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Britain Importing CO2 Emissions!! Who Would Have Guessed?

October 24, 2019

By Paul Homewood

 

No s**t Sherlock!

 image

Britain has contributed to the global climate emergency by outsourcing its carbon emissions to developing nations, according to official figures, despite managing to weaken the domestic link between fossil fuels and economic growth.

The Office for National Statistics said the UK had become the biggest net importer of carbon dioxide emissions per capita in the G7 group of wealthy nations – outstripping the US and Japan – as a result of buying goods manufactured abroad.

The ONS warned that Britain had increased its net imports of CO2 emissions per capita from 1.7 tonnes in 1992 to 5.1 tonnes in 2007, offsetting domestic progress on shifting the UK economy away from fossil fuels.

According to the ONS study, China was the biggest single source of Britain’s imported emissions, as the UK ramped up purchases of goods such as mobile phones made in the Asian country, where labour costs are lower and pollution regulations less stringent. The second biggest contributor to imported emissions was the EU, followed by the US.

The ONS warned that environmental damage could not be stopped by nation’s simply relocating the production of goods from advanced to developing nations.

Amina Syed, senior economist at the ONS, said: “While directly produced UK emissions have been falling for many years, once you take account of the UK importing products from abroad, the picture doesn’t look quite so positive.

“However, UK based firms, particularly those in the transport and energy sectors, have made big strides in recent years in reducing their carbon footprints.”

In a sign of domestic progress, the ONS said there was evidence of an “absolute decoupling” between CO2 emissions and economic growth since about 1985, driven by the steady dismantling of the nation’s manufacturing base and the gradual rise of renewable energy sources and low-carbon technologies.

The shift away from heavy industry to knowledge-intensive service sector in that period has resulted in gross domestic product per capita rising by 70.7%. It also contributed to a 34.2% decrease in UK-produced carbon emissions.

According to the ONS, energy consumption from fossil fuels fell 22% between 1990 and 2017 to 161.6m tonnes, while energy from renewable and waste sources rose by 1,267% over the same period, reaching 20.5m tonnes.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/oct/21/britain-is-g7s-biggest-net-importer-of-co2-emissions-per-capita-says-ons

Ah, the old argument about “decoupling between CO2 emissions and economic growth “. Unfortunately, you cannot live on a knowledge-intensive service sector alone. The last time I checked, most people still needed food, heating, homes, transport, clothing and all the other trappings of modern life. The only ones who don’t are dead.

The fact that UK imported emissions have risen faster than other countries is that, for a long time now, we have imported much more per capita than the rest. There is nothing wrong about this, simply a reflection of the UK’s economy. As people have become more well off, their consumption of goods has naturally increased.

Which brings us around to the question of just what the Guardian or the ONS suggest we do about it.

Since countries like China will carry on relying heavily on fossil fuels for many years to come, do they propose that we cut our consumption?

And if so, how? Economists have suggested a “carbon tariff” on imports, which would simply penalise the poor, while the better off would continue to buy imported goods regardless. Alternatively, maybe they would like to see rationing.

Given that Guardian readers tend to be amongst the wealthier classes, maybe they should volunteer to be the first guinea pigs!

52 Comments
  1. Paul Reynolds permalink
    October 24, 2019 2:53 pm

    “Which brings us around to the question of just what the Guardian or the ONS suggest we do about it.”

    Quite – the problem is that the Grauniad has never been in the business of proposing ratiional solutions to the “problems” it identifies and lectures us on.

    • October 25, 2019 9:42 am

      A mythical problem doesn’t need a solution, except to abolish the myth.

  2. Michael Adams permalink
    October 24, 2019 3:07 pm

    Quite agree. When listen to XR mouthpieces they never offer any practical solutions which says to me that, either there aren’t any that would be acceptable or that they have a hidden solution agenda that would change society fundamentally.Thats probably why they are calling for a new world order if you listen carefully. Not a vote winner I reckon.

    It’ll be all these mobile phones and cheap clothes that will go first. I’m sure the youngsters would be up for that in a flash.

