Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Please Support Common Dreams This #GivingTuesday

Our coverage of the climate emergency, Covid-19, and rising authoritarianism have intensified over the last two years. But our expenses during the pandemic have gone up as well. This has been one of the toughest years we’ve ever faced. Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers ever make a donation. We're counting on you. Please support independent media today.

Please Help This #GivingTuesday -- Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers give. We’re counting on you. Please help Common Dreams end the year strong.

A Chinese laborer loads coal into a furnace as smoke and steam rises from an unauthorized steel factory

A Chinese laborer loads coal into a furnace as smoke and steam rises from an unauthorized steel factory on November 3, 2016 in Inner Mongolia, China. (Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

'Must-Read' Analysis Reveals Massive Global Gap Between Declared and Actual Emissions

The new investigation from the Washington Post reveals as much as 13.3 billion tons of under-reported emissions.

Andrea Germanos

A major new investigation from the Washington Post has found "a giant gap" between the greenhouse gas emissions nations are reporting to the United Nations and what their planet-heating emissions actually are.  

Published Sunday, the investigation is being heralded as "a must-read story" based on "amazing" and "incredibly helpful" reporting.

The Post team assessed 196 countries' emissions data for 2019, plugging in information for the 45 countries that submitted reports to the U.N. that year and making projections for the others.

Comparing that data with independent global emissions measurements, the Post found there was at least 8.4 billion tons and as much as 13.3 billion tons in underreported emissions. Carbon dioxide made up the majority of the gap, with methane following. Nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases, sometimes known as f-gases, accounted for smaller portions of the gap.

Pointing to the ongoing COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, the reporting notes that "the numbers they are using to help guide the world’s effort to curb greenhouse gases represent a flawed road map" and that the challenge of reigning in emissions "is even larger than world leaders have acknowledged."

Flaws in the emissions reporting methods have been previously acknowledged, the Post noted, attributing the gap to "questionably drawn rules, incomplete reporting in some countries, and apparently willful mistakes in others—and the fact that in some cases, humanity’s full impacts on the planet are not even required to be reported."

A key factor in the under-reporting, according to the investigation, are nations' dodgy figures on CO2 emissions from land use, like doubtful numbers on how much carbon forests are able to absorb, and thus how much countries can subtract from their reported emissions.

As a prime example, the Post used the palm oil industry in Malaysia, a country that most recently submitted its emissions figures in 2016. In a likely exaggeration, the country claimed its forests were sinking over 243 million tons of carbon, "slashing 73 percent of emissions from its bottom line."

In a Monday tweet sharing the Post's investigation, the Washington, D.C. branch of climate group Extinction Rebellion accused politicians of "fudg[ing] the numbers."

"When will the lying, the deception, the false promises stop?" the group tweeted. "Only systemic change at a scale and speed unprecedented in human history can get us out of this mess."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Iran Says US Must Lift 'Tyrannical and Illegal' Sanctions to Return to Nuclear Deal

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has entered the talks with a strong will and elaborate preparations in order to ensure the removal of unlawful and cruel sanctions."

Jake Johnson ·


2.5 Million Nurses Demand UN Probe Into 'Covid-19 Criminals' Blocking Patent Waiver

The European Union, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, and Singapore "must be investigated for blocking a faster global vaccine rollout leading to the loss of countless lives."

Jake Johnson ·


WHO, South Africa Urge Nations to Lift 'Naive' Omicron Travel Bans

"The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic."

Brett Wilkins ·


EU Joins Rights Group in Condemning Israel's 'Day of Destruction' of Palestinian Homes

"Demolitions are illegal under international law and significantly undermine the prospects for peace."

Brett Wilkins ·


GOP 'Silence Speaks Volumes,' Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert's Bigotry Goes Unpunished

"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo