Environment, recent, Science

Climate Change—Assessing the Worst Case Scenario

Does a thinking person today have a chance of figuring out what to think about climate change? On the one hand, we are told there is a scientific consensus that humans are changing the climate. On the other hand, the most pessimistic future scenarios strain our credulity. The most extreme example may be the retired professor who believes that we will all be dead by 2026.

The activist group Extinction Rebellion is telling us that climate change represents “an unprecedented global emergency” and is calling for radical measures to deal with it. Such claims seem to be gaining ground and appearing with increasing frequency in the media. And according to a recent poll, nearly half of Americans believe climate change will result in the end of the world within the next 200 years.

Even among the more optimistic, many find it prudent to consider the worst case, but have very little information to help them decide where to draw the line between farsightedness and fantasy. And I understand those who assume that even though some claims may be exaggerated, surely with so much smoke, there must be a fire somewhere. A headline like “UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming. It’s Actually Worse Than That,” implies that even discounting the exaggeration, it’s still “climate genocide.”

At the extreme, worst-case or precautionary thinking is analogous to Pascal’s wager and subject to similar objections. If we should pull out all the stops to prevent climate catastrophe no matter how improbable it might be, why not some other, equally improbable disaster? As long we have finite resources to devote to preventing disasters and a virtually unlimited ability to imagine them, this creates impossible dilemmas. Fortunately, there has been some realistic exploration of worst cases among climate scientists and others recently. They can supplement the IPCC reports which, though far from perfect, have the advantage (at their best) of summarizing the available evidence, avoiding the “single study syndrome.”

Alarmist claims come in two flavors: one vague and ambiguous, the other exaggerated and misleading. The vague kind conjures up an ominous sense of dread, just as monsters in horror movies can seem scariest before they actually appear. From a seemingly sober analysis at CNN:

But the scale of the outrage [about climate change] in no way matches the magnitude of this disaster, which, like WWII, threatens to cripple or even obliterate human life on the planet as we know it.

What does this even mean? Did WWII “cripple” or even “obliterate” human life in general? It was catastrophic and horrific, of course—much had to be rebuilt afterwards, and many were still suffering, but was human life overall fundamentally and irrevocably worse after the war ended? On a superficial reading, this passage could easily be understood as “climate change will kill us all,” whether or not that was the intended message.

Furthermore, just about any negative prediction can be amplified by imagining that it will cause “social breakdown” and trigger conflict, even war. This has long been common among environmental alarmists. Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 predictions were particularly grim, even suggesting global nuclear war. Few actual climate scientists would go to that level of doomsaying. But the tendency to fantasize about societal impacts is evident. One recent study suggests that sea level may (in the worst case) rise up to 2 meters by 2100:

Such big sea level rises so soon would lead to nightmarish impacts, says Jonathan Bamber of the University of Bristol. “If we see something like that in the next 80 years we are looking at social breakdown on scales that are pretty unimaginable.”

Around 1.79 million square kilometres of land could be lost and up to 187 million people displaced.

(In Judith Curry’s explicit worst-case investigation of sea level, she finds that sea level rise between 1.6 and 2.5 meters is “borderline impossible,” making her plausible worst-case estimate similar but somewhat lower.)

Up to 187 million people displaced certainly seems bad enough. But some have pushed this even further: A “very senior member” (scientist? bureaucrat?) of the IPCC is supposed to have claimed that exposed populations in low-lying nations “will die.” Bjørn Lomborg’s dissection of this claim is instructive. First, he points out that they will not stay and drown. This is so self-evident that you may wonder how both the “very senior member” and the scientist quoting him can believe they will. Nor is it even likely that they will have to move. Lomborg points out that the study in question concludes that adaptation is feasible and that the actual number of displaced individuals will be far lower (around 300,000 or less).

Still, let us for a moment indulge the notion that all those people will have to move in the 80 years left until 2100. Will it cause “social breakdown on scales that are pretty unimaginable”? Looking back at the past 80 years, we can see that at least 150 million people were permanently displaced. So although 187 million certainly represents enormous disruption, it is hardly unimaginable, having basically happened before.

