Reducing Carbon Emissions Won’t Halt Economic Growth

Yves here. I am sure a lot of readers will object to the thesis of this Real News Network show. But the reality is that a lot of minor conservation efforts have a big impact. Many readers are old enough to remember that during the 1970s energy crisis, office building were ordered to keep their thermostats at 77 degrees in the summer. I have to confess to being a bad actor by turning on a space heater when it gets cold in my apartment, rather than get a heated mat to put under my feet, which I am pretty sure would do pretty much the same job more efficiently. I wonder how Amazon would fare if it had to pay (or more accurately, have its customers pay) the full cost of its greenhouse gas externalities.

And this factoid is a reminder of how much low-hanging fruit there is in terms of carbon-reduction, and that investments in reducing energy use pay off. From the Guardian in 2007:

John Browne of BP in 1997 broke with big oil omerta and committed BP to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10% below 1990 levels by 2010. They met the target in only three years for an expenditure of $20m; the company actually made $650m in savings.

One thing that is frustrating about this interview, however, is Bob Pollin’s tendency to stay at the 50,000 foot level and argue (correctly) that the net economic impact of full bore push to lower greenhouse gas emissions would be positive for growth. What he oddly omits is that the “bad for growth” is a big fat phony excuse for a different set of issues: a lot of rice bowls of currently powerful incumbents would need to be broken. Start with airline flight. That would need to be taxed in a big time way to make airline ticket prices reflect its environmental cost. You can expect a lot fewer family get-togethers at Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays. The one upside would be that private jets would be whacked even harder. And the US cannot pretend to be serious on this front if it does not make one of our more profligate energy users, the armed forces, similarly more parsimonious in how it uses energy.

To the Real News Network interview:

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay, we’re in the PERI institute in Amherst, Massachusetts. We’’re carrying on our discussion with Bob Pollin, the co-director of the institute. He joins us now, thanks for joining us.

So as I said, co-directs PERI and he’s the author of the book Greening the Global Economy. After COP21 most of the media was all elated. Finally, the world had agreed that there is a climate change problem. Carbon emissions and climate change is for real, so on, and serious. We were not so elated on the Real News. We did various stories because nothing binding had come out of it, it was nice at least the language said something. But now we’re in an election campaign, the United States, and you wouldn’’t know there ever was such a meeting in Paris. Climate change is a little bit on the radar between Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton. Hillary says the words; Bernie says a little more. Of course on the republican side, I think, most of the candidates deny it exists.

But there are a lot of serious issues and debates taking place in Paris, and it seems it is part of what seems to paralyze this discussion. One of the big issue is China and India are as big or bigger, in China’s case, carbon emitters than the United States. The United States has no way to make China do anything about it or India. And if they don’’t, why should we because without them doing it, [it doesn’’t] just the U.S. doing it anyway. That’’s one of the logics and then you get a fight on the other side. You know, as most people know you’’ve had a hundred years of development so you can’’t treat developing countries the same way.

So what do you make of that debate? And how does that debate get unglued? Because every time there’’s a big international meeting, everything kind of stops there. In spite of “we all agree” rhetoric.

POLLIN: Well look, let’s take the case of India. I mean, it so happened that I was in India giving lectures on this issue immediately before the COP21 meeting in Paris. There didn’’t seem to be a high level of consciousness, in India around this issue. At least among the people that I was discussing. The Indian government did make its commitment for the conference. It sounded pretty good.

But [if] when you looked inside it, what it said was that the Indian economy, we weren’’t going to sacrifice economic growth and I agree with that. But they were going to get emissions down, they were basically going to stabilize the ratio of emissions down to GDP. Now if you, kind of work through all of that, what it means that in 20 years instead of having emissions grow 5 fold, you know, 500%, in 20 years, they’re only going to grow 300%. You can tell the same story for Indonesia and other big developing economies. Now when Prime Minister Modi of India got to the Paris conference, he made a point of saying we can’’t, we Indians cannot be bullied into accepting the premises that we’re going to have to sacrifice growth and poverty reduction in the name of climate stabilization.

I agree with that. But my point in my book and elsewhere is that for India, for Indonesia, for the United States, for every country, there is no reason to have to sacrifice economic growth, employment creation, poverty reduction. Because if you invest in the green economy that is going to generate jobs. That is going to reduce poverty, it is going to create opportunities for small scale development of electricity and rural areas of India. That message didn’’t get through and you’’re absolutely right. The whole thing seems to have gone way into the back burner and is not being discussed.

So what we did not succeed in doing in Paris, in my mind, is two fundamental things. Number 1, we still don’’t have a sense of the magnitude, the urgency if we believe climate science. China is talking about stabilizing emissions in 2030. They need to get emissions down by 20% by 2030. You know realistically, India needs to stabilize emissions where they are now or even get them down modestly; not let them grow 3 fold. Now, secondly, the United States needs to reduce emissions by 40-50%. That’s the magnitude of the challenge.

Secondly, the point is all of this can be done in the context of economic growth by investing in energy efficiency and clean renewable energy. It’’s good for jobs, it’’s good for poverty reduction, it’’s good for community development, it’’s good for urban development. Those are the messages that need to get through and that’s the way through which, in my view, is the only way we’’re going to generate enough activity that is going to reach the stabilization goals.

JAY: In the United States the problem is, that requires public investment. If you can create the conditions, perhaps some private investment will follow. But to really get this thing going you need public investment and you can’t pass anything like that in the current Congress.

POLLIN: So we need public investment at the municipal level. I mean, I myself am working, for example, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That has made a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2040 and I’m helping them develop a plan to do that. And we can do that for various municipalities. [The key idea for] why should we be able to do that for a municipality? Because again, energy efficiency investments pay for themselves. Small scale community development of green energy is a reality; it’s realistic. So all communities, can do it on their own. Then we’ll have to have a movement that bubbles up and then eventually it will hit at the level of congress.

JAY: China, in some ways, is ahead of the United States on this, if I’’m not right. In a sense, they’re way out ahead in producing solar panels less expensively and other forms of renewable energy.

POLLIN: Right. So, China is, yes, very committed to advancing a green energy sector. For the most part they’re using it as a basis for exports, to date. They’’re not using it to reduce their own emissions. They are putting up clean energy. But they’’re also still building coal power plants. They’’re talking about stabilizing emissions by 2030 as I said. That’’s not good enough, that’’s not close to good enough. China is the biggest generator of CO2 emissions in the world. More than the United States. Historically, yes of course, the U.S. has done way more than China. The ethical position says that the United States and other rich countries have to do more than China. I agree with that. But China does not have to sacrifice economic growth. But what the rich countries, the United States should do, is set up a fund to support green investments, in Indonesia, in Latin America, in the Caribbean. I mean, you know in Haiti, again, half the world’s sector has no electricity at all. So bring in green electricity. It’’s a tremendous historic opportunity. That’s what I think should come out of COP21. It didn’t but that’s the direction the global economy needs to get to.

JAY: So in the U.S. the breakthroughs are possible, the city levels, maybe some state levels. While Congress if it continues to be controlled; because it’’s not just Republicans, there’’s a lot of Democrats that don’t want to put money into it as well.

POLLIN: Well, you know, Democrats are of the view that this is bad for jobs as well. I’’m trying to convince them that it’’s not bad for jobs. Of course it’s bad for coal miner jobs, no question about it. But we need to think of a way to cushion the transition for coal miners and that can be done fairly easily. In fact, I’’m working on a study on that right now. But as it is, there’s 80 thousand coal miners in this country. There’s 157 million jobs, people in the labor market. We should be able to come up with a way to create at least a decent transition for everyone in the coal mining sector, that should be critical. Once we do that I think that will dissipate the opposition among labor and democrats to agree an agenda.

JAY: Alright, thanks very much for joining us, Bob.

POLLIN: Okay, thanks very much Paul.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

Print Friendly
Tweet about this on Twitter0Digg thisShare on Reddit0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Facebook0Share on LinkedIn0Share on Google+0Buffer this pageEmail this to someone

49 comments

  1. PlutoniumKun

    I’m sure as NC readers know, it is painful to think about what a huge opportunity here was in 2009 to embark on a green fiscal expansion to kick start the replacement of fossil fuels. But it was destroyed – not by republicans (or Conservatives in the UK, etc), but by gutless ‘liberal’ politicians. I think a lot will be written about this in the future, but my understanding is that it was Cristina Romer who persuaded Obama not to push for a direct current ‘smart’ grid as part of his economic stimulus on the grounds that it would take too long and the economy would recover anyway. It was known at the time that the biggest obstacle to renewable energy in the US is the crappy outdated grid network. The multipliers through the economy had Obama the guts to push it through would have been enormous – it would have stimulated massive private sector investment in wind and solar.

