I had to snicker when I read an article stating that China had surpassed the U.S. as the largest producer of CO2 on the planet:

China has overtaken the United States as the world’s biggest producer of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, figures released today show.

The surprising announcement will increase anxiety about China’s growing role in driving man-made global warming and will pile pressure onto world politicians to agree a new global agreement on climate change that includes the booming Chinese economy. China’s emissions had not been expected to overtake those from the US, formerly the world’s biggest polluter, for several years, although some reports predicted it could happen as early as next year.

But according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, soaring demand for coal to generate electricity and a surge in cement production have helped to push China’s recorded emissions for 2006 beyond those from the US already. It says China produced 6,200m tonnes of CO2 last year, compared with 5,800m tonnes from the US. Britain produced about 600m tonnes.

I did a quick calculation of tons of CO2 per person in each three nations. It works out to 4.69 tons per person in China, 19.26 in the U.S., and 9.87 in the U.K. CO2 is also a quick way to measure a nation’s productivity, because industrial processes will produce CO2 as a byproduct. This means that China would need to be twice as productive to reach the level of England, and four times as productive to catch up to the U.S. The Kyoto Protocol failed to be ratified in the U.S. because of the growth of production in China and India. It was easy to see, even back in 1997, that China and India were both growing industrial states, and granting them exemptions from the CO2 emissions limits made the treaty into a joke.

But there is good news — the Washington Post reported that the CO2 produced in the U.S. dropped last year:

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped slightly last year even as the economy grew, according to an initial estimate released yesterday by the Energy Information Administration.

The 1.3 percent drop in CO2 emissions marks the first time that U.S. pollution linked to global warming has declined in absolute terms since 2001 and the first time it has gone down since 1990 while the economy was thriving. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in both 2001 and 1991, in large part because of economic slowdowns during those years.

But why did our CO2 emissions drop last year? The WaPo article explains:

A number of factors helped reduce emissions last year, according to the government, including weather conditions that reduced heating and air-conditioning use, higher gasoline prices that caused consumers to conserve, and a greater overall reliance on natural gas.

Interestingly enough, the countries of Europe suck at dropping their CO2 emissions, based on this article:

EU-15 countries will need to step up their efforts if they are to meet their overall target to reduce emissions of global-warming gases and meet their Kyoto commitment, the EEA warned on 27 October.

According to a new report by the Copenhagen agency, ‘Greenhouse-gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2006′, existing policies will have slashed greenhouse-gas emissions in the EU-15 by only 0.6% in 2010 – a far cry from the 8% it committed to achieve by 2012.

Let’s think about this a bit: the U.S. hasn’t ratified or participated in the Kyoto Protocols as Europe did, but the U.S. has achieved double the CO2 reduction in a single year as all of Europe has pledged to accomplish by 2010. Interesting, no? But the bottom line is that American carbon dioxide drops in absolute amounts. And that’s good news, right? Well, apparently not to the sourpuss whiners on the Left:

Critics of the administration, including Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists, said the one-year decline did not prove Bush’s voluntary approach to cutting greenhouse gases is working. They noted that the emissions have been rising worldwide since 1990 and that the rate accelerated to 3 percent a year between 2000 and 2004.

“This is more proof that this President just doesn’t get it when it comes to combating climate change,” Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement yesterday. “The house is on fire, and he’s trying to douse the flames with a watering can. The science tells us that we need to reduce our emissions by 60-80% by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic damage.”

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We need drastic government action to distribute hard-hats to all Americans in order to avoid catastrophic damage! Yeah, right. I’ve already mentioned that mankind’s total contribution to all greenhouse gases is comparable to less than one-third of a penny out of a dollar. So Senator Kerry is saying that to avoid catastrophic damage, we need to drop that to one-sixth of a penny. Frankly, I can’t get all worked up about going from concentrations of 0.0028 to 0.0014.

[hat-tip to Ed Morrissey for his article bringing the three links together. -- CM]

Tim Worstall over at TSC Daily posted a very interesting article today dealing with prosperity — namely, how our American prosperity stacks up to that of other European countries. Since this article deals with economics, and since I know some of you break out in hives at the mere mention of economics, I have a cute Easter Ferret for your viewing pleasure. Feel free to skip the rest of this post.

