Why All the Fuss? US Carbon Emissions Lowest Since ’94


We don’t need more regulation of energy use, cap and trade, carbon taxes, or any of the range of new measures President Obama is pushing to deal with climate change. According to Bloomberg News, U.S. carbon emissions are down 13 percent over the past five years and that they are now the lowest since 1994. In fact, we are more than halfway to President Obama’s goal of a 17 percent reduction from our peak year of 2007.

Free market developments, like the higher cost of coal relative to natural gas, the high price of gasoline and greater energy efficiency in commercial buildings, are all doing the job. We don’t need big government here.

Coal has fallen to only 18 percent of our energy use (down from 23 percent in 2007) and natural gas is up to 31 percent. Natural gas has half the carbon emissions of coal.

Evidence suggests that climate change and global warming are happening but at a much slower rate than doomsday warnings suggested. We are now on track for an increase in global temperatures of one degree centigrade by 2100.

The fears of climatologists had been that the direct increase in global temperatures — which are happening as predicted and are largely moderate — would be augmented by a two or three degree centigrade increase by 2100 due to water vapor. Their fear was that a brighter sun would cause more evaporation and that the resulting water vapor itself would become a greenhouse gas, raising global temperatures even further. This prediction has not come to pass in the past seventeen years of climate monitoring. The model was wrong.

In his inaugural address, Obama demanded a reduction of carbon emissions to save future generations from global climate change. But this danger is proving to be illusory and largely addressed by free market activity and public education.

The gaping hole in carbon reductions efforts is China, which refuses to act to cut them. Despite claiming it is a developing country, the world’s second largest economy is its largest carbon emitter. Indeed, each year China’s emissions grow by an amount that exceeds the total emissions of Japan. So each year, the increase in Chinese GDP (about $400 billion) causes more emissions than the total of the Japanese economy, which is ten times as much — $5 trillion.

Obama is using climate change as an excuse to regulate and tax American business because that is what he believes in. But the excuse is vanishing. So should the regulations.

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