That Bogus Per Capita CO2 Emissions Comparison Again Raises Its Ugly Head

Posted on Fri 11/20/2009 by


21 months ago, I contributed my first post to this site. I was pretty sure that subject I chose would tap out after a few posts, but now, nearly 600 posts later, I can still contribute posts about this subject without the subject going stale. The reason is that there is just so much to say about it.

In that first post, I mentioned how the use of the per capita emissions was used as a bludgeoning stick to make us feel guilty, and in that way, the real intent of this subject could be covered with fog by those who have an agenda to pursue. Numerous times over that period, I have come back and again mentioned just how this bogus statistic is being used to give a completely false impression.

The Australian Government is again attempting to pass legislation to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme, cleverly (and wrongly) titled the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. (CPRS) The Government has the majority in the House of Representatives, but not in The Senate. The Bill easily passed through the Lower House, on the Government’s numbers, but was easily defeated in the Senate where they do not control the numbers. The Bill has again come before the Parliament, and in an effort to get it passed this time, the same old talking heads are trucking out the same tired old arguments. Hopefully, The Senate will again see reason and throw out this Bill.

To that end, the good old per capita head emissions argument has been reprised for another try at making us feel guilty. Here is the link to that story in the Australian ABC media outlet.

With this post, I will show you exactly how this statistic is in fact 100% correct, and at the same time, 100% wrong that it should be used in this context. The main reference point in any argument like this always comes back to China and also India. For context, keep right at the forefront of your mind these important numbers, and I’ll use the U.S. in this comparison as well, because that statistic very closely correlates with the Australian number as well.

Australian Population – 21 Million.

U.S. Population – 304 Million.

China Population – 1.33 Billion.

India Population – 1.14 Billion.

So, just using the U.S. population as the base, then China’s population is greater by a factor of 4.38, and India’s is greater by a factor of 3.8, so that statistic is already skewed by such a large ratio. I haven’t included the ratio for Australia, because the per capita argument for Australia, is very close indeed to that for the U.S.

Electrical power generation alone makes up between 30 and 40% of all (man made) emissions, so then let’s look at the statistics for power, and those emissions mainly stem from the (perceived) main culprit in this argument, coal fired power, and to a lesser extent natural gas fired power generation.

There are readily available figures for this from the U.S. Government’s own site, that of the Energy Information Administration. (EIA)

The database is just that, a huge spread sheet listing of detailed power statistics. For those who do wish to check, here is the link, but be aware you need an understanding of electrical power generation, and it is a huge spread sheet. This is more user friendly link to the latest figures from the U.S. (Total consumption is at the bottom right hand corner)

Power generation Figures.

U.S. – 3.973 Trillion KiloWattHours. (KWH)

China -3.75 Trillion KWH

India – 0.60 Trillion KWH

Australia – 0.24 Trillion KWH

World – 18.43 Trillion KWH

Just from those figures alone, you can see that just for China alone, while their population is 4.38 times higher than for the U.S. they consume less power, so the ratio now becomes 4.64. For India it is a more astounding 25.16., because while the population is nearly 4 times larger, they consume in total only 15% of the electrical power.

For Australia, the ratio is roughly equivalent to that for the US, considering the considerably smaller population, and also the considerably less power consumption. The figures for the whole World are even further skewed, because of the huge population also.

In the U.S. electrical power is distributed to the 3 sector consumers, Residential (37%) Commercial (35%) and Industrial (27%)

In China, the figures are Residential (9%) Commercial (10%) and Industrial (80%)

In India the figures are roughly the same as for India.

So, in China, only one quarter of the generated power goes to 4.34 times the number of people, and in India it is considerably less again.

So now you can see the absolute wrong application of this per capita emissions ratio.

The reason the figures for the U.S. are so high is that the U.S. is a developed Country with access to a constant, reliable source of electrical power.

So, when these environmentalists wrongly attribute this bogus per capita argument, what they are in effect doing is telling us that are guilty of having that access to electrical power readily available. The intent of what they say is that we are intentionally doing this as environmental vandals, and to make us feel guilty for that.

So then what really is their intent?

If as they say, those emissions are to come down, then access to reliable cheap electrical power cannot just increase, so, the construction of power plants to bring that power to people who have none is out of the question, because that would only increase emissions, and increase them dramatically.

So, what they really mean is that we should then go without that cheap reliable and 24 hour a day access to electrical power.

They tell us that we are in fact greater emitters than those in the rest of the World, and even China by a factor of 4 to 6.

So, here I will give them the benefit of doubt and work with the lower number 4.

I need to show you how this directly sheets home to you the reader. You live in a house. There is one house to the right of where you live and two houses directly across the road. Go out onto the road in front of your house right now so you can see those four houses. Which three of those four houses do you select to do without electrical power from now on?

Look into your large city at the high rise buildings. Which three out of every four would you select to do without electrical power from now on?

Four places of work. Which three are you going to close down?

Four shopping malls within driving distance of where you live. Which three will do without power from now on?

Four hospitals. Which three do you close down?

Four intersections you drive through controlled by traffic lights. Which three get to do without those traffic lights?

That’s 3 out of every 4 workers now with no place of work that can operate.

Cities will become ghost towns.

This is dramatic I know, and will never come pass, but is used specifically to highlight how this per capita argument is completely and utterly bogus.

Keep in mind that of all the electrical power generated in the U.S. 65% of all of it is required absolutely, 24 hours of every day. This is Base Load Power.


Not the 25% that the environmentalists tell us is the future if we are to cut emissions.

So when some environmentalist points the accusing finger at us and say we are 4 times bigger emitters than those other people, do not dare even consider feeling guilty for a fraction of a second. Those environmentalists sit on their high moral perch and sneer at us for the lifestlyle we have as part and parcel of a Developed Country. While expecting us to give that up, in the same breath, they deny that lifestyle to the World’s Billions who have no access whatsoever to any electrical power, let alone the coal fired power that they rail against. They are accusing us, literally, of HAVING the lifestyle that they themselves even take utterly for granted.

No. No. No.

Shame on you environmentalists for using this argument. Shame.