This article is the third in a series on Canada’s disastrous plan to destroy their economy by ridding the nation of the benefits of coal, oil and natural gas which emit life giving carbon dioxide.
There are no precedents for governments of democratic countries imposing on their citizens costs as high as those that would be entailed in net zero policies. Even in countries governed by totalitarian regimes, as in the former Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and today’s China, where governments imposed central planning and absolute state control, no country has sought to force the implementation of comprehensive changes where the results of the changes were known from the outset to sharply diminish the incomes and standards of living of the people governed.
Some people worry that recent events have laid the groundwork for more extensive government controls. Governments in western countries have been able to impose major restrictions on people’s lives due to the COVID-19 virus. While the virus is real and dangerous, it might be argued that a calculated exploitation of people’s fears along with backing by “science” have been effective in persuading free people to accept restrictions on their lives that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago. Whatever lessons aspiring autocrats may draw from the COVID experience, it would be far more difficult to control a population if the prospect is for sacrifices to be endured for the foreseeable future.
Public opinion surveys consistently show that, while at least half the population in western countries believe that humans emissions have some role in causing climate change and that the results may be harmful, the vast majority are unwilling to pay more than $100 per year to avoid those changes. The reality, of course, is that in most western countries, and certainly in Canada, the average person is already paying far more than $100 per year in costs and lost incomes due to climate policies. The questions, therefore, are how high the costs will have to rise, how much individual freedom and choices will have to be compromised, and how visible these changes must be before the adverse political reaction forces a change in the current movements towards central planning.
The Non-OECD Countries Will Continue to Place their Economic Development Objectives Ahead of Emissions Reduction
Of all the reasons why global net zero emissions goals cannot be met, this is the most irrefutable.
According to the British Petroleum Statistical Review of World Energy 2020, global carbon dioxide emissions rose from 29.7 billion tonnes in 2009 to 34.2 billion tonnes in 2019, a 15% increase. The countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reduced their emissions. However, by 2019, the non-OECD region produced 65% of the world’s emissions. Non-OECD emissions growth over the last 11 years was almost 10 times the reduction in emissions achieved at great cost by the OECD countries. The Asia/Pacific region as a whole is clearly the “leader” in determining emissions trends; the United States, with less that 15% of global emissions, is at best a bystander, as is Europe, with only 12% of global emissions.
Many people, especially in Europe and North America, may not be aware that their combined populations are only 15% of the world’s total, that the population of Africa exceeds that combined total and that the population of Asia is four times that large. Based on the analysis of the United Nations population agency, the regional populations and their differences are about to change considerably during the early adulthood of a child born today. By 2050, the world population is projected to grow by more than two billion people. Almost all of that growth will occur in Asia and Africa which, by 2050, will hold 80% of the world’s population.
The population of Europe is projected to decline by about 37 million, largely due to depressed birth rates and low fertility rates. In fact, the combined population of Europe and North America will be only 11% of the world total.
There will be similar trends in economic growth. In a 2017 report, Price Waterhouse Cooper offered some insights into how the global economy might change by 2050. The report was based on growth projections for 32 of the largest economies in the world, accounting for 85% of world GDP. Notably, the world economy could more than double in size by 2050, far outstripping population growth, due to continued technology-driven productivity improvements. Emerging markets (E7) could grow around twice as fast as advanced economies on average. (The E7 countries are China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey. The G7 countries are the United States, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada.) As a result, six of the seven largest economies in the world are projected to be emerging economies in 2050 led by China, India and Indonesia.
The enormous growth anticipated will mean that there will be a demand for all sources of energy supply. In many cases, but especially in most of Asia, the Middle East and Africa, that means continued and increased use of coal, oil and natural gas. The billions of people now living in those regions and the billions more who will be born there in the next 30 years cannot, and will not, be constrained from making sensible economic choices by the climate policy preferences of those in the west who already enjoy high incomes and living standards. The global dog will not be waged by the ever smaller G7 tail.
The advocates of net zero were pleased when the COVID-19 pandemic, and governments’ response to it, so depressed the world economy that there was a 6% reduction in GHG emissions in 2020. They felt confident that, through their proposals to “build back better” (i.e. according to their vision), global energy use and emissions would continue to shrink. In fact, according to the May 2021 reports of both the International Energy Agency and the US Energy Information Administration, global oil consumption is forecast to rise by 5.4 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2021. Further, global oil demand will “soar” from 93.1 mb/d in the first quarter of 2021 to 99.6 mb/d by year end and reach 101.4 mb/d in 2022. Global natural gas demand, which declined in 2020, is expected to recover in 2021, and rise to 1.3% above 2019 levels. Coal, the most carbon-intensive of the major fuels, is rebounding strongly in 2021, with global demand projected to rise 4.5% and return to 2019 levels. The global trends clearly are being driven by economic development in the non-OECD countries, ignoring the policy preoccupations of elites in western countries.
There is no question that political elites in many western countries are committed to imposing ever-more-expensive and intrusive measures to reduce GHG emissions, and that this commitment is aided and supported by the mainstream media and powerful, well-funded business and environmental organizations. To the general public in Canada, the political impetus behind the net zero goal seems like an irresistible force. Yet, as we hope we have shown here, that force must contend, sooner or later, with the combined economic, technological and political barriers to global decarbonization. The western world can proceed on a path by which it progressively reduces its industrial capacity and incomes, transferring growth and emissions to the countries of Asia and elsewhere. It cannot, even by the most drastic and authoritarian measures, unilaterally end the growth in fossil fuel use or emissions. One can only wonder what will happen when the majority of people in western countries come to realize this.
August 23, 2021 at 03:42AM