Peter Morici

The inconvenient truth President Obama denies about climate change is that China’s refusal to cooperate in international efforts to address the problem makes U.S. efforts to slow its pace futile. Moreover, his policies severely handicap America’s ability to mitigate its consequences.

The global climate has gone through profound cycles of cooling and warming since long before humans walked the Earth. While public figures and some scientists may disagree, the majority of researchers have concluded that human activities – in particular, greenhouse gas emissions – are now a significant cause of global warming, and they are urging concerted international action.

Carbon dioxide composes 80 percent of harmful emissions. Having failed to win congressional approval for a system of permits to reduce emissions, the president has unilaterally targeted coal-fired electric utilities and fuel used in transportation to reduce U.S. emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels.

Those actions are unnecessary and harmful.

In recent years, more abundant and cheaper natural gas has motivated electric utilities to switch from coal, and energy intensive manufacturers in metals, chemicals and the like have made remarkable, cost-saving progress to reduce energy use.

Responding to consumer preferences, automakers were making more fuel-efficient vehicles before the president imposed more stringent mileage standards. The high cost and stress of commuting are encouraging many young people to live closer to their jobs. Competition from rail is pressuring trucking companies to purchase more fuel-efficient rigs.

Together, those free-market decisions have reduced CO2 emissions by more than 9 percent from 2005 levels.

Now the EPA and other federal agencies want to micro-manage those choices by imposing inflexible standards on electric utilities and other manufacturers. Progressives would happily force as many Americans as they can onto mass transit, imposing a terrible drain on state transportation and local government operating budgets.

Those initiatives would not do much to arrest global warming, but by increasing taxes and production costs, they would send more jobs to China.

With an economy about half the size, China already emits almost twice as much CO2 as either the United States or Europe. Every 18 months, its emissions grow enough to replace the emissions savings the United States will accomplish by hitting the president’s 15-year target.

Other developing countries, like India, are similarly adding to the problem; however, China accounts for about 85 percent of the annual increase in global CO2 emissions.


Peter Morici

Professor Peter Morici is a recognized expert on economic policy and international economics. He has lectured and offered executive programs at more than 100 institutions including Columbia University, the Harvard Business School and Oxford University.
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