The color green has long been associated with envy, but increasingly it’s becoming a pigment of mass delusion. Amid near-hysterical reporting about the climate, the U.S., and much of the West, is embracing willy-nilly policies likely to weaken our economy and boost China’s ascendancy at the expense of democracy and market economies.
In essence, China is adopting a version of the great Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” boxing strategy, which had the opponent wear himself out by launching harmless punches as Ali lounged on the ropes. Then, as the rival began to weaken, Ali would seize the moment and pummel him.
Much the same is happening with the emerging climate agenda. Under Paris and other accords, China, as well as India and other developing countries, essentially have been given a pass not to achieve “carbon neutrality” until 2060. The argument is largely (at least formally) that the West is responsible for the heavily hyped climate “apocalypse” because of its longer history of industrial growth, although neither China nor India seems eager to de-industrialize, cut itself off from medical advances, or otherwise halt its progress toward Western levels of prosperity.
Western countries, notably the United States but also the EU, have reduced their emissions significantly over recent decades. They have assumed considerable costs in making their economies more “green” and, in some cases, have sought to eliminate or constrict whole industries, such as oil and gas, while imposing enormous costs on their farmers, manufacturers, small-business owners, and, directly or indirectly, consumers.
In contrast, despite its penchant for tantalizing Western greens with demonstration projects suggesting a turn toward a “net zero” policy at some point in the future, China has made a recent decision to slow its greenhouse-gas reduction. Amid a global energy crisis, China continues to expand its use of coal and other fossil-fuel plants. This allows the likes of Apple’s Tim Cook to pose as a progressive green visionary here, while basing his company’s production in a country that emits more greenhouse gases than the United States and the EU combined.
Nor is China alone. India is doing the same, and we can imagine that over time other developing countries, notably in Africa, will want access to power. Today, one in ten people globally have no access to electricity and over 3.5 billion lack reliable access to it. Many of these countries now look to China, not the West, to meet this demand with new fossil-fuel projects.
Ironically, green policies tend to push production out of places with strong environmental controls and into dirtier places with lower energy and regulatory costs. According to one study, California’s draconian laws have pushed so many industries and people out of the state that the net impact of emissions — this is global after all — has been negligible at best. Green policies have already accelerated the de-industrialization of countries such as the United Kingdom and could undermine recent efforts to bring factories back from China.
Read the rest of this piece at National Review.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.