Listening to climate doomsters makes our situation worse

Summary: Climate science shows how America assimilates information, assesses threats, and allocate resources. We do it poorly. Doomsters are part of the problem. We can make the climate policy debate better informed and less divisive by ignoring doomsters.

“Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
— From H. L. Mencken’s In Defense of Women (1918).

Nightmare, girl alone in a destroyed world
ID 115221206 © Gunold | Dreamstime.

James Anderson (Prof of Atmospheric Chemistry at Harvard) gave a speech. It fed the daily doomster news from the Left. “There Is No Time Left” by Robert Hunziker at Counterpunch. Journalist Jeff McMahon, presented it at Forbes as yet another in the endless series of deadlines: “We Have Five Years To Save Ourselves From Climate Change.” (see lists of such deadlines going back many years: hereherehere). But, as usual, Grist went into deep clickbait.

Top Climate Scientist: Humans Will Go Extinct if We Don’t Fix Climate Change by 2023

Professor Anderson believes that we have only 55 months left to “fix climate change” or we will go extinct. Some of the predictions in his speech rely on the work of other scientists (e.g., more and stronger storms in a warmer world, as predicted by Professor Michael Mann). His doomster prediction has little support from the IPCC’s reports.

Anderson’s speech and the resulting stories are is typical of the news today. The campaign to get extreme public policy action to fight climate change has run for 30 years. This year it went full-doomster, doubling down on warnings of nightmarish consequences. There are three oddities to this. The first two are widely recognized; the third is seldom mentioned – and perhaps the most important.

First, ignoring the IPCC and major climate agencies.

The IPCC’s Working Group I reports (the physical sciences) were rightly described by activists as the “gold standard” description of climate research and the most reliable statement of scientists’ consensus. But by 2011 activists were saying they were “too conservative.” This became a common response by activists to the release of AR5 in 2013 (e.g., Inside Climate News and Yale’s Environment 360). Now activists explicitly attack the IPCC’s integrity, advocating it twist the science to support activists’ agenda. For example, see this March 2019 paper in Bioscience.

Now activists and their journalist supporters focus on individual papers, seldom replicated by other scientists, and increasingly wild statements by scientists. The major climate science institutions are ignored.

Second, what about those confident predictions?

Scientists making confident predictions about climate seldom mention the many false predictions. We have seen false predictions of “the end of winter.” False predictions that the California drought (now over) would be permanent (or very long). False predictions of more and stronger hurricanes since Katrina in 2005. False predictions about the melting of the Arctic Ocean. Despite the almost daily hype, most forms of extreme weather have not increased (esp. see Judith Curry’s new essay about this). See more failed predictions. These have, logically, eroded the public’s confidence so that climate change is ranked low among American’s public policy priorities (e.g., surveys by Gallup and Pew Research).

Some climate scientists have warned about excessive confidence. Such as Judith Curry in her articles and presentations about the need to better appreciate uncertainty (e.g., here, here, and here). They have been ignored.

Third, will climate change go the same way as earlier doomster stories?

Our history for the past few generations has been doomster fears seizing the public’s attention only after solutions have begun.

(1)  The Horse Manure Crisis – In the late 19th century, people worried about the increasing problems of dealing with horse manure (and horse carcasses) in cities. But the first practical car was built in 1885. The first electrified underground urban railway opened in 1890 in London. These became more useful with the invention of the multiple-unit train control in 1897. In a few decades, cities were far cleaner. {This paragraph was corrected for accuracy.}

(2)  Water and air pollution – In the late 1960s and early 1970s, water and air pollution were considered existential threats to our survival. On 15 January 1971 Americans watched “L.A. 2017”, an episode of The Name of the Game by the hot and young new director Steven Spielberg. In it, the hero has a vision of Los Angeles in 2017, after pollution had destroyed the Earth’s ecology and forced the remnants of humanity underground. LA had one cow; its milk was a delicacy for the rich. See more about the plot. Philip Wylie wrote the script. His specialty was science fiction Stories about nuclear war and ecological disaster. Those were as popular then as stories about climate apocalypses are today. He novelized it as Los Angeles: A.D. 2017. See a review here.

Responsible people had acted long before Spielberg produced his first horror film. Progress began with the Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 and the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955. Small beginnings for decades of incremental change that has reshaped the air and water of America, still continuing.