One currently fashionable worst-case scenario is from a recent scientific publication discussing a “Hothouse Earth” scenario. Climate scientist Richard Betts points out that much of the coverage of this study has exaggerated the alarm:

With some exceptions, much of the highest-profile coverage of the essay presents the scenario as definite and imminent. The impression is given that 2°C is a definite “point of no return,” and that beyond that the “hothouse” scenario will rapidly arrive. Many articles ignore the caveats that the 2°C threshold is extremely uncertain, and that even if it were correct, the extreme conditions would not occur for centuries or millennia.

But what is a hothouse state, and what would that actually be like? An article by a group of paleobiologists explores this:

A true Hothouse Earth emerged when carbon dioxide levels reached something like 800ppm—about double those of today. This was the world of the dinosaurs, 100m years ago. There was little or no ice on Earth and the polar regions had forests and dinosaurs which were adapted to living half the year in darkness.

The biosphere thrived, though equatorial regions tested the thermal limits of life…Even this type of Earth is not so unpleasant, though—once you’re there.

This attention to the distant future shows that the question “what is the worst case?”—unless it’s purely academic—has to come with a time frame. We cannot even begin to imagine what technology and society will be like thousands of years from now. In fact, do we even have knowledge that could enable us to help our descendants much past 2100? Similarly, should—or even could—our ancestors have done anything to prevent today’s problems? Michael Crichton explored this question in 2003:

Let’s think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

The idea that it is meaningful to plan for the future beyond a few decades has gradually come to seem normal, but has there ever been any serious discussion of its validity? The closest thing we have to a rational empirical approach to it—looking at historical experience—hardly supports it. But since this is an exploration of worst cases, let us assume that we need to consider the rest of this century at least.

That brings us to the other currently popular worst-case narrative. It is based on the IPCC’s scenario known as RCP 8.5. RCP stands for Representative Concentration Pathway. It is a hypothetical scenario for the future growth of CO2 in the atmosphere during this century. There seems to be some consensus that RCP 8.5 is not a “business as usual” scenario in the sense of something that is likely to happen in the absence of climate policy. But it is often misconstrued as such.

RCP 8.5 assumes a departure from multiple current trends. It appears to require a “return to coal,” which is contrary to forecasts, and even more contrary to the most recent trends. According to a recent IEA report, investment in coal is down 75 percent in three years. In fact, recent research indicates that RCP 8.5 probably cannot happen given existing reserves of coal: “Global coal reserve data are of poor quality, but seem to be biased towards the high side.” Judith Curry has analyzed RCP 8.5 in more detail from a worst-case standpoint, and has concluded that this too is “borderline impossible.” The next highest scenario, RCP 6.0, may be more relevant and useful.

Much alarmist material is premised on the idea that climate change has already caused all sorts of extreme weather hazards to grow significantly. By extrapolation into the future, this feeds apocalyptic visions of weather gone berserk. But contrary to what the media tend to report, this notion has very little empirical support. Roger Pielke Jr has treated this subject in detail in his book The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change:

The analysis of twenty-two disaster loss studies shows that economic losses from various weather-related natural hazards, such as storms, tropical cyclones, floods, and small-scale weather events such as wildfires and hailstorms, have increased around the globe. The studies show no trends in losses, corrected for changes (increases) in population and capital at risk, that could be attributed to anthropogenic climate change.

Pielke summarizes the IPCC’s conclusions here.

Apart from this, much of alarmist thinking can be described as reducing the future to climate: reasoning as if nothing else will happen except climate change, thus discounting economic growth, technological development and adaptation to changing environmental conditions. If we also ignore the fact that climate change will also have beneficial effects, there is no way the future could be anything but worse than the present. By contrast, the IPCC expects the current trends of economic growth and falling mortality to continue. In fact, the negative economic impacts of climate change are expected to be small compared to overall economic growth.

But what about the actual, specific consequences of climate change? Before we even begin to consider what is the worst case for a specific impact, we should determine whether the problem is even likely to get worse than it is today. For some, such as death toll from weather-related disasters or malaria, the effect of adaptation and improvement in living conditions is likely to far outweigh any adverse effects of climate change. A brief look at the most commonly discussed impacts.

