Tom Tanton [Senior Fellow, Energy Studies, Pacific Research Institute]: “The Copenhagen Climate Conference has concluded. The fanfare is over and world leaders have little to show for it. President Obama left the conference with hope that the compromise he came to with five other world leaders would be supported by the entire conference. He said that most of the text had been worked out and that he was leaving negotiators empowered to sign off on a “Copenhagen Accord.” Instead the group think was only to “take note” of the accord. The accord was damned as a failure by developing nations, global warming activists, and United Nations officials. In reality, the lack of enforceable emission reductions likely will result in more meaningful reductions than had such an agreement been put in place, and do more to lift the world’s poor out of abject poverty and despair.
So now what? While the UN Secretary General says he is pleased with the results of the conference, the fallout is beginning to be seen. There are reports that the European carbon trade market is taking a hit with prices falling as a result of the conference. And, more ill will has been manufactured toward the US as a result of the conference. Developing nations in particular feel the United States is attempting to prevent their development and that the US is unwilling to do its share, even after decades of direct aid and development and security.
Emissions and energy use are linked. In 2008, goods and services produced in the United States represented 30 percent of all of the world’s production as measured by gross domestic product. In the same year, the US share of global greenhouse gas emissions represented only 19.3 percent. Richer countries are actually cleaner and healthier countries. It is the affluent society that does not want to be the effluent society.
The United States continues a decades-long trend of improving the efficiency in the use of carbon based fuels and resources, as measured by carbon intensity. Carbon intensity is the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of gross domestic product, and is a measure of the efficient use of capital, labor, materials and labor. This is the result of entrepreneurial activities and innovative approaches implemented over time, and illustrates that the United States is actually emitting less than our share. At the same time, the EU, which does have enforceable emission standards, has an emissions growth rate three times that of the US (from 1997 through 2006) despite having smaller population and economic growth, Copenhagen was a disappointment in many ways for many people, but the public, both rich and poor, should take a moment to give a little shout of joy that energy and entrepreneurial freedom can continue to provide global health and wealth.”
Opinions expressed in JURIST’s Hotline are the sole responsibility of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST’s editors, staff, or the University of Pittsburgh.