An opinion piece byÂ Steven F. Hayward for the Wall Street Journal, April 28th:
The usual chorus of environmentalists and editorial writers has chimed in to attack President Bush’s recent speech on climate change. In his address of April 23, he put forth a goal of stopping the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2025.
“Way too little and way too late,” runs the refrain, followed by the claim that nothing less than an 80% reduction in emissions by the year 2050 will suffice â€“ what I call the “80 by 50” target. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have endorsed it. John McCain is not far behind, calling for a 65% reduction.
We all ought to reflect on what an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 really means. When we do, it becomes clear that the president’s target has one overwhelming virtue: Assuming emissions curbs are even necessary, his goal is at least realistic.
The same cannot be said for the carbon emissions targets espoused by the three presidential candidates and environmentalists. Indeed, these targets would send us back to emissions levels last witnessed when the cotton gin was in daily use.
Begin with the current inventory of carbon dioxide emissions â€“ CO2 being the principal greenhouse gas generated almost entirely by energy use. According to the Department of Energy’s most recent data on greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006 the U.S. emitted 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, or just under 20 tons per capita. An 80% reduction in these emissions from 1990 levels means that the U.S. cannot emit more than about one billion metric tons of CO2 in 2050.
Were man-made carbon dioxide emissions in this country ever that low? The answer is probably yes â€“ from historical energy data it is possible to estimate that the U.S. last emitted one billion metric tons around 1910. But in 1910, the U.S. had 92 million people, and per capita income, in current dollars, was about $6,000.