Amidst all of the rhetoric and dire predictions surrounding global climate change, it is easy to lose one’s perspective. But, we will not successfully minimize the risks created by global climate change without perspective.
Fundamental to this perspective, U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been declining for more than a decade. As visualized in the above figure, total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions peaked in 2007 and has declined nearly 14 percent through 2016. According to Berkeley Earth, the largest contributor to this decline is the “transition from coal to natural gas for electricity generation”. Increased use of fuel economy cars and electricity generated from wind turbines have also contributed.
It is also necessary to understand the actual risks global climate change poses. As Bjorn Lomborg has eloquently argued, “yes, global warming is real and human-caused”, but claims that climate change will lead to the end of the world are unsupported. “The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that by the 2070s, the total effects of climate change, including on ecosystems, will be equivalent to a reduction in average income of 0.2 to 2.0 percent. By then, each person on the planet will be 300 to 500 percent richer.”
Put differently, the IPCC’s results do not support the current “call to panic” (as if panic is ever an effective response to emergencies). The IPCC’s results demonstrate that global climate change imposes costs that need to be managed. By definition, effective management will also account for the benefits enabled by cheap, reliable energy. Cheap reliable energy improves our material well-being, enables us to live longer healthier lives, and empowers us to become better stewards of our environment.