Rick Perry's Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Sometimes politicians should just stop talking.

A case in point occurred at CPAC involving former Texas Governor Rick Perry -- who is no stranger to gaffes.

Perry was touting his state's record on carbon dioxide emission reductions during his terms in office. Predictably, the climate fact checkers pounced on him.

There seems to be this fantasy in certain quarters that reducing carbon dioxide emissions doesn't harm economic growth. Yet all the evidence suggests otherwise. Perry's discussion that the fact checkers are analyzing played right into this nonsense.

Yes, Texas' economy grew under Perry's watch. Yes, carbon dioxide emissions in Texas declined modestly while Perry was governor.

But here is the problem that individuals such as the former Governor need to keep in mind: Texas' economic growth likely would have been much higher had the state not implemented carbon dioxide reduction policies.

We see the same pattern everywhere we look, and it has been discussed at length on AT many times before. When regions begin reducing their carbon dioxide emissions, economic growth slows (or even reverses) relative to those regions that either do not reduce their emissions, or reduce them less.

In other words, we see a repeating pattern of carbon dioxide emission reductions correlating strongly with slower economic growth.

And, as expected, this pattern is clearly evident among the 50 states while Perry was Governor of Texas.

Carbon dioxide emissions by state are available up to 2012 from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Corresponding real GDP data by state can be obtained from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

When we plot the change in each state's carbon dioxide emissions from 2000 (the last year before Perry's first full year in office -- he took office on December 21, 2000) to 2012 against the change in real GDP over this period, it looks like this:

This is not good news for those promoting emission reductions. There is a highly (p<0.001) statistically significant positive correlation between the change in carbon dioxide emissions and economic growth. Namely, higher emissions correlate strongly with better economic growth, and lower emissions correlate strongly with slower economic growth.

While there is two-way causation in such relationships, what these types of graphs keep showing no matter where we look is that there is overwhelmingly consistent evidence that the only way to lower carbon dioxide emissions is by harming the economy.

Wherever these conservative politicians are getting their policy advice from, it is time for new advisors and a more conservative message. The title by FactCheck.org is correct: "Rick Perry takes too much credit for carbon dioxide reductions." Those carbon dioxide reductions are nothing to be proud of. The Texan economy undoubtedly grew slower under Perry than it would have had he not reduced emissions.