(3)  Overpopulation – Collapse from overpopulation has been a favorite prediction, from Thomas Malthusin An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) to Paul Ehrlich in The population bomb (1968). On 17 January 1969, Americans watched “The Mark of Gideon“, as Captain Kirk visited a planet with literally wall-to-wall people (see this excerpt). The goal of ZPG – zero population growth – was seen by many as unrealistic or utopian.

The first safe and effective Intrauterine devices hit the market in the 1950s; the 1960s next-generation devices were even better. Enovid, the first birth control pill, hit the market in 1960. Cheap, easy, and effective contraceptives began the long-decline in fertility that will lead to collapsing populations in some nations during next few years – and probably a falling population in the late 21st century.

But although they are usually wrong, doomstsers are flexible. Now fewer people are disastrous.

(4)  The Soviet Union – It was an existential threat to America right until it collapsed. US intelligence agencies consistently overestimated the growth rates and technical progress of the USSR (examples here). Far-right extremists further exaggerated it into a bogeyman. In 1987, Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This marked the beginning of the end to the cold war – and a large step towards lifting the threat of global annihilation. Howard Phillips (Chairman of The Conservative Caucus) described it in the NYT as “Treaty: Another Sellout“ See more examples of right-wing hysteria.

(5)  Resource exhaustion – This has been a favorite of doomsters since the late 1960s. After fifty years we still have not exhausted any resources. Most have declined in price (in real terms). Many resources, especially agricultural and minerals, are subject to boom-bust cycles. Periods of low prices result in capital underinvestment, followed by supply shortages – and doomster stories that they are “running out” (ignoring basic geology). Then prices rise, investment surges, supplies increase – followed by amnesia about the previous false predictions.

A common element to these doomster stories.

A common element in these doomster stories is that the loudest warnings came after solutions were found. In most cases, the doomsters were panicking long after cooler people had seen the threat and begun preventive actions. There are structural reasons for that.

First, doomsters often believe they are smarter and know more than everybody else. Experts, politicians, administrators – none can compare with doomsters’ opinions of themselves. Second, doomsters tend to be attention whores. They play upon the public’s fears, which appear in the late stage of a challenge. By then, experts often have been working on solutions for many years. Or prices have moved to signal the need for action, which impel research and investments. Doomsters seldom see any of this, with their eyes fixed on the one true vision of the future.

Woman crying dreamstime - 126681033
ID 126681033 © Marcos Calvo Mesa | Dreamstime.

What about climate change?

Energy generation is shifting to lower-carbon sources. Cars are shifting from gasoline and diesel to electricity. Electricity generation is shifting from coal to natural gas. And next-gen energy sources are emerging from scientists’ laboratories, such as new nuclear power systems and (more speculatively) the bright light of fusion might burn away climate doomsters’ fears. But these things take time. Fracking to produce natural gas is happening now, spreading around the world. See Stratfor giving us good news about when renewables will replace fossil fuels.

Much depends on how much time climate change gives to the relentless march of technology. We need time. Variables remain uncertain. For example, transient climate response (TCR) was estimated by the Working Group I of IPCC’s AR5 with high confidence “to be likely between 1°C and 2.5°C” (in chapter 10; “likely” means above 66% probability). Theories about key dynamics remain weakly validated, such as the dynamics of clouds and the long-term carbon cycle.

This is the classic form of a doomster nightmare. They exaggerate the threat beyond that described by experts and minimize the significance of counter-measures being developed.

Does this mean we should ignore climate change as a threat? No, no more than we should focus on it to the exclusion of other serious threats, such as the dying oceans (see here, here, and here). A better lesson from this history is that we should ignore doomsters and instead pay attention to experts. This one easy step will make the political debate better informed and less divisive.

For More Information

Ideas! See my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see all posts about doomsters, about peak oil, about The keys to understanding climate change and especially these…

  1. About RCP8.5: Is our certain fate a coal-burning climate apocalypse? No!
  2. How climate scientists can re-start the public policy debate about climate change – test the models!
  3. Follow-up: more about why scientists should test the models.
  4. Let’s prepare for past climate instead of bickering about predictions of climate change – Doing something is better than nothing.
  5. Focusing on worst case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work.
  6. Updating the RCPs: The IPCC gives us good news about climate change, but we don’t listen.
  7. The Extinction Rebellion’s hysteria vs. climate science.
  8. Daily stories of climate death build a Green New Deal!
  9. Why we do nothing to prepare for climate change.

