In part one I argued that the science is not as settled as it looks. The climate is too complex to make easy predictions, based on single factors like the greenhouse effect. I then continued to argue in part two, that even if the planet were to get warmer, it would not be clear to what degree this would be a problem. We would almost certainly see many positive effects from it.
But yes, we would see some problems from a changing climate. This brings us to the last IPCC assumption. It is here, where I think the public debate is the most wrong. On the first two assumptions, the official narrative is at least partially right. Sure, the science is not as clear as it is commonly assumed, but it is difficult to argue that a warming is not possible. So we are talking about probabilities. And sure, the general debate tries to avoid talking about positive effects of a warmer climate, but it would be difficult to argue that a changing climate poses no challenges.
Most change comes with problems. Old solutions stop working and need to be adjusted. This usually comes with some economic costs. And in particular, the climate has always been a major problem for humans. In part two, I already mentioned the statistic that the number of climate related deaths is down by 98%. Not too long ago, in many years, there where millions of people dying from negative climatic effects worldwide. This number is now down to the thousands, or tens of thousands.
Given the large number of casualties we have seen throughout history, one can hardly argue that the climate has not been a problem in the past. In fact, it has been one of the biggest problems humans have faced. There are even some extreme cases of historic cultures who practiced human sacrifices to appease the gods they thought in control of the weather. That gives us an idea of what a huge problem the climate has been at times.
That we are now facing significantly less danger from the atmosphere has everything to do with us having access to cheap, reliable energy, on a large scale. And fossil fuels have been the main source for that energy. They are an incredibly effective energy storage. Just thirty liters of fuel can move a car, weighing a ton, for several hundred miles. Fossil fuels have all the attributes a modern energy source needs to have. They are cheap, plentiful and reliable.
Despite all the propaganda we are hearing, as I write this, there are only two energy sources which meet these requirements: Fossil fuels and nuclear. And the problem with nuclear is that it is not a very mobile energy source. Maybe we will be able to develop other methods to produce cheap, reliable energy on a large scale in the future. In fact, that seems very likely. But right now, this is simply not possible. Anyone who says otherwise either does not know what he is talking about, or is outright lying.
The fact that we have figured out how to use this historic organic energy, has transformed our lives from being hard and short, to being long and quite comfortable. Without fossil fuels, it would have never been possible to lift people out of the poverty of nature. It is these fuels that give us the comfortable modern lives we enjoy today. Sure there have been problems. Industrial regions have experienced very unhealthy levels of pollution. But even with these problems, people usually prefer a life with pollution rather than going back to a life without the benefits of using this energy.
The remarkable thing has been that, thanks to technology, the more fossil fuels we have burned, the more our air quality has improved. We have successfully solved the pollution problem by filtering out the harmful substances. And in theory there is no limit to how much the air can be cleaned. In fact, there have already been experiments, in which the air coming out of the exhaust of a modern car, was cleaner than the surround one.
One of the reasons why so fewer people are now dying from the local weather is because historically, one of the biggest killers has been the failure of local food production. Before we had modern, fossil fuel powered, world wide transportation most people where essentially dependent on producing food locally. When this local food production failed, it usually resulted in many people starving.
Thanks to modern global transportation networks, which are almost exclusively powered by fossil fuels, we now have a very effective global food market. Not only that, we can now produce food in regions where it was previously uneconomical, because they were too remote from the consumer. Modern transportation, and refrigeration, has changed that.
But that is not all. Fossil fuels also serve as an effective fertilizer. This, too, has made infertile land available for farmers. For all these reasons, mass starvation has essentially disappeared from this planet, at least in any region that is politically not shielded from that global market.
And this is just food. Everyone of us uses lots of energy everyday, to make our lives much better in a huge amount of ways. Most of that energy still comes from fossil fuels. This gives us an indication of what is at stake. If we want to get out of fossil fuels, we would either have to go back to the short and hard lives our ancestors had before they gained access to all this energy, or we would need to find an equal alternative energy source.
The emphasis is on equal. People are quick to mention all kinds of alternative energy sources. These, however, usually fail to be real alternatives to fossil fuels. Again, a modern energy source needs to be cheap, plentiful and reliable. With the exception of nuclear, any other alternative energy production fails on at least one of these attributes. Many fail on more than one, or even on all three.