  3. MrGrimNasty permalink
    October 24, 2019 3:11 pm

    It’s actually worse for CO2 emissions to offshore heavy industry/manufacturing, a report from some time ago I recall showed that China is grossly inefficient. For example, every ton of steel they produce emits double (or whatever) the CO2 that the UK did before it nobbled its own steel industry with crazy green electricity costs.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      October 24, 2019 6:45 pm

      China is people rich. They don’t have to be efficient when they have a limitless people resource to throw at a problem.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        October 24, 2019 8:30 pm

        And they don’t have the same environmental standards (or adequate enforcement) either. So offshoring also creates real toxic pollution of the environment, not just bogeyman CO2.

  4. Phillip Bratby permalink
    October 24, 2019 3:13 pm

    Britain is also a major importer of the most important greenhouse gas, namely water vapour, But it is mainly imported from the Atlantic. What do the Grauniad and the ONS suggest we do about that?

    • bobn permalink
      October 24, 2019 3:28 pm

      I agree phillip. Our Govt should pass an act banning rainfall in Octobers – that should fix the problem!!!!

      • Chaswarnertoo permalink
        October 24, 2019 5:56 pm

        Ban dihydrogen monoxide!

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      October 24, 2019 6:53 pm

      Listening to R4 news tonight. Talking about Chalk Streams in Hertfordshire and and how many had dried up or had greatly reduced flows. Feargal Sharkey was one of the campaigners, so that’s what happened to him, the expert blamed climate change as well as extraction. Obviously the impact of climate change was going to increase. It was stated there have been several dry winters recently, the Environment Agency seems unable to force water companies to reduce or stop extracting water from the aquifers, and it’s the water companies who have to persuade us to us less water. Typical government cock up, someone needs to take (back) control.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        October 24, 2019 8:39 pm

        It’s cheaper to pump groundwater and blame climate change, rather than build new facilities to store the perfectly adequate rainfall to meet the growing population +3 million per decade!

      • October 24, 2019 9:35 pm

        There was a surprising tweet from bubbleworld man Feargal the other day
        When the EA shouted “Climate Change”
        Feargal actually shouted back ‘rubbish it’s over abstraction’

      • Gerry, England permalink
        October 25, 2019 1:51 pm

        The liberal government of Clegg and Cameron put a stop to any new reservoir construction yet allowed unfettered immigration. Perhaps they thought that coming from very dry parts of the world the immigrants wouldn’t use any water otherwise it just shows how stupid they are.

  5. saparonia permalink
    October 24, 2019 3:30 pm

    Without CO2 the vegetation dies, then we die.
    Does anyone know of a UK bank that is ignoring the ‘climate-change’ ultimatum? Please let me know because in a few years time, when the shit hits the fan and we are all freezing to death, I’d like to know who is supporting extraction of coal.

    • Pancho Plail permalink
      October 24, 2019 4:24 pm

      At least the fracking resource will still be there a few years after we need it (if they successfully ban fracking in UK).

      • bobn permalink
        October 24, 2019 7:20 pm

        Yes, its very kind that we are leaving the frack gas (and coal) in the ground so it will be available to future generations during the next ice age when they’ll REALLY need to burn it.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        October 24, 2019 8:46 pm

        The trouble is like with nuclear, all the UK expertise will have gone. It’ll be ruinously expensive to be beholden to foreign companies or start developing from scratch again.

  6. It doesn't add up... permalink
    October 24, 2019 3:36 pm

    Two points on this:

    The emissions intensity of imports is mostly substantially higher than it would have been had we continued to make things for ourselves, even without doing things like cutting coal from electricity generation. Then there are the added emissions from long distance transport. The end result is higher global emissions – a virtue signalling failure.

    The idea that we can continue to run a large balance of payments deficit and afford all these imports of material goods may come to be tested. We have effectively funded by creating a property bubble and mortgaging against inflated values by borrowing abroad to fund our consumption. That will come to an end unless we manage to reduce our trade deficit. Adhering to EU green rules has proved very costly.

  7. October 24, 2019 3:36 pm

    Reblogged this on Wolsten and commented:
    Even the dead “consume” fossil fuel when cremated. Suggests a modification to that well known saying, the only things certain in life are “Death, taxes and fossil fuel consumption”.