To help us better understand today’s weather

To learn more about the state of climate change see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr., prof at U of CO – Boulder’s Center for Science and Policy Research (2018).

The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.

33 thoughts on “Listening to climate doomsters makes our situation worse”

  1. About Anderson’s vision of the future.

    Journalist Jeff McMahon describes Professor Anderson’s speech in Forbes: “We Have Five Years To Save Ourselves From Climate Change.” He says Anderson predicts a world with no temperature gradient from pole to pole, plus more and stronger storms (based on Mann’s paper).

    This is odd, since storms (esp winter storms) should be weak in a world with no temperature gradient by latitude. Mann’s paper gives one explanation. But there are other explanations. Such as that in EE Smith’s Lensmen novels (which are to sci fi what Tolkien’s LofR is to fantasy).

    In them ultimate drug is thionite, from a plant growing on Trenco. This planet has no temperature gradient – but it has daily storms w/ 47′ of rain, 800 mph winds, & mind-blowing lightening. See this description from Galactic Patrol (1937). It explains why Anderson believes we have only 55 months to “fix climate change” and prevent humanity’s extinction. Life on Trenco sounds unpleasant.

    “Judged by any earthly standards the planet Trenco was – and is – a peculiar one indeed. Its atmosphere, which is not air, and its liquid, which is not water, are its two outstanding peculiarities and the sources of most of its others. Almost half of that atmosphere and by far the greater part of the liquid phase of the planet is a substance of extremely low latent heat of vaporization, with a boiling-point such that during the daytime it is a vapor and at night a liquid. To make matters worse, the other constitu­ents of Trenco’s gaseous envelope are of very feeble blan­keting power, low specific heat, and of high permeability, so that its days are intensely hot and its nights are bitterly cold.

    “At night, therefore, it rains. Words are entirely inade­quate to describe to anyone who has never been there just how it does rain during Trenco’s nights. Upon Earth one inch of rainfall in an hour is a terrific downpour. Upon Trenco that amount of precipitation would scarcely be considered a mist; for along the equatorial belt, in less than thirteen Tellurian hours, it rains exactly forty-seven feet and five inches every night – no more no less, each and every night of every year.

    “Also there is lightning. Not in Terra’s occasional flashes, but in one continuous, blinding glare which makes night as we know it unknown there; in nerve-wracking, battering, sense-destroying discharges which make ether and sub-ether alike impenetrable to any ray or signal short of a full-driven power beam. The days are practically as bad. The lightning is not violent then, but the bombardment of Trenco’s monstrous sun, through that outlandishly peculiar atmosphere, produces almost the same effect.

    “Because of the difference in pressure set up by the enor­mous precipitation, always and everywhere upon Trenco there is wind – and what a wind! Except at the very poles, where it is too cold for even Trenconian life to exist, there is hardly a spot in which or a time at which an Earthly gale would not be considered a dead calm; and along the equator, at every sunrise and at every sunset, the wind blows from the day side to the night side at the rate of well over eight hundred miles an hour!”

    Smith invented space opera. Details about hard science weren’t important. He was a mining engineer, not a chemist Trenco should be as calm as the surface of the Jim Beam in my glass.

  2. “”followed by amnesia about the previous false predictions.””

    This is a tell-tale sign of what I think of as the Soap Opera Syndrome. IMO, the ecological doomsters are a political form of infotainment.

    Another point, as you have made before, is that the air, water, and soil improvements came from regulations. This was my life’s work, until I retired. Not only have we cleaned up, but more importantly, we stopped the annual increase of pollution and established control. We have successful institutions to meet environmental threats.

    As a professional, this is why I find the opposition to incremental improvements with nuclear and NG indicates it is not about solutions. We now how to solve environmental problems. The incremental approach has far reaching and permanent effects. One of the most under rated effect is that the approach supports the current wealth and uses that wealth to provide for a better tomorrow. Note the contrast between what we know to work that has institutions with needed expertise; and what the doomsters are proposing.