Climate Refugees: Activists, journalists and NGOs keep telling us that human-caused climate change will cause tens or hundreds of millions of humans to have to flee their homes. This may have originated with a figure of 200 million “environmental refugees,” suggested by Norman Myers in 2005. It was cited in official reports for a few years after that, but seems to be absent from around 2009, having been deemed “apocalyptic and based on no more than anecdotal evidence and intuitive judgement.”

Sometimes figures about persons displaced by weather events are used, but these include those temporary displaced, such as evacuees from hurricanes. A 2018 report from the World Bank attempts to estimate the number of internal refugees by adding estimates for different regions. The problem with this is that local and regional climate is subject to sometimes large natural variations unrelated to global climate change.

A 2013 Guardian article explained the complexities of the current understanding of the issue and is consistent with points made in the IPCC AR5 (WGII sections 9.3 and 12.4):

The phrase [climate refugees] conjures images of large numbers of people moving en masse over long distances and crossing international borders and possibly continents. It seems unlikely that climate change will produce this kind of human movement.

Or as the IPCC puts it:  “There is low confidence in quantitative projections of changes in mobility, due to its complex, multi-causal nature.”

Drought and Flood: Apart from sea level, the alarmist narrative about refugees tends to presuppose that people will be permanently displaced as a result of hunger and poverty following crop failures caused by drought or flood. Although there are no clear global trends so far in either drought or flood, the IPCC does expect dry areas to become drier and wet areas to become wetter (DGDWGW: “dry gets drier, wet gets wetter”). The evidence so far suggests that there may be something to this, but that the effect is not pronounced:

Only 15.12 percent of the land areas have followed the DGDWGW paradigm, whereas 7.77 percent have experienced the opposite trend.

Weather-Related Natural Disasters: The main concern is likely to be adaptation by reducing vulnerability to such events, including hurricanes. This depends chiefly on economic development and is likely to swamp any expected adverse effects due to climate change.

Heatwaves: These may be the most obvious consequence of global warming, and one for which there is actual evidence of a rising trend. But currently, 17 times more people die of cold than heat. The pattern is similar even in a relatively hot country like India. And there is evidence that people are good at adapting to heat.

Disease: Malaria is currently one of the biggest global problems, killing hundreds of thousands of people each year, but there is little indication that climate change is a crucial or even an important factor. Malaria used to be endemic in temperate regions in earlier times, even during the Little Ice Age, but was eliminated despite the fact that we have already had 1 degree C of global warming. Vaccines are currently being developed and tested for both malaria and dengue. The idea that the current efforts to eradicate these diseases will end in total failure seems impossibly pessimistic.

Biodiversity and Species Extinctions: This is another well-known concern, but it is difficult to assess because the relevant scientific reports are not very helpful. I am unimpressed by the recent UN IPBES report. The report’s estimate that one million species will soon be extinct seems wildly implausible. Above all, the most relevant question seems to be ignored: Have extinctions increased during the era of global warming starting around 1900? Statistics per decade suggest the opposite may be true. And even if we take the IPBES claims at face value, it is clear from the report that the main issue is land use and habitat loss or degradation, having little to do with climate change.

Ocean Acidification (OA):  Sometimes called the “evil twin” of climate change, ocean acidification is considered a cause for concern owing to its potential impacts on living organisms in the ocean. However, it is not expected to have apocalyptic effects such as mass extinctions or societal collapse. The IPCC ocean and cryosphere report (section 5.4.2.3.1) is optimistic about the ability of fisheries to adapt in the case of RCP 6.0. The IPCC AR5 suggests a higher likelihood of a positive outcome for 14 out of 18 marine taxa for RCP 6.0 (the second highest RCP) compared to RCP 8.5 (table 6.3). None of the assessments for RCP 6.0 are listed as having high confidence.

I am not by any means claiming that my analysis is the definitive or final word. Important information is still missing, all of it is debatable to some extent, and new research may turn up surprising results. But, for the time being, I see no justification for describing climate change in terms of “crisis,” “emergency,” “catastrophe,” or “existential threat” rather than simply “threat,” “challenge,” or “problem.” At the very least, anyone claiming that millions of people are going to die, or that civilization will collapse, should be required to specify which impacts of climate change are going to cause this and how.

