Roper: Vermont off track for greenhouse gas goal — so what?

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Vermont Business Magazine reports that “Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions estimates in Vermont continued to rise for calendar year 2015, increasing from 9.45 million metric tons CO2 equivalent (MMTCO2e) in 2014 to 9.99 MMTCO2e in 2015. This increase puts Vermont approximately 16% above the 1990 baseline value of 8.59 MMTCO2e and adds to the difficulty of reaching the statewide goal of 50% below 1990 emissions levels by 2028.”

So, what? Even if Vermont reached the goal of 50 percent below 1990 (two arbitrary by nice-sounding round numbers), what impact would that have on global climate change? None. If we scrapped the whole plan tomorrow would the world be worse off? No.

United States District Judge William Alsup recently dismissed a case brought by two California cities, Oakland and San Francisco, against several oil companies regarding their role in climate change and the impact it has on rising sea levels. Some of the judge’s statements deserve consideration in how we look at global warming vs. fossil fuel policies. In the first of two decisions, Alsup concluded:

With respect to balancing the social utility against the gravity of the anticipated harm, it is true that carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels has caused (and will continue to cause) global warming. But against that negative, we must weigh this positive: our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal. Without those fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible. All of us have benefitted. Having reaped the benefit of that historic progress, would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded? Is it really fair, in light of those benefits, to say that the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable.

In a later ruling he points out, “Nowhere do plaintiffs assert that sea rise would not have occurred had any defendant reduced or refrained from fossil fuel production in California (or elsewhere in the United States).”

Taken together, these two statements encapsulate the fact that mankind has benefited immeasurably from fossil fuel energy, and that even if all these oil companies suddenly stopped producing and distributing fossil fuels, it would have no mitigating impact on global warming. To follow through on the plans of the environmental activists, we would be giving up benefits, inflicting punishment and achieving nothing as a result. Stupid. Gavel smash. Case dismissed.

Vermont should evaluate our greenhouse gas initiatives in the same way. What are the concrete benefits of reducing our emissions by so much over the next 10 years? What are the costs? Is the benefit worth the cost? If not, maybe we shouldn’t worry about the fact that we missed the goal. Maybe we should scrap the plan entirely.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Ansgar Walk and Rob Roper

4 thoughts on “Roper: Vermont off track for greenhouse gas goal — so what?

  1. Here is an update of my above comment.

    Here is the latest Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Update 1990 – 2015, issued June 2018. See table 1.
    http://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/aqc/climate-change/documents/_Vermont_Greenhouse_Gas_Emissions_Inventory_Update_1990-2015.pdf

    NOTE: It is truly amazing Germany, with a hugely more complex economy than Vermont, has up-to-date CO2eq data for 2017, but Vermont only manages to come up with 2015 data in July 2017.

    – If the CO2eq of wood burning is added, the CO2eq becomes about 10.000 MMt in 1990 and 10.785 MMt in 2015.
    – If Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry, LULUCF, are subtracted, the CO2eq becomes 5.2 MMt in 1990 and 6.335 MMt in 2015.

    The CO2eq sequestering of the forests has decreased, because of:

    1) Less forest acreage, due to encroachments and development.
    2) Increased clearcutting, roads, and other development within forests, which reduces sequestering, CO2eq/acre.
    3) About 50% of standing timber being of low quality and suitable only for burning.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/is-wood-burning-carbon-neutral

  2. Based in the latest Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Update 1990 – 2013, issued July 2017, it appears there has been an increase in CO2eq emissions from 8.378 million metric ton in 1990 to 8.745 MMt in 2013. The numbers for 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 likely were about the same as 2013. See table 1.
    http://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/aqc/climate-change/documents/_Vermont_Greenhouse_Gas_Emissions_Inventory_Update_1990-2013.pdf

    NOTE: It is truly amazing Germany, with a hugely more complex economy than Vermont, has up-to-date CO2eq data for 2017, but Vermont only manages to come up with 2013 data in July 2017.

    – If the CO2eq of wood burning is added, the CO2eq becomes about 10.0 MMt in 1990 and 10.8 MMt in 2013.
    – If Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry, LULUCF, are subtracted, the CO2eq becomes 5.2 MMt in 1990 and 6.350 MMt in 2013.

    The CO2eq sequestering of the forests has decreased, because of:

    1) Less forest acreage, due to encroachments and development.
    2) Increased clearcutting, roads, and other development within forests, which reduces sequestering, CO2eq/acre.
    3) About 50% of standing timber being of low quality and suitable only for burning.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-far-from-meeting-co2eq-reduction-goals

  3. I’m so excited, we can all feel good as the liberals further destroy Vermonts struggling economy so they can feel smart and morally superior.

  4. Vermont should definitely scrap the plan. No one could possibly know for sure that the climate would not have changed anyway, without using fossil fuels (The heat from the sun plays a huge role here). Climate change science is a joke – a really bad one. The costs of these supposed renewable energy sources far outweigh the benefits

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