    Even if society was to go the way the doomsters claim is needed, it would still need to use the incremental approach to make it work. The real question has always been how do you get from a carbon intensive society to a carbon neutral society without destroying the mechanisms that allow environmental concerns to be a top priority of society.

    The doomsters ignore this. Or lie.

    YMMV.

    1. John Pittman: I agree that we have mitigated many environmental problems, but don’t you think that the current administration is trying its best to reverse that?

      1. David,

        What are these measures that “reverse” that?

        There has always been some ebb and flow in US regulatory systems, including environmental. The Left calls any step back “reversing them all” and the Right says steps forwards are “crippling the economy.” But this political regime has served us well for 60 years, allowing incremental progress while retaining political support.

      2. David, the regulations were set up by law. Trump’s administration can slant these regulations somewhat, but if you read carefully, the Democrats have slanted as well. If you worry about cheating the law, Obama’s EPA put forth the Clean Power Plan knowing that the law stated unit and site as the mechanisms for cleaning air. The CPP used offsite and did not address the units. In other words, look at the moral implication such as reversing or crippling and it will tell you the politics, not the law nor the regulations.

        As far as the environment, it would be almost impossible to reverse the pollution that was stopped. We may do less well, but even that is a complicated estimation, because if the economy improves, the trade off may be the wealth is invested in cleaner, more green items. Western cultures in recent history are investing more in greening. Both the EPA and states are keeping records and encouraging these green efforts.

        I can’t recall any news outlets taking about the successes except to challenge Trump and the EPA for their claims. Their claims, that I have read, the successes are true. Estimates have a lot of uncertainty BOTH ways. Is it better or worse than claims? It can be bounded in the most part, but there are too many unknowns and complicating factors to make rigorous assumptions.

      3. John,

        “the regulations were set up by law.”

        That was true, in the past. But Obama thought he was above the law, The Clean Power Plan, all 460 pages, was a regulation. Much as his approval of the Paris Agreement was an Executive Order. No congressional approval. These are among the most unconstitutional actions by a US president. Trump was right to reverse both on purely Constitutional grounds.

        Both pale, of course, before his orders executing a US citizen – part of his “kill list.”

      4. Yes Larry, that is why CPP should have been never promulgated, rather than just tossed. The laws are the basis of the regs. In the case of the Paris Accord, the Constitution is above the law. Besides just being wrong, Obama has set some very nasty precedents, like murder. I laugh when I read the Democrats whine about Trump. I mourn our citizen’s amnesia. The erosion of the Constitution and the law should be both parties and all citizen’s concern. The reason I tend to be a strict interpreter is because laws and the Constitution can be changed. I don’t accept the laziness or ineptitude of the elected as an excuse. Our government is supposed to be a cooperative effort.

  3. Few degrees of warming, whether man caused or not, is very likely to be beneficial to mankind. Moving the corn line north into Canada 500 miles opens vast stretches of fertile soils to much greater productivity in food production. Go visit a place that lies 500 to 1000 miles south of you and see if it is a wasteland of hellish temperatures and virtually uninhabitable. The fact is that warmer temperatures are associated with more rain and a more vigorous ecology. The Amazon rain forest is near the equator for a reason!
    Most of what the AGW fanatics assert is pure bunk.

    1. Steve,

      You point to an important issue: the climate science literature lacks, so far as I’ve seen, an unbiased evaluation of warming’s effects – good and bad.

      An insight from economics might help. Rapid change in economic dynamics tends to be bad. A steady rate of moderate inflation has little net effect. Pushing that up can initiate destructive inflation; pushing that down can initiate even more destructive deflation. Society adapts to current conditions, and can only slowly adapt to changes.

  4. Larry,

    “A better lesson from this history is that we should ignore doomsters and instead pay attention to experts. This one easy step will make the political debate better informed and less divisive.”

    Doomster scientists create doomster people, ignoring them is easier said than done (for me, anyway). Down here in the trenches, I spend half my day on the local letters to the editor, replying to doomster authors, trying to convince them that the sky is not falling. Climate crisis indeed.

    It does no good, links to short articles on the subject go unread, sound reasoning gets me ad hominem attacks. I’ve even been called a racist for being a skeptic.

    Strange days indeed, political parties are rising and falling worldwide over this CAGW nonsense.

    I pray it doesn’t happen here.

    1. Ron,

      “Doomster scientists create doomster people”

      That’s a big problem, discussed in my posts about the corruption of climate science.

