How many greenhouse gases do the countries of the world emit? Emissions are significantly underreported, according to a new survey.
The world’s top leaders have flocked to the climate summit in Glasgow. There they set goals and make promises for the future. They are often based on a series of numbers. One of them in particular is central when new agreements are signed:
How many greenhouse gas emissions does each country represent?
But this description is far from as credible as previously thought. Is coming out in a poll by The Washington Post.
It shows a “significant underreporting.” Above all in the figures that are the fundamental pillar of how to solve the climate crisis.
A gap helps create large gaps in what is promised and what actually happens.
But where is the country that sends these numbers? And how important are they?
An overview of greenhouse gas emissions is submitted to the UN database. It is important for countries to figure out how much they have to cut to get the climate on the right track.
The database is updated annually. At least that’s the plan. But several countries have missed the reporting deadline:
45 countries have reported no new greenhouse gas emissions since 2009.
Algeria has not submitted reports since 2000. Libya, rich in oil and ravaged by war, has never done so. Iran, which is among the top ten top emitters in the world, has not reported since 2010.
Leaves gaps in the overview of actual emissions.
The Washington Post has calculated the volume of emissions that the UN survey would show if all countries reported their figures.
Insufficient annual reports
The survey covers UN reports from 196 countries. There, they themselves report the large amount of greenhouse gases they emit. But the countries of the world send much more into the atmosphere than they themselves realize.
- In 2019, UN figures show 44.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
- In fact, between 52.7 and 57.4 billion tons were released that year, according to The Washington Post review.
It shows a large gap between what is said and what is actually done:
Between 8.5 billion tons and 13.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions go unreported each year.
It is enough to affect how much the balloon is heating up, writes The Washington Post. As the situation stands now, the world is heading towards a 2.7 degree warming, according to the UN.
But the data on which the scenario is based has significant shortcomings. This is in part because countries do not report their emissions.
In other words: the situation kan vhonor even worse than the UN climate report gave the impression.
And the lack of reporting is not the only thing that creates gaps in the overview of climate emissions. A loophole in the UN guidelines paves the way for more mistakes.
Gaps in the guidelines
The loophole allows countries to deduct the amount of greenhouse gas emissions they have. This is because its emissions are absorbed by nature. For example, from trees.
In 2016, Malaysia had a total of 422 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. However, only 81 million tonnes were reported. Why? The country’s forests absorbed large amounts of the released, according to authorities.
It is true that nature can alleviate greenhouse gas emissions. This is done by nature by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. However, the figure in Malaysia was “unusually high”. It arose in one of the technical investigations of the UN. The organization’s researchers were unable to come up with the same number despite trying three different methods.
Malaysia is far from the only one to do so. UN regulations allow countries like China, Russia and the United States to deduct more than 500 million tons of emissions in this way, writes The Washington Post.
– It is surprising that there are so many cases of countries reporting lower emissions or higher removals than scientific analyzes find, says Jan Ivar Korsbakken, principal investigator at Cicero.
– At the same time, it is also well known that spills and grounding are unsafe.
Problem to solve
Emissions from land, primarily vegetation and soil, account for most of the gap in The Washington Post’s overview. But emissions and removals from there cannot be measured directly, Korsbakken explains.
– Land emissions can only be estimated to a large extent indirectly. And there are many different ways to do it. They mostly give quite different answers.
Therefore, he believes that the gap is not surprising. But the fact that there appear to be so many underreporting is more surprising. How does the country’s work affect emissions reduction?
– If the land overestimates the amount of CO2 that the land and the forest absorb and uses it to claim that they have reached net zero, it will be a big problem, says Korsbakken.
Here, methane can also be a challenge. Last week, more than 100 countries pledged at the climate summit to reduce their methane emissions, by as much as 30 percent by 2030. The promise was based on the UN’s overview of methane emissions.
But between 57 million and 76 million tons more methane gases are leaking into the atmosphere than UN reports show, according to the Washington Post review.
– How problematic is it that the numbers have such large gaps?
– It is a problem if countries do not solve the problems because there are emissions of which they do not have an overview, says Korsbakken.