NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions Drop

August 2, 1999

It is generally taken for granted that increased economic activity leads to more burning of fossil fuels which, in turn, means more carbon-dioxide in the air. But despite a revved-up U.S. economy last year, such emissions remained almost flat. In fact, global emissions appear to have dropped, scientists report.

  • While the U.S. economy was in the process of accelerating almost 4 percent last year and gasoline prices were dropping, CO2 emissions in the U.S. rose only 0.04 percent, according to a preview of a report by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Agency.
  • Despite 4 percent annual growth in gross domestic product last year, emissions from the U.S. industrial sector fell 1.4 percent.
  • Worldwide, emissions dropped 0.5 percent, according to a separate report from the Worldwatch Institute, based on data gathered by BP Amoco PLC.
  • They found that emissions declined 3.7 percent in China, 2.5 percent in Japan and 1.3 percent in Russia.
  • On the other hand, emissions rose 1.8 percent in India.

Experts attribute the phenomenon in part to the rise of the information sector, which features industries with light CO2 emissions levels, and the increasing use of more energy-efficient machines.

Others say it is a temporary situation, caused largely by the effects of the El Nino weather patterns.

Whatever the reason, the situation is sure to enter the debate over global warming and the effects of approving the Kyoto treaty, which seeks to reduce emissions, even at the expense of economic growth.

Source: John J. Fialka, "Flat CO2 Emissions Give Experts Hope," Wall Street Journal, August 2, 1999.


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