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China to Take Climate Leadership Post-Trump Paris Pull-Out

June 23, 2017

Climate Change Weekly #253

Following President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, many media reports have claimed China is now leading the world in promoting the compact and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Good luck with that!  

The United States has been the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions—and it hasn’t been due to regulations, and certainly not the Paris climate agreement. The natural gas revolution via fracking has made America the leader in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, down more than 12 percent over the past decade. This decline is expected to continue as the use of natural gas becomes more prevalent and companies and products continue to become more efficient.

By contrast, emissions from China surpassed U.S. emissions 15 years before they were expected to, 18 years ago, at which time China became, by a large margin, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Since then, economic growth in China has slowed considerably, and to address its horrific air pollution problems China has taken steps to reduce the rate of increase in its use of coal. But the country is not reducing coal use or carbon dioxide emissions overall, nor is it required to under the Paris climate agreement.

China’s per-capita emissions are declining, but historically this happens in every country as personal income levels rise and people begin to demand—and become willing to pay for—more environmental amenities. Responding to slowed economic growth and to reduce smog and particulate matter, China has reduced the number of coal-fired power plants it is bringing online from two a week to about one a week. At the same time, it is closing some small, dirty power plants that did not have pollution controls, replacing them with bigger, more efficient plants supplying power for larger regions.

At the same time, however, China substantially reduced its state-established targets for new solar installations. China diverted solar panels previously slated to be used in the domestic market to the export market, flooding Europe and America with below-cost solar panels, putting domestic manufacturers out of business. China also regularly takes it massive wind farms off-line as demand for electricity has slowed, and it has built many turbines that are not linked to the grid, generating electricity, sent nowhere, used by no one. In that sense the turbines are similar to China’s ghost cities, built to artificially drive economic growth. They now dot the countryside, uninhabited by anyone, falling into disrepair. By the way, all those ghost wind turbines and ghost cities required a lot of concrete and steel to create and fossil fuel to construct, adding to China’s carbon dioxide emissions.

While slowing the growth in domestic use of coal, China is supporting expanded coal-fired power plant construction in other countries, building or financing large coal-fired plants on the African continent and in India, Indonesia, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Turkey, and Vietnam. In a real sense, China is exporting its carbon dioxide emissions but not getting the blame.

Under the Paris agreement, China has not said it will cut emissions; rather, it promises emissions will peak by 2030. China’s emissions may peak earlier than that, but what matters is not so much when they peak but at what level. If China’s carbon dioxide emissions peak at double or quadruple today’s emissions, the emissions cuts made by other countries won’t matter from a carbon dioxide concentration perspective.

How can the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, which will continue to grow emissions, be considered a leader in emissions reductions? It can’t. The claim is pure environmentalist and global bureaucrat wish fulfillment combined with hatred of Trump—absolute hogwash!

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: New York Times; Scientific Alliance; Manhattan Contrarian; One News Now; and Los Angeles Times


IN THIS ISSUE …

Fossil fuel benefits dwarf SCCMusk’s ‘green’ energy fantasy exposedStates pursuing Paris pay high priceNatural factors drive drought


FOSSIL FUEL BENEFITS DWARF SCC

University of Sussex economist Richard S.J. Tol, a past contributor to the United Nations Environment Programme and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has produced what he says is the first comprehensive calculation of the regional and global benefits per ton of carbon dioxide emitted (tCO2) in energy use.

Using data for 66 countries, Tol found, at $38 to $65 tCO2, the private benefit of carbon dioxide is lowest for coal use in industry. Using fossil fuels for residential electricity use produced the highest value at $1,877 tCO2 on average globally. The private benefit of carbon dioxide emissions is lowest in Kazakhstan at between $48 and $67 tCO2, while the highest private benefit occurs in Norway, estimated at between $6,241 and $6,277 tCO2.

The energy services provided by the use of fossil fuels produce $411 tCO2 in benefits on average globally, much higher than the mean estimates of social cost of carbon dioxide at $12 tCO2 in studies using a 3 percent discount rate, or $98 tCO2 for studies using an extremely low 1 percent rate.

