Climate Bureaucrats Give China a Free Pass

This article was originally published on Real Clear Energy on March 11th, 2024.

China’s annual greenhouse gas emissions have soared over the past 20 years, dwarfing those of the U.S. But according to our progressive federal bureaucrats, America’s cumulative historical emissions are the problem and Beijing now deserves a free pass.

The federal government’s site ostensibly provides “timely and authoritative scientific data and information about climate science, adaptation, and mitigation.” This mandate apparently includes trying to guilt Americans out of questioning progressive policies while the world’s second-largest economy emits greenhouse gases at an unparalleled level. In a blog post, federal climate comrades say that America’s historical emissions, coupled with higher emissions on a per-capita basis, mean that “the United States bears a greater share of the responsibility for current conditions—on both a national and per-person level.”

According to our taxpayer-funded emissions arbitrators, China emitted less in the past, so its gargantuan emissions today—2.61 times larger than the U.S.—shouldn’t really be the focus. America’s cumulative emissions dating back to 1750, they argue, are the original sin for which we must now atone. Unlike China, America has apparently emitted more than its fair share, so “any future U.S. emissions will undermine progress to stop global warming.” In case the message isn’t clear, the climate commissars add for good measure that China’s emissions are actually the American people’s fault because American consumers buy Chinese-made goods.

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) propaganda mouthpieces agree. Xinhua, the CCP’s news agency, declared last year that the U.S. bears “major historical and global responsibility for climate change” and must, therefore, repay its “historical debts.” Not to be outdone, the state-run China Daily says that China’s per-capita emissions are lower than those of America, so the world’s largest emitter is actually doing the “hard yards on climate.”

This readiness of taxpayer-funded bureaucrats to cast off both the basic principles of justice and common sense should be a cause for concern. While socialist regimes have long embraced collective guilt and group punishment, individual responsibility is fundamental to the American tradition. This principle played a clear role in the fight for America’s freedom; colonial outrage ensued after Britain’s collective punishment of Massachusetts in the wake of the Boston Tea Party. With free will and personal accountability before the law, the American people today are not responsible for the actions of earlier generations. There is no criminal or climate “historical debt” to be socialized across generations.

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