    On a broader front, it should be obvious that in economies with high and persistent unemployment and underemployment, direct investment at upgrading and replacing our energy networks is a no-brainer for economic growth and protecting our futures. Yet from the US to the UK to Germany, they’ve been going in the opposite direction (Germany has a huge investment in solar due to a past Green government, but Merkel’s party has been at best lukewarm on it, causing Germany to lose its lead). Germany and the UK have been major blockers in the EU against stronger regulations on cars. Quite simply, existing dirty industries have much better political clout than new clean industries, so they win at regulatory and taxation level.

    Airline trips are also a disaster – it is effectively government funded destruction of our planet – most airlines would be much smaller if it wasn’t for so many financial incentives right through the industry chain, and they pay ridiculously low taxes. But cheap airlines flights have become part of our lifestyles. I had decided that 2015 would be a ‘no fly’ year for me, but I ended up taking two long haul and one short haul return flights for hard to avoid family reasons. The notion of a ‘one flight a year’ refundable tax for everyone in wealthy countries is a good one, but seems to have died a death.

  2. Wade Riddick

    Let’s not forget the Clean Air Act increased economic growth by decreasing the prevalence of diseases caused by air pollution (e.g., Alzheimer’s, arthritis, atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, obesity, autism). Smog is a great way to increase the body’s inflammation by disabling regulatory T-cells [PMID 25048800]. Why is it so controversial to think that if people aren’t sick and they show up for work, the economy grows faster because they can create value when they’re not in some E.R. hacking up a lung?

    If there’s any hiccup with air travel, it’s unlike to be substantial or durable. There are a number of new, quite efficient and compact power sources coming to market soon – some probably this year. Even if this does not happen this quickly, with renewable power making up 90% of new electrical capacity around the world and batteries progressing as fast as they have been all you need is solar power to keep dropping (10-20% a year). Within a few years you’ll have airplanes operating on batteries.

    I wish someone had explained how to read these charts to Naomi Klein before she wrote her last book.

    The real question is how much of a hit does the economy take if we continue doling out subsidies to fossil fuels. Oil and gas prices will have to fall 10-20% a year just to keep pace with the constantly improving economics of solar – and they already receive twice the subsidies. Can you see banks, drillers and pipelines – much less Republicans themselves – rallying to that competitive challenge? This is the party that squeals, “Unfair!” the minute somebody drops a fact on them. They’re going to limp along on sunk infrastructure costs until their bankers shoot them over the untenable depreciation.

    Has anybody else equated Republican Party dysfunction of 2016 with the unraveling of their major donors in coal and oil?

    Pollution still kills 7-10 million people around the world every year. How many oil companies will have to go bankrupt before the Ted Cruz’s of the world are accused of being anti-Christian for their pro-pollution policies?

  3. rusti


    JAY: China, in some ways, is ahead of the United States on this, if I’’m not right. In a sense, they’re way out ahead in producing solar panels less expensively and other forms of renewable energy.

    POLLIN: Right. So, China is, yes, very committed to advancing a green energy sector. For the most part they’re using it as a basis for exports, to date. They’re not using it to reduce their own emissions. They are putting up clean energy. But they’re also still building coal power plants. They’re talking about stabilizing emissions by 2030 as I said.

    This isn’t some accident or moral failing, this is the system of incentives that is in place that results in ridiculous outcomes. A huge part of the drop in prices is due to Chinese industry realizing there is a ton of money to be made in selling the rights to pollute in China for the veneer of cleanness in Western countries.

    Solar panels and solar power electronics have unquestionably reached higher efficiencies, the manufacturing processes have been improved, and associated technologies like demand response and tracking have come a long way. But importing is largely a way to abstract the real costs, so any serious climate policy should focus on much better accounting for the energy and material inputs and aim to do as much of the manufacturing as possible domestically. The primary beneficiaries of current policies are the oligarchy on each side of the pond.