      “I spend half my day on the local letters to the editor, replying to doomster authors, trying to convince them that the sky is not falling.”

      During the past 16 years I’ve spent many many hours having discussions with doomsters. I’ve found it is a waste of time, and no longer do it. Ignore them. When more people do so, publishers will no longer find it profitable to feature doomsters (clicks and such are god in the highly competitive news biz).

      On the other hand, publishers must work to debunk doomsters – using fact and mockery.

      It’s like fighting rats. No easy solutions, unfortunately. A daily grind to keep them in the shadows.

      1. Larry,

        Hot off the liberal LNP today. This is what is being spread around, the author of the letter is probably a volunteer of the “Citizens Climate Lobby”:

        Inslee shows path for Green New Deal [opinion] By PETE KUNTZ | Special to LNP – lancasteronline.com

        The Green New Deal has received both acclaim and attacks since it was announced. That’s partly because it was not a legislative proposal, but a mission statement with a list of goals that included much more than just clean energy. With everything vague and lumped together, it became something of a Rorschach inkblot on to which everyone could project their hopes or fears. It was wildly popular at first, but misinformation about it was quickly manufactured by the GOP — including astronomical cost estimates — and then spread by Fox News and other conservative media.

        Now we have a Green New Deal energy plan with details, a 38-page document recently released by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is focusing his presidential campaign on climate change. It systematically translates the Green New Deal’s lofty goals into policy specifics. You can read a brief summary of this dense policy wonk’s delight for the topic at vox.com, which calls it “a Green New Deal instruction manual.” Now we have something solid that can be turned into national legislation.

        The Inslee plan shows most of the money, $600 billion annually for a decade, would come from private investment — so, not socialism — creating about 8 million green jobs.

        The remaining cost would be $300 billion annually for 10 years. FYI: Morgan Stanley reports that climate disasters have cost Americans over $650 billion in just the past three years, and climate disasters are now costing us substantially more almost every year.

        But we taxpayers and consumers shouldn’t have to pay to fix climate change. There’s a way to make the fossil fuel corporations that knowingly caused this climate crisis pay to fix it. After all, there’s plenty of documentation proving they were well aware of the existential danger of the climate change that their products would cause while they were secretly spending over $2 billion on lobbying to spread climate change denial.

        We can make fossil fuel corporations pay with HR 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, currently on the floor of the U.S. House. It would add $350 billion to our GDP annually, according the Congressional Budget Office. Canada has used similar legislation successfully for a decade. The Citizens Climate Lobby website has the details on how it works.

        So much for the costs. Let’s look at the benefits: What seemed like just a clean-energy fantasy a decade ago has now become reality. Solar and wind energy are now consistently cheaper than any fossil fuel and they’re just as reliable, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute. All over the country, coal plants are closing, replaced with clean energy because it’s cheaper than coal or natural gas.

        Consumer Reports says Tesla’s solar roof tiles pay for themselves in cheaper energy bills. My electric car is powered by clean energy and costs far less to run than a gas-engine car. Xcel Energy’s solar/wind is now 3 to 4 cents per kilowatt hour, and Tucson Electric’s solar power is under 3 cents per kilowatt hour — 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour with storage. Natural gas, the cheapest fossil fuel, now averages 12 to 16 cents per kilowatt hour nationally.

        Scientific American reports that solar and wind will get even cheaper as they scale up. According to an analysis by the multinational financial behemoth UBS, published in the Financial Times last year, clean energy will be practically free by 2030, creating a new Industrial Revolution — without the pollution.

        Solar and wind will eventually win out in every marketplace, but global warming is moving much faster than the transition to clean energy. If we don’t act now to swiftly deploy clean energy nationally, climate disasters will inevitably destroy our economy in the future.

        All the polls show that most Americans — Republicans and Democrats — want government action on climate change, and they overwhelmingly support clean energy. They just don’t want to pay more for either one. Now they don’t have to.

        Adding carbon dividends to the Green New Deal energy plan will mean it will pay for itself, fixing our climate crisis while vastly improving our economy. Inslee has given us the clean-energy blueprint we needed. Our next president and our new Congress will need to enact it in 2021. Now we just need to elect them in 2020.

