Chinese leader Xi Jinping and President Obama struck a deal Wednesday to limit greenhouse gases, with China committing for the first time to cap carbon emissions and Obama unveiling a plan for deeper U.S. emissions reductions through 2025. China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, pledged in the far-reaching agreement to cap its rapidly growing carbon emissions by 2030, or earlier if possible.
There are days on which the Washington Post still manages to serve a useful function as a newspaper. Their fact-checkers get complacent and actual true information gets past them and makes it into the morning edition. It turns out that the US and China really have made a deal on Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG). It’s the terms and motivations that the WaPo has seemed to effectively gafarkle.*
Here’s a more accurate take on the terms. The far-reaching agreement to cap emissions by 2030 means that the Chinese will not have to reduce the amount of pollution they emit for the next sixteen years. The United States, on average, has targeting reduced GHG emissions by 1.2% per year since 2005. Assuming success in the current target from 2015 to 2030, we will be reducing our emissions by an aggregate amount of 26% (26.15% if you believe we have precision in our Climate Models).
In light of recent history, this won’t happen under anything that resembles positive economic conditions. GHG emissions are a function driven by economic performance. We currently emit fewer GHGs than 1996. However, we only got there by steadily reducing our workforce participation rate from 2007 to today. We have reduced GHG emissions from 7.33 Million Tons (MTons) in 2007 to 6.53 MTons in 2012. We have reduced the US Workforce Participation Rate from 66.4 in 2007 to 63.6 in 2012. The math of how firing Americans saves the planet follows below.
At current economic non-performance, we can expect US workforce participation to decline by 0.56% per year. This continued expansion of Funemployment will allow us to successfully abate 0.16 Mtons of GHG emissions per year. Dividing the Funemployment expansion by the GHG abatement gives us the fundamental rate of victory for Obama’s climate strategy. For every 1% we reduce our workforce participation rate, we can abate 3.5 Mtons of GHGs.
Now let us suppose that the newly-Republicanized US Senate decides to get uppity with Emperor Barack I. Let’s say they totally block his agreement with China and we only continue to reduce GHG emissions by the current 1.2% per year. So we’re already on the hook for a 26.15% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030**. We successfully abate 3.5MTons of GHG pollution for every 1% of our workforce we lay off. Thus, without any further dumb from the Obama Administration, we are already signed up to reduce our emissions to 4.82 Mtons by 2030. This would suggest that we will therefore have to jettison 1.71 MTons by 2030. This will require us to reduce workforce participation (3.5 %/Mtons * 1.71 Mtons) by 5.98%. Clearly The Great Depression was not a sign of sufficient commitment to Mother Earth.
Now here’s the bad part of Obama’s deal. President Obama just promised China (which will not cut any GHGs until 2030), that by 2025 we will emit only 72% as much as we do today. He’s signing us up to abate 1.83Mtons of GHG emissions over the next 10 years. So that would require a cut of (3.5 %/MTons * 1.83 MTons) 6.405% in our workforce participation rate to reach his climate goal.
If we basically agree with the BLS that the Workforce expands by about 0.7% per year, we can estimate actual job losses required to meet GHG emission targets. We know the 2012 workforce number an estimated 99.24 out of 156.05 Million participating. The 2015 workforce (start date of Obama’s goal) we should have 98.48 out of 159.35 Million participating. By 2025 (assuming successful GHG emission reduction) we should have 95.34 Million participants out of a workforce of 170.86 Million. Thus we destroy 3.14 Million jobs and the non-participating workforce goes from 60.87M to 75.52M. That’s an awful lot of ruined lives so that today can be the day that we reverse the rise of the oceans.
*-I needed a new euphemism that didn’t involve ugly words with asterisks instead of vowels.
**-Another reason I can’t quite make myself miss Good Ol’ Dubya