  4. Brooklin Bridge

    From the 55,000 foot level? Makes me think of solar powered clipper dirigible aircraft (I threw the clipper in for good measure) that use the sun for power and massive air currents created by global warming for speed. Get out in three days at the studio on top of La Tour Eiffel and eliminate airplane pollution on the trip. Get blown about? Who cares where you go, where ever it is, there you are! Humanity is your family, you travel to be with them.

    Ok, so once we create this thing (and they can be really really big), with all the fanfare about travel just mentioned, we get all the politicians and the .001% to come check the thing out, snip snip the coord while they are inside slapping each other on the back and calling each other the honorable this and the most-issimo that and away they go up up into the pollution they so thoughtfully created.

  5. UnhingedBecauseLucid

    People don’t understand…they just don’t understand the physics of energy.
    I’m not a tree-hugger but…you would do well to insert this little fact into your cranium kids:
    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN GROWTH

    For those of you with the patience, curiosity and a nearby big coffee mug… I’ve translated the perfect little video explaining why …

    READ THE DESCRIPTION FIRST

    ————————————————
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb_GNIa2joE
    ————————————————
    You’re welcome…

    1. TheCatSaid

      This is a stunning, shattering presentation. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THE LINK. Great charts. It puts things in a very different context, including highlighting the falsities of terms such as “energy production”.

  6. Ben

    From Bloomberg

    China does things in a big way, and nowhere is that more evident than in renewable energy.
    The world’s most populous nation was the biggest center of investment in the quarter ended Sept. 30, with $26.7 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The U.S. was second for the same period at $13.4 billion.
    China’s dominance will likely continue. The nation’s leaders in November last year committed to seeing carbon emissions starting to peak around 2030, which would require adding as much as 1,000 gigawatts of capacity from low-carbon emitting energy sources. That’s roughly equal to the total amount of electricity produced in the U.S. at the moment.
    Here’s a brief snapshot of China’s clean-energy landscape and electricity mix, with some projections:
    433
    China was the biggest renewables market in the world with 433 gigawatts of generating capacity at the end of 2014, more than double the U.S. in second place with 182 gigawatts.
    No. 1
    China led the world in 2014 by adding 56 gigawatts of clean energy, more than four times the U.S., which was again in second place.
    76,000
    Almost one out of every three wind turbines in the world are in China. At the end of 2014, the world had 268,000 wind turbines, with 76,241 operating in China, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.
    China does things in a big way, and nowhere is that more evident than in renewable energy.
    The world’s most populous nation was the biggest center of investment in the quarter ended Sept. 30, with $26.7 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The U.S. was second for the same period at $13.4 billion.
    China’s dominance will likely continue. The nation’s leaders in November last year committed to seeing carbon emissions starting to peak around 2030, which would require adding as much as 1,000 gigawatts of capacity from low-carbon emitting energy sources. That’s roughly equal to the total amount of electricity produced in the U.S. at the moment.

    Here’s a brief snapshot of China’s clean-energy landscape and electricity mix, with some projections:
    433
    China was the biggest renewables market in the world with 433 gigawatts of generating capacity at the end of 2014, more than double the U.S. in second place with 182 gigawatts.
    No. 1
    China led the world in 2014 by adding 56 gigawatts of clean energy, more than four times the U.S., which was again in second place.
    76,000
    Almost one out of every three wind turbines in the world are in China. At the end of 2014, the world had 268,000 wind turbines, with 76,241 operating in China, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

    Solar power generation system in a hilly area of Wuhu in Anhui province. Photographer: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
    17%
    About 17 percent of the world’s solar capacity is in China. Solar capacity in the country has expanded almost five times since 2012. China is forecast to add 17.5 gigawatts of solar in 2015, more than double expected additions in the U.S.
    58
    The Chinese government expects to reach 29 gigawatts of nuclear capacity this year, and forecasts 58 gigawatts by 2020. Japan had about 50 gigawatts of nuclear capacity before the Fukushima accident in March 2011 and the subsequent shuttering of much of the reactor fleet.
    23
    Of the 67 nuclear reactors currently under construction, 23 are in China or more than 30 percent of new reactor construction, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
    61%
    Outside of hydro, wind is the biggest clean-energy source of electricity in China. And yet coal remains dominant. The most-polluting fossil fuel accounts for 61 percent of China’s electricity generation, followed by hydro at 21 percent and wind at 8 percent.