 

Dagfinn Reiersøl is a software developer and co-author of PHP in Action. You can follow him on Twitter @dagfinnr

Comments

  1. Thanks for the reasonable and well-supported article. It seems to me that the climate-related hysteria affecting the general public is being driven in large part by commercial interests whose bottom lines are improved by maximizing fear.

    For those who are sincerely concerned, simple actions like reducing the national speed limit to the 55 mph that it was during the gasoline shortages of the 1970’s can provide as much as a 10-20% improvement in fuel economy, with a corresponding reduction in emissions of, not only benign trace gases such as CO2, but also verifiably toxic byproducts of internal combustion. The irrelevant (to alarmists, who seem quite willing to allow starvation today if it might improve property values next century) fringe benefit of such a reduction in speed limits is a decrease of 10-17% in highway fatality rates, depending on which study you pick.

    So there’s something that costs almost nothing to implement; fewer deaths; certainly, and some insurance against the remote possibility that someone may someday articulate anthropogenicity percentages with any degree of accuracy whatsoever. No need for any beggar-the-west accord that mandates nothing from the largest absolute emitters on the planet. Just slow down the traffic and keep working on effective transportation replacements for those technologies currently utilizing a finite fuel source. But then, Pareto-neutral solutions don’t appear to be very high on the list of approved remedies; they don’t redistribute enough wealth, or to the right persons, I suppose.

    The real beauty of speed limit reductions is that they needn’t involve any of that pesky obscurantism, “adjustments” of historical data in the interests of “accuracy” or out-and-out redaction of physical records of observed temperatures that can be so costly of credibility. .

  2. Thanks, Ted. Now over to Sammy Hagar for a counterargument.

  3. I tell you this, you, evil deniers and meat eaters and oil lovers and this will be my last word on the topic : pray our great Mother Gaïa and his/her/their adorable child Santa Greta to save your body (not your soul cos you have not) even though you won’t be fulfilled to be sure. And there’s nothing you can do to escape your well earned fate. Period.

  4. Mark Twain said ‘there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.’ If Mark were around today, he probably would have modified it to ‘…damned lies, statistics, and statistics about global warming.’ As this subject is in my face each and every day (almost as bad as Trump), I thought it might be prudent to try get some hard numbers on the subject. Big mistake. Go on the internet and try doing that. Ask yourself any question: How much CO2 is being emitted every year, how much of that is anthropogenic, of that latter amount how much from any given human activity, who is pumping out most of it etc, etc. I assure you will find absolutely no consistency on the subject, but you sure as hell will find agendas to be met and arguments to be won. Perhaps twenty years ago cooler heads (sorry for that) looked at this subject dispassionately and attempted accurate measurements. No more. Now the sparks from axes being ground are blinding anyone that does not harbor confirmation bias. So we are forced to go on empirical evidence. By the way, I am not denying we pump a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere ot that things are getting warmer in some polar regions. But forest fires, hurricanes, and bad hair not so much. Anecdotally speaking, however, I live by the sea, and it does not appear to be rising nor to be getting warmer (unfortunately). On the other hand, I do notice that the sun feels hotter (I notice because I have long history of skin cancer.) But is that man-made warming or does have something with that big yellow thing in the sky and its radiant relationship to space ship Earth? In other words, orbital oscillation, which I recently read brought about global warming app 130,000 years ago that resulted in our migrating out of humans’ original homeland near today’s Botswana. To labor another pun, then, a lot more heat than light is being generated by this discussion, and to draw intelligent conclusions is getting more and more difficult.