  8. saparonia permalink
    October 24, 2019 3:36 pm

    just noticed – “Guardian readers tend to be amongst the wealthier classes” !! I think you might mean “literate classes”, it’s definitely not “intelligent class” being full of propaganda, and I read it for entertainment and am definitely not by any means in a wealthy class.

    • Pancho Plail permalink
      October 24, 2019 4:29 pm

      A friend tells me he reads The Grauniad and The Times to ensure he gets a balanced political view. No wonder the country is in such a state.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        October 25, 2019 1:54 pm

        LOL! That’s even funnier than Ofcom claiming that the BBC news reporting was balanced and respected!

  9. GeoffB permalink
    October 24, 2019 4:41 pm

    Unintended consequences of the green loonies drive to reduce CO2. Along with Diesel cars, burning wood pellets, bio diesel and ethanol leading to deforestation to grow palm oil plants. Solar panels, I read that the CO2 produced in their manufacture in China can never be recovered by their electricity production in the UK because we are too far north. I could go on….

  10. Malcolm Skipper permalink
    October 24, 2019 5:00 pm

    PH: “Given that Guardian readers tend to be amongst the wealthier classes, maybe they should volunteer to be the first guinea pigs!”

    Off topic but I long for the day when a member of the Question Time panel etc who says “I’m happy to pay more taxes for the NHS (as an example) …” is challenged by a member of the audience, “I work for the XXX hospice. I’ll see you after the show to get your monthly contribution without bothering the government.”

  11. Adrian, East Anglia permalink
    October 24, 2019 5:26 pm

    This is staggering stuff!! And there was me thinking that the UK is leading the way in this so-called decarbonising lark and that the rest of the world cannot wait to beat a path to our door.

    Not to worry. According to the telly adverts, when we all have a smart meter the problems of the world will be solved. (Just out of interest, do we actually manufacture smart meters in the UK?)

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      October 24, 2019 10:57 pm

      Smart meters are like smart motorways. Both bad ideas.

  12. Athelstan. permalink
    October 24, 2019 5:43 pm

    How about if all the tw8ts writing and working for the graun. If they just all toted up, how many gizmos and gadgets they’ve all bought, in their domestic setting, inclusive of their personal choice of auto vehicular transport, and then peer at and check – all office equipment and furniture – how much of it is made in Britain………………………….

    Good grief.

    The graun, guaranteed not to do, absolutely no chance of: being capable of any joined up thinking.

    Ah but then, it’s not a real surprise, that’s the extremist leftwingtards for you.

    In other news, in the DT’s Fridays business pages, AEP flays then slaughters Corbyn’s and the left’s pro EU strategy and lays em all bare to the bone.

  13. Douglas Brodie permalink
    October 24, 2019 6:11 pm

    It is typical of our pernicious climate change policies that the government ignores the CO2 emissions of imports, especially in cases where their own climate policies have driven UK companies out of business, forcing import substitution.

    I have been arguing the infeasibility and pointlessness of the £1 trillion plus UK net zero emissions policy with Secretary Andrea Leadsom and the BEIS over the past couple of months. It seems the political establishment is intent on taking the electorate for fools on this issue as well as making fools of themselves.

    The full correspondence to date, which I have defied Ms Leadsom to rebut (she can’t so I doubt if she will reply), is online here: https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/the-case-against-net-zero-co2-emissions-2/

    • Gerry, England permalink
      October 25, 2019 2:08 pm

      The Morons of Parliament take the electorate for fools all the time. It is probably one of the reasons they will hide behind the clegg-cameron fixed term parliament act as they will have to get out of their protected bubble and go near people. The anger they will face will be a new experience for them.

  14. richardw permalink
    October 24, 2019 6:31 pm

    Excellent post.