    Sources: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, National Development and Reform Commission, Global Wind Energy Council, Bloomberg Intelligence, International Atomic Energy Agency

  7. UnhingedBecauseLucid

    People don’t understand…they just don’t understand the physics of energy.
    I’m not a tree-hugger but…you would do well to insert this little fact into your cranium kids:
    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN GROWTH

    For those of you with the patience, curiosity and a nearby big coffee mug… I’ve translated the perfect little video explaining why …

    READ THE DESCRIPTION FIRST

    ————————————————
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb_GNIa2joE
    ————————————————
    You’re welcome…

    1. tegnost

      indeed rail is the cheapest way to move cargo, light rail in seattle gets a big extension opening this weekend, husky stadium to downtown or the airport now. Most excellent.

    2. Parker Dooley

      “The National Defense and Anti-Terrorism High Speed Rail System”. It’s a slam dunk! So let’s re-train America.

  8. Jef

    Mostly smoke and mirrors. There is currently one way and one way only to reduce emissions and that is to not burn any FFs. Even the IPCC admits that there are no current economically viable methods to reduce CO2 and still burn.

    It has been documented over and over that to build out the infrastructure for “renewable energy” would require continued burning of FFs at current rates or more into the foreseeable future.

    The only real answer to the question “what can we do?” is DO LESS!

    Which is actually what Yves is saying without acknowledging it, less air travel, less driving, less military, less waste, less energy use, less manufacturing, less pollution.

    All of which needs to happen plus way more. All of which puts millions/billions out of work.

    No it would take a complete change in how we have structured civilization/humanity if we want to reduce emissions without causing collapse.

    By the way the BP thing was mostly a book keeping thing, a one off that didn’t keep or increase energy production up and reduce emissions. If you could spend $20m and save $650M everyone would be doing it and we would be lowering CO2 not increasing it.

    Also I don’t by the argument that anyone who isn’t onboard with the great “renewable energy” Manhattan project is just a luddite doomer and should be ignored. Lets do what WILL work not what we wish would.

  9. Chicken

    Saudi Arabia aspires to become the king of solar, look-out China! They also say we’ll still be heavily dependent on the same decomposed prehistoric vegetation we currently are, for the next 50 years.

    Meanwhile, jobs for Chinese is the direction as has been the convention for the past couple decades. Please don’t try taxing my gastrointestinal methane emissions for someone else’s benefit as well.

    If you think the ice won’t melt if we act now, I believe you’re sadly mistaken.

    1. tegnost

      Simply by not using oil for everything as we mostly do now the window for oil expands significantly, so we don’t need to replace oil, just supplement it with other options. Do you really think someone wants to tax your gaseous effluent? Are you proposing nothing should change? And in your next comment you mention implementing alternatives, implementation is a policy choice and depending on who’s running the show we get more or less of that, compare public transport in various cities, they’re all different and some are notably better than others because they were implemented by policy. Offshoring is a conflation here, not related particularly to energy, but also a policy choice, and the purpose of the many protectionist trade pacts both offered and implemented. The best way to stop offshoring is put people in office who will implement that policy.

  10. Chicken

    Oh, and the quickest way of implementing alternatives is by guaranteeing the jobs won’t be offshored. Or, perhaps this concern for the environment is just the next greatest mechanism for offshoring jobs?

    Enough is enough!

  11. Chicken

    I don’t need passenger rail, I barely drive my car as it is already. Do you suggest I should pay for your rail ticket?

    The Japanese rail system (a very good system I’ve used in the past and paid the remainder of my subsidized fare) is a perpetual money loser.

    1. bob

      Your DOT makes money?

      No, it doesn’t? Wow, and you have to bring your own car. That seems unfair to people who don’t have cars, and who pay taxes…

    2. tegnost

      Transportation systems can lose money as an institution while saving money for a community so you’re oversimplifying the transaction, as well as what it costs you personally. For instance, if gas becomes cheaper because public transport creates demand destruction then you, when you do drive your car (which in fact if you don’t drive much may not really need at all which provides it’s own savings) will pay less for gas due to less demand. Personally I have found that renting a car when I really need it is the best use of my funds, better car, fully insured, no maintenance or storage.

