Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Chinese vs US greenhouse gas emissions

The following thought experiment is based on 2018 statistics, which are the latest that I could find (so when I say “current,” I am referring to 2018 values).

[Updated below] Analysis and commentary in US public media most often compare the total greenhouse gas emissions (CO2e) of China and the US, abstracting from the fact that China has more than 4 times the population of the US. (Also typically left out of such commentary is the enormous historical contribution by the US to CO2e in the atmosphere.) From this misleading standpoint, one constantly is reminded that China emits more than twice as much CO2e as the US. 

But from a per capita standpoint — the only rational way to compare the two countries with respect to their contribution to climate change — China emits less than half as much CO2e as the US.

Even if the US lowers its emissions by 40% compared to 2005 levels — the optimistic estimate based on implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 — its per capita emissions would still be 27% higher than China’s current emissions, per capita.

In fact, the US would need to lower its current emissions (which are already 10% lower than its 2005 emissions) by an additional 48% just to match China’s current per capita emissions.

Here are my calculations, and sources:

2018 per capita total greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalent or CO2e)

  • US: 18.44 metric tons of CO2e per capita
  • China: 8.87 metric tons of CO2e per capita

2018 population

  • US: 327,096,265
  • China: 1,427,647,786

2018 Total emission

  • US: 6,030 x 106 metric tons of CO2e
  • China: 12,663 x 106 metric tons of CO2e

Amount of US emissions if made to equal China’s per capita rate

  • 8.87 x 327,096,265 = 2,901 x 106 metric tons of CO2e

Percent reduction in US 2018 emissions to equal China’s 2018 per capita emissions

  • (2,901 / 6,030) x 100 = 48%

Other calculations:

  • “The goal of the [Inflation Reduction] bill is to put the country [US] on a path to reduce greenhouse gasses by 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.” (source)
  • “From 2005 to 2018, net US emissions declined 10 percent” (EPA Data highlights)
  • Therefore 2005 US emissions were 6,700 x 106 metric tons of CO2e.
  • Therefore, the 2030 US goal of emissions 40% below 2005 levels sets a target of 4,020 x 106 metric tons of CO2e.
  • Assuming a 2030 US Census projected population of 355,100,000, the per capital goal for 2030 US emissions is 4,020 x 106 / 355,100,000 = 11.32 metric tons of CO2e per capita.
  • This is substantially higher than the current (2018) Chinese per capita emissions of 8.87 metric tons of CO2e per capita.

Updated 16 September 2022: Here is a typical and egregious example of how China is portrayed in US media as “the world’s largest climate polluter” even though its per capita contribution to CO2 is much less than that of the US and, in fact, lower than that of 41 other nations (according to 2016 data).

From David Wallace-Wells, “China Is Writing the Story of the Climate Future,” NY Times, Sept. 14, 2022: “China is not just the world’s largest climate polluter but is responsible now for about half of all global coal use and almost a third of all global carbon emissions — a growing share, and more than twice the American contribution. (Though on a per-capita basis, the United States is still doing much worse.)”

The article does disclose that “on a per-capita basis, the United States is still doing much worse,” but only as a parenthetical remark, as if this admission can be taken as not particularly important.

Cancer

I’m scheduled to undergo a robot-assisted radical prostatectomy on Aug. 29, 2018. Scary shit, especially given the cloud of uncertainty that surrounds such operations—and not just the operation itself, but also the underlying rationale for even getting tested in the first place.1

Robot-assisted prostate cancer surgery

Nevertheless, I’m hoping for the best, and finding comfort in the brilliant lyrics of Donald Fagan, whose “song oozes with cynicism for futures that never came to pass,”2 and so seems completely appropriate in this context: “A just machine to make big decisions/Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision/We’ll be clean when their work is done/We’ll be eternally free, yes, and eternally young…”3

1 Richard Ablin, “The Great Prostate Mistake, ” NY Times, March 9, 2010.

2 Sief, “What a beautiful world this will be,” Futures Words, May 15, 2012.

3 Donald Fagan, “I.G.Y.,” The Nightfly, released October 1, 1982.

Department of Irrationality, Jargon, and Bullshit

Actually, the original, unretouched photo that I took today is already a parody, but I did add the “Department of Irrationality, Jargon, and Bullshit” in anticipation of what ought to be coming next. And I’m not just being mean: the concept of “bullshit,” at least since 2005, has been given some academic credibility.

Proposed addition to the new sign for Anabel Taylor Hall at Cornell University University

Flip books

I started making flip books when I was 14 years old, in 1966. A second round of flip-book making took place 18 years later, although I don’t remember what motivated me to do this again at age 32. In any case, I found the old stapled-together books in a box in the attic and made this YouTube video. What you see below is actually a better way to view them (a gif animation), but takes more work:

Welcome to Impatient Search

I first starting posting here seven and a half years ago, but it’s just in the past few weeks that I realized that a blog needs a name. So I’ve finally given this blog a real name: Impatient Search.

The name “impatient search” derives from “patient search” this latter phrase is either a website for locating your infirm friends and relatives currently in hospitals, or (and this is what I was thinking) the required attitude or method to adopt if one wants to create something new.

Of course, this is a quality that the architect Le Corbusier famously attributed to himself, as I mention on my impatientsearch website (Creation is a Patient Search is the name of one of his books). In fact, I had the patientsearch.com URL and gave it to my young son, who let it lapse. It was scooped up by some corporate entity and is now for sale. I moved on, having decided that impatient search actually suits me better.

Draw your own conclusions.

Bad news for Miami

Miami got two pieces of bad news on July 11, 2014: on the one hand, Lebron James opted to leave the Miami Heat and return to Cleveland; on the other hand, Miami will soon be under water due to rising sea levels caused by global warming.

Only one of these two stories was deemed worthy of coverage by the NY Times.

The Guardian published a story about rising sea levels and their impact on Miami (left); the NY Times worried more about the impact of losing LeBron James to Cleveland.