Although he probably didn’t mean to, Secretary of State John Kerry made a compelling case for why the U.S. and other countries should not go down the path of shutting down coal-fired plants, raising energy prices and stunting economic growth to combat global warming.
Speaking in Paris, Kerry said:
“The fact is that even if every American citizen biked to work, carpooled to school, used only solar panels to power their homes, if we each planted a dozen trees, if we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions, guess what – that still wouldn’t be enough to offset the carbon pollution coming from the rest of the world.
“If all the industrial nations went down to zero emissions – remember what I just said, all the industrial emissions went down to zero emissions – it wouldn’t be enough, not when more than 65 percent of the world’s carbon pollution comes from the developing world.”
He’s exactly right. Paul Knappenberger and Patrick Michaels estimate that the climate regulations the Obama administration are imposing on the energy sector – costs that will be passed down to households – will avert a meager 0.018 degree Celsius of warming by the year 2100.
In fact, the U.S. could cut 100 percent of its CO2 emissions and it would not make a difference in global warming.
Using the same climate sensitivity modeling as the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world would only be 0.137 degree C cooler by 2100. What’s worse is that if you included 100 percent cuts from the entire industrialized world in their modeling, then you would only avert warming by 0.278 degree C by the turn of the century.
If Kerry got his wish, developing countries like India and China would play ball. But they’re not going to and quite frankly, neither is the rest of the developing world and some parts of the developed world.
According to the Climate Action Tracker, there are plans to build more than 2,400 coal-fired power plants over the next 15 years. That includes plants that have been announced, in the pre-permit stage, permitted or under construction. These countries want access to cheap and abundant energy, in order to provide their citizens with a stable current of electricity and to keep their economy growing.
Kerry got one point very wrong, however. We’re talking about carbon dioxide emissions, not carbon pollution. The administration has evolved their message on this issue, from global warming, to climate change, to carbon pollution.
Carbon dioxide is a colorless, non-toxic gas that does not have adverse impacts on human health. Calling CO2, carbon pollution, is deceiving the public. But at least Kerry spoke clearly about the futility of any unilateral or multilateral plans to address global warming.
Nicolas Loris, an economist, focuses on energy, environmental and regulatory issues as the Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.