We Can Lower Emissions Without a Human Toll and Crushing Economies
Posted May 26, 2020
A deadly pandemic and crushed economies are bad ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Surprisingly, some environmentalists agree with us on that.
We offer these points in the wake of a new study showing a 17% drop in global carbon dioxide emissions in early April – as world economies were being shuttered to slow the spread of COVID-19 – perhaps to head off those who might be tempted to call a crippling pandemic and reversing two decades of economic growth good climate policy.
Not many folks would say such a thing out loud, because that 17% decrease wasn’t free. Not when you consider the horrifying loss of life and financial devastation that has impacted so many: jobs that might not come back, disposable income that can’t be replaced, businesses that are struggling or have gone under, manufacturing idled. And there’s more: surgeries and other health care put off or canceled, rising levels of depression and a palpable grimness across society.
These surely have captured the public’s attention, which is why, as a recent report in The Hill indicated, some environmentalists worry that Americans may connect aggressive climate polices (typically rejecting energy from natural gas and oil) with massive economic disruption and say, “No thanks.”
Indeed, having involuntarily experienced these effects during the pandemic, Americans surely don’t want to suffer them because of bad policy.
There’s no need for inflicting that pain. There’s a better, sustainable path that doesn’t exact a human toll and wreck the economy – one our industry has paved through abundant, affordable, clean natural gas – the main reason U.S. CO2 emissions were at their lowest levels in a generation before the pandemic.
It’s a fact economic growth and lowering greenhouse gas emissions can go together. In the U.S. from 1998 to 2018 we’ve been lowering GHG emissions associated with each dollar of economic growth, shown in the chart below using data from EPA’s greenhouse gas inventory:
Unfortunately, studies like the one mentioned above may fuel a false choice between lower emissions and economic growth. It’s demonstrably false.
Our industry has been delivering climate solutions while also providing energy that powers economies and raises standards of living. The United States has led the world in lowering CO2 emissions since 2000, and more can be done by working together – not by driving people out of work.
Through new technologies, innovation and well-designed policies to address the risks of climate change, we can continue to safely and smartly harness U.S. energy reserves, which will help power the country’s economic comeback and make Americans’ lives better, while lowering emissions.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.
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