By Chris | December 4, 2007
From the December 3, Wall Street Journal opinion page:
The Bush Administration announced last week that U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide fell by 1.8% from 2005 to 2006. Output of all greenhouse gases was down 1.5% last year. All this while the American economy grew by 2.9%. It’s the first time since 1990, when the U.N. began counting these things, that the U.S. has reduced emissions without also suffering a recession.
Critics immediately pointed to the Energy Department’s acknowledgment that the reductions were in part due to higher energy prices and favorable weather. But greater use of lower-carbon energy sources, including natural gas, also played a big role. The U.S. reduction also suggests that letting markets work through higher prices will reduce carbon emissions more than the cap and trade mandates favored by environmental lobbies and most Democrats.
I’m not sure the last sentence is accurate, McCain for example is a big supporter of a cap-and-trade system and Giuliani opposes any new energy taxes. Even if carbon emissions are falling on their own, there will always be too many of them if the environmental cost on others isn’t added to the price. I don’t have strong feelings about global warming. I found the video the Great Global Warming Swindle surprisingly convincing, but I also recognize that this is not the scientific consensus. It bothers me when people without economics backgrounds attack free trade, so I’m hesitant to do the same in the realm of climate science. Even though scientists largely agree that humans are causing the globe to warm, what to do about it is largely an economic question. Is it cheaper to adapt to climate change or reduce emissions now? At what rate to we discount future benefits/costs? The issue is complicated by a lack of understanding of the consequences of climate change, and gross wealth disparities between the developed and developing worlds. I don’t have any answers, but in the meantime it’s nice to know that 3.00/gallon gas prices are causing annual carbon emissions to fall.