Worstall’s article is titled, “America: More Like Sweden Than You Thought,” and it is an interesting read for an economic article. He begins by discussing a, uh, “fun” economic paper which he recently read that extols the virtues of Europe, especially the Scandinavian countries. He writes:

I will admit that I do find it odd the way that only certain parts of the, say, Swedish, “miracle” are held up as ideas for us to copy. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we were urged to adopt some other Swedish policies? Abolish inheritance tax (Sweden doesn’t have one), have a pure voucher scheme to pay for the education system (as Sweden does), do not have a national minimum wage (as Sweden does not) and most certainly do not run the health system as a national monolith (as Sweden again does not). But then those policies don’t accord with the liberal and progressive ideas in the USA so perhaps their being glossed over is understandable, eh?

As part of their propagandizing, they produce the above cited reports each year. And this time it’s being released chapter by chapter in the lead up to Labor Day. I can tell you that policy wonks are breathless with anticipation waiting for each part as it comes out (I myself was most excited to get chapter 8 linked above). For there is the great joy of seeing that what they think they’re telling us isn’t, in fact, quite what they are telling us.

People with an agenda? Say it ain’t so! While there is some very good news pointed out in the article that Worstall analyzes, there is also a very telling graph.

Purchasing Power Parity

This graph is based off the Purchasing Power Parity, a means of calculating the diverse prices and salaries of all these nations in a way that makes them roughly comparable. What the writers of the article want you to notice first is that seemingly huge gap between the rich and poor in the United States. But my wife didn’t see that when I showed her the graph. Instead she noticed right away that the top 10% of wage earners in Finland and Sweden only make 111% and 113% of the median income, respectively. She noticed this because her Great-Uncle Kurt, who lives in Sweden and worked for an international insurance company for many years, had 90% of his income taxed away to support other able-bodied Swedes who simply chose not to work. And this is something we should emulate? I don’t think so! Worstall wraps up his column by analyzing the left side of the graph.

In the USA the poor get 39% of the US median income and in Finland (and Sweden) the poor get 38% of the US median income. It’s not worth quibbling over 1% so let’s take it as read that the poor in America have exactly the same standard of living as the poor in Finland (and Sweden). Which is really a rather revealing number don’t you think? All those punitive tax rates, all that redistribution, that blessed egalitarianism, the flatter distribution of income, leads to a change in the living standards of the poor of precisely … nothing.

Such may lead us to a conclusion that the EPI probably wouldn’t like:

If we accept (as I do) that we do, indeed, need to have a social safety net, and that we have a duty to provide for those incapable or unlucky enough to be unable to do so for themselves, we need to set some level at which such help is offered. The standard of living of the poor in a redistributionist paradise like Finland (or Sweden) seems a fair enough number to use and the USA provides exactly that. Good, the problem’s solved. We’ve provided — both through the structure of the economy and the various forms of taxation and benefits precisely what we should be — an acceptable baseline income for the poor. No further redistribution is necessary and we can carry on with the current tax rates and policies which seem, as this report shows, to be increasing US incomes faster than those in other countries and boosting productivity faster as well.

As I said above I’m sure this isn’t quite what the EPI actually wanted to tell us. But there it is, from their own report. Which is why I rather enjoy my working life — sad case that I am — because I get to read all those reports that really don’t tell us what the authors think they are telling us.

Go read the whole thing. And the next time someone tells you we should be more like Europe, you can point out to them that we care for our poor and downtrodden masses just as effectively as they do, and we don’t have to tax ourselves into an economic slump to do it. No nation has ever taxed itself into prosperity. If they can’t accept that truth, it’s probably a lost cause. Just have them check out the cute Easter Ferret instead.