  5. The fundamental question is; what effect does rising CO2 levels have on temperature, all else is secondary. Incredibly, after all the research, that question remains unresolved and AGW remains very much a theory and one with some very serious deficiencies.
    The Earth has experienced both high and low temperatures and CO2 levels; the last three glaciations (AKA ice ages) show high CO2 during the interglacial intervals (what we are in now) and low CO2 at the glacial maximum. Unfortunately (for the catastrophists) the ice core record shows low temperatures leading low CO2 and high temperatures leading to high CO2 not the other way round. This appears due to the massive amounts of CO2 dissolved in water being released as the seas (and ice) warm, the reverse happens when the temperatures drops. The same phenomenon you see with a glass of warm beer.
    The earths warmth is given up into space in the form of infra red radiation. The molecules of the green house gases (primarily water vapour) are distorted and thereby warmed by infra red, Nitrogen and oxygen2 are unaffected. CO2 is an effective and highly reactive greenhouse gas; so effective that even at levels of one part per 25,000 (one tenth its present) it accounts for most of the infra red in its reactive wavelength -15 microns. What results is a diminishing effect, a logarithmic function, so that any CO2 increase above these low levels has very little influence on temperature. Going from one part CO2 per 3,500 air molecules (preindustrial) to one part per 2,500 (present) has no significant (or even measurable) effect other than a significant benefit to plant life and a greener Earth as a consequence.

    From once being sold on the dangers of increased CO2 I’m now more concerned with the foolish overreaction to this non problem.
    On that, here’s a few laughs at the expense of Extinction Rebellion. https://youtu.be/fFkN5H4CCY0
    Cheers,
    David George.

  6. How I came to be a skeptic
    I do remember the “Ice Age Cometh” scare; in particular a TIME magazine article (and Newsweek cover) that did seem to link all sorts of weather anomalies including polar vortex expansion to global cooling. This is about the same time as the Club of Rome came out with Limits to Growth (another catastrophe story based on computer models) and I read the Population Bomb which also predicted worldwide famine in the 80’s unless immediate action was taken to limit population growth. I think (thanks to widening availability of the pill) Canadian’s did their bit; only to hear calls for increasing immigration to offset low birth rates today. Thanks to Borlaug et al world starvation was kept at bay and unless anti-GMO types have their way, this will likely continue to be the case.
    I was a sort of believer or at least OK with climate change until I decided I should look into it a little more closely. That impetus came when I started to realize just what was being asked of us in order to act on climate change. This led me to consider Nordhaus (who had just won the noble prize for his work in the area). What struck me was that in order to limit temperature rise to 1.5 or 2.0 degrees; mitigation costs far exceeded predicted damages from climate change. Concerned family members however, were pointing to potentials for catastrophic outcomes including runaway temperature increases; melting ice; rising seas and acidification etc. Perhaps Nordhaus’s discount rates were too high? I then started looking at the predictions for catastrophic outcomes. Probabilities were low. I looked at the model predictions and the myriad of media observations about adverse outcomes that we can see happening in real time. The predictions were not in accord with observations. I read the IPCC reports and still had questions. I went to sites like Skeptical Science and came away dissatisfied with the explanations proffered.
    It was about this stage that I realized that a lot of the data we were being exposed too was adjusted (often referred to as reconstructed data) AND that reconstructed data differed significantly from raw temperature observations. It was asserted that with respect to reconstructed data “the results are generally quite close to the “official” results from NASA, GISS, CRU, and NOAA, NCDC. This seemed to me to be an assertion of validation through consistency (which is certainly one aspect of proof) rather than an assertion of predictive value (as in… the model reproduces the observed temperature record over the past century in the US…. which would be another type of proof).
    That the “reconstructed” temperature record differs from actual temperature measurements, appears to be one of the main issues climate skeptics focus on. For a significant number of skeptics, the modelers do not seem to have explained in a clear and convincing way; why the reconstructed temperature record differs from actual observations. They also point to an inability to explain significant early 20th century warming; followed by post-WWII cooling that was so significant that many reputable climate scientists were predicting the on-set of a new ice age. Skeptics also point to somewhat dubious treatment of data in climate messaging. The selection of particular base periods that enhance the perception of warming or the avoidance of periods of warming or cooling that are not consistent with general predictions of warming together with many of the failed predictions and ostentatious claims of those promoting a climate emergency. These are typically the types of challenges that modelers must address with more than simple assertions of authority based on status; or face a Kuhnian outcome. My take away was that the “reconstructed” temperature records were generated using models. My observation was that the most significant correlation to be found was between observed CO2 levels and adjustments made to raw temperature data that almost without exception enhanced perceptions of global warming.
    The almost religious nature of the climate narrative also gives me pause (being an agnostic). There are indeed other possible hypothesis that have the potential to explain observed climatic patterns and a more limited role for CO2. There is a good chance these reflect cyclical phenomena rather than changes in CO2 levels. It seems likely that the climate models that predict our doom are incorrectly specified; especially in the area of assumed feedback mechanisms. In attempting to shut down any sort of robust debate on the matter I think science has been ill-served. Science does not hold something to be incontrovertibly true. The difference between dogma and scientific hypothesis is the relative extent to which they are willing to be exposed to re-interpretation based on new evidence. Models must accurately predict outcomes or they should be re-visited.
    The other problem I have is that I do not think proponents of extreme action mean it! I am of the “revealed preference” school. If proponents of climate crisis were acting in a manner consistent with their claims we would be rushing to build nuclear (damn the regs) and be sanctioning China and India for continued expansion of coal fired electricity generation rather than accommodating that growth through climate accords.
    So what is going on really? I won’t go there since it seems too much like conspiracy theory or simple avarice. I do know that I am not presently concerned for my grandkids’ future as a consequence of climate change. I am open to being convinced but there is clearly something that smells about this business.

