“The latest catalog of greenhouse gas emissions that Malaysia sent to the United Nations looks like the report of a parallel universe. The 285-page document suggests that Malaysian trees are absorbing carbon four times faster than the same trees in neighboring Indonesia. “. With that resounding phrase, The Washington Post arranca a devastating report in which he doubts one of the basic pillars of the fight against climate change: the way we count the emissions of each country.
According to American newspaper reporters, “many countries underestimate their greenhouse gas emissions in their reports to the United Nations.” In fact, the analysis of the 196 available reports draws a huge gap between what the different nations declare and what they are actually broadcasting. Is about a scandal of gigantic proportions that forces us to rethink many things we are doing around climate change.
A gap of between 8.5 thousand and 13.3 billion tons of emissions.
To reach this conclusion, Post reporters took all the broadcast reports that countries have been submitting to the UN and set out to add them together. This may sound simple, but nothing like that. Most reports are long and unwieldy. In addition, many countries have not updated them for years. After collecting all the data and updating the missing data, the Post realized that the sum was between 8.5 thousand and 13.3 billion tons below what the estimates independents come finding.
Interestingly, the biggest problem was found in the estimates that countries use of the dioxide they are absorbing. When it comes to accounting for emissions, countries have to detail not only what they are emitting, but also the amount of gases they are fixing through their forests, farms or other tools. 59% of the gap is due to countries overestimating their absorption capacity without any meaning. The Malaysian example is paradigmatic.
Then there are a lot of other details: oil countries hide the methane emissions that their oil wells emit; Vietnam says it has no leaks in its air conditioners (although in the US it is estimated that leaks reach 25% annually); the data from the farming countries is much less than what we can obtain with satellite images. That is to say, emissions accounting is fantastic literature.
And this is terrible because practically everything what we officially discuss about tackling climate change is based on that data. Si como dice The Washington Post, the countries torture them until they say what they want, we are blind. It is not something that catches us again, but until now we did not have a detailed and public analysis that revealed this huge gap.
The ball is now on the court of the UN, the member countries, the IPCC and COP 26 that meets these days in Glasgow. It seems clear that either we reform the global mission accounting or the measures that are approved no matter how ambitious they are, they are still a toast to the sun.
Imagen | Mika Baumeister