[The following was an email The Pirate King sent to Bill Whittle of Eject! Eject! Eject! in response to his recurring theme of Europeans despising Americans. I felt it was worthy of a wider audience, since I love my honey. Besides, there is a sublime irony in pirating stuff from The Pirate King. -- Captain Midnight]

The French–and several other European nations–like to accuse us of simplisme. It’s a nice vague term which seems to accuse us of being simple as well as making things overly simple, and its unstated obverse is that intelligent, sophisticated folk recognize and accept a life filled with nuance, neither simple nor easy.

Once upon a time, this disdainful attitude rubbed me the wrong way. I was astounded at the hubris of Germany, France and Russia when they refused to join us in waging war against a common enemy, believing that the entire effort would come to naught without their token assistance. I was annoyed by Jacques Chirac, who in a petulant fit snubbed our Commander-in-Chief by refusing to call and congratulate him on his re-election for a full week after the event. M. Chirac further grated on me by showing his historical ignorance and deep ingratitude by pointing out to Prime Minister Blair that England had “gained nothing” by its loyalty to the United States in this war. (How soon, simple Monsieur le President, we have forgotten the Ardenne Forest and the beaches of Normandy. I do hope your nuanced view of the world accepts of such concepts as “debt of gratitude.”)

But I have come to a point where I no longer rankle at Europe’s high-minded tendency to treat our nation as an ill-behaved, headstrong child. The thing that caused me to change my mind was, oddly enough, the recent death of my grandfather. At his funeral I had some time to think about the particulars of his life, and it turned out to be quite illuminating.

Grandpa was born in Sweden in 1922. He was an unwanted child, passed from relative to relative until his teen years, when he became apprenticed to a butcher and delicatessen owner. There he learned the fine art of food preparation and became a talented cook. But he did not stay in Sweden to ply his trade; the butcher warned his teenage apprentice that the National Socialists were rising to power in Germany–and that Scandinavia likely would not lift a finger to stop them. So, on the wise advice of his boss, he went to America.

It didn’t take Grandpa long after he got here to sign up for military service. As a champion skier who held several ski jumping records in his home province, he was placed with the ski troops. He came home alive, but missing a leg and riddled with cancer. Doctors gave him six months to live; miraculously, the cancer went into full remission and those six months turned into some 60 years. Rarely did he speak of the war, preferring to focus on work, family and sailing. It wasn’t until some 40 years after his service that his military files were declassified and he was free to talk about precisely what he had done in World War II. But he always recognized that his service, however horrific, was necessary to keep America and the rest of the world safe and free.

Europeans would probably have called my grandfather simplisme. They would regard him, an unwanted child from a backwater province of an unimportant country, as “the wretched refuse of [their] teeming shore.” But Grandpa had some special qualities within him, even as a teenager: intelligence, ability, a drive to succeed, and the willingness to relocate to a land that would foster his success.

A generation ago, there were still people like this in Europe. In America, we usually call them “immigrants.”

I maintain that much of Europe despises America not because of our simplisme, but because of our strength as a people. And to be honest, we have them to thank for it. Certainly in these days, more immigrants come to the U.S. from outside Europe than from within it–but in previous generations, the overwhelming majority of new Americans came from the Old World. Any European who displayed a trace of gumption, drive, or desire to succeed packed up, moved and became an American. The immigrants’ determination and zest for life enriched our national can-do spirit, and their love for their adopted country boosted our natural patriotism. Modern Europeans, on the other hand, are the direct descendants of those individuals with little or no natural drive–those who stayed behind. Their anemic bloodlines show in their indolent unwillingness to act in their own best interests, like an old purebred dog covered with bloodsucking ticks who is too lazy even to scratch at them. (By contrast, we are a mongrel nation, but a strong and healthy one.)

My grandfather always kept his love for Sweden. He had a Swedish flag, cooked Swedish food, and on occasions when he returned to visit Sweden, the tears would well up in his eyes. Sweden was, after all, the nation of his birth. But America was the nation of his choice. This was the country that harnessed his desire to fight evil in the world, supported his desire to make something of his life, and provided him with safety and peace in his old age. This unwanted child of Europe became something worthwhile in America–and his story was not at all unusual. His immigrant experience was solidly typical of the experience of millions who left their own countries to seek something better–and found it in America.

And if you don’t think the Europeans are jealous of that, then you really are simple.