The US can cut coal burning all it wants, but if that means it will simply export more to be burned elsewhere, then it doesn’t matter in terms of climate change, reports Brian Walsh at Time magazine. Oregon, a leading booster of alternative energy, is now considering a new industry, exporting coal. So, even as US coal consumption declines, we could end up sending more coal abroad. According to a new analysis by the Breakthrough Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, many developed countries that appear to be reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions may be playing this same bookkeeping game, essentially relocating their carbon footprint to other nations in the form of outsourced manufacturing or exported fuel. That is, they’re cheating. Globally, this kind of false greening has taken a toll. Outsourced emissions have essentially canceled out any carbon reductions made under the Kyoto Protocol. That means we’re doing even less than we think, which wasn’t much to begin with. The lesson? Climate action has to be global, which means, sooner rather than later, emissions will also have to fall in large developing nations like India and China.
Cutting carbon means more than fancy bookkeeping. Even as American coal consumption declines to its lowest level since 1986 – thanks to tougher air-pollution regulations and cheap natural gas from shale deposits – we could end up sending more of the stuff abroad. Time Magazine