  12. Synoia

    February 2016 was over 2 deg C hotter that the historic average. If 2 deg C be the actual tipping point then we will be over 2 deg C for sporadic months of the year, then for over half the year and finally for the full year, within a decade.

    There is no conceivable plan to avoid Climate Change and its consequences. We have lived with linear extrapolations of the temperature rise in a system defined by the “s” shaped growth curve.

    We are just turning the corner on the fast growth part of the growth curve.

    The estimates of the impact are also wrong. We need to focus on the critical infrastructure which will be destroyed by rising sea levels, which are in my estimation, sewage or sanitation plants.

    My advice: Find out where you sanitation plant is located and if by the sea MOVE now.

    Personally I cannot conceive of any plan which would allow for the gradual migration of sewage plans inland. Current sewer system are designed for flow by gravity, and cannot be reversed and have sewage pumped uphill. If one tried to reverse the flow the sewage would just be pumped back into dwellings.

    Two thirds of USians live by the coasts. In my local area, Orange County, CA, 2.5 Million people are dependent on the sewage plant next to the sea in Fountain Valley/Huntington Beach, and it serves all of northern orange County, extending to Yorba Linda and Brea, about 15 to 20 miles inland.

    Extrapolating for the whole US based on my local sewage plant suggests between 50 and 150 million people, or about 12.5 to 40 million homes will become worthless, a wealth destruction of $2 to $8 trillion.

    And to where would these people move? There is no infrastructure, roads, electricity, gas etc which can possibly accommodate 100 million people relocating. As an illustration of the difficulty look at Europe’s problems trying to currently settle 1 million refugees, and understand there are potentially 30 Million refugees from the Middle East and N Africa on the move to Europe.

    Good News: Lambert’s ok, because he’s probably on a septic system, and distant from the sea in Maine.

      1. Synoia

        Septic leech lines require land larger than an average suburban lot (6,000 to 8,000 sq ft), and ground which both perks (percolates) and is not saturated with water.

    1. susan the other

      Great point; wondering what other things we have all failed to consider besides underground utilities.

    2. TenneyNaumer

      Don’t forget that most major modern airports are built on land no one wanted, usually because it was low-lying swamp land. So you can add that to the list of infrastructure that will be lost – of course, not to mention the world’s ports and everything connected to them.

  13. vegeholic

    We are all still collectively drunk and euphoric from the binge consumption of 200 years of fossil fuels. My sense is that renewables are just various schemes to extend that binge a little longer. How can you have 7.5 billion people, soon to be 8,9,10, etc. all aspire to western lifestyles with requisite resource consumption and waste disposal on a finite planet? We can downsize quickly with some semblance of control or just wait to be overtaken by events. I wish Mr. Pollin were correct but lacking any evidence that his plans are realistic he seems to just rely on wishful thinking.

    1. John Wright

      Go to http://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?v=91000 and you will get a list of oil consumption per capita in bbl/day per 1000 people.

      The USA is at 61.02 and China is at 7, but if China has about 4x the USA’s population, it is effectively consuming about 28 barrels when the USA consumes 61.02.

      Imagine China scaling up closer to the USA per capita usage.

      This is oil, not coal.

      I suspect some of the “painless” green energy initiatives simply represent pulling oil/coal consumption from the future to the present as future oil/coal is converted to photo voltaics now.

      On a gross level, there was a recent time where the amount of new incremental global C02 emissions actually dropped, it took the global financial meltdown to do this. see Figure 2.1 in http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/news_docs/pbl-2014-trends-in-global-co2-emissions-2014-report-93171.pdf

      Note, this is a chart of NEW incremental emissions of CO2, so the accumulated CO2 continued to increase, economic slowdown or not.

      I don’t see any solution (,magic or otherwise) to the climate change issue, increasing population and higher energy consumption lifestyles around the world seem to argue against this.

      To mix a few metaphors, I see much of the economics profession behaving as enthusiastic global growth activity promoting directors on the cruise ship “Global Economy Titanic” that is headed for the climate change iceberg.

