This week we began tracking a new indicator -- CO2 emissions in the United States from energy consumption. And when it comes to helping combat global warming the winner is? Drum roll please.... according to our dashboards George Bush. Yes, George Bush. The same president that denied the existence of global warming during his first term. The same president that commissioned a study from the National Academy of Science as to whether global warming existed, and then rejected the results.
You may be wondering how that could be. The answer is relatively straightforward, and illustrates that looking at the before and after picture of a presidential term as we do in our Dashboards -- without looking at what happened in the intervening years -- can be dangerous.
When Bush took office in 2001 the United States was producing 5761 million metric tons of CO2. Throughout Bush's first term, CO2 emissions increased year-over-year:
In his second term, of course, there was a not-so-subtle change in the US economy as the housing crisis took shape and the United States entered into the Great Recession. In 2009, the year that Bush left the White House, the US economy had contracted and emissions hit a thirteen year low of 5385 million metric tons of CO2.
The result? When the first year of the Bush administration is compared with his departing year the difference is a -6.52% reduction. Of course, what you lose from the 20k foot level is that this country's single worst year for US CO2 emissions (2007 at 6000 million metric tons) was in the middle of his presidency.
The lesson here? The before and after picture of an administration is extremely useful. It helps us see the state of the country as an administration begins, and the state when the administration ends. That said, its not necessarily the end of the story and can mask what happened in the middle.