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The 'intensity' Dodge

At his awkwardly titled "Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change" last week, President Bush distributed a little fact sheet listing all the ways in which his administration has boldly taken action to address global warming. The sheet was a scam, obviously, but a bunch of environmental groups took the time to rebut his claims anyway. You can see the result here.

The most galling bit is that Bush keeps declaring that "greenhouse gas emissions intensity" has declined under his watch. That's true, but misleading. Intensity always declines: Power plants and factories and cars get more efficient over time; that's the way things go. It's a good thing to measure, but what matters, from the standpoint of climate change, is whether total U.S. emissions are increasing--whether increased energy use outweighs the increase in efficiency. And the answer's yes: They went up 3.4 percent between 2002 and 2006, and will rise 26 percent by 2012. No getting around that.

--Bradford Plumer