It's official. The Great Recession helped stave off climate change. Or at least reduced the ongoing increase in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Based on energy consumption statistics from various nations, scientists estimate that global CO2 emissions dropped by 1.3 percent in 2009. But that still made them the second highest ever—just behind 2008.
The biggest drops were recorded in Japan, the U.K. and Russia while China, India and South Korea continued to emit more than ever before.
The good news is emissions are back on track this year to increase by more than 3 percent worldwide—a sure indication of economic recovery. And the amount of CO2 emitted for every unit of economic activity is no longer shrinking as fast as it once was, thanks to a new boom in dirty coal.
Of course, recessions aren't exactly "good" for the environment—economic worries spur backpedaling on environmental commitments and the pursuit of enriching but destructive practices such as illegal logging.
The question is whether the health of the economy can ever align with the health of the planet. Until it does, economic growth will come at a cost to the environment and environmental health—at least when it comes to climate change—will come at the expense of economic well-being.