Carbon Pricing Is Not a Fix for Climate Change
Renewable Energy

Carbon Pricing Is Not a Fix for Climate Change

The problem: developing countries can’t afford to go along

Credit: Getty Images
climate change. Unlike many environmental pollutants that have a local or regional impact, carbon dioxide (CO2) is global—there is only one atmosphere. If actions taken to reduce atmospheric emissions in one region result in increased emissions elsewhere, then the one atmosphere suffers.

Some form of carbon pricing—a carbon tax, carbon trading, carbon credits—is favored by many politicians, NGOs, academics and even some in industry. But the reality is that a price on carbon will not be adopted by developing and emerging economies because it makes their energy more expensive, and they are too busy trying to build their economies and lift themselves from poverty.

In the developed world, carbon pricing increases the cost of manufacturing and products, which in turn drives manufacturing to developing nations where it is more affordable because of lower labor costs and less stringent environmental regulations and emissions standards. Global emissions rise in the one atmosphere. Put another way, the good intentions of carbon pricing have an unintended negative impact on climate change. This is not hypothetical. It is happening.

If carbon pricing won’t work, what will? Energy science tells us how to actually lower CO2 emissions into the one atmosphere in the time frame needed. Unfortunately, those who are the most passionate about addressing climate change seem to not like the answers from the energy experts.

Renewable energy is important to get electricity to people living off-grid in energy poverty. But renewable energy cannot grow large enough or fast enough to put a dent in atmospheric emissions in the time frame needed. Further, although the wind and sun are renewable, the panels, turbines and batteries that collect them are not. They require vastly expanded mining, manufacturing, deployment and landfill disposal, amounting to major environmental effects on the land.

Biomass and biofuels qualify as “renewable and carbon neutral” in Europe. There may be reasons to burn fuels made from crops to power vehicles or to make electricity, but those reasons are independent of the CO2 emissions that come from growing, fertilizing, harvesting, converting, transporting and combusting