Carbon Use And Prosperity – A Striking Relationship

photo credit: cgp greyIn his inaugural address on January 21, President Obama invoked great ideals of human dignity, equality, and most especially “progress” to justify his second-term agenda, a cornerstone of which will be a crusade to limit humanity’s use of carbon.

In fact, nothing could be more antithetical to the goal of advancing the human condition than restricting carbon consumption. A look at the relationship between living standards and humanity’s carbon utilization over the past 200 years, as shown in Figure 1, below, makes this perfectly clear.

Fig. 1 Average global GDP per capita as a function of carbon use, 1800 to 2010. GDP in 2010 dollars.

The story that Figure 1 tells is remarkable; it is, perhaps, one of the grandest stories ever told. It shows how, over the past two centuries, by using carbon in ever-increasing amounts, the human race has lifted itself out of hopeless poverty and misery to achieve a modicum of dignity and happiness. Look at that line reaching up, in direct proportion to global carbon use, from an average global income of $180 per person in 1800 to $2,200 in 1960 to $9,000 today; that is progress.

Of course, we still have a ways to go. The current $9,000 average world income is just a fifth of the $45,000 U.S. average, yet we still have some poverty here. Still, the achievement is incredible. In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt campaigned for president on the promise of “a chicken in every pot,” and millions found the offer compelling. Today, in the United States, minimum wage is $7 per hour, and chicken sells for less than $2 per pound; so, a person working at minimum wage can buy a pound of chicken with about 17 minutes’ labor. This is freedom from want, indeed, delivered not by the New Deal, but by the terrific expansion of our use of carbon.

Read more from this story HERE.