Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Constraining world trade is unlikely to help the climate, study finds

Date:
September 23, 2012
Source:
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
Summary:
From rubber dinghies to television sets: the emissions of greenhouse gases in countries like China are to a significant extent caused by the production of goods that are exported to Germany or the United States. But this doesn't necessarily mean that Western countries have relocated their emission-intensive industries and hence escape regulation for climate protection, according to a new study.

According to a new study, constraining world trade is unlikely to help the climate.
Credit: © il-fede / Fotolia

From rubber dinghies to television sets: the emissions of greenhouse gases in countries like China are to a significant extent caused by the production of goods that are exported to Germany or the United States. But this doesn't necessarily mean that Western countries have relocated their emission-intensive industries and hence escape regulation for climate protection. This is shown in a study appearing in Nature Climate Change this week.

Related Articles


Instead, researchers were able to pin down a number of factors explaining the pronounced imbalances between emission importers and exporters, the US current account deficit being one of them. Their conclusion: interventions in world trade, like CO2 tariffs, would probably have only a small impact on global emissions.

Steadily growing world trade leads -- as earlier research has shown -- to a substantial transfer of CO2 from one country to another. The traded goods effectively contain the greenhouse gas, as it originates from the energy used during their production. "Typically, in the West we import goods whose production causes a lot of greenhouse gas emissions in poorer countries -- and it is a contested question to which countries these emissions should be attributed," explains Michael Jakob from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), one of the authors. This is a delicate issue, because many Western countries have ambitious targets for emissions reductions. Simply transferring emission-intensive industries to third countries in order to achieve these goals would not serve climate protection -- and might even damage the economy.

Almost half of the CO2 transfers into the US are caused by the American trade deficit

"For the first time, we have now broken down the known emission transfers into their components," Jakob says. The economic analysis is based on an evaluation of estimates that were determined by other researchers in earlier studies. "We can show that of the CO2 flowing into the US in form of imported goods, almost 50 per cent are due to the American trade deficit alone," Jakob explains. The US emits less CO2 in the production of its exports than is contained in its imports, simply because it imports more than it exports. "And only about 20 per cent of CO2 transfers from China into the US can be traced back to the fact that China is in effect relatively more specialized in the production of dirty goods," Jakob says. But this is the only driver of emission transfers on which the currently controversially discussed climate tariffs could take effect.

Without world trade, the emission of greenhouse gases in countries like China could potentially be even higher than today, according to the study. Western countries often export goods like machines that need a lot of energy in the production process. Usually, this energy stems from comparatively clean production processes. On the other hand, China produces a lot of export goods like toys, whose production needs relatively little energy, but stems from emission-intensive coal power plants. If China with its fossil energy mix had to produce more energy-intensive goods itself instead of importing them, emissions would increase. "In the end, interventions in world trade could do more harm than good," says co-author Robert Marschinski from PIK and Technische Universitδt Berlin.

"The crucial question is how clean or how dirty national energy production is in each case"

"Crucial for CO2 transfers is not only world trade, but also the question of how clean or dirty national energy production is in each case," Marschinski emphasizes. To look only at CO2 transfers could be misleading. If for instance the European Union were to adopt new low emission production methods, its net imports of CO2 could increase even though there is no relocation of production.

"To really justify trade-policy interventions like the much discussed CO2 tariffs, further analysis would be needed -- the observed CO2 transfers alone are not enough as a basis," Marschinski explains. "Such measures cannot replace what it really takes: more international cooperation." Binding global climate targets could give incentives for investors to promote low-emission technologies. Innovations in efficiency could get financial support, and regional emission trading systems could be linked with each other, Marschinski says. "All this could help to achieve climate protection targets in an economically reasonable way."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael Jakob, Robert Marschinski. Interpreting trade-related CO2 emission transfers. Nature Climate Change, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1630

Cite This Page:

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). "Constraining world trade is unlikely to help the climate, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120923145056.htm>.
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). (2012, September 23). Constraining world trade is unlikely to help the climate, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120923145056.htm
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). "Constraining world trade is unlikely to help the climate, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120923145056.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) — Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) — A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins