The mask slips for global-warming activists
posted at 2:17 pm on July 15, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
The global-warming climate-change movement has insisted that their primary concern is to keep the planet from overheating due to greenhouse-gas emissions. If so, one would expect that they would stick to plans that cut those emissions and focused on nothing else. However, the latest proposal on international carbon caps shows that the movement is less concerned with carbon emissions and more concerned about kneecapping economic success:
Researchers in the U.S. have proposed a new way of allocating responsibility for carbon emissions they say could solve the impasse between developed and developing countries.
The method sets national targets for reducing carbon emissions based on the number of high-income earners in each country, following the theory that people who earn more generate more CO2.
“It’s fairer than some other ideas out there in the sense that we attribute responsibility for emission reductions based only on the number of high-emitting people in the country — if the country has large number of people who are high-emitters then it has more work to do,” said Shoibal Chakravarty, a research scholar at Princeton Environmental Institute. …
“By and large for every 10 percent increase in income, the emissions from a certain person go up about six to 10 percent. This is true pretty much everywhere in the world. … What happens is that initially people spend their money mostly on direct use like transportation, air conditioning, heating and cooling and so on,” Chakravarty said. “But they also spend a lot of their money on buying goods, and buying stuff. And to make stuff you use energy and you produce emissions.”
Let’s make this clear. First, Princeton has to resort to the hypothesis (not “theory”, which indicates a substantial level of proof in scientific jargon) that higher-income people generate more carbon emissions because they can’t measure it. When people use the phrases “By and large” and “pretty much everywhere,” they’re not speaking scientifically but giving opinions. In this case, they’re looking at data on emissions by country (an inexact science anyway) and comparing it to rankings from the World Bank, hardly a rigorous scientific process.
Second, this makes little sense anyway. The act of earning a living doesn’t generate carbon emissions — consumption and production do. If you wanted to tax for carbon emissions, you would tax consumption or production directly, not income, even if you can’t scientifically relate carbon emissions to either. The relation between income and emissions is at best indirect. At least consumption relates fairly directly to production, and a tax on the former would definitely suppress the latter in any economic system.
So why focus on income? The entire point of the global movement to arrest energy production is to punish the industrial nations for their wealth. This is just redistributionism writ large. They don’t want to limit carbon emissions per se; they just want the right people to emit carbon. Nations like the US, the UK, and other Western nations would have to be out of their minds to agree to a regime that allows China and India to emit far more carbon per capita than themselves, in order to meet some Utopian ideal of “fairness” in economic success.
If activists honestly want to limit carbon emissions, then they would argue for consistent limits for all nations. This kind of system reveals the underlying animosity to modernization and economic success that lies at the heart of the environmental movement in general and global-warming hysterics in particular.