Wind energy is neither cheap, nor is it reliable. And amazingly, it is not even that plentiful. So we have a failure on all three accounts. That won’t get us out of fossil fuels. Solar fails as well. Yes, it is plentiful, but it is not cheap, at least not yet, and, most importantly, predictably unreliable. The sun simply does not shine at night. In order to make unreliable energy sources more reliable, we would need to have a good energy storage. While we do have some reliable storage technologies, all of these are very expensive and not scalable.
Given the enormous amount of energy that we are consuming, and its importance for our well being, we can now see that any kind of increase in the cost of producing energy, or a decrease in using it, would very quickly have serious negative consequences for our lives.
Let us take Germany as an example. I am from there, so I know a little bit about how Germany deals with energy. It is almost never good advice to follow the lead of German politics. Germany has always been on the forefront of dangerous political movements. It was Karl Marx who invented modern communism, and it was Germans who really took fascism to its extreme. Germany is one of the few countries that has been destroyed by both those ideologies. Millions of people were murdered. Giving this important “tradition”, it is no surprise that Germany is also one of the leaders of greenism. We just can’t help it, we have to destroy the country every few decades.
Germany is a special kind of stupid. It is popular in Germany to not only want to get out of fossil fuels, but to also get out of nuclear energy. And remember, these are the only two useful energy sources we have at the moment. The country has invested a lot in wind and solar energy, and it is forcing its residents to prioritize buying this electricity. That is why many environmentalists refer to Germany as a leading example for the future of energy usage. Countless times have I heart that Germany, on many days, can now generate the energy it needs from renewables.
This is complete nonsense. When Germany, a few years ago, decided to get out of nuclear energy the biggest economic research institute of the country, ifo, had a thorough look at the real numbers. Ifo, btw., is by no stretch of the imagination skeptical of the catastrophic climate change narrative. The report starts by stressing that global warming is real and a problem. But it is some refreshing realism of what is possible today in terms of energy policy.
Besides many other problems, renewable energies have given Germany one of the most expensive electricity prices in the EU. Germans now pay about 30 cents per kWh. The EU average is 20 cents. Before the country started to invest in wind and solar, its electricity prizes were below average. France’s average is 15 cents, and in the US it is about 10 cents. Both are leaders in using nuclear energy.
The 10 cents that Germany pays above the average EU country today costs the economy, which consumes about ½ trillion kWh per year, €50 billion a year. That is €50 billion in economic damage from trying to be more green, every year, just for Germany alone.
One might argue that this is a small price to pay for saving the climate. But is Germany saving the climate for this €50 billion? What does it get out for this huge amount of money? And yes, even for a big economy like Germany, this is indeed real money. Germany’s energy mix is about the average of a normal OECD country. 21% of its energy use is electricity. The other 79% are almost entirely fossil fuels.
When we are talking about wind and solar, we are just talking about electricity. So how much electricity can Germany produce reliably for that extra €50 billion? The answer is about 2.8% of its electricity. That means about 0.6% of the overall energy consumption of Germany comes from solar and wind. In other words, for the €50 billion every year, Germany’s contribution to saving us from the greenhouse effect is a rounding error. And this is already not far from the limit of how much electricity can be theoretically reliably produced by wind and solar in Germany.
Since the government in Berlin has decided to get out of nuclear, fossil fuel consumption has actually increased. In order to remain a first world country, Germany is building a lot of new coal power stations. This is just scratching the surface of the craziness. I will spare you more details, as I think this alone, very well, illustrates the point which I am trying to make: Not using fossil fuels is prohibitively expensive.
Sure, if it was not for the environmentalists, we could go full nuclear on electricity, and therefore at least save those 20% of fossil fuel energy going into electricity. This leaves us with the paradox that if the climate change deniers got their way, CO2 emissions would almost certainly go down to the maximum amount possible. Given the prices that France and the US are paying, I am all for nuclear, bring it on! But that is about as much as we can realistically reduce our fossil fuel consumption at the moment. Short of developing really new energy technologies, technologies that are just as cheap, plentiful and reliable as fossil fuels, we will not get out of them on any significant scale, period!
I have no doubt that we will eventually find alternatives. E=mc2, so there is plenty of energy around. It is therefore just a question of engineering to make that energy available in the right form. But we cannot just pretend that we already have energy sources that are simply not real.
Once we have developed equal alternatives, we will get out of fossil fuels almost automatically. No fancy political conferences needed. If an energy source is cheap, plentiful and reliable, it will be easy to persuade people to use it. For that reason it did not take much convincing to historically get into fossil fuels. There is at least one non climate reason why we would want to get out of oil, coal and natural gas: Oil and gas revenues cause conflicts, and economically sustain a number of horrible regimes.
