BBC China Emissions Story makes common mistakes

A recent BBC News article titled China in carbon trading experiment was disappointing. The story makes two significant factual errors.

Mistake #1 – A photo that misrepresents.

The article features the following photo:

This photo is of visible air pollution.  Carbon dioxide is colorless.   China has big time air pollution problems because they burn lots of coal and don’t clean it properly.  The air is full of all sorts of cancer causing crap that China has become famous for.  But if they invested is scrubbing equipment they could significantly improve their air quality and still have the same carbon dioxide problem they have now.

Every carbon dioxide article in the world seems to make this mistake.  But every time I see it I get a bit annoyed.

Mistake #2 – They misquoted the China position on carbon dioxide.

The article says the following:

 Beijing is aiming for a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels, without specifying how it will achieve that goal.

China plans to reduce their carbon production per unit of GDP by 40% from 2005 levels by 2020.  The two sound almost the same but the difference is huge statistically.   China’s GDP has more than doubled since 2005 as the following China GDP chart demonstratives:

The Economist predicts that in 2020 China will have a GDP of 22.9 Trillion dollars.  Their GDP in 2005 was 2.26 Trillion dollars.   If they reduce their emissions per unit of GDP by 40% then they would increase their carbon dioxide production by about 600%.  The arithmetic looks like this:

(22.9 – .4*22.9)/2.26 = 6.1

The BBC said the Chinese pledged a 40% reduction when the really pledged a 6 fold increase.

Details …details…those pesky details.

I expect the law of large numbers to begin to impact China very soon.   They have an aging population and an economy driven by cheap labor that is becoming less cheap every day.  Perhaps a 4 fold increase is carbon production from 2005 levels is more likely.   A 40% reduction from 2005 levels was never a possibility.


One response to “BBC China Emissions Story makes common mistakes

  1. I must not be the only one that noticed the GDP error. The BBC has changed the article to correctly state the China position!

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