World bigwigs meet in Paris and solemnly pledge carbon emission cuts to combat climate change. Columnist David Brooks likens this to a Weight Watchers meeting, with earnest promises to slim down. It means little without enforcement mechanisms. Remember America criticized for not ratifying the Kyoto agreement? Well, what’s rarely mentioned is that ratifying countries never fulfilled their Kyoto obligations.
While, in fact, the U.S. has reduced its emissions more than any other major nation. Playing a big role in that is fracking. Yet most climate change zealots oppose fracking. Such “progressives” really hate progress, calling it a blight upon the planet. Bill McKibben says technological and economic advancement should stop. James Howard Kunstler literally wants everyone living on small farms and riding bicycles instead of cars.
That won’t happen; indeed, such massive emission cuts are simply unrealistic. And what they also don’t tell you is that they wouldn’t anyway stop global warming. Yes, it would help; but rising temperatures and climate change are already baked in, and even if we cut emissions to zero tomorrow, warming would still continue for a very long time. That’s scientific fact.
Of course we should do everything reasonably possible to minimize emissions and develop alternative technologies (that make economic sense). But since that won’t nearly solve the problem, much more emphasis is needed on measures for coping with a warmer world. Climate warriors don’t want to hear this, lest it detract from their anti-industrial jihad, to put humanity in a hair shirt of penance for our putative environmental sins.
And what they definitely don’t want to hear about is geo-engineering – ways to reduce existing atmospheric carbon, or to otherwise counteract warming with global cooling. For example, the sulfur dioxide we already emit might be diverted from the lower to the upper atmosphere, thereby replicating the planetary cooling effects of major volcanic eruptions (like 1816’s “year without a summer”). Admittedly such efforts, if bungled, could do more harm than good. This is why intensive research is needed. Yet climate advocate Naomi Klein says such research should be banned! Because it would detract from the true agenda of cutting carbon emissions as a blow against the industries producing them.
Those industries may not be pretty, yet are in fact responsible for our modern quality of life, so vastly better than in the pre-industrial past of almost universal poverty. The “good old days” actually sucked. Our use of fossil fuels has not been reckless, heedless, or criminal. It’s been indispensable to raising billions from squalor, and underpins almost everything about modern life. The concomitant climate change must be dealt with, but that doesn’t mean we should never have extracted and utilized those fuels, reaping their gigantic human welfare benefits. Stopping, or big cutbacks, would plunge billions back into poverty – just when we’ll need more economic resources to meet the costs of coping with climate change.
And when, in a world where a billion people still survive on under $1 a day, Bill McKibben says economic growth should end – that’s reckless, heedless, and criminal.
Finally, it’s also wrong to cast climate change as humanity’s biggest problem. Under a worst-case scenario, the amount of worldwide human suffering caused by climate change will still be dwarfed by suffering from our age-old, unsexy nemeses of disease, malnutrition, poor sanitation, bad water, poverty, ignorance, violent conflict, and so forth. A dollar spent tackling those problems buys far more human betterment than if spent to hold down temperatures.*
* Fifty times as much, according to studies by the Copenhagen Consensus Center.