So here’s the good news: global CO2 emissions are on track to fall 2.6% this year, thanks to the struggling world economy. This is not exactly unexpected, since the environment prospers whenever the economy doesn’t. I remember how quickly the air in Pittsburgh and Gary improved in the early 1980s, when the large rolling mills were shuttered forever.
You could see this as a recipe for long-run sustainability. Forget about wind, solar and energy efficiency. Just let the finance honchos go back to their ancienne regime bonus system, concentrate all banking in a few hands, let them “innovate” in a new generation of complex, unfathomable instruments, blanket their operations in secrecy and promise to bail them out if anything goes wrong. Then we can enjoy many more years of effort-free carbon abatement. But wait—that’s what we’re already doing.
This means Obama was right to tell the carbon conferees today that the US is taking effective measures to reduce its carbon footprint. He was being a little disingenuous, however, when he said “the recent drop in overall U.S. emissions is due in part to steps that promote greater efficiency and greater use of renewable energy.” There was another, bigger part he forgot to mention.