SOURCE: University of Sussex


MUSK’S ‘GREEN’ ENERGY FANTASY EXPOSED

Elon Musk, while taking millions of dollars from the federal government in the form of contracts, subsidies, and tax credits for his various enterprises, resigned from President Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, a White House advisory council, in protest of Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Let’s see if Musk refuses the government subsidies and tax credits for Tesla, his electric car venture for the rich, or for the rooftop solar panels Solarcity installs.

Musk likes to claim his business enterprises are green, leading modern society to a more environmentally friendly future. A new study shows technologies integral to the products made by Tesla and Solarcity have devastating environmental side effects.

A study by America Rising Squared (AR2) shows carbon dioxide-emitting fossil fuels produce the energy used to produce Tesla vehicles, batteries, and Solarcity’s solar panels. Indeed, the Union of Concerned Scientists calculated the emissions produced by manufacturing electric vehicles were between 15 and 68 percent higher than for an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle. In addition, each Tesla electric vehicle and each solar panel relies on “rare earth” minerals, which are, according to the study, “produced under some of the most appalling environmental and labor conditions on the planet.”

Rare earths are overwhelmingly controlled by countries with terrible human rights records and lax environmental laws, including China (which controls 95 percent of the world’s rare earths) and the Congo (which produces 50 percent of the cobalt used annually). Air pollution is endemic in the Chinese towns in and around the country’s rare earth mines, the report notes, and the toxic sludge from the waste ponds is leaching into the ground water, causing serious human health problems. A November 2016 report by the management consulting firm Arthur D. Little found each “battery electric vehicle ... generate[s] approximately three times as much human toxicity over the course of its lifespan compared to an internal combustion engine vehicle.” Thousands of acres of earth have to be mined for each ton of rare earth produced, and for each ton of usable rare earths processed, 2,000 tons of toxic waste are created.

The environmental harms resulting from the production and use of hybrid and electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels will only grow as green technologies are increasingly forced into use by governments in the vain effort to fight climate change. When green technologies impose severe environmental harms, how green are they truly?

SOURCES: Real Clear Energy and AR2


STATES PURSUING PARIS PAY A HIGH PRICE

More than a dozen states and Puerto Rico have formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, pledging to meet the Paris climate agreement, from which the United States has officially withdrawn, by reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels.

Twenty states and Washington, DC had already adopted their own greenhouse gas emission targets, including California and New York, whose goals go beyond the Paris commitments. 

California has an existing goal of achieving a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. By 2050, the state’s goal is to bring emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels, both far beyond the Paris commitments.

In 2016, New York enacted legislation requiring 50 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030. The state has a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.   

Residents of states and cities committing to Paris and beyond should understand how policies cutting fossil fuel use affect their energy costs. California and the northeastern states that joined the regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative already pay the highest electricity prices in the lower 48 states (see this Chart).

European countries that have gone farther than even the most aggressive states have electricity prices two to three times higher those in the United States.

As an article at Icecap article states: “You hear the democrats yelling bowing out of Paris will hurt the poor when in fact abiding with the Paris agreement would cause electricity and energy prices to rise significantly which hurts the poor and middle class. 300,000 German households had their electricity turned off for inability to pay and over 25 percent of UK residents are in energy poverty, many of them pensioners. That is coming here to the cities and states which are going to commit regardless of Trump.”

SOURCES: Icecap and USA Today


NATURAL FACTORS DRIVE DROUGHT

Citing climate model simulations, alarmists often say human-caused climate change is causing and will in the future cause longer, more serious droughts. A new study in the Journal of Climate challenges that claim.

The researchers examined precipitation in the arid Southwestern United States from 1895 through 2015, during the present period of warming. They find precipitation, and thus drought, is driven primarily by two forces, neither of them human greenhouse gas emissions: the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) and solar activity.

On average, solar activity has exerted a greater influence on precipitation than the PDO over the 120-year period. The study reports, “both the droughts in the 1900s and in the twenty-first century were affected by the PDO and solar activity, whereas the droughts from the 1950s to the 1970s were mainly affected by solar activity.”

SOURCE: Journal of Climate (behind paywall)

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland research fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org

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