2011-06-23 13:49:20Christy Crock: Making things makes emissions
Sarah Green

 Help appreciated!

Christy states:

"Australia emits a lot of carbon because Australia makes a lot of things. This is something that perhaps some people don’t understand is that if you don’t make things out of aluminum, or if you don’t mine or extract things that other people in the world want, you don’t have too many emissions. But when you do provide to the world so much of its resources, it takes energy […] The rest of the world should be thanking Australia for providing so many natural resources that we use."

Christy makes the claim that emissions are linked to "making things" and mining. Things can be made differently and industry can be improved with current technology so that making things doesn't make our planet unlivable. 

Worldwide, industry accounts for about 20-40% of CO2 emissions [THIS IS A BIG RANGE, they may include different amounts of elec and transportation as 'industrial'] (IEA, 2009; Sims, et al., 2011). In the US, industry generates about 20% of CO2 emissions (https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/content/carbon/carbon_emissions_2008/LLNL_US_Carbon_2008_annotated.pdf). Globally, the biggest industrial sources of GHGs are iron/steel production, cement, and chemical/petrochemical manufacturing, which together account for almost three quarters of industrial emissions. (Aluminum processing is 1-2%, mainly from electricity.) Electrical generation is responsible for 32% of industrial emissions, and we already know know to make electricity from renewable sources. Conversion from coal to renewable sources of electricity would greatly reduce the carbon footprint of "making things". 

A much smaller amount, only about 3.3% of US energy, is used in mining and processing of coal, iron, and other metals and minerals. One third of that is from coal mining, which will be largely eliminated in a carbon-neutral economy. Of the remainder, over 50% energy savings can be achieved with known best practices and investment in technology improvements (Mining industry energy bandwidth study, 2007).

A rather conservative study by the International Energy Agency (IEA, 2009) estimated that an additional 20% reduction could be achieved using known best practices for energy efficiency and reuse. That study, called "Energy Technology Transitions for Industry- Strategies for the Next Industrial Revolution," was reviewed by industry representatives form around the world. It concluded that "industrial emissions must peak in the coming decade if the worse impacts of climate change are to be avoided". In direct opposition to Christy's wait-and-see approach, the report recommended "clear, stable, long-term policies that put a price on CO2 emissions" in order to "implement the technology transition needed to produce deep emissions reductions" in the industrial sector.

Other more recent analyses have shown how projected global energy needs, including industrial, can be met entirely with carbon-neutral sources by 2030 (Jacobson and Delucchi, 2011). Independently, an IPCC report found that a conversion to nearly 80% renewable sources by 2050 is possible. These projections do not depend on unproven, futuristic technologies, but can and should be implemented immediately. 



Mining and making things have many environmental and societal impacts in addition to greenhouse gas emissions. But the fact that the modern world is industrialized is not an excuse, as Christy claims, for our failure to address the climate crisis.

Mining industry energy bandwidth study, Department of Energy 2007. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/mining/pdfs/mining_bandwidth.pdf 

IEA. Energy Technology Transitions for Industry- Strategies for the Next Industrial Revolution. (2009).

Sims, R., P. Mercado, W. Krewitt, G. Bhuyan, D. Flynn, H. Holttinen, G. Jannuzzi, S. Khennas, Y. Liu, M. O’Malley, L. J. Nilsson, J. Ogden, K. Ogimoto, H. Outhred, Ø. Ulleberg, F. van Hulle, 2011: Integration of Renewable Energy into Present and Future Energy Systems. In IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation [O. Edenhofer, R. Pichs‐Madruga, Y. Sokona, K. Seyboth, P. Matschoss, S. Kadner, T. Zwickel, P. Eickemeier, G. Hansen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow (eds)], Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

Jacobson and Delucchi. Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure, and materials. Energy Policy (2011) vol. 39 (3) pp. 1154-1169. 

Delucchi and Jacobson. Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part II Reliability, system and transmission costs, and policies. Energy Policy (2011) vol. 39 (3) pp. 1170-1190.


emissions flowchart