Friday, December 11, 2009

Climate change: Mystery Asia emissions

The BBC reports on a sort of mini-trial of a global treaty on carbon emissions in which the UN has been regulating the release of a select few high-potency greenhouse gases produced by industrial processes -- sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and carbon tetrafluoride (CF4), for example.

Under the UN Kyoto Protocol, rich countries and companies can gain "carbon credits" by paying companies in the developing world to reduce emissions of these gases, most of which are used in industry.

Because the carbon credits have value the UN must closely monitor who is doing what with the gases, which it says it is doing, describing the monitoring system as "robust". There is a problem, however:

But Ray Weiss from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, said the data suggested not all companies were doing what they claimed.

"When we compare what's reported with what we see in the atmosphere, it's easy to see discrepancies," he told BBC News.

This suggests that either some companies aren't destroying the gases as they're being paid to or that there's a black market for some of the gases. Either way, the regulatory mechanism established by the Kyoto Protocol isn't foolproof. This doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the UN's ability to regulate global carbon emissions.

By the way, Asia is specifically mentioned as the site of these gas "discrepancies", with it also noted that "most of the money so far has gone to China". You can draw your own conclusions as to what might be happening here.


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