'Lay aside for now all of the arguments that can be made about the weaknesses of catastrophic climate change predictions. In fact, for purposes of discussion, let's assume that the worst-case scenario is likely to come true. The paradox of climate change is exactly this: the more serious the problem, the more implausible are the remedies of the environmental community. That's what ought to make the climate campaigners realize that last weekend's mega-march in New York City represents the dead-end for their cause. Truly we can invoke that overused cliché that climate change has "jumped the shark."
Here's why: From the beginning 25 years ago the arguments over climate science have dominated the scene and distracted us away from the fundamental problem: the prescribed method for preventing climate change is essentially replacing nearly all hydrocarbon energy, in the space of less than two generations. Climate orthodoxy calls for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide, by the year 2050, which would take the United States back to a level of hydrocarbon energy use last seen more than 100 years ago. For the developing world, it means remaining poor for several more decades.
There has been very little recognition and less candor about the sheer fantasy of the emissions target. Energy transitions, as the energy scholar Vaclav Smil has explained in great detail, are long-term affairs, even if a new superior technology exists to displace a current technology. But affordable large-scale, low- or non-carbon energy capable of replacing our current energy infrastructure simply doesn't exist at present, and there isn't much on the horizon. The developing world needs to triple its energy supply over the next generation if it is going to raise hundreds of millions out of abject poverty, and that means using abundant hydrocarbon energy, not expensive boutique energy popular with ever-preening rich Americans and Europeans. Just last week India's new environmental minister, Prakash Javadekar, reiterated that India is not willing to discuss limitations on its rapidly growing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. "India's first task is eradication of poverty," Javadekar told the New York Times; "Twenty percent of our population doesn't have access to electricity, and that's our top priority. We will grow faster, and our emissions will rise."
American and European climate change action advocates have ignored these realities, and have from the earliest engaged in relentless happy talk that a shift to renewable energy (chiefly solar, wind, and biofuels) would launch us down the golden road to a post-carbon energy future. The more economically illiterate among the climateers peddle the free-lunch argument that we'll all get richer by mandating investment in more expensive, low-yield energy sources. The relatively modest amounts of low-carbon energy developed over the last two decades have required enormous government subsidies and have delivered negligible reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. (In some cases, like biofuels from palm oil and corn, the full environmental tradeoff is likely negative.) The bitter irony for the climateers is that the most significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions have been achieved by the production of newly abundant cheap natural gas through fracking, which has been displacing coal at a rapid rate…
Which brings us back to last week's crazy-quilt climate march in New York. The most conspicuous aspect of the march was its open expression of discontent not so much with climate change, but with our current civilization generally. It coincided with a new Naomi Klein book, This Changes Everything, that is getting a lot of buzz on the left (and even in Vogue magazine). In case you've forgotten your show notes, Klein is the author of The Shock Doctrine, a book ragingly popular with the far left that is so far gone into absurd conspiracizing and looney renderings of "neoliberalism" that it makes Lyndon LaRouche look positively staid by comparison.
What is the "this" that "changes everything" in Klein's new title? Why climate change, of course. And what does it "change"? Why capitalism, naturally. The argument of the book in one sentence is that only overthrowing capitalism can we solve climate change. Don't take my word for it. Here's how the progressive lefty site CommonDreams described it: "Forget everything you think you know about global warming. The really inconvenient truth is that it's not about carbon—it's about capitalism." This view was well represented in the banners and posters at the climate march last week. If climate change disappeared, one suspects the capitalism haters would still find a reason to march and rage against civilization. For this bit of candor, we owe Klein and the climate marchers a debt of thanks.
Even more revealing was the rage of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who told reporters during the march last week that climate skeptics should be jailed, and that the Koch brothers are "war criminals." This is what passes for reasoning among environmental leaders?'
It should be pointed out that rather than reduce the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere, there are economical ways to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. It should also be pointed out that CO2 by itself is not enough of a greenhouse to cause any serious global warming. Predictions of catastrophe depend upon as of yet unproven positive feedback models, i.e. water vapor is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. The skeptics say the feedback is negative and so far the evidence has supported this.
All the predictions that I could find, and I made a serious effort to look, predicted that the 21st century would experience 1 to 1.5 degree Fahrenheit warming. This is not enough to cause disaster, and it seems obvious that before the century is half way over we will have mastered nuclear fusion which will give us limitless emission free energy.
We are at most a few years away from new battery technology that increases capacity to the point of making electric cars practical and less expensive to operate. If done correctly, this would reduce emissions, or eliminate them altogether if we use nuclear power as our energy source.