  7. Considering the wall of propaganda being forced onto an unwitting public by the climate change industry these “notorious denialist websites” at the very least, provide a useful counter; genuine discussion in the MSM is verboten .
    Examples abound of this extraordinary campaign, I’ve never seen anything like it.
    Our TV news ran the story of a heatwave in Western Europe. I found out subsequently that there was an unusual weather pattern bringing hot air from the Sahara. A similar event took place in the mid 70’s. After a few shots of folk cooling off in public fountains, that sort of thing, they launched into a five minute tirade overtly connecting the warm weather with climate change and ran library footage of collapsing glaciers, nightmare storms, droughts (complete with desiccated animal skeleton for extra scary), cracked earth, horrendous floods, teaming hordes of refugees and the obligatory polar bear “stranded” on a tiny iceberg. A disaster of biblical proportions, the only thing missing was the plague of locusts.
    The last couple of years with record low winter temperatures in North America and Eurasia get completely ignored of course.
    I don’t know about you but this sort of blatant propaganda really gets my bullshit detectors going.
    Thank God for the few willing (and, in many cases, putting their careers on the line) to question the prevailing orthodoxy.

  8. Nice try. Ad hominem will get you precisely nowhere here. You might try presenting an argument. Many of the people here have been diligently reviewing the studies to which you so credulously refer, and finding a significant number of them equivocal and contradictory.

    If you have anything to contribute that isn’t religious in nature, by all means do share.

  9. Not a problem. I’m prepared to wait until we have conclusive evidence. Not that I truly doubt AGW, I just doubt a lot of the claims of catastrophic GW, which generally are not backed up by the science.

    Insults don’t change peoples mind. They never have. In the future you should probably refrain from your emotional attacks and just rationally discuss counter points.

  10. So you want evidence-based information? The problem is not that the information systems are not available- it’s that the prejudices people bring to any wicked problem which renders them incapable of forming sound judgements on potential methodologies to tackle climate change. It’s not just selection bias, it’s that studies have shown that supposedly intelligent people are no more able than the less fortunate in sidestepping confirmation bias- in fact more intelligent people are able to find more flaws in a position that they happen to disagree with, and more arguments to support their own position. It’s why viewpoint diversity is so important, so thank you for offering a alternative hypothesis.

    Here is an article from the Guardian, which suffers from this flawed thinking process:

    There are several problems with this article. The first is that it criticises intensive farming practices. Steven Pinker makes the argument in his book, Enlightenment Now, that intensive farming is exactly what the world needs. Bjorn Lomborg has made the same argument in the past. This is all interesting, in that a recent article by The Economist, highlights a study that proves exactly this point:

    Although it is highly unlikely that we can ever fully utilise the world’s land available to reforestation, the higher the yields that intensive farming can produce, the more land can be put back to ‘wilding’ and make use of this natural potential for a carbon sink. I don’t know about you, but 20 years worth of climate mitigation sounds good to me- and it’s a position that David Attenborough advocates. The interesting thing is that when you explain to the FTMers that you so deride, that often this ‘wilded’ land can be used to achieve greater economic value through leisure and subsidiary activities, they appear to be all for it.

