The global climate summit COP17 in Durban continues, and during these meetings there is certainly a lot of talking about numbers and statistics. How much carbon do we emit now? How many tons can we emit in the future?
Soon Sweden will publish its official national emission statistics for 2010. Unofficial data point towards increasing emissions. But the truth is we don’t really know until we get these statistics. And even when we get them, we won’t know where our emissions are heading this year.
This isn’t good, says the Swedish international health professor and statistician Hans Rosling, who has become famous as the man who turns dry statistics into a show. His presentations have rapidly become very popular for showing statistics “with the drama and urgency of a sportscaster”, as TED Talks puts it.
But there is something that makes mr Rosling see red. During the big annual climate forum Klimatforum last week, organised by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, he had an important question: How come both private companies and states make detailed economic reports every three months, but look at something as crucial for human survival as carbon dioxide emissions only once a year?
It’s not like Sweden’s not good with statistics. According to Hans Rosling we are actually one of the best in the world. And the gap between what happens and the statistics is undeniably much smaller for economics. Our minister for finance, Anders Borg, gets his economic statistics for the last quarter of the year just about a month after the quarter is ended. The environment minister, on the other hand, has to wait for almost a year for her figures.
– Like now when our minister Lena Ek goes to Durban for the climate meeting. She doesn’t know how much Sweden has emitted the last 23 months. And then you are supposed to make a transition in three to five years without having a clue about what we have been up to for the last 23 months! Rosling raged in a panel discussion with the Swedish radio (article in Swedish) at the meeting.
The environment minister Lena Ek, who was also at the climate forum, actually agreed and said that she has just given official agencies the mission to improve and speed up their reporting.
So maybe professor Rosling will soon be able to make a statistics show about the link between the latest economic development and our recent carbon emissions.
Until then, here’s another interesting video where he shows how different countries’ emissions have evolved over time.
Other related news in Swedish media (in Swedish, but can be autotranslated here):
Expressen: “20 minutes past midnight” Editorial about not acting in time on climate change
Miljöaktuellt: Swedish media write much less about the climate
Svenska Dagbladet: Oak trees can be winners in a warmer climate
Göteborgs-Posten: Our food’s impact on the environement becomes the theme of advent calendar