When it comes to virtue signaling, it will be tough to top Jeff Bezos, who has pledged to put $10 billion – nearly 8% – of his net worth to help “save Earth.” He’d be better off investing that money in his own company, which has probably done more to reduce CO2 emissions than the do-gooders lining up for his handouts ever will.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos wrote in an Instagram post. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.
“This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world. We can save Earth. It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals.”
Bezos says he’ll start issuing grants this summer, but hasn’t indicated how fast that money will get doled out.
We don’t have anything against private charity. It’s the backbone of this nation. And Bezos is free to spend his wealth however he wants.
But he’s missing an opportunity to educate the public about how the free market – and his own company – are doing far more to “save Earth” than he will giving his money away to embolden “collective action.”
Amazon’s success reduced CO2 emissions simply because it proved to be a more efficient way to deliver goods.
Environmentalists complain about how much carbon Amazon emits – pointing to the company’s report that it emitted 44.4 million metric tons of CO2 in 2018.
What they don’t say is that this is a large net reduction from what would have happened if Amazon shoppers had to drive around to retail outlets to get what they wanted.
Research carried out at MIT found that online shopping “is the most environmentally friendly option in a wide range of scenarios.”
In fact, the study found that the carbon footprint of online shoppers “is almost two times smaller than a traditional shopper.”
An earlier Carnegie Melon study found that “e-commerce delivery uses less primary energy and produces less CO2 emissions than traditional retailing. … Overall, e-commerce had about 30% lower energy consumption and CO2 emissions compared to traditional retail.”
Why? Because online shoppers don’t get in their cars and sit in traffic to go shopping. They don’t make needless trips to find the store’s sold out of the item they wanted. What’s more, retail outlets require a lot of energy – more per item sold than a big central warehouse.
Now multiply Amazon thousands-fold.
Companies such as UPS made significant cuts in their CO2 emissions because they wanted to cut their fuel costs, not save the Earth. So they developed a program that charted the most efficient paths for the delivery trucks, which means that they almost never make left turns.
The rise of fracking – which let oil and gas companies access vast quantities of previously drillable fossil fuels – caused natural gas prices to plummet, which in turn spurred a multitude of power plants to switch from coal to natural gas. The industry didn’t set out to cut CO2 emissions, but private-sector innovation produced it anyway.
It’s because of the private sector’s relentless push for greater efficiency that overall CO2 emissions in the U.S. dropped 14% from 2005 to 2017, according to the EPA – despite the fact that the U.S. economy grew by 21% (after adjusting for inflation) and the U.S. population climbed by 29 million.
It’s the environmental equivalent of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. By simply striving to make more money through efficiency gains, private companies produce more with less. Since 1990, carbon emissions per dollar of GDP in the U.S. have plunged by more than 62%.
This, mind you, was without any “collective action,” without government-mandated reductions, without carbon taxes, and without activists and NGOs getting a cut of Bezos’ billions.
The problem with Bezos’ $10 billion pledge is that he completely ignores all of this, and treats the private sector as something to be reined in by “global organizations.”
This is to say nothing, of course, of the fact that Bezos is also giving climate alarmists still more ammunition to make their dubious “end of the world” claims. Or the fact that $10 billion might fund, say, a cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s, or feed millions of starving people, or … well, you get the idea.
To the extent that his donations empower central planners, environmental activists, and global organizations at the expense of the private sector, Bezos will have done the Earth, and the people on it, more harm than good.
— Written by the I&I Editorial board.
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