    I sent the following email to my MP this afternoon:

    “Dear ….,

    As reported in the Guardian today, the ONS has reported the following:

    ‘The Office for National Statistics said the UK had become the biggest net importer of carbon dioxide emissions per capita in the G7 group of wealthy nations – outstripping the US and Japan – as a result of buying goods manufactured abroad.
    The ONS warned that Britain had increased its net imports of CO2 emissions per capita from 1.7 tonnes in 1992 to 5.1 tonnes in 2007, offsetting domestic progress on shifting the UK economy away from fossil fuels.
    According to the ONS study, China was the biggest single source of Britain’s imported emissions, as the UK ramped up purchases of goods such as mobile phones made in the Asian country, where labour costs are lower and pollution regulations less stringent. The second biggest contributor to imported emissions was the EU, followed by the US.’

    I’m not sure whether this means the Government’s decarbonisation policy is grossly hypocritical, deluded or both? The thought that we can decouple global carbon emissions from rising prosperity is a dangerous joke, particularly when actual climate observations show none of the danger signs predicted by the IPCC models.

    Talk about a house built on sand!

    Best regards ….”

    Maybe others could do the same?

    • October 24, 2019 9:03 pm

      “The thought that we can decouple global carbon emissions from rising prosperity is a dangerous joke,…”

      Absolutely. Too bad Boris doesn’t know that. (Listen here from 0:36 – 2:14 for one of the best examples of cognitive dissonance ever.)

  15. Rowland P permalink
    October 24, 2019 6:40 pm

    Some years ago, I came across Metalectrique Ltd, a small firm in Devon. It has now gained publicity in the Sunday Mail at last, as it is developing an aluminium/air cell capable of replacing lithium-ion batteries and increasing the range of a car to 1500 miles. Big oil, not to mention the manufacturers of batteries will have understandably tried to squash it. I would have no problem converting to this technology which is saying something as I love my lttle diesel car!

    • richardw permalink
      October 24, 2019 6:53 pm

      Agreed, it sounds promising. From the sound of it, it doesn’t recharge – the batteries are replaced and recycled when they are finished. Depending on the energy needed to reprocess the batteries and produce new electrolyte, it may not be quite as green as it sounds.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      October 24, 2019 8:43 pm

      As I said on the other thread where I linked to the story – pffffft.

      Have you any idea how many ‘game change’ battery and fuel cell developments are announced in the journals all the time? Millions of hours are expended on many of these ideas and they always mysteriously vanish into the void.

      They are just appeals for funding. You cannot beat the laws of physics or economics.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 25, 2019 2:32 am

      The whole point of using aluminium is precisely that there is a lot of energy involved in its production relative to its weight: so long as a decent proportion of that can be recovered by turning it back to raw material it works as a battery system. Diesel is about 12 kWh/kg in gross energy content. It takes 13kWh to smelt aluminium oxide, so we’re in the ballpark. If we can recover 9kWh/kg, we are doing relatively well. An EV runs at say 300Wh/mile, so that’s 30 miles/kg Al, so 1500 mile range would be 500kg Al (actually more, because you would never deplete it entirely – perhaps only 80%).

      The reaction is
      4 Al + 3 O2 + 6 H2O → 4 Al(OH)3
      4×27+3×32 + 6×18 = 312 molecular weight calculation
      108 + 96 + 108

      So we start with an equal weight of water and aluminium (or we have to add water plus magic electrolyte constituents periodically), and we have to excrete about 3 times the weight as Aluminium Hydroxide (plus added electrolyte holding it in solution) periodically for recycling. It’s also 30 miles per litre of water: water consumption would be important if there were widespread adoption. Of course, if we only get say 4kWh/kg Al, it’s not going to look so good.

      Aluminium hydroxide sells for around 2/3rds the price of alumina (Al2O3), which is around a fifth to a quarter the price of the metal (currently around $1700/tonne thanks to Chinese coal fired smelting production – a relatively low price by historical standards). The difference between Al(OH)3 and Al2O3 is the cost of dehydrating the hydroxide. So there is a small back credit from recycling to cover other costs. Still, $850 for 1500 miles (at 9kWh/kg Al) doesn’t sound like a bargain to me. I can do that for £180 of diesel, even with nearly 60ppl in duty and 20ppl in VAT.

      http://www.infomine.com/investment/metal-price-futures/aluminum/3-month/all/

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        October 25, 2019 4:16 pm

        In my late night post I seem to have slipped in an extra zero – 1500 miles takes 50kg Al at 30 miles per kg. Apologies, because it does rather alter the economics, although I suspect the round trip efficiency is much lower than I have assumed as a significant offset.