    The second problem is the Left’s habitual problem with animal farming. Whilst it’s true that methane is a significant contributor to AGW, what is not generally known is that methane breaks down in the atmosphere within about 15 years. So it’s not cumulative, in the sense that you only need to worry about the last 15 years of methane. Now, obviously when it reacts with hydroxyl in the atmosphere, it produces CO2, but this is only a tiny source of total CO2 in the atmosphere. A better argument would be that the levels of meat consumed by British and American consumers are unhealthily high, and people should opt for Italian style portion sizes, and meals that incorporate a larger degree of high quality non-meat products. On a side note, it has recently been discovered that fertiliser production may be a far more significant source of methane than previously thought- and it might be worthwhile encouraging fertiliser producers to incorporate methane-capture technologies for either energy production, or gas-powered transport and farming vehicles.

    But the biggest detriment to the Left’s cause on this issue, is their irrational fear of nuclear power. They fell for the coal industries careful stoking of fears like chumps. The most anti-nuclear analysis of total deaths from nuclear power puts the figure at around a few thousand, whilst more conservative estimates place the total at around 60. This is against the millions upon millions of people who have been saved, by not releasing fumes from coal into the atmosphere- which also happen to be radioactive, by the way. Perhaps the biggest indictment of this irrational fear, is that when consumers and voters forced the German nuclear industry to switch it’s power plants off, their CO2 emissions went up, despite heavy further investment in renewables. By contrast, France’s nuclear industry and their energy-based carbon emissions are a model for the world. People who argue for climate action without incorporating nuclear into their plans, are either politically motivated, or ignorant, or both.

    But the biggest reason why you should argue for free market solutions to action on climate change, is that unlike dogma, it actually works. There is something called ‘solution aversion’ and here is a study on the subject:

    https://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace/handle/10161/9256

    Having programmed my YouTube over a couple of years, with a lot of engineering and climate solution viewing, I can tell you that there is far more cause for optimism than most people think. Here is an example of free market ideas at their best:

    It made me so happy to see, that I could have wept for joy…

    By 2040 we will have hybrid passenger planes in production, and by 2050 they will be fully electric. They will also likely be fundamentally safer. UC Berkeley currently has research project ongoing that aims to decarbonise cement production- which account for 9% of total CO2 production. Both Bjorn Lomberg and the authors of Drilldown, have highlighted the replacement of HFC’s in refrigeration and air conditioning as the single biggest and cheaply fixed source of climate mitigation. China is leading the way in reclaiming desertified lands, although some have argued that this will increase albedo. On the subject of albedo, much more could be done in cities, to increase the reflective profile of streets and buildings. This is a testbed site in Scotland, that is trialling a huge number of sea-based hydro scenarios- which could provide a source of future jobs, for those displaced by the reduction in fossil fuel reliance. Next year, Tesla will be putting a million mile battery into production next year, which can only help to convince more road users into going electric, as this will effectively make EV’s more economical than their high maintenance gas guzzling counterparts.

    The combination of science, faith-rooted humanism and the market have conspired to make us the most fortunate human beings in the history of planet. From 2000 to 2012 over a billion people were brought out of absolute poverty, through capitalism and the free market, after over 50 years of well-intentioned foreign aid by governments failed to accomplish little more than the salving of Western guilt. Despite current catastrophic forecasts, the free market is on course to solve all of these problems. It just takes the right incentives. From subsidy-based biofuels causing the deforestation in Malaysia to the fact that renewables can only take us about 20 to 30% of the way to net neutral carbon emissions from energy consumption, successive Governments around the world have shown that they are both unable to introduce the type of top-down reform that Government action might take, without being overthrown, and structurally incapable of choosing the right types of solutions, because of the biases of their constituencies.

