Unexpectedly Intriguing!
08 December 2015

Did anybody catch the "surprisingly good news" that was reported in the Washington Post on Monday, 7 December 2015?

In case you didn't, here are the leading paragraphs of the story, which describes the basic findings of a study by Robert B. Jackson, Josep G. Canadell, Corinne Le Quéré, Robbie M. Andrew, Jan Ivar Korsbakken, Glen P. Peters and Nebojsa Nakicenovic, which was coincidentally published on Monday, 7 December 2015.

Emissions of man-made greenhouse gases appear to have declined slightly in 2015, scientists said Monday, reflecting what experts say is an encouraging, though likely temporary, pause in the steady rise in pollutants blamed for climate change.

The projected dip of 0.6 percent over 2014 levels, if confirmed, marks the first decline in heat-trapping pollutants in a year when the world economy was not in recession, a new analysis shows. Scientists say the drop is tangible evidence of changing behavior as more countries invest in renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

The single biggest factor appears to be a marked reduction in China’s use of coal to make electricity. But other countries, from North America to Europe, also emitted less carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning as governments and consumers shifted to cleaner fuels and more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to a report published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

As it happens, Political Calculations became the world's leading authority on the correlation between the changing levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere and the world's economic activity over the last year, an expertise we've developed from scratch through a series of posts on the topic, which we've listed below, where we've also juxtaposed portions of our long running analysis of the relative economic health of China's economy as events have warranted the merging of the two series. See if you can detect any trends in what we've observed (we've highlighted the posts where we've presented the development of the changing level of atmospheric carbon dioxide as an economic indicator):

In our series of original analyses, what we quickly find is that evidence from international trade data directly contradicts the claims of the study's authors that the recent decline in the rate at which the concentration of carbon dioxide is increasing in the Earth's atmosphere occurred in an environment of economic growth.

Instead, it occurred, as virtually every similar decline in the the rate at which the concentration of global atmospheric CO2 has occurred, as economic activity has likewise declined globally as Earth's economy has experienced recessionary conditions.

That's not our opinion - that fact is plainly evident in international trade data.

But that's not all that's wrong. The story of a reduction in atmospheric CO2 emissions presented by the climate scientists is already well out of date, as the Chinese government's actions to stimulate its economy in its efforts to pull the nation out of its recessionary funk early in the first half of 2015 have gained some traction, the effects of which we may directly observe in the trailing year average of the change in global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, where the rate at which CO2 has resumed increasing after having bottomed in June 2015.

Trailing Twelve Month Average of Year-Over-Year Change in Parts per Million of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Jan 1960-Present

The global atmospheric carbon dioxide source data used to produce our chart above was just updated through October 2015 on Monday, 7 December 2015.

Anecdotally, the recent rebound in China's CO2 emissions has also been directly observed in China, in what Gizmodo describes as "China's Worst Pollution Crisis Ever", which was also posted on Monday, 7 December 2015.

The bottom line is that the climate scientists behind the study failed to consider economic data that clearly indicated growing recessionary conditions in China during their period of interest, which in turn led to an incorrect conclusion, namely that the observed reduction in the rate at which CO2 increased in the Earth's atmosphere in 2014 and 2015 occurred in the absence of recession, or more accurately, recessionary conditions.

The climate scientists certainly picked a bad day to launch their media public relations strategy.


Jackson, R.B., Canadell, J.G., Le Quéré, C., Andrew, R.M., Korsbakken, J.I., Peters, G.P., Nakicenovic, N. Reaching Peak Emissions. Nature Climate Change (2015) doi:10.1038/nclimate2892. Published online 07 December 2015. Accessed through http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate2892.html on 8 December 2015.

National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Earth System Research Laboratory. Mauna Loa Observatory CO2 Data. [File Transfer Protocol Text File]. Updated 7 December 2015. Accessed 8 December 2015.

U.S. Census Bureau. Trade in Goods with China. Accessed 8 December 2015.


Update 8 December 2015 12:10 PM EST: This post has been updated to highlight our series of posts that specifically focus on developing atmospheric carbon dioxide as an economic indicator, and to clarify our "bottom line", where we've added the text indicated in bold face type.

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