Over the past two months, environmental activists have held protests at the White House and elsewhere hoping to convince the Obama administration to deny a permit for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Some of those same activists have launched a series of demonstrations called “Moving Planet” to move “the planet away from fossil fuels towards a safer climate future.” And next month, leaders from dozens of countries will meet at the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa.
But for all of the sturm und drang about climate change, what has actually happened? It’s time to acknowledge five obvious truths about the climate-change issue:
1) The carbon taxers/limiters have lost. Carbon-dioxide emissions have been the environmental issue of the past decade. Over that time period, Al Gore became a world-renowned figure for his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” for which he won an Oscar. In 2007, he, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), collected a Nobel Peace Prize for “informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change.” That same year, the IPCC released its fourth assessment report, which declared that “most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.” (Emphasis in original.)
Two years later, Copenhagen became the epicenter of a world-wide media frenzy as some 5,000 journalists, along with some 100 world leaders and scores of celebrities, descended on the Danish capital to witness what was billed as the best opportunity to impose a global tax or limit on carbon dioxide.
The result? Nothing, aside from promises by various countries to get serious—really serious—about carbon emissions sometime soon.
Here’s a reality check: During the same decade that Mr. Gore and the IPCC dominated the environmental debate, global carbon-dioxide emissions rose by 28.5%.
Those increases reflect soaring demand for electricity, up by 36%, which in turn fostered a 47% increase in coal consumption. (Natural-gas use increased by 29% while oil use grew by 13%.) Carbon-dioxide emissions are growing because people around the world understand the essentiality of electricity to modernity. And for many countries, the cheapest way to produce electrons is by burning coal.