    For further research on rational approaches to Climate Change, I would heartily recommend Potholer 54, on YouTube, as he is a science journalist with 25 years of experience, who originally trained as a geologist, I believe. He readily dismisses the most popular myths argued by climate sceptics, whilst also arguing for a business-based approach to climate mitigation, that leaves people wealthier. We are so close to being able to generate a market-based approach to climate mitigation- the only things that could derail it, are socialism or a reversion to the Keynesian-style command economics of the past. If you really want to help on climate change, then ask your government to commission more nuclear power plants, because sovereign-based systems are the only way they get built, because the private sector doesn’t like the risk profile. Beyond that, Government needs to remove fossil subsidies, and institute carbon pricing, at a modest level, that is nether proscriptive nor prescriptive.

    On a final note, one long term solution that might be worth investigating is the possibility of manufacturing floats to ensure a longer lifespan for manufactured consumer goods. One of the reasons why Warren Buffet was attracted to insurance as an industry was because of insurance floats, the money held to pay out on claims, which can be used to generate revenue from investments in the meantime. Maybe one way to increase the lifespan of goods, and act as a safeguard on consumer rights, would be to tell manufacturers that they have to replace your fridge if it breaks down within ten years. The money held to insure protection would be incorporated into the price, but it would also act as incentive to stop the bad practises of designed obsolescence and parts that break down intentionally. This would necessarily reduce the carbon footprint from advanced consumer goods…

    On a second final note, schools should completely ban parents from picking up children from schools when school transport or public transport are available. Not only does it add traffic to the roads at the worst possible times, but any additional risks to children, are significantly outweighed by the risks the parents themselves pose, to other child-carrying drivers and threats to pedestrian children. Furthermore, we now also know that it is fundamentally unhealthy to deprive children of periods when they are largely unsupervised by adults, such as time spent on a school bus. Parents would still be free to socialise, just not in the schoolyard and at times that lead to more congested roads. It’s a personal bugbear of mine, and one area where I do support a certain amount of limited government intervention…


  11. In 1990, Tim Wirth, then Democratic senator from Colorado, said, “We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy.”

  12. You’re correct there is a credibility gap. One side has failed predictions and massaged data.

  13. The Climate debate is about power not the environment. The climate has already changed will continue to change. This “debate” started as “Global Warming” right up until the world stopped warming (based on satellite data) so the Left does what the Left does and change the language to suite their control agenda.

    The author and many commenters also assume that the Right is made up of religious zealots which is not even close to being accurate, but it helps the demonisation of the opposing side.

    The fundamental non-scientific part of the Climate Catastrophe argument is the idea that any free-flowing gas operates like a greenhouse. Anyone who uses the term “greenhouse gas” does not understand basic physics. Greenhouses work because they block convection and not because of any radiative mechanism. You can make greenhouses out of materials that do not block IR radiation. No free flowing gas can block the convection other free flowing gases. Therefore the term “greenhouse gas” is fundamentally wrong.

    Also the atmosphere is not a source of energy and so cannot make anything “hotter”. The entire radiative greenhouse gas theory is predicated on a flat earth, no day/night cycle and that the sun does not have the energy to melt ice.

    Climate is being used to establish control. All those that believe that a gas this is 0.04% of the atmosphere, of which 97% is created by nature, is going to destroy the world are just useful idiots that think that virtue signalling is more important than actual virtue which requires actual effort.

  14. The radical right CATO institute believes that:

    The Cato Institute is a public policy research organization — a think tank — dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace.

    The nerve of this subversive organization. We all know that people need to be controlled by governments and that free markets don’t work and these need to be run by elected representatives or even non-elected appointed bureaucrats.

  15. How does the average person, like myself, come to grips with a subject that requires specific knowledge or too much time to be knowledgeable? Complexity is the midwife to philosophy. So I rely on principle and context, and what I find is that the short term predictions of the proponents of AGW have failed, that the long term predictions are fuzzy at best, and that viable alternative strategies, like nuclear (or with do respect to Hagar driving 55) are denounced. But what really sets off my BS meter is the anti-liberty, anti-capitalist rhetoric of the environmentalist. I just don’t want to live in their world. It’s grim and anti-life.

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