Flat White

If there’s just one thing you need to read on climate science…

24 July 2019

3:44 PM

24 July 2019

3:44 PM

This could be it. None of the contents are new or original, but in this longer-than-an-average opinion piece, Bjorn Lomborg distils all the elements of the argument he has been making for the past decade or two – coincidentally, from a position of someone who is not a “climate change denier” at all – into the perfect elixir of truth:

This year, the world will spend $US162 billion ($230bn) subsidising renewable energy, propping up inefficient industries and supporting middle-class homeowners to erect solar panels, according to the International Energy Agency. In addition, the Paris Agreement on climate change will cost the world from $US1 trillion to $US2 trillion a year by 2030. Astonishingly, neither of these hugely expensive policies will have any measurable impact on temperatures by the end of the century.

Climate campaigners want to convince us that not only should we maintain these staggering costs, but that we should spend a fortune more on climate change, since our very survival is allegedly at stake. But they are mostly wrong, and we’re likely to end up wasting trillions during the coming decades. I will outline how we could spend less, do a better job addressing climate change, and help far more effect­ively with many of the world’s other ills…

The present approach to climate change isn’t working. If fully implemented, analysis of the leading climate-economic models shows that the Paris Agreement will cost $US1 trillion to $US2 trillion every year in slowed economic growth. Our response to climate change is so expensive because alternative energy sources remain expensive and inefficient in most scenarios. It is still very expensive to switch from fossil fuels — hence the fortune being spent on subsidies, to little overall effect.

I could easily quote the whole article, and maybe I should). This, in my mind, has always been the problem with the current approach to the greenhouse effect, which became global warming, which became climate change, which most recently became climate emergency:

  1. The actions proposed under all the relevant international treaties and agreements so far to tackle the CO2 emissions will have a negligible effect on global temperatures and climate while at the same time sporting a mind-boggling price tag and therefore a dire impact on economy and standard of life across the world.
  2. This is because the world needs energy* and if that energy won’t be provided by fossil fuels it has to be provided by various “alternative”, “green”, “renewable” sources, which at this point in time are significantly more expensive than traditional carbon-based energy.
  3. To solve the problem of the high cost and save us the economic and social consequences of such high cost, instead of subsidising the renewables to make them more economical vis-a-vis coal and gas, we should instead be investing in research to develop technologies that will actually in the long term make the renewables cheaper than fossil fuels and as reliable in provision of base power.
  4. As Lomborg never tires of pointing out, people across the developing world suffer from a multitude of problems which have nothing to do with global temperatures, but are not as sexy as all the usual hot causes that transfix the activists in the developed world, like climate change or AIDS. They might not be sexy but they are relatively inexpensive to fix and can have far-reaching positive implications for the world. Imagine if some of the money we currently waste under the pious guise of addressing climate change was redirected to such ends.
  5. We should strive towards cheap and reliable renewable energy, whether or not you believe that CO2 is harmful to the Earth. Fossil fuels, while more abundant than their critics posit, are finite and unevenly distributed. Renewables, on the other hand, have the potential to democritise energy by bringing it to all those who currently lack a sufficient supply on account of their paucity of natural resources or the economic underdevelopment. Thus, they can help to break the vicious cycle of poverty by spurring economic development with all its positive externalities for the “bottom billion” or two.

Idiots like members of Extinction Rebellion glueing themselves to busy intersections for the cause of “100 per cent renewables by 2030” are doing zilch to advance the debate or bring the solution any closer. As it currently stands, you wouldn’t be able to go all-green without completely collapsing our societies. The only way it can be achieved is by making green energy cheap, and that, in turn, will only come about through more research and development. You want to “save the world”? Lobby governments to spend less on subsidies and green spivs and rent-seekers and more on science and technology. Also, ditch animal onesies and industrial glue and study science and engineering. We need less Greta and more Bjorn.

*Not according to everyone; many on the post-industrial left see climate change as a great opportunity to combat modern capitalism with its “fetish” for economic growth. Take, for example, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff:

Chakrabarti had an unexpected disclosure. “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.” Ricketts greeted this startling notion with an attentive poker face. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

In other words, some sort of socialism, a notion that would strike old-style Marxists as ridiculous though they would no doubt appreciate the naked and shameless cunning in the pursuit of one’s radical political ends.

Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk, where this piece also appears.

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