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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Washington Post's Affirmative Action Policy for the United States on Global Warming

The Washington Post's Affirmative Action Policy for the United States on Global Warming

Monday, 22 April 2013 20:49

The United States emits more than twice as much greenhouse gas per person as the average for West Europe. If countries like Germany, France, and Spain emitted as much per person as the United States, there would be no point worrying about greenhouse gas emissions because the planet would be fried. The world's emissions levels over the last three decades would be so much larger that there would be no hope of reducing emissions enough to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming.

This fact (i.e. undeniably true statement) makes the Washington Post's lecture to Europeans about the United States being "the world leader in fighting climate change" laughable. Apparently the Washington Post thinks the United States should get big points for improvement and somehow that Europe should emulate us even if we still are emitting far more greenhouse gas per person than Europe.

No one ever accused the Washington Post of having much grasp of logic and arithmetic. After all, they are doubling down in their support of austerity even after the Reinhart & Rogoff errors had been exposed. But this one seems to be below even the Post's incredibly low standard. Come on, we know that the Post hates Europe because they don't give all of their money to the rich, and ordinary workers can expect to get health care and a decent retirement, but this one is really off the deep end.

Comments (8)Add Comment
WaPo Needs a Public Relations Spokesperson
written by Last Mover, April 22, 2013 10:35
The only way to gain experience and achieve good judgement is to make mistakes. No experience and bad judgement comes from not taking enough risk to make mistakes.

This is why America has been so successful in reducing greenhouse gases compared to Europe, because it keeps making so many mistakes.

If WaPo had a PR person on board this could have been made clear and avoided the unnecessary confusion that has upset Dean Baker.
Fighting climate change. Heck, ANY change ...
written by Merciless Time, April 23, 2013 3:21
In a way, WaPo editors are right: the US is the world leader in fighting climate change, by which they mean the US is the world leader in fighting "climate change". Meanwhile the rest of us hope the austerians (aka economists-who-would-rather-read-chicken-entrails-for-analysis-than=admit-Keynes-had-a-valid-point) will just get out of the way as they massage their bruised egos so the economy can recover before the arctic ice disappears during summers.
Heading for disaster
written by keenan, April 23, 2013 3:25
This brings up the enormous flaw in the general approach of the neo-Keynesian crowd (Baker, Krugman... and practically everyone on this forum). They don't adequately address the looming catastrophic consequences of global warming.

This general approach is: Rev up the economy through stimulus. That was fine advice for Keynes' time, but he was writing before the problem of global warming emerged.

Now, revving up the economy means pouring more junk into the air. It means trashing the planet.

A more comprehensive and Earth-friendly approach is urgently required. Putting blind faith in "stimulus," or "technology," or "somehow it'll work out," will only lead to disaster.

written by Skeptic, April 23, 2013 4:57
If the US has high per capita emissions do we really want to increase its population with immigrants from less polluting countries? An immigration moratorium could have a greater positive impact on the environment than most policies pushed by environmentalists.
Doubling down versus "double or nothing"
written by Melissa, April 23, 2013 5:38
Dean,you've started to use the phrase "double down" a bit lately and I think you've confused it with "double or nothing". "Double down" comes from Blackjack, and it's a move done when your situation (your hand relative to the dealer's visible card) is quite strong. By contrast "double or nothing" is a desperation gamble when you've already lost the first bet, and want to escape the loss by offering to risk a double loss.
written by Behringer, April 23, 2013 7:27
The Post asserts "The U-Mass. economists’ reworking of the data shows an association between a plus-90 percent debt-to-GDP ratio and slower growth, just a smaller one than Mr. Rogoff and Ms. Reinhart found." I haven't seen this in any of the commentary on R&R. How true is it? And "association"? That's not the same as cause and effect. Slower growth might be what causes the higher debt, right?
written by AlanInAz, April 23, 2013 9:58
The WaPo failed to mention that the US leads the world big time in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. The IMF estimated that elimination of the $500 Billion annual US subsidies could reduce carbon emissions by 13%.

Another area not mentioned by WaPo is the increase in carbon intensity for US emissions. Carbon intensity is defined by the IEA as carbon emissions per unit of energy (some others define intensity as emissions per unit of GDP). Although total emissions have declined slightly recently the carbon intensity as defined by the IEA has been increasing (at least through 2011). In contrast, Europe has been able to continue decreasing their carbon intensity from a lower starting point than the US.

Europe is certainly a much better energy citizen than the US, but they also must continue to improve carbon intensity and/or energy consumption if we are to avoid a fried planet. It is important that the wealthy countries set an example for developing countries.
exaggeration weakens your case
written by Richard Genz, April 24, 2013 10:07
Sorry, your quote isn't fair. WP didn't claim the US is the world leader on climate change--a ridiculous and startling notion. WP actually said: "The United States consequently has the opportunity to turn itself into the world leader in fighting climate change, a role it has long shied from."

Thanks for one of the best blogs out there.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.