The Corner

Blame China First

Per the Associated Press:

The latest pollution numbers, calculated by the Global Carbon Project, a joint venture of the Energy Department and the Norwegian Research Council, show that worldwide carbon dioxide levels are 54 percent higher than the 1990 baseline.

The 2011 figures for the biggest polluters:

1. China, up 10 percent to 10 billion tons.

2. United States, down 2 percent to 5.9 billion tons

3. India, up 7 percent to 2.5 billion tons.

4. Russia, up 3 percent to 1.8 billion tons.

5. Japan, up 0.4 percent to 1.3 billion tons.

6. Germany, down 4 percent to 0.8 billion tons.

7. Iran, up 2 percent to 0.7 billion tons.

8. South Korea, up 4 percent to 0.6 billion tons.

9. Canada, up 2 percent to 0.6 billion tons.

10. South Africa, up 2 percent to 0.6 billion tons.

Not only is the United States’s output slightly down, but its total output is only a touch higher than half of China’s. (Given the rate of China’s growth, it won’t be long until it is a clean 50 percent.) Why is this? In September, Bjørn Lomborg convincingly argued that it’s the product of fracking, that bête noire of progressives everywhere: 

Carbon-dioxide emissions in the United States have dropped to their lowest level in 20 years. Estimating on the basis of data from the US Energy Information Agency from the first five months of 2012, this year’s expected CO2 emissions have declined by more than 800 million tons, or 14 percent from their peak in 2007.

The cause is an unprecedented switch to natural gas, which emits 45 percent less carbon per energy unit. The U.S. used to generate about half its electricity from coal, and roughly 20 percent from gas. Over the past five years, those numbers have changed, first slowly and now dramatically: In April of this year, coal’s share in power generation plummeted to just 32 percent, on par with gas.

America’s rapid switch to natural gas is the result of three decades of technological innovation, particularly the development of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which has opened up large new resources of previously inaccessible shale gas. Despite some legitimate concerns about safety, it is hard to overstate the overwhelming benefits.

Such a drop was a surprise to many, but not those who benefit from fracking’s “overwhelming benefits.” As Kevin Begos observed on the Huffington Post:

Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

“We didn’t see it coming because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action”! Such a line would not look out of place on Progressivism’s business cards.

Meanwhile in China, the Guardian reports:

China says its emissions will keep rising until its per capita GDP is around five times its current rate, further dampening hopes that the world’s largest polluter will agree in principle to ambitious binding emission reduction targets at this month’s Doha Climate Change Summit.

Time for Matt Damon to send a film crew to Shanghai, n’est pas?

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