A study released by The John Locke Foundation late last month concludes “decarbonizing” Michigan’s electricity grid would only offset less than 26 minutes of carbon emissions in China.
The study – “What Is ‘China Carbon Time,’ and What Does It Mean for States’ Efforts to Decarbonize Their Grids? – was authored by Jon Sanders, research editor for the JLF and published in late August. If all 50 states met their individual carbon-emission reduction targets, Sanders concludes, it would only offset less than 14 hours of China’s emissions.
Citing numbers from modeling conducted by Isaac Orr and Mitch Perlstein at the Center of the American Experiment, Mackinac Center for Public Policy Director of Energy Policy Jason Hayes told The Midwesterner that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan’s net-zero carbon emission goals will cost the state $124.3 billion through 2035 and $358.7 billion through 2050.
According to Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Director Liesl Eicher Clark, Whitmer budgeted $500 million to reduce carbon emissions in 2023. The state’s MI Healthy Climate Plan reports the state has spent $5 billion on renewable energy projects since 2008.
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The U.S. reduced its carbon emissions by 1,047.6 million metric tons between 2005 and 2022, according to Sanders. During that same period, China’s carbon emissions increased by 4,471 million metric tons.
“There are several implications from this exercise. First, China’s CO2 emissions from energy are still on the increase,” Sanders wrote. “As they grow, it will mean each state’s China Carbon Time will arrive even earlier.”
Sanders emphasized that “it’s not just China. Energy-based CO2 emissions across Africa (371.6 million metric tons), the Middle East (859.9), and South and Central America (228.6) have all increased since 2005. India’s emissions increased by 1,395.6 million tons. The U.S. has cut a greater amount of emissions than any other nation on earth,” he said.
Sanders writes that decarbonization’s huge costs must be weighed against their benefits. To illustrate his point, he calculated how many minutes of decarbonization in the U.S. would compare to China Carbon Time:
According to the analysis, if all states decarbonized the electrical grid, it would offset less than 820 minutes — or under 14 hours — of China’s annual emissions.
“Would these big expenses and upheavals in electricity rates and reliability be worth it?” he wrote. “Despite higher power bills, less reliability, and more rolling blackouts, could we at least see global CO2 emissions falling – which we’re told would mean fewer bad weather events?” he continued.
“What if all that sacrifice would really only buy a tiny offset of the enormous increase in energy-based CO2 emissions coming from China? That’s what China Carbon Time shows.”
Based in North Carolina, Sanders noted China will add 30 times more coal power than the Tar Heel State will retire.
“So what we in the United States have been calling ‘reduced’ global emissions has actually been increased global emissions reduced a little bit by our falling emissions,” he wrote. “There’s only so much the states can cut, however. They can’t get any lower than zero. But there’s virtually no limit to how much China and the rest of the world can increase.” Sanders continued: “China, for example, plans to add 270,000 megawatts of new coal-fired production just in the next three years. Coal, a highly dispatchable and low-cost baseload source of electricity generation, is also very emissions-heavy. In July, Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced that China would not be bound by the Paris accords.”