The Social Cost of George W. Bush
Bush promised climate motion but reversed himself. The result: billions of dollars in global harm.
When Bush ran for President in 2000, he endorsed mandatory limits on CO2 emissions. Inside three months of taking office, he reversed himself to the dismay of some members of his own administration. The upshot was that the US resisted any effort to handle climate change and embraced a “drill baby drill” energy policy. You possibly can blame Bush. Or if you happen to prefer, you possibly can blame the nefarious influence of Dick Cheney or perhaps the five Justices who put Bush within the White House.
There’s no way of knowing how history would have played out if Bush had kept his word (or if Gore had won, for that matter). A method of getting a handle on the quantity of harm, though, is to assume that if Bush had kept his promise, emissions during his presidency would have declined as much as they did under his successor Obama. True, the world was different in some ways in 2008 when Obama took office, including the energy sector. A few of those changes, like cheaper natural gas on account of greater use of fracking, helped emissions decline under Obama. Then again, Bush might need been capable of do more in regulatory terms than Obama, provided that Bush would have had bipartisan support. Assuming parity between the 2 is a fairly plausible, though ultimately unprovable, assumption.
Provided that assumption, we are able to roughly calculate the harm done by Bush. Carbon emissions stayed about constant under Bush, with a median around 5.6 billion tons per 12 months. Under Obama, the quantity declined on a roughly straight line to about 4.9 billion by the point he left office, a few 13% cut. The full amount of reduced emissions in the course of the course of Obama’s term was within the neighborhood 2.8 billion tons. That may have been corresponding to eliminating all emissions for six months of Bush’s term.
We may also take a rough stab at monetizing the quantity of resulting harm. The social cost of carbon is an estimate of the harm done by one additional ton of carbon dioxide. The earliest government estimate of the social cost of carbon was for 2010: $21/ton with a 3% discount rate and $35 at a 2.5% discount rate. Don’t worry if you happen to’re undecided what “discount rate” means; it really doesn’t matter for present purposes. Given the roughness of this complete exercise, I’ll just use the typical of the 2010 figures, $28 per ton. (Due to discounting, this figure must be adjusted downwards for earlier years, but then adjusted upwards to convert 2010 dollars to current dollars, which might probably cancel out.) The upshot is that the social cost of the surplus Bush emissions is something like $28/ton times 2.8 billion tons, or $78.4 billion in 2010 dollars.
This will be a greater approach to see the importance of two.8 billion tons: The typical gas powered automotive today produces about 55 tons of carbon over its dozen-year life. So the primary 50 million electric vehicles sold within the US will principally go toward offsetting Bush’s contribution to climate change.
For several reasons, the true amount of harm attributable to Bush was probably much greater. My calculation probably underestimates the impact of Obama’s policies on emissions. It took the Obama Administration time to gear up its regulatory efforts, so the Bush policies were in effect for a part of his Administration — emissions that ought to really be assigned to Bush quite than Obama. Furthermore, some Obama regulations comparable to fuel efficiency rules continued to end in additional emissions reductions after he left office, and he should get credit for those. Finally, Bush’s actions may perhaps have discouraged emission reductions by other countries who saw that the US was doing nothing, while Obama’s efforts can have encouraged those countries.
In any event, what we do know is that there are probably at the very least 2.8 billion tons of carbon with Bush’s name on them that can be causing global warming for the following century or two. An enduring legacy but not one to be pleased with.