  5. The Iconoclast

    You’ve gathered many great examples of crises, comprised of varying levels of real and imaginary elements, inevitably overhyped, used to manipulate us, separate us from our money, and chip away at our freedoms. You might add the ozone hole, acid rain, mad cow disease, desertification, global cooling, sea level rise, mass extinction, swine flu and AIDS, to name a few that came to mind.

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
    — H. L. Mencken

    1. The Iconoclast,

      I didn’t add those because they are not clear cases, or definitely not false.

      ozone hole – still under analysis. But there is more than sufficient evidence that CFC’s were destroying the ozone layer, irrespective of the “hole” above the Antarctic. See research by the guy cited in this post: James Anderson (Prof of Atmospheric Chemistry at Harvard).

      Acid rain – More than sufficient evidence on this to have warranted action.

      Mad cow disease – More than sufficient evidence to have warranted strong action. Food products have to be above suspicion to survive in the marketplace.

      Desertification – This is a real problem in some areas, such as the southern zone of the Sahara.

      Global cooling – There was evidence of this. Despite conservatives’ misrepresentations (there was no consensus on this), there was debate among scientists during the 1970s about the balance between cooling and warming forces. It was resolved. That’s how science works.

      Sea Level rise – While exaggerated (isn’t everything?), this is a serious problem in some areas. The doomster stories about this are part of the larger climate change narrative (this was a big picture review, not looking at the many specific stories used by climate doomsters).

      Mass extinction – See see level rise.

      Swine flu – Are you kidding? This is a serious disease, with a long history of epidemics (see Wikipedia). If you refer to the 1976 US outbreak – that’s nuts. Both scientists and policymakers face intractable dillemas when they have indications of a serious problem, but waiting for strong confirmation means waiting too late for preventative action. Either way – false positive or false negative – results in mockery by people on the sidelines, who don’t face the necessity of making such tough decisions. Sometimes they will get it wrong. That’s life.

      AIDs – Are you nuts?

  6. Very well done. Kip Hansen’s essay – A National Narrative for Media on Climate Change – on the week of focused climate change coverage this September shows that we have not heard the most extreme stories yet. His closing statement says it all: If we, the readers and contributors here, don’t make the effort to counteract this planned act of ideological sabotage of the American mind, who will?

    Your essay is a great start to respond.

      1. Larry,

        Doomster scientists create doomster politicians. In this case, the GOP members (skeptics) ignored them by never showing up.

  7. Listening to you list the failures of climate science to get it right yet swallow the climate hype premise is like listening to Comey outline Clinton’s felonies and then just shrug it off.
    It is puzzling why you remain afraid to discuss the data driven case to dismiss the idea that we should abandon fossil fuels.
    At least you admit fracking and natural gas work.
    No other source of power creates more wealth and prosperity for more people. No other power source improves health, social mobility and individual freedom.
    Wind and solar are never going to run the world.
    CCS is magical thinking that ignores geology, chemistry and economics.
    Coal is the best way for most of Africa to break the chains of poverty yet the climate imperialists block this.
    On balance you are miles ahead of most in terms of recognizing the problem, and that is greatly appreciated.

    1. Hunter,

      Your comment makes little sense. I suggest you reply to quotes, so that you’re not replying to stuff you make up.

      “No other source of power creates more wealth and prosperity for more people.”

      What’s your point? That was true of wood and dung and whale oil. These things change. We move to cleaner and more powerful energy sources. That’s called progress.

      “Wind and solar are never going to run the world.”

      No one energy source “runs the world”, now or in the past.

      “CCS is magical thinking that ignores geology, chemistry and economics.”

      To what are you replying? Your comment becomes increasingly like a rant, like the guys on street corners shouting to the sky.

      “Coal is the best way for most of Africa to break the chains of poverty”

      Do you have any studies showing that? Africa’s poverty largely results from social problems – lack of education, war, etc. I wonder if lack of energy is high on Africa’s list of priorities. As for new sources, hydro and solar (esp for small scale) seem likely to be the easy steps. Hydro (where feasible) for both small and large generators. Solar works well for much of Africa’s latitude, esp for areas lacking secure distribution systems.

      I’ll bet natural gas could be found and well used. As above, there is no one golden solution.

