The R-word and the W-word have a lot in common. As the International Monetary Fund raised the specter of recession (the R-word) in yesterday's World Economic Outlook, environmental scientists must have breathed a sigh of relief as they struggle to convince climate skeptics that the planet is ``warming'' (the W- word). With every percentage-point decline in gross domestic product, carbon emissions fall in lockstep -- that's something even Texas Governor Rick Perry might have trouble disputing.
During the global recession, carbon-dioxide emissions fell as much as 10 percent in the U.K. and about 6 percent from industrial facilities in 27 European nations. Factories went idle, demand for air travel dropped and people cut consumption. After the economic recovery was in full swing, the British government's top climate economist, Nicholas Stern, said the world was back on a ``business-as-usual path'' in relation to CO2 emissions and there was now a 50 percent chance that the disaster scenario of a 4-degree Celsius increase in average temperatures this century would unfold.
That's not to say recessions remove the need to invest in renewable-energy sources, but economic contractions buy time for politicians to get their act together on a global framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Leaders are scheduled to meet in Durban, South Africa, in November to seek a follow-up agreement that will be more binding and effective than the last one. So until then, let's look on the bright side of a long recession.
(David Henry is a Bloomberg View editor)