Good News On Climate Change?

by Stuart Shapiro

With drought parching the breadbasket of the country and daily heat records being set, the last thing I expected to read was good news on climate change.  But then came two articles in 24 hours. The first from David Leonhardt touts one of the recent policy successes:

Over the last several years, the governments of the United States, Europe and China have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on clean-energy research and deployment. And despite some high-profile flops, like ethanol and Solyndra, the investments seem to be succeeding more than they are failing.

The price of solar and wind power have both fallen sharply in the last few years. This country’s largest wind farm, sprawling across eastern Oregon, is scheduled to open next month. Already, the world uses vastly more alternative energy than experts predicted only a decade ago.

Leonhardt goes on to point out that U.S. spending is declining over the past two years which is a disturbing trend. But David Roberts points out that while we may be spending less on renewables, our carbon emissions are declining:

We have cut our carbon emissions more than any other country in the world in recent years — 7.7 percent since 2006. U.S. emissions fell 1.9 percent last year and are projected to fall 1.9 percent again this year, which will put us back at 1996 levels.

The reasons are the recession, the growth in natural gas use, and EPA regulations. Whether these factors and the growth in renewables that Leonhardt describes is enough to make up for the inaction by Congress in curbing oil and coal use remains to be seen. At least it is a start.

About Stuart Shapiro

Stuart Shapiro Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

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