  14. Tenney Naumer

    The American public has been sold a bill of goods for decades and believed it – and unfortunately labor, too, that oil, coal and gas bring jobs. Renewables bring far more jobs.
    And all money saved on lower energy costs will be spent on other things. The hysteria over incandescent bulbs is a perfect example of how easy Americans are to manipulate to their detriment. Misallocation of financial resources to pay for oil and gas infrastructure instead of the intelligent grid is another. Are the banks ever going to wise up or are they just in way too deep? Last October they eased line of credit terms rather than call in loans to the gas and pipeline companies, and the price has gone a lot lower since. I waiting for the crash caused by their unwillingness to face reality.

    Yves, buy a Holmes Eco-Smart ceramic heater, model HCH8305. It has a thermostat, fan, etc. You will not regret it. And it only costs about $50. Look online at Target.

  15. UnhingedBecauseLucid

    Most people don’t understand the physics of energy and the economy. Most of those who can [or could] chose not to…

    Here’s the most thorough but clearly laid out big picture. Read the description first.

    1. Jef

      Great presentation Unhinged – Oh how I pray for the day when the POTUS or anyone of high stature presents that reality to the world.

      TPTB believ that that day can never happen so they will do everything in their power to make sure we don’t hear it.

    2. dk

      Great presentation of a comprehensive but direct analysis (frequent pausing really helps), thank you for posting it here, and also for the links in the description.

      We have been living in a closed physical system all along, and recently reached several of its capacity boundaries (not just energy, but food production, and I would argue that we are in the vicinity of capacity for psychologically healthy physical space, if not well past it). Goals/expectations/promises of continued overall growth are absurd, a fact obscured by overly complex (hence deceptive) modeling; with one exception: the frontier for greater, more honest dignity, for individuals and society, remains unexplored, and I see great potential for us there.

  16. UnhingedBecauseLucid

    Suggestion to improve the comment section: Lay off the damn special auto-mod sauce and add a ”flag” button. Let the community do the work of filtering out the crap. Let democracy do it’s thing. The current mod algos are crap…

  17. Asher Miller

    Sigh. First, perpetual growth on a finite planet is an impossibility. We can debate how much of an impact reducing carbon emissions would have on growth, but fossil fuel inputs are not the only limiting factor. Think Liebig’s Law of the Minimum.

    Second, shouldn’t we start with the premise of how much and how quickly we seek to reduce emissions? Climate scientist Kevin Anderson has made compelling arguments that we need 10% reductions per year starting, well, yesterday, if we’re to have any hope of keeping warming <2 degrees C. It's hard to square those kinds of reductions with consumer-based economic growth. And if we did a massive WWII type renewable energy buildout you will have to take from Peter (the rest of the economy) to pay Paul (the energy transition) if you were to do so while capping (if not decreasing) emissions.

    Third, the more we try to pretend that we can maintain our "way of life" while mitigating the largest, most dire threat we've faced collectively as a species the less time and resources we leave ourselves to do what's actually required — figure out how to live within nature's limits.

  18. susan the other

    So maybe it was sensible to delay our infrastructure spending. Our new infra will look very different than today’s so why waste money on maintaining the old technologies. China and India have taken divergent paths to get to the same place. China opted to maintain jobs and build a green industry still using fossil fuel to do it and then gradually replace it. Jobs being the key concern. India, whose key concern is also poverty, seems haphazard but they have a different gestalt. Hopefully India will wake up in a year or two with a completely formulated coherent solution that creates a new green industrial ecology. They won’t have to retrofit any infrastructure because they don’t have much… unlike Synoia’s little sewage lecture above. And for us to go local and grass roots a new economy is a very good plan because it might be impossible to attempt to coordinate a national rebuilding without producing huge amounts of CO2.

  19. Dick Burkhart

    The green solution you propose, Bob, will be good and necessary in one form or another. Just don’t call it economic growth. Economic growth means more goods and services, and this process is powered by cheap energy.. As an example of the kind of problem you run into, modern wind mills and solar panels are at the apex of a global industrial economy mostly powered by fossil fuels. Take away those fossil fuels and that green energy infrastructure will not be nearly so cheap (heavy industry and transportation would take an enormous hit, for example). In reality we’ll need a lot more low tech solutions (less energy and resource intensive) and a far more egalitarian and simpler global economy with a lot fewer people.

