Many climate alarmists today insist that government “does something.” As Francis Menton asks, like what?
Ron Brownstein tries to provide answers in The Atlantic magazine. What makes this piece funny, according to Francis Menton, is that Mr. Brownstein seems to have completely lost track of, or failed to follow, what has happened and continues to happen in the arena of international energy consumption.
When our Manhattan Contrarian started to follow this area in about 2000, the U.S. and Western Europe together “accounted for close to two-thirds of world energy consumption, the large majority of it from fossil fuels.”
Perhaps at that time it was plausible to believe that if only the U.S. and Western Europe could be weaned off the fossil fuels, and could show how that could be done, then the rest of the world would quickly follow along.
Brownstein’s piece does not even mention what is going on with fossil fuel use and carbon emissions elsewhere in the world. Nor is he following to what extent those developments completely “nullify anything the U.S. could ever possibly do to reduce emissions.”
Consider, for example, recent developments in the production of coal. The U.S. Energy Information Administration puts out an annual report on U.S. coal production, most recently in October 2021 covering the year 2020.
They report that U.S. coal production decreased by some 24.2% in 2020 over 2019, falling to 535.4 million short tons. Much of that large reduction was undoubtedly a Covid-related blip that will not be sustained, but assume for these purposes that the U.S. can continue to make such dramatic reductions in its use of coal.
The problem is this: By this time, China produces and uses a multiple of the amount of coal used here in the U.S. China also continues to increase its production at a rapid and accelerating rate.
In the last 20+ years, the U.S. and Europe have reduced, small as that may be, their emissions, but the emissions from the developing world — mostly but by no means exclusively from China — have soared.
And they continue to soar.
Neither China nor any other large-population developing country has agreed to forego using coal or any other fossil fuel to achieve rapid economic growth.
Today U.S. emissions stand at about 15% of those of the world, and continuing to shrink rapidly as a percentage, even if they remain about steady in absolute terms.
China’s coal production and consumption are close to 8 times the levels of the U.S., and just two years of annual increases are approximately equal to full U.S. annual production.
A graph called “Our World in Data” shows the trajectory by which China’s coal production went from approximately equal to that of the U.S. in 2000 to some 8 times as much by 2020
Brownstein, along with the rest of the fossil fuel suppression advocacy machine, is “blissfully unaware that events have passed him by.”
By this time, nothing can be done to make it such that reduction in U.S. carbon emissions can result in a meaningful difference in the overall world picture. Fortunately, the likelihood of any catastrophic consequences to the climate is extremely remote.
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