Governments around the world have paid lip service to try to get out of fossil fuels for decades. They are almost all doing the exact opposite. Most have increased their consumptions massively. They know full well that if they were actually starting to reduce their CO2 emissions, they would very quickly be chased out of power with pitchforks.
The climate change debate is at no point more wrong than when it comes to the solutions. Humans have always battled with the climate. The way we have dealt with it, very successfully, is by dealing with the consequences. This strategy has a proven track record of working very well. It has made us conquer the whole planet, from the Sahara desert to Alaska. The track record is actually worse when it comes to adopting to cold temperatures rather than hot ones.
And the one thing that really made us almost entirely independent from the weather is the use of cheap, plentiful and reliable energy. A lot of people have this strange idea that the only thing preventing us from going off fossil fuels is the oil lobby. But it is not the oil lobby that is doing that. It is the we-dont-want-short-and-shitty-lives lobby that is behind it. In other words it is all of us. Pretending otherwise is either ignorance or outright hypocrisy.
We already spend most of our lives indoors. One of the major reasons for that is that we are already hiding from very imperfect climates in most places on this planet. Probably the biggest downside from being homeless is to have constant exposure to the climate. For indoors, we have developed technologies that can give us any climate we like, completely independent of what is going on outside. These technologies are readily available, and easily scalable.
People facing 50°C heat waves need an air-condition and cheap energy to power it. The last thing they need is politicians meeting on conferences, discussion how they can make energy more expensive to save the climate. I am not much into conspiracy theories, but if I was, I could make the argument that climate change is a conspiracy to keep the poor countries down.
The environmentalists want to make us believe that the best, no the only thing, we can do about climate change is to abandon a strategy with a very successful track record of thousands of years. They want us to use less, or at least much more expensive and unreliable energy, in order to not disturb nature. It is almost like a religious cult, which has replaced god with nature. Nature is this wonderful entity, a mother that has a great plan for all of us. So we must not interfere with that plan.
That is superstitious nonsense. Basing our policy decisions on this mysticism will throw us back into the dark ages. Earth is a ball of dirt, accidentally cruising around the sun at a distance that enables life. It does not care about us, nor does it have a wise master plan. Nature is at its core ruthless and brutal. It is therefore wise to try to control it as much as we can. And we have gone a long, successful, way of doing that. Sure, sometimes we make mistakes and overdo it. But the overall track record of that strategy is very convincing. It would therefore be foolish to abandon it. If we did, the costs would be astronomical. And other than the costs of climate change, which are highly speculative, these costs would be certain.
The future will not be without problems. Despite the fact that we now live civilized lives, in other words, despite the fact that we have already gone a long way to defeat nature, it looks like mother earth will continue to give us some problems in the future. However, on the world market, we can be sure that billions of people are thinking about solutions for these problems. And only one lone genius needs to come up with one to solve a problem. Thanks to globalization, we now have a system in which we can rely on the combined wisdom, and luck, of several billion people for solutions of any kind. Just like in the past, we cannot yet imagine what kind of amazing solutions they will come up with.
With governments, on the other hand, we get the combined wisdom of a small group of politicians. These are often people, whose skills were not sufficient enough to get a job with a similar salary in the real economy. Many know very little about anything, and their motives are often questionable. In many cases it is just power. This group certainly cannot predict the climate, let alone control it.
On the market, we have the incentive to actually solve problems. Entrepreneurs only get paid if they can deliver a solution. In politics, the incentives are often reversed. Politicians get paid looking for solutions, not for finding them. More often than not, their incentive is to only make it look like they are trying to solve the problem. However, if they ever were to succeed of delivering a solution, the problem would go away, and with it the justification for their existence. So it is better for them not to succeed. Given those two choices, to either trust politicians, or the combined wisdom of human kind, it should be a no brainer which one to pick.
The only danger the future holds will be that ideologically motivated governments will prevent us from pursuing free market solutions, and force us into highly destructive ones. Using less, or more expensive, energy is one of those crazy solutions. Dangerous political ideologies have taken over governments many times in the past. In fact, as a libertarian, I would make the argument that governments are designed to attract those ideologies. The consequences of letting them save the planet will be horrific. While fossil fuels have a track record of saving humans, the environmentalists want us to abandon that strategy. This cure however, will be worst than the disease. We, therefore, must not let them save us!