In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.There's division of labor. Climate scientists ought to concentrate on stochastic or chaotic dynamics and measure carbon concentrations. There's room for economists to concentrate on relative prices.
Many of the world's leading climate scientists didn't see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.
Natural gas has become significantly cheaper, leading more plants to switch over. One reason gas is cheaper, of course, is fracking technology. So our environmentalist friends have a bit of a quandry here: opposing fracking means opposing cheaper natural gas, which means opposing getting rid of those dirty, CO2 producting coal-fired power plants. Once again, profit signals lead entrepreneurs to find substitutes for expensive, dirty processes, in turn leading them to develop new technologies that create usable and valuable resources where none existed before. This drives down prices of that substitute, which leads to it replacing the old dirty technology.Let the climate scientists continue to work on the complex dynamics by which changes in the sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide, atmospheric mixing dynamics, and the strengthening or weakening of the jet stream allow for the southward migration of the polar vortex, or equalize temperatures in the atmosphere such that there is neither jet stream nor polar vortex. But let us unbundle the confirmation of climate change hypotheses from the discussion of policies to reduce human influences thereupon. Doing so is not as easy as it looks.
For years, American greens have pushed carbon-trading as the best way to reduce carbon emissions. Yet now carbon emissions are dropping, thanks not to an intrusive government tax on carbon, but to the brown industry and fracking technologies greens vociferously oppose.A government tax on carbon might accelerate the development of fracking technologies and cleaner-burning fuels, but the resulting supply shock will lower the price of carbon allowances.