An environmental activist with the group Extinction Rebellion DC scales the Wilson Building next to a sign that reads “No New Fossil Fuels,” as part of an Earth Day rally against fossil fuels in Washington on April 22, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
In 1999, American climatologist Michael Mann first published a “hockey stick graph” that purported to show an unprecedented spike in global temperature over the past century.
Mann’s graph was featured in the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and was followed by the production of Al Gore’s apocalyptic climate film, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Challenging the Climate Change Narrative
The presumed scientific consensus on cataclysmic climate change hasn’t gone unchallenged. In 2005, Canadian researchers Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick raised serious doubts about the principle component analysis in Mr. Mann’s hockey stick graph.
In 2015, author Mark Steyn published “A Disgrace to the Profession,” which compiled the views of more than 100 world-class scientists who were skeptical of Mann’s research methods and the degree of public hysteria generated by his predictions.
Last summer, American philosopher and energy expert Alex Epstein released his second book on the moral case for the use of fossil fuels. In “Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas—Not Less,” he argues that the looming “climate emergency” and imminent “renewable revolution” have been enormously overstated.
Mr. Epstein asserts that fossil fuels are still the main source of affordable energy in the world and policies aimed at reducing the use of coal, oil, and gas are creating skyrocketing energy prices, which have already produced rampant inflation.
Mr. Epstein acknowledges that over the past 170 years, CO2 emissions have contributed to minor degrees of warming, but their benefits have raised billions of people out of poverty. Largely due to adaptive measures made possible by fossil fuel-powered machines and technology, the world has become more liveable, and mortality related to weather is at an all-time low.
According to Mr. Epstein’s analysis: “Fossil fuels are a uniquely cost-effective source of energy. Cost-effective energy is essential to human flourishing. Billions of people are suffering and dying for lack of cost-effective energy.” He points out that wind and solar energy have been subsidized for decades but fossil fuels are still required to produce at least 80 percent of the world’s energy.
The Benefits of Adaption Over Mitigation
Writing this summer in a Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) publication, Mr. McKitrick pointed out that government policies focus almost entirely on reducing emissions or “mitigation” over the benefits of human “adaption.”
The University of Guelph professor and author of “Economic Analysis of Environmental Policy” has been studying climate change, climate policy, and environmental economics since the 1990s. He’s the same McKitrick who contributed to exposing Mr. Mann’s hockey stick illusion more than a decade ago.
The MLI report noted that “proponents of climate policy have long resisted discussing adaptation perhaps out of fear that it might be effective: if through adaptation we can substantially reduce or even eliminate the negative effects of climate change, this will weaken the case for deep decarbonization and elimination of fossil fuels, which some in the climate movement view as an end in itself.”
Mr. McKitrick says adaptation has an unacknowledged record of success, while mitigation has been an expensive failure. After decades of draconian mitigation efforts, global CO2 emissions have continued to rise.
While prohibitively expensive CO2 reduction measures have failed to prevent climate change, adaptation has had considerable success in reducing health risks and protecting agricultural production from weather instability. As the costs of mitigation go up, Mr. McKitrick contends that policymakers should confront the prospect that their current policies could impede adaptation and increase human suffering.
Mr. Epstein and Mr. McKitrick appear to agree that people on the margins of prosperity burn fossil fuels for a very good reason. Our privileged “warmerati” can afford to follow a fashionable green lifestyle, but for legions of ordinary people, access to fossil fuels is a matter of life or death. Insisting people in struggling economies achieve “net-zero” will only result in their further decline.
Radical Anti-Impact Measures Will Destroy Human Flourishing
Critics of government plans to get rid of fossil fuels maintain that the link between affordable energy and human flourishing is virtually irrefutable.
People’s views about “climate change” depend almost entirely on an acquired ideological framework. Those who choose to regard the elimination of human impact on nature as an end in itself would sacrifice the well-being of billions to achieve their Utopian vision.
Catastrophic climate predictions have been made since the 1970s. Most haven’t come true—no new ice age; no intolerable warming in direct relation to CO2 levels; no disappearance of polar ice or polar bears; no exceptional rise in ocean levels; no abnormal occurrences of extreme weather events; no widespread crop failures and famines.
Bjorn Lomborg, author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and former director of the Danish government’s Environmental Assessment Institute, recently asserted that “the proffered solutions to cut CO2 are both incredibly expensive and terribly ineffective.”
Canadian newspaper publisher and historian Conrad Black once wrote that “climate change, to use a phrase of Napoleon’s, has entered the realm of ‘lies agreed upon.’” He suggested that “anyone who claims certainty on this subject is a charlatan.”
In fact, only fossil fuel-driven free market economies have been sufficiently productive to raise millions of people out of poverty and provide a wide array of social, health, and educational services to vulnerable members of society.
Decades of experience have shown that dramatically reducing CO2 levels may not be feasible. Dispassionate researchers are beginning to conclude that adaptation to climate variations is the most effective way to reduce the impact of warming and permit food producers to benefit from changing growing conditions.
Radical anti-impact measures will destroy human flourishing. Ridding the world of fossil fuels is likely to leave scores of human beings poor, hungry, and destitute.
There must be something we can do to insist that policymakers re-examine this reckless course of action.