    • Steve permalink
      October 25, 2019 9:16 am

      Unfortunately, it seems that the process produces carbon dioxide, which negates the whole reason for moving to expensive inconvenient electric cars. Apart from which, it is only cheaper than petrol if tax is ignored.

    • Michael Adams permalink
      October 25, 2019 10:34 am

      have a look at ZapGo https://zapgo.com/technology/

      Their battery has 1 million recharge cycles and a huge range for cars. The batteries can be recycled after their 30year lifespan.

      Don’t know if we’ll ever see them in cars as the lithium lobby must be very strong.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        October 25, 2019 11:58 am

        I actually found this page more informative:
        https://zapgo.com/about-us/

        Still, no hint about real technical parameters, such as energy density per volume and mass, cost, and round trip efficiency and necessary electronics to support the battery operation.

  16. Adam Gallon permalink
    October 24, 2019 7:06 pm

    There you are, “proof” it’s all our fault, the fact that China’s emissions are soaring, is due to us, not them.

  17. Dave Cowdell permalink
    October 24, 2019 9:50 pm

    Ironically the Alcan Lynemouth aluminium smelter project became unviable because of high energy costs.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      October 25, 2019 1:56 pm

      And the Anglesey plant closed when Wulfa closed due to the inability to guarantee power supply reliability.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      October 25, 2019 2:04 pm

      And in 2019…… Oops another greenie forecast bites the dust. Much excitement over the new all electric taxi – the first since the 1890s when a horse was considered faster and probably more reliable. They are more expensive than a black cab but of course there is taxpayer cash to sweeten the pill – or bill should I say. Richard Littlejohn pokes fun at the claimed ‘up to’ range in the Mail today. It will be fun for cabbies to work out if they have enough battery left to take on a longer fare or if they need to stop working to charge up. Not even a petrol powered generator for these cabs. I am looking forward to the reaction of the hybrid cab owners when the first zero emissions street is introduced next year – battery or fuel cell only.

  18. martinbrumby permalink
    October 25, 2019 7:20 am

    Of course, one import no one mentions is electricity through the interconnectors…

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 25, 2019 1:04 pm

      Well they do, but they pretend that the BritNed interconnector doesn’t import almost exclusively coal fired power.

  19. October 25, 2019 8:05 am

    I read about Aluminium air batteries many decades ago. The Omni Magazine in about 1980 also the Nexus magazine in about 1990. Also In the New Scientist magazine and Scientific America. Videos online showing how to extract energy from the aluminium in Coke cans have been around for along time. Not energy efficient from scratch but as long as we are going to make coke cans reclaiming some of the energy this way as a form of recycling makes sense.
    The problem of removing the wast and replacing or recharging or developing a cyclical system could be developed
    The main problem is scale. Existing systems are developed on a massive scale with many decades of development for improvement. Any new system would require similar scale and development to compete in cost and efficiency.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 25, 2019 12:38 pm

      I think cost is the main problem, but scale would be a close second. Global aluminium production now runs at 60 million tonnes a year. That’s enough for 120 million vehicle refills at 1500 mile range. There are about 30 million vehicles in the UK. So that would be enough to allow them to drive 6,000 miles a year: we would have to cut back on our mileage. Forget about anyone else, or making new aircraft, etc. Of course, the crustal abundance of aluminium means that we could probably expand production somewhat. But once you go beyond exploiting high aluminium content bauxite, costs start to escalate rapidly. Demand that all CO2 be subjected to CCS during aluminium production, and costs will soar again. Then there are all the PFCs with their 6,000-9,000 times CO2 warming potential that have to be dealt with too.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        October 25, 2019 4:18 pm

        Revision: because I made a mistake (see above – teach me not to do these things so late at night), the Al use is perhaps rather less, but still this is going to have problems at global scale.

  20. October 25, 2019 10:02 am

    Reblogged this on Climate- Science.press.

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