The Obama administration’s proposed carbon dioxide restrictions will have little impact on global climate, a prominent global warming activist group has acknowledged.
Highlighting China’s growing use of coal power plants and the gap in power plant environmental safeguards between the United States and China, Climate Central senior scientist Eric Larson predicted on the Climate Central website, “All the windmills in the world won’t deliver our children a climate they can depend on” without a substantial change in Chinese policy.
Decades of Higher Emissions
Larson warned such a change is not coming. Instead, China is locking in for decades its rapidly increasing coal use and carbon dioxide emissions. China built more than 500 new coal power plants between 2005 and 2009, Larson noted, “the equivalent of the entire U.S. coal-fired fleet of coal-fired power plants.” Between 2010 and 2013, China “added half the coal generation of the entire U.S. again.”
Larson observed, “China burns more than 4 billion tons of coal each year in power plants, homes, and factories. By comparison, the U.S. burns less than 1 billion, and the entire European Union burns 600 million. China surpassed the U.S. to become the largest global CO2 emitter in 2007, and it is on track to double annual U.S. emissions by 2017. While projections for the U.S. and Europe are for steady or decreasing coal use in the coming decades, barring major policy shifts, China’s coal use is expected to keep increasing.”
Larson added, “Economists predict that by 2040, China’s coal power fleet will be 50 percent larger than it is today. Once these coal-fired power plants are built, they typically run for 40 years, or longer, which means a commitment to decades of CO2 emissions.”
Health Claims Miss the Mark
In an alternative justification that has increasingly become its primary argument, the Obama administration is attempting to build support for its proposed restrictions by claiming the restrictions will reduce non-CO2 pollutants. However, the restrictions will bring few emissions benefits in the United States, as EPA reports power plant emissions of the six principal pollutants already have declined by 70 percent since 1980.
The new restrictions, however, will force U.S. electricity prices substantially higher, which will reduce real living standards in the United States. Less money available for good nutrition, healthcare, and other life-enhancing products also takes its toll on human lifespans and life enjoyment.
Meanwhile, higher energy prices chase energy-intensive industries to nations like China where power plants are much more polluting and more deadly. Reuters reported this spring only 70 percent of Chinese coal power plants have basic pollution reduction scrubbers that are required on all U.S. coal power plants. In addition, Reuters reported, many of the Chinese power plants with the scrubbers don’t use them because they substantially raise electricity production costs.
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.