  20. Richard Smith

    Yeves, you can’t be serious. BP is an OIL company. It’s entire raison d’être is to produce the oil that produces all those CO2 emissions. What f**cking difference does it make if it cuts emissions from its own operations by 10% when what those operations produce is oil?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Did you bother reading the article that was linked? BP was in opposition to the rest of the oil industry in its stance.

      And regardless of who did it, you are choosing to misconstrue the point. BP demonstrated that reducing the carbon footprint of a major corporation’s operations 1. took hard dollar expenditures but 2. was massively profitable and 3. was done way ahead of schedule.

      You are exhibiting a classic cognitive bias, which is halo effect, the need to see entities as all good or all bad. Sorry, most of life is grey. Just because you can deplore a lot of what BP has done does not make this exercise any less important as an example of what can be accomplished.

      1. subgenius

        No, sorry Yves, but YOU are the one with cognitive bias and/or a radical misunderstanding of the problem – BP cut the low hanging fruit to make that 10%. Real action to reduce the problems about to hit (maybe actually hitting, jury is out..) are along the lines of Kevin Anderson’s 10% PER YEAR.

        Such cuts destroy the entire technological basis of 20th/21st C Western civilisation. There is no solution that keeps our lifestyles even similar to now. Get fucking used to it and start moving toward solutions.

        I know economists view themselves as all knowing and all powerful – but this is, in fact, utter bollocks. Try talking to scientists and engineers with knowledge of the appropriate REALITY, instead of idiots that think finance is the most powerful force in nature.

        1. Skippy

          What is the deal with evoking economists wrt this thread.

          Skippy… you might fall afoul of cognitive pit fall Yves rightly describes….

          1. subgenius

            It’s an article by an economist claiming that BP’s example shows its ‘biz as normal’. This is false. At least if you want a functional biosphere.

  21. craazyman

    what about hiring a few hundred thousand Carbon Police. They’d be hot women of all ages who show up at your house wearing a “police officer blue” body suit designed by Ralph Lauren and a badge and they’d make sure your carbon footprint is getting smaller. If you liked them and they like you, they’d hang out. hahaha. That would get things moving. If you’re a family they’d just fill out a form and leave. If you’re an older woman who lives alone, you can have a tea and talk about relationships.

    You still can have oil but gas engines have to get real clean. This can easily be done, but everybody for some reason buys SUVs! That’s because after they have kids the Carbon Policewoman wants the Big Tank so the kids are safe. But the SUVs, even they can have cleaner engines.

    It’s hard when you change your mind all the time. That’s called “non stationarity” in the parlance of the oil industry. At least it implies motion, which is what they want. But it doesn’t matter if you’re in the wind farm business. Beyond Petroleum or maybe Begin Peddling? The future’s always uncertain, that’s why the big guys get the bailouts and the little guys get the bicycles.

  22. Jamie

    Reducing carbon emissions does not necessarily reduce growth; in fact technological change creates spurts in growth, like the tech booms. What I fear though, are some of the plans for the one trillion dollar carbon trading floor, that like all of other forms of speculation and toll-booth financial extraction, will reduce growth (demand) by funneling value into the arms of the hoarders (financial capitalists).

    So I love cap, but not so much trade…

  23. Gaylord

    The title should have been, “Reducing Carbon Emissions Won’t Halt Climate Disruption and Catastrophe.”

  24. Charles 2

    What he oddly omits is that the “bad for growth” is a big fat phony excuse for a different set of issues: a lot of rice bowls of currently powerful incumbents would need to be broken

    When breaking rice bowls means accelerating depreciation of existing assets (for instance airplanes for the airline sector, or specialised airplane producing assets for the aerospace industry), “bad for growth” is not a big fat phone excuse, it is real. It is not merely redistributing marbles.

    You can understand it,
    from the production side : specialised producing assets which are not utilised any more reduces production all else being equal.
    from the consumption side : production that is not produced is not consumed.
    From the financial side : the losses generated from asset depreciation curtails the ability to consume of the agents who financed the said asset.

Comments are closed.