Cement and CO2

I do wonder about The Guardian sometimes.

There were no climate change protesters waiting to jeer as the chief executives and other senior figures of one of the world\’s biggest industries gathered on Wednesday. Yet they represented a business that produces more than 5% of mankind\’s carbon dioxide emissions. And they were in Brussels to discuss climate change.

The summit was not called by the aviation industry – that is comparatively clean in comparison. Nor was it made up of car makers, oil companies, shipping firms or any other business that has traditionally drawn the fire of green campaigners.

These chief executives deal in a more down-to-earth commodity: cement. It is the key ingredient in concrete, and one that is rapidly emerging as a major obstacle on the world\’s path to a low-carbon economy.

Anyone who has read anything at all of the IPCC studies will know that cement is a major source of CO2. And given the way chemistry works in this universe there\’s not going to be any non-emittive process either.

Anywy, tucked away is this assertion:

The booming Chinese economy has created such a demand for building materials that cement production there last year released 540,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide – just short of Britain\’s total output from all sources.

Sorry? We\’re producing half a million tonnes? Really, that should have leapt out at the journo and the subs. Anyone writing anything at all on this subject should have an eye for at least orders of magnitude. Per capita CO2 emissions are several tonnes per person in the rich countries….so half a million tonnes must be the emissions of less that half a million people, not of 60 million.

Here\’s the Defra figures. If you download one of the spreadsheets you\’ll see that they\’ve got the digits correct…there just aren\’t enough of them. The numbers are reported in thousands of tonnes, not in tonnes.

It\’s a simple enough mistake, but it\’s still not good enough. I don\’t mind people making mistakes (I do so often enough myself) but you should at least be numerate enough to spot when numbers are out by three orders of magnitude. It\’s called knowing your subject, isn\’t it?

4 comments on “Cement and CO2

  1. Vaguely on-topic (David Adam’s topic, not yours), this is somewhat interesting. (Summary: demolishing old buildings and replacing them with new ones is, generally, silly.)

  2. Fair cop. I spotted that when I read the paper this morning — that’s always the way, never in time to do anything about it.
    I had to convert the figures from carbon to carbon dioxide, and managed to lose a few decimal places in the process.
    I’ve had a word with the corrections folks…
    David

  3. Yeah? And, so what exactly?
    Concrete gives off CO2 when manufactured, and takes it up when it cures; this may take 12 years.
    Net is zero or close too.

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