For the past several years, those seeking to strangle the world economy by denying it access to carbon have tried to gain support for their initiatives by inventing a concept called “the social cost of carbon.” According to this notion, the use of carbon imposes a cost on society through global warming, and therefore regulations to restrict the use of carbon create benefits that can be measured in dollar terms. Pursuant to this strategy, the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 hired a crowd of consultants to generate estimates that would be useful for the cause. This they dutifully did, producing a set of very precise computer calculations of the cost of carbon — ranging from $11 to $221 per ton of carbon dioxide — which were assembled into an interagency report sent to the White House in May 2013.
No doubt gratified by the freedom of choice thus provided, the Obama administration’s Office of Management and Budget picked a number, and proceeded to set the social cost at $38 per ton of carbon dioxide, or $139.33 per ton of carbon, so that henceforth federal regulators could use that figure to demonstrate the economic value of their restrictions.
It would be useless to dispute these nonsensical calculations, as they are all entirely fake, produced by mercenary charlatans using phony computer models, imaginary data, and arbitrary assumptions. However, straightforward hard data do exist to demonstrate the very real damage that the carbon deniers — aptly so labeled, both because of their wish to deny humanity access to carbon, the key element of life, and because of their willingness to remain in denial as to the brutal regressive effects of their prescriptions — would inflict on the economy.
Let us therefore examine the graph below, which shows the relationship between global
To claim that this came at a comparable “social cost,” one would have to show that there has been a climatic catastrophe. Has there? How much better was the weather in the 1950s than it is today? If you don’t know, there are plenty of people who were around then whom you can ask. But I’ll save you the trouble. The answer is: Not at all. So there was no climatic social cost to the carbon-driven miracle of the 20th century, but there would have been economic cost of genocidal dimensions had carbon deniers been around and able to prevent it.
This graph, however, does not tell the whole story. If we want to assess the economic cost of carbon denial in dollar terms, we need to compare not per capita output, but absolute
Here, you can see that the relationship between
So each ton of carbon denied to the world economy destroys about $6,700 worth of wealth. That is the difference between life and death for a Third World family. Seven tons denied corresponds to a loss of $47,000, or a good American job. Since 2007, the combination of high oil prices and a depressed economy has reduced the United States’ use of carbon in the form of oil by about 130 million tons per year. At a rate of $6,700 per ton, this corresponds to a
Such are the costs of carbon denial.
— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Energy and the author of Energy Victory. His latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was published in 2012 by Encounter Books.