"Speaking of America's cutting emissions, this country has been doing so, for years. Until last year, there was a steady decline from 2005 to 2017."
--editorial, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, yesterday
Until last year. That's a big part of the statement above, don't you think? Because, as dispatches indicate, last year the carbon dioxide emissions coming from, and out of, the United States rose. Some say spiked.
As these things go, spiked isn't unfair.
Nearly a year ago, in January, an independent economic research firm (the Rhodium Group) published a report on the amount of pollution the world pumped into the atmosphere in 2018. Carbon dioxide emissions from this country went up 3.4 percent.
That might not seem like much, except that the United States could brag (and we have) that the numbers were trending downward. From about 2005 to 2017, charts kept by the EPA shows a steady decrease. Then . . . spike.
What caused it? A growing economy, The Washington Post said. Demand for electricity in the United States went up. Shipping and travel caused emissions from the transportation sector to rise, too. And the Trump administration isn't nearly as sensitive to any climate change regs as the former bosses in Washington.
Conservatives who oppose the so-called Paris Accords have been accused of being pro-pollution. But that's just not so. Even conservatives breathe, although lefties accuse us of breathing from the mouth.
The problem has never been trying to find a solution to pollution in the air.
The problem has been the Paris Accords.
Even those of us who lean starboard, politically--maybe even especially those of us who lean starboard, politically--aren't fans of more carbon dioxide, more greenhouse gases and more pollution in the great outdoors. Many a conservative enjoys turkey season, and a body can't hunt them from the living room. The only tree we've ever hugged was while getting into a duck blind. You might say conservatives are people, too. You might even believe it.
The Paris Accords--officially called the Paris Agreement--would do little to clean up the world's air. Even the press admits as much. Here's why:
• The Paris Agreement consists of promises from countries around the world, some promises more meaningful than others. Some outfit called the Climate Action Tracker called promises by Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey "critically insufficient." Others, like Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Peru and Switzerland were only "insufficient."
• And even if some of these nations/characters promised more, would you believe them? That is, could the world trust promises made by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, etc.? And how would we trust, but verify, anything?
• So if the whole thing is just a sham, just a stack of empty promises that cannot be enforced, why is President Trump using political capital getting out of it? Answer: Maybe because the administration can imagine, as we can, the Sierra Club or Greenpeace filing a lawsuit and having a federal judge shut down power plants across the United States because of the nation's signature on an agreement. If you don't think that can happen, you haven't been paying attention.
We can hear them now: Okay, smarty pants conservative mouth-breathers, what would you have them do? Should our betters continue to deny climate change and leave it off for the next generation, when it might be too late?
Answer: There is a better way to combat worldwide atmospheric pollution than some never-never Paris Agreement. There'd better be. But it has to be something real. And not just put together at a conference in Geneva (or Paris) so that diplomats can feel good. It has to be workable.
The Los Angeles Times, believe it or not, published a terrific article by a self-described conservative, believe it or not, who had some thoughts on how to combat climate change and pollution in the air, which he opposes, believe it or not. The op-ed was written by Jonathan H. Adler, a professor of law, believe it or not, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Read his column here: https://www.latimes.com/opinion. Yes, he mentions a carbon tax, but that's not the end-all, be-all of the article. The United States government can't just regulate the country to better air, not without shutting down the economy.
Professor Adler says the feds must undo "regulatory measures that hamstring our ability to develop and deploy low-carbon technologies. Take the case of wind power. Offshore wind development has faced a regulatory gauntlet similar to (and sometimes worse than) that faced by offshore oil platforms--a sure way to stall forward-looking projects and chill needed investment. NIMBY efforts have also choked the deployment of wind farms on land. Conservatives should recognize that new technologies and nascent industries are particularly vulnerable to regulatory burdens and move to reduce those barriers."
And, "The federal government should also stop interfering with state and local climate efforts. One of federalism's virtues is that it allows different jurisdictions to act as laboratories, experimenting with different policy measures. The nation benefits when such experiments succeed, but also when they fail. Learning what sorts of policies don't work is as important as discovering those that do."
Innovation will be the key. There was a time when the big environmental disaster-in-waiting was a population explosion, or what the writers called The Population Bomb. Food would run out one day, except that it didn't. The researchers of that book didn't take into account farming modernizations and upheavals. To put a point on it, where's the boll weevil these days?
The world was at Peak Oil until fracking came along. Natural gas is also cleaner than coal. Automobile makers improved gas mileage for cars because buyers wanted it; that innovation had the extra added bonus of requiring less fuel to burn.
Also, people became smarter and more environmentally friendly. What would your grandmother say about your recyclables bin? And only a generation ago, who would have thought nuclear power would be so abundant and clean? Nuclear power, no matter the no-nuke crowd from the '70s, could be the greatest source of reducing carbon emissions known to man. If man would allow his discovery to expand.
If a free market, unchained by too many government chiefs--combined with a citizenry that understands a managed economy won't eventually make us all rich and safe--figures out a way toward that better mousetrap, and mankind does what he always has and finds a better way, and an educated people demand a cleaner way, then . . . .
The Red Chinese will steal it. And transport the innovations to Asia, too.
Conservatives have often celebrated what the economists call human capital. So why not when it comes to climate change?
It wouldn't hurt to plant another tree, either.
(To be continued, tomorrow.)
Editorial on 11/08/2019
Print Headline: Forget Paris again, II