Clintons: Welcome to 1905

Bill Clinton is at least honest to some extent in saying that cutting back on CO2 emissions will requires us to throttle back the economy:

In a long, and interesting speech, he [Bill Clinton] characterized what
the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global
warming this way: "We just have to slow down our economy and cut back
our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our

But how much?  Activists try to make the average person feel like the amount is "not much" by spinning out rosy stories of 3rd graders fighting global warming by recycling.  But in fact Bill's wife Hillary makes the degree of cuts clearer:

...[Clinton's] plan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of global warming...

And recognize, this is the typical figure being cited by global warming catastrophists for "necessary" US cuts.  So how much is 80%?  With current technology, an almost unimaginable cut.  Its hard to get good Co2 data, but here is a chart from some place called the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center that purports to show US historic CO2 production from man-made sources:

The chartsmanship sucks here, but 1990 looks like about 1.35 billion metric tons.  20% of that would be 0.27 billion metric tons.  That appears to be the level we hit in about ... 1905.  So, apparently without using nuclear power (since Clinton opposed nuclear expansion in one of the debates, I think in Nevada)  she wants us in the next 42 years to get back to the energy production of about 1905.  Now this is a bit unfair, since efficiencies and GDP per ton of CO2 have improved substantially since 1905.  So to be fair she may only want to take us back to about 1930.

While this is scary, what Clinton and other global warming crusaders want to do to the third world is even scarier.  Right now, close to a billion people who have been in poverty forever are posed, via growth in China, India, and SE Asia, to finally exit poverty.  Global warming crusaders want this to stop.  For example, here is the former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern says that India must stay poor:

Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, sends out a very
clear message: "We need to cut down the total amount of carbon
emissions by half by 2050." At current levels, the per capita global
emissions stand at 7 tonnes, or a total of 40-45 gigatonnes. At this
rate, global temperatures could rise by 2.5-3 degrees by then. But to
reduce the per capita emissions by half in 2050, most countries would
have to be carbon neutral. For instance, the US currently has, at 20-25
tonnes, per capita emissions levels that are three times the global

The European Union's emission levels stand at 10-15
tonnes per capita. China is at about 3-4 tonnes per capita and India,
at 1 tonne per capita, is the only large-sized economy that is below
the desired carbon emission levels of 2050. "India should keep it that way and insist that the rich countries pay their share of the burden in reducing emissions," says Mr Stern.

No cars for these folks either!


  1. JDM:

    Let's say that by some miracle the government instituted a carbon tax. Suppose that tax started at a low level, but rose, in a predictable fashion, each year. Suppose also that for each dollar that was raised via a carbon tax, income taxes were reduced by a dollar (including earned income credits), so that the overall effect is tax neutral.

    What would be the effect of replacing the tax on income (which is usually regarded as a good thing and not something you want to discourage) with a tax on carbon (which in the quantities now being emitted is generally considered a bad thing for the climate)? For taxpayers, overall, there would be no effect (the poor again could be helped by additional earned income credits). For the Treasury, there would be no effect - dollars netted would be the same. Yet there would be a great overall effect in a) reducing carbon emissions and helping to stabilize the climate b) spurring innovation into energy efficiency and solar power which would reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create whole new industries which would produce products that we could export to other countries.

    This is a far better way to go than spending two trillion in Iraq trying to keep control of Mideast oil, or of subsidizing ethanol which entails a whole host of problems.

  2. stirner:

    "some place"? That some place is the Oak Ridge National Laboratory!
    "The Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (Thomas A. Boden, Director), which includes the World Data Center for Atmospheric Trace Gases, has served as the primary climate-change data and information analysis center of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) since 1982."

  3. Best Solution:

    The only thing that will solve this is more and better technology. India, China, and SE Asia will NOT stop developing, and their pollution will dwarf the pollution of the U.S., if it doesn't already. The U.S. could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent, completely eliminate them, and it won't be but a drop in the bucket, compared to what Asia will produce.

    Capitalist entreprenuers, developing drastically cheaper energy technologies, is the only solution that will actually work.

  4. joe:

    you took him out of context.

    "And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada -- the rich counties -- would say, 'OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.' We could do that.

    But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine, and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grandchildren. The only way we can do this is if we get back in the world's fight against global warming and prove it is good economics that we will create more jobs to build a sustainable economy that saves the planet for our children and grandchildren. It is the only way it will work.

  5. markm:

    IIRC, about 60% of our carbon emissions are from fixed sites, and 40% from transportation and other portable uses. Virtually all that fixed site usage could be converted to emission-free nuclear power, if the greenies change their position to support that, but even that is a long and expensive process. To start with, we have to replace all the existing power plants with nukes, which is about a 30-year job even if site approvals become fast and routine. (Even the existing nuke plants in the USA are now over-age and will have to be replaced before the job is done.) Then, replace over 100 million home and business heating plants with electric (just for the USA), while adding more nuke plants and beefing up the distribution grid.

    Then the hard part starts. There are many industrial processes that have been designed and optimized around carbon fuels as an input, for chemistry rather than just for heat. Just one example, iron ore is smelted by partially burning coke (made by baking certain grades of coal to drive off all the volatile content) to carbon monoxide (CO) and then reacting this with the ore. E.g.:
    3 CO + Fe2O3 --> 2 Fe + 3 CO2

    (Note: Iron forms several different oxides, so the exact reaction quantities vary depending on your ore.) It is possible to electrolyze water with nuclear power, and use the hydrogen instead:
    3 H2 + Fe2O3 --> 2 Fe + 3 H2O

    Hydrogen-reduction has been done in the laboratory. It might even have been used in small scale industrial applications for hard to smelt specialty metals (not iron!), because H2 can be purified, while coal and coke are mixtures of carbon, rocks, and other impurities. It's never been done at the scale of normal steel production, and it will change all the other side reactions that occur in a blast furnace. Basically, we'll be asking smelters and many other industries to go back to about 1800, re-do all their process optimization from there, and replace their plants with new ones built for the changed processes - several times until they get through all the trial and error tweaking.

    And when that's all done, at least fifty years from now if we start working on it right now, that leaves the other 40 percent that can't be plugged into the electric grid. And replacing your gasoline tank with a hydrogen tank is not a practical solution with any technology currently in sight...