Common Sense on Climate

One of the many positive aspects of the 2014 campaign is that global warming hysteria failed to move voters. To what extent this is because voters are knowledgeable about climate issues and understand that warming alarmism is scientifically unfounded, as opposed to not being knowledgeable about the details but understanding from experience that environmental scares are overblown, I don’t know. But this column by Bjorn Lomborg does an excellent job of explaining why the warmists’ prescriptions are harmful even if the theory of anthropogenic global warming is correct:

[T]he world will not come off fossil fuels for many decades. Globally, we get a minuscule 0.3pc of our energy from solar and wind. According to the International Energy Agency, even with a wildly optimistic scenario, we will get just 3.5pc of our energy from solar and wind in 2035, while paying almost $100 billion in annual subsidies. Today, the world gets 82pc of its energy from fossil fuels, in 21 years it will still be more than 79pc. …

Realising that fossil fuels will be here for a long time means stronger focus on moving from coal to gas, since gas emits about half the greenhouse gasses. The US shale gas revolution has reduced gas prices and lead to a significant switch from coal to gas. This has reduced US CO₂ emissions to their lowest in 20 years.

In 2012, US shale gas reduced emissions three times more than all the solar and wind in Europe. At the same time, Europe paid about $40 billion in annual subsidies for solar, while the Americans made more than $200 billion every year from the shale gas revolution. …

The IPCC finds that the total cost of climate change by 2070 is between 0.2pc and 2pc of GDP. While this is definitely a problem, it is equivalent to less than one year of recession over the next 60 years.

Global warming pales when compared to many other global problems. While the WHO estimates 250,000 annual deaths from global warming in 30 years, 4.3 million die right now each year from indoor air pollution, 800 million are starving, and 2.5 billion live in poverty and lack clean water and sanitation. …

Climate policies can easily cost much more than the global warming damage will – while helping very little. The German solar adventure, which has cost taxpayers more than $130 billion, will at the end of the century just postpone global warming by a trivial 37 hours. …

Biofuels, for instance, have driven up food costs, likely causing an extra 30 million starving, with prospects of starving another 100 million by 2020. And it is likely that biofuels cause net increase in CO₂ emissions, because they force agriculture to cut down forests elsewhere to grow food.

This is why we have to be careful in pushing for the right policies. For twenty years, the refrain has been promises to cut CO₂, like the Kyoto Protocol. For twenty years these policies have failed. We should instead look to climate economics to find smarter solutions.

And again, all of that assumes that the alarmists are right about the human impact on global temperatures–a proposition that becomes more clearly false almost daily, as the climate refuses to obey the alarmists’ predictions and as our primitive understanding of the climate advances.

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