Climate Change: Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's dire warning on Monday of the long-term impacts of manmade climate change is a reminder of a Churchillian maxim to "never let a good crisis go to waste." Crises, as it turns out, are one of the most effective ways of reducing carbon emissions.

Dire U.N. Global Warming Report Calls Investors to Action

Climate change and global warming emerged as mainstream topic in the 2000s amid a general economic boom in the U.S., Europe, Asia and emerging markets. In 2005, the European Union launched its oft-criticized emissions trading system. That same year The Kyoto Protocol, a U.N.-backed framework for binding carbon emissions reduction targets, came into force.

While carbon emission reduction goals came into prominence in a 1990s and 2000s economic boom, actual emission reductions only came with the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression.

In 2009, carbon emissions actually fell. That ever-so slight reduction in the global economy's carbon footprint, however, came amid a cascade of corporate defaults, depression-like gross domestic product declines in developed economies and even larger GDP declines in nations like Singapore that are intertwined with global trade.

That should come as no surprise. During the crisis, industrial plants were furloughed, mining projects were abandoned, shipping tankers idled and leisure travel ground to a halt.

Overall, global carbon dioxide emissions fell a moderate 1.4% to 8.4 billion metric tons in 2009. As one might expect, emissions quickly surged when the crisis passed. Carbon emissions grew at one of the fastest rates on record in 2010, and they grew at 2.1% in 2013.

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