John Locke Update / Research Brief

We’ll Always Have…Lower Emissions without Paris

posted on in Economics & Environment, Energy & Environment, Rights & Regulation
Featured Image

On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate accord. The response from media, Democrats, and leftists worldwide was as it normally is to a decision by Trump. Which is to say, pure apoplexy with a double order of doomsaying.

A year later, we are indeed seeing a divergence in emissions reductions between the United States and the European nations still bound by the Paris Agreement.

In terms of cutting emissions, the U.S. is leaving them in our (lack of) dust. It remains one of the most underreported stories of the century.

Reason reports on it, however:

Overall, according the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 report, the E.U. carbon dioxide emissions are down by 12.4 percent since 2007. Interestingly, emissions since 2014 have been going up in 14 out of the 19 larger E.U. countries listed by BP. These countries include Germany, France, Poland, Spain, and the Netherlands. For Europe as a whole carbon dioxide emissions increased by 2.5 percent in 2017.

Read that again. Carbon dioxide emissions are increasing in Europe. Emissions have actually been going up in most of the larger E.U. countries since 2014, including Germany, Spain, France, Poland, and the Netherlands.

By the way, Germany and Spain are two countries whose energy policies are promoted as exemplary to honors students at the University of North Carolina, “Moving to a Low-Carbon Future.”

So Germany, Spain, and the rest of Europe are now moving away from a low-carbon future again. OK. But what about …:

In contrast, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions continue their downward trend, dropping by 15.2 percent since 2007. In 2017, they fell by 0.5 percent. It is worth noting that a new report by the Rhodium Group consultancy suggests that the U.S. is on track to meet earlier Obama administration promises under the earlier Copenhagen Accord to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent below their 2005 levels by 2020.

The Rhodium Group report further noted that between 2005 and 2016 almost 80 percent of the reductions in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions came from the electric power sector as coal-fired plants were closed down and utilities switched to burning lower carbon natural gas to generate electricity.

Not only are U.S. emissions falling “in contrast” with those of our supposed European climate betters, they “continue” to fall. Those are interesting word choices highly indicative of an ongoing trend that has been, as mentioned before, surprisingly blacked out by media.

We’ve been discussing that trend here at the John Locke Foundation, not only for the United States but also for North Carolina. Look what has happened with energy-based emissions in North Carolina this century:

We’ve also been discussing the reasons for this decline in emissions. These reasons are — in stark contrast with the preferences and worldview of media and leftists — market-based, not government-driven:

  • Technological change drives ever more efficient use of resources
  • Consumer preferences favor less “carbon-intensive” goods and services
  • An expanding service sector also results in lower emissions
  • The fracking revolution has made clean-burning natural gas more price-competitive with coal, and electric utilities have increasingly opted for gas as a fuel source (and the other major market competitor with coal is nuclear, which has no emissions)

More of this market-driven good news was announced earlier this month. As reporter Lachlan Markay pointed out, the June 2018 data release from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. are now at their lowest level since 1992.

Emissions per capita are at their lowest level since 1950.

This is all very good news. Situations that seemed insoluble a few years ago (or seem insoluble still, if you’re only reading what media report) are actually getting better thanks to market forces and American enterprise. It’s great news. Important news.

Isn’t it?

Jon Sanders is an economist studying state regulations, that spreading kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. Serving as Senior Fellow of Regulatory Studies and also Research Editor at the John Locke Foundation, Jon gets in the weeds of all… ...

Donate Today

About John Locke Foundation

We are North Carolina’s Most Trusted and Influential Source of Common Sense. The John Locke Foundation was created in 1990 as an independent, nonprofit think tank that would work “for truth, for freedom, and for the future of North Carolina.” The Foundation is named for John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings inspired Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders.

The John Locke Foundation is a 501(c)(3) research institute and is funded solely from voluntary contributions from individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations.