If not us, who will solve the CO2 problem?

October 7, 2023


Or should I say, if not the United States, then who? America is the most powerful and prosperous country in the world. We have the highest GDP.

A global survey ranks us among the world’s leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation, and we lead the world in agility, adaptability, dynamism and responsiveness. Nineteen of the top 25 universities in the world are in the USA. Without a doubt, we have the means to lead the world in confronting rising global temperatures and the destabilization of our climate.

The United States has powered this prosperity with around 150 billion tons of coal, oil and gas, and has generated over 500 billion tons of heat-trapping CO2. The burning of fossil fuels is fueling the devastating changes we see in our climate. That’s supported by the overwhelming bulk of the evidence, notwithstanding a much smaller number of observations that appear to contradict it.

That’s not just Al Gore talking. That’s Republican Bob Inglis, executive director of RepublicEN (“Let’s get this right before big government gets it wrong”), and a long list of Conservatives including both presidents Bush, John McCain, Matt Gaetz (“Global Warming is real, humans contribute”) and Lindsay Graham (“What I want to do is show that I’m a Republican who believes the greenhouse gas-effect is real, that climate change is being affected by man-made behavior and try to find technological solutions.”)

The United States’ half trillion-ton CO2 total leads the world by a wide margin, with China in distant second place. China’s annual CO2 emissions have exceeded the United States since 2006, but at the current rate, their total will not catch up to ours until the year 2050. While China is emitting more CO2 per year, with 1.43 billion people, their CO2 emissions per capita are barely half of ours: 7.94 tons per capita for China, 15.04 tons CO2 per capita for the United States, 18% of their exports come to us. In a sense, much of their CO2 is generated for our stuff.

China now obtains a greater percentage of its energy from nuclear and renewables than the U.S., and leads the world in new solar and wind construction. Regrettably, they are also adding 106 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants. Although their coal-fired plants generally lose money, they are adding them in order to provide back-up for renewable energy. Ironically, they are suffering from a drought—possibly CO2-related—that has curtailed their hydroelectric output.

The IPCC has set a target to limit our global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial temperatures. 1.5 degrees is significant in that going above it will trigger many of the tipping points for runaway global warming. Beyond 1.5 degrees, many human and natural systems will no longer be able to compensate and adapt. For example, 70% t0 90% percent of coral reefs will vanish above a 1.5-degree increase. Many crops won’t grow, catastrophic floods will increase four-fold, and sea level will rise by feet rather than inches.

If we can limit the increase to 1.5 degrees, our children’s world will be overwhelmingly more livable and prosperous.

Climate Action Tracker rates U.S. policies as “insufficient” for us to meet our share of reductions to hold global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees. They rate China’s policies as “highly insufficient.” China’s proposed policies, relative to their “fair share,” would allow temperatures to increase by 4 degrees.

We hear people saying that we shouldn’t attempt to transition off coal, oil and gas if China is going to continue emitting CO2. That’s an understandable impulse. On the other hand, it looks very much like we are going to suffer progressively worse economic disruptions and weather-related disasters if we don’t. We could lose about 1.3% of our GDP for every degree Centigrade increase. (Note that any loss of GDP for 2 consecutive quarters would be called a recession.)

Last year’s weather disasters cost the United States $165 billion, and by the end of this century, we could be losing $2 trillion in revenue annually.

Seeing what we have to lose, it is clearly in our long-term best interest to lead the world in replacing carbon-based fuels with renewable electricity, even if—especially if—China doesn’t do their part. Once other countries see our CO2 per capita drop below theirs, they will feel pressure to follow suit, particularly if we have a mechanism to impose fees on imports that generate excess CO2.

The good news is, we are starting to move in a positive direction. The PROVE IT Act (S.1863), introduced by Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Chris Coons (D-DE), would direct the Department of Energy to study the carbon emissions of products produced in the United States and compare them to other countries. This will demonstrate where U.S. companies are producing less greenhouse gases than their foreign counterparts, and give credit where credit is due.

The PROVE IT Act would go well with a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) on imports, which imposes a fee on imports that generate more CO2 than domestic products. That would give U.S. companies a level playing field when competing against more CO2-emitting foreign companies.

Regarding a CBAM, Senator Bill Cassidy (R Louisiana) said “Right now, the current system incentivizes countries like China and India and Vietnam to not pay attention to emissions because you can produce a good cheaper by not paying. But if we had a border carbon adjustment, it would help our workers, help our industry, incentivize them to do it right.” Moreover, A CBAM will make China pay for their excessive CO2 emissions.

Conservative organization RepublicEN favors complimenting a CBAM with a carbon fee and dividend, in which coal, oil and gas producers are charged by the ton for the CO2 their products generate. The fee would be given directly to you and me and all citizens of America to spend as we see fit. You and I would pick the winners and losers, not the government. That more than covers the increased cost of fuel for over 60% of the population, (i.e., most of us will profit from it, while those who use more will gain less).

As for the poorest members of our country—they’ll fare even better. 96% of those in the poorest quintile will get back more than they pay, and 85% of the 2nd poorest quintile will also profit. 68% of average earners will profit. For those who don’t, the difference will amount to less than 0.2% of their income. It’s simple and elegant by design. By itself, it will take care of more than half of our CO2 emissions. It is also projected to add 2.8 million jobs and $1.375 trillion to the economy.

We have seen that the USA has generated more CO2 than any other country, and that our current CO2 production per capita is much higher than even China’s. Moreover, CO2 is causing worsening changes in our climate that are problematic now and will be devastating for our children. We also see that we have the strength and resources to fix the problem, and powerful, market-based solutions with which to do it. It’s time we assume our natural role as leader in assuring a more stable climate and more prosperous future for our children.

Let’s support those measures that replace carbon-based fuels with pollution-free, climate-improving, beautiful, renewable electric power.

George Hansen is a 20-year resident of Arroyo Grande and a retired physician.


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I will admit, we have not been very good stewards of the planet. Up until a few decades ago, throwing trash anywhere, burning anything anywhere, and not caring one whit about rivers and oceans, made for a rather messy, smoky, river on fire kind of backyard.

Humans, being human after all, did see the light, and created the technology and manufacturing methods to mitigate nearly all that. Sure, lots more to be done, like recycling (as far as that really goes…), more efficient vehicles, better factory designs, much more awareness about trash and garbage in general. Which is all good for 1st world countries, because 2nd,3rd,4th, and 5th world places just don’t care. They have lived that way for thousands of years, only the products they use have become less inclined to deteriorate. Not to mention, millions and millions more people in this “other worlds”.

But, there is no way anyone will convince me, that throwing my tax dollars at it, will “save the world”. Exactly what are they throwing the money at? All I ever hear is “for studies”. Who needs to study the pollution we have caused? I’m pretty sure it’s all right there in front of us. If anyone needs help, throw me a few $million, and I’ll point them towards the 2nd,3rd,4t, and 5th world regions that don’t care about the bottle full of toxic crud they tossed into the river.

You want to know why MOST people do not believe the hew and cry about climate change?


In my mind , now ‘ Climate Crisis’ and the wildly unattainable proposed solutions suffer from having been oversold to the point of absurdity. Though an increase in atmospheric carbon does align with our industrial growth , it’s becoming harder and harder for alarmists to tie these changes to catastrophe as all of the models that predicted it all are failing one after another.

Anyone with with an open mind and a little intellectual curiosity finds more and more variables and facts that shed doubt on the existing narrative.

The other problem is how all the proposed solutions end up rewarding corporations and governments with trillions- in some cases the much vilified oil companies are part of the winner’s circle.

Institutions have been ‘captured’ near and far and no one dare question the status quo story without facing reprisal.

The only crisis these old eyes see are social. A lack of honesty and intellectual curiosity on the part of the public and …. good old fashioned lust for wealth and power. The cultural perennials.