Why destroy our economy to cut emissions — when China and India are spewing away?
President Joe Biden and “special climate envoy” John Kerry’s upcoming trip to the UN Climate Change Conference in Scotland will test what this administration cares about more: lecturing American suburbanites in front of world leaders — or actually confronting the globe’s most serious environmental problems.
Because if it’s the latter, Biden won’t be calling for greater efforts to cut emissions. After all, China and India have proven they have no intention of doing much on that front — and they’re clearly the most worrisome emitters. It makes zero sense for Western nations to continue to squeeze their own economies and pay trillions to dramatically cut emissions while China and India spew away with abandon.
Developed countries of the West have, for the most part, kept their carbon emissions stable, or even lowered them, going back to the 1970s — despite population growth. Back in that decade, the United States puffed out between 4 billion and 5 billion tons of CO2 annually from burning fossil fuels and cement production, making us the world’s biggest carbon generators. By the turn of the millennium, we climbed up past 6 billion. But in 2006, for the first time, China outpaced us, putting out 6.38 billion tons to our 6.05.
And while the United States has trended downward each year since, China’s output has done nothing but climb, climb, climb: In 2019, the latest year for which Our World in Data (a project of Oxford University) has available information, the Chinese released 10.17 billion tons, vs. our 5.28 billion.
India currently produces a little more than half of the CO2 that America does, but its output has only been growing while our has been falling. And India’s emissions growth is only outdone, once again, by China’s.
We’ve tried grappling with these problems before, going back to the international Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect more than a decade ago, and more recently, the Paris Climate Agreement. Both of them made little sense then and make little sense now.
The Kyoto Protocol required neither China nor India to reduce carbon emissions. Under the Paris Agreement, the United States would give trillions of dollars of assistance to India, while expecting virtually nothing of China until 2030, at which point the Chinese government believed it was going to peak in emissions anyway. (And if it didn’t . . . oh, well.)
Maybe Democrats who push for supposedly mutual sacrifices haven’t noticed, but China hasn’t been particularly kind to us (and others) lately: It won’t cooperate in the probe of COVID’s origins. It just test-fired a hypersonic missile. It’s our No. 1 cyber-threat. It squashed democracy in Hong Kong, breaking its treaty with Britain. It threatens Taiwan and persecutes Uighurs.
Entering an agreement with the Chinese that allows Beijing to race ahead full steam economically while we close up power plants (and maybe factories that depend on them) is like coaxing a rival into a boxing match by promising to tie our hands behind our back.
You can’t blame China and India: They want the most from their economies, to ease the plight for their poor and catch up with richer nations (like us). They need cheap power, including coal — a major contributor to emissions. And whether the Chinese know it or not, the rise in CO2 and global temps isn’t likely to end the world, no matter what the alarmists say.
No matter: Democrats and liberals are intent on telling middle-class Americans to halt their air travel, pay $5 or $10 a gallon for gas and light their homes with candles, even if it won’t help with climate change, as China and India puff away. So as you watch the preening and “commitments” to cutting emissions at the Glasgow conference, just remember one thing: The more the parties “accomplish,” the worse the West is likely to be, the better off China will be — and all with no significant improvement on the climate-change front.
Eddie Scarry is a columnist for The Federalist.