHG reduction target that would reduce net Japanese emissions to 75% of 1990 levels—the equivalent of 67% of the 2005 level. Caveat: the Japanese target is contingent on major fence-sitters—read US and China—coming up with their own comparable sacrifices. The Obama administration has just come out with its own goal that aims to reduce US emissions to 85% of the 2005 level, or 97% of the 1995 level. The Japanese figures look far more impressive than the corresponding US figures. Does this mean that Hatoyama has far greater ambitions than Obama?

What’s missing from the ongoing debate in Japan is the demographics perspective. The Japanese population plateaued in the post-bubble years and peaked in 2005 at 3% above the 1990 level so it will be back to the 1990 level when 2020 rolls around. The US population, in contrast, was at 21% above the 1990 level in 2005, and is expected to be 38% above the 1990 level in 2020. Do the arithmetic and you’ll find that, on a per capita basis, the Japan target represents a 25% reduction from the 1990 level and a 33% reduction from the 2005 level, while the US target represents 30% and 33% reductions respectively. In per capita terms—the most equitable yardstick according to many pundits as well as most developing countries lacking oil export capacities—the US target is arguably more ambitious than the Japanese one.

There are too other important factors that determine existing energy/GHG-emissions profiles to say anything definite about the relative merits of the goals that state actors have been pushing on behalf of their constituencies. Still, a cursory look at the demographics indicates that the Obama administration’s target is nothing to sneer at compared to the corresponding figure for the Hatoyama administration.


Sophie said...

It could also mean that the Japanese people has an unparalleled collective intelligence.
We’ve known at least since the 70s that exponential population growth is unsustainable.
Controlling population without applying harsh laws (like in China) is one of the reasons I’m admirative of your country.
Controlling population because the status of women is pretty bad is one of the reasons I’m not admirative.
Per capita energy consumption and pollution emission standards are the only valid ones. If a state increases its population, it should have tougher global goals.

Janne Morén said...

A good argument to argue per-person impact rather than per-country.

If you did that, of course, that'd open the door for absolute per-person targets for environmental impact, and move towards equal targets for everybody, worst-world or third. And that possibility - remote as it may be - may well be why nobody in the industrialized world is keen on talking about per-capita effects.

Marshall-Stacks said...

Your profile mentions your 'groundbreaking risk analysis',
(which is of course what Paladin did in Have Gun, Will Travel)

and a nation could do this in regard to emissions by simply importing all the stuff that has ecological garbage as a manufacturing byproduct.
If japan imports all their paper needs from the Gunns pulp mill they own in Tasmania, then Tassie cops the fallout, and Tokyo gets hello Kitty toilet paper rolls.

Martin J Frid said...

Hmm, but are you including the fact that per capita emissions in the US are twice as high as per capita emissions in Japan?