Video: Obama claims the US did nothing on emissions before 2009

posted at 2:19 pm on September 22, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama spoke to the UN this morning on the topic of climate change, in part to take credit for pushing the US towards the state-run energy paradigm that Europe has begun to regret. After the obligatory “no one before us had the wisdom to think we could change the weather” opening, Obama makes a couple of odd — and eminently refutable — claims about his presidency:

Thank you very much.  Good morning.  I want to thank the Secretary General for organizing this summit, and all the leaders who are participating.  That so many of us are here today is a recognition that the threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing.  Our generation’s response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it — boldly, swiftly, and together — we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.

No nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor, can escape the impact of climate change.  Rising sea levels threaten every coastline.  More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent.  More frequent droughts and crop failures breed hunger and conflict in places where hunger and conflict already thrive. On shrinking islands, families are already being forced to flee their homes as climate refugees.  The security and stability of each nation and all peoples — our prosperity, our health, and our safety — are in jeopardy.  And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out.

And yet, we can reverse it.  John F. Kennedy once observed that “Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man.”  It is true that for too many years, mankind has been slow to respond or even recognize the magnitude of the climate threat. It is true of my own country, as well.  We recognize that.  But this is a new day.  It is a new era.  And I am proud to say that the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any other time in our history.

As The Anchoress points out, this is simply untrue.  In the first place, we succeeded through partnership with the private sector where Europe and Kyoto did not in 2006, when we grew our economy and reduced our carbon emissions by 1.3%:

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped slightly last year even as the economy grew, according to an initial estimate released yesterday by the Energy Information Administration.

The 1.3 percent drop in CO{-2} emissions marks the first time that U.S. pollution linked to global warming has declined in absolute terms since 2001 and the first time it has gone down since 1990 while the economy was thriving. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in both 2001 and 1991, in large part because of economic slowdowns during those years.

In 2006 the U.S. economy grew 3.3 percent, a fact President Bush touted yesterday as he hailed the government’s “flash estimate” that the country’s carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 78 million metric tons last year.

What’s more, while Europe pursued the completely ineffective Kyoto strategy, the US worked to engage the world’s biggest polluters in a joint program that seriously addressed both emissions and economic growth:

In a surprise move that caught Europe’s smug moralists and the environmental movement’s noisy extremists flatfooted, the United States announced in Vientiane, Laos, last week that it was joining five other nations – China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia — in a new pact that offers a refreshing and effective alternative route to tackling the problem of climate change.

While given short shrift by the puzzled media, this is a big deal, in many ways.

First, it breaks the climate-change deadlock. This is the agreement that responsible scientists and public officials have been seeking since the failure of the Kyoto Protocol became evident at the global warming conclave in Delhi two years ago. Call it “Beyond Kyoto” – Way Beyond Kyoto.

Second, the new deal was negotiated and settled without the involvement of the United Nations or the European Union – a clear message from the United States that multilateralism does not have a single definition. In fact, according to The Guardian newspaper, the agreement – called the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate — was kept secret by President Bush from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, an uncompromising champion of Kyoto, during last month’s G8 meeting” in Scotland.

The net result of these policies?  Instead of imposing a $1700 cost burden per American household and costing the US 3.5% of its GDP by 2050, Bush grew the economy — and increased tax revenues as a result:

An unexpectedly steep rise in tax revenues from corporations and the wealthy is driving down the projected budget deficit this year, even though spending has climbed sharply because of the war in Iraq and the cost of hurricane relief.

On Tuesday, White House officials are expected to announce that the tax receipts will be about $250 billion above last year’s levels and that the deficit will be about $100 billion less than what they projected six months ago. The rising tide in tax payments has been building for months, but the increased scale is surprising even seasoned budget analysts and making it easier for both the administration and Congress to finesse the big run-up in spending over the past year.

Tax revenues are climbing twice as fast as the administration predicted in February, so fast that the budget deficit could actually decline this year.

Tax cuts and pro-growth policies actually increased the economy while reducing carbon emissions, something that Europe has yet to match.  Perhaps that success should be the model of future programs for curbing emissions, although the need for it becomes less and less certain every year.  At the very least, someone should inform the President of them, because once again, White House research has left him ignorant at the podium.


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