  8. I have often felt that there are two parallel strands in the environmental movement

    One is the idea of minimizing our impact on nature and protecting natural beauty and what you would call ecosystem services; the idea that we should have as light a footprint as we can. This can be extended too far but the general idea here, I think, is not deeply controversial, because very few people are against natural beauty and wild animals, they are just more in favor of getting paid now.

    The other is the apocalyptic strand, the idea that by our ways we have sinned and that we must repent in order to live righteously and that this righteous living will be vindicatory and salvific in some way. This version is unfortunately very appealing because of its parallel to many kinds of religious storytelling. (I will not say it is a religion, just that it shares some features; we all probably know people whose religion, effectively, is “talk radio,” “Marxism,” etc.)

    I have no idea for the answer; the ideal would be to use the energy of the second strand to further the first, but things like “reduce our waterway pollution” lack the sense of a total revolution, an apocalypse.

    1. SF,

      That’s a brilliant schema, and well worth some thought. The problem with the first (traditional) version is that it has little political utility to the Left. Hence their disinterest. The new version offers them a path to great power.

  9. Pingback: Listening to climate doomsters makes our situation worse | Watts Up With That?

  10. “Energy generation is shifting to lower-carbon sources. Cars are shifting from gasoline and diesel to electricity.”

    Nonsense.
    Wind and solar are never going to be a major supplier of energy – they are incapable and destructive to the environment too.
    New nuclear – probably – in the long run (many decades at least).
    Electric cars are inferior to gasoline cars, and can only be rammed down our throats by force (as in China).

    Fossil fuels will provide the greatest part of our energy (70-80%) for many decades ahead – see EIA and BP forecasts to 2040 (at least).
    Wind and solar are “fairy tales and Easter bunnies” as James Hansen correctly said.

    Your claim the we are advancing “anyway” into a low emissions future – is false. Maybe we are, but in some distant future that cannot be envisaged now.

    1. Jacob,

      You are reading right-wing sources which lie to you. Hence your comment overflows with factual errors.

      (1) “Nonsense. …Your claim the we are advancing “anyway” into a low emissions future – is false.”

      US energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) has been dropping since 1950 (see EIA). Carbon intensity (CO2 per unit of energy generated) has been dropping since 1970 (per EIA). As a result, US CO2 emissions peaked in 2007 (see VOX, see Wikipedia).

      US CO2 emissions by source, by year

      Note that this decline has been in the power generation sector (ie, mostly electric gen). The shift to electric cars will produce another phase of declining CO2 – in transportation. These things are slow but inexorable.

      (2) “Electric cars are inferior to gasoline cars, and can only be rammed down our throats by force”

      That’s silly. Electricity is a far cheaper source of energy than gasoline. For many people, electric vehicles will work just fine. My wife has never driven 200 miles in a day. Many commercial vehicles that work in urban areas (ie, most of them) can function with current battery tech.

      Electric vehicles are moving down the price/volume curve, as have all new tech since the industrial revolution began. Raytheon sold the first commercial microwave oven in 1947; it cost $28 thousand dollars in 2019 dollars. In 1967 the first countertop microwave oven was sold; it cost $3800 in 2019 dollars. (See this history.)

      (3) “Wind and solar are “fairy tales and Easter bunnies”

      Those right-wing sources are lying to you – again. First, both are in use without subsidies in many areas. We have and always have had diverse systems of energy production. These are just new additions. They are not magic bullets – because there are no magic bullets. Second, Hansen did not say anything like that. He said in his essay that they could not replace fossil fuels.

      You might be experiencing a reading FAIL. I said that we’re “shifting.” That does not mean total change. When a boxer “shifts his weight”, he does not put all weight on one leg – like a flamingo.

      (4) “Wind and solar are never going to be a major supplier of energy”

      Now you’re replying to voices in your head. I didn’t say anything like that. They could easily be 10 – 15%, which is a big deal.

      (5) “see EIA and BP forecasts to 2040”

      Your faith is touching. But forecasts about energy price, production, and use have been highly inaccurate in the past, and probably will be highly inaccurate in the future. For example, see figure 7 in Hansen’s essay – showing how wildly inaccurate EIA estimates have been.

  11. “the idea that we should have as light a footprint as we can”

    Producing energy from wind and solar is the exact opposite of “light footprint” – because it demands that we cover huge areas of the planet with these monstrous contraptions.

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