Despite an increasing number of past climate doomsday predictions falling flat, proving exaggerated, or simply not materializing at all, the drumbeat for action to remediate the global warming caused by human carbon emissions continues. And, in the fashion of Chicken Little, the warnings and demands grow ever more shrill and ever more expansive (see: the Green New Deal, which includes a delusion that we can make America completely carbon energy free in a bit over a decade).

As I’ve written many times, in this blog and elsewhere, I am a lukewarmist. I’ve concluded that the science as we currently understand it supports the hypothesis that human carbon emissions are having some warming effect on the global climate, but I don’t find enough to support the idea that it’s a runaway train, or that it will bring catastrophe to the human race, or that we need to engage in enormously expensive and destructive actions to remediate it.

But, I’m willing to hedge my bet, with actions and policies whose cost and impact are justified by the current state of knowledge and degree of (un)certainty. I’ve offered that hedge in two parts: embrace of nuclear power as much as possible, and research into geoengineering in preparation for a possible future need for remediation.

As to the former – nuclear is completely carbon-free. It is clean in many other ways, not requiring the heavy minerals mining that solar requires, taking up FAR, FAR less land than either solar or wind, not chopping birds into chum, etc. It is also continuous and rampable, meaning it’s not subject to the vagaries of weather (as solar and wind are), it’s almost completely independent of location, its track record of safety (the real record, not the media hype) is spectacular, and all the technical challenges are well in hand. I highly recommend the documentary Pandora’s Promise if you want to learn more. I’ve also long held the opinion that anyone who speaks of addressing global warming without prioritizing nuclear power is either an unserious person or peddling a hidden agenda.

As to the latter, Reason recently reported on a new study that supported the viability of geoengineering. The beauty of geoengineering is that it doesn’t require global compliance with carbon caps or taxes. It doesn’t impose harm on the world’s poorest the way taking away their cheapest and most abundant sources of energy does. It doesn’t reward “defectors” by hamstringing those who comply with higher energy costs. Unlike the futility of America going carbon-free while the BRICS nations and the rest of the developing world doesn’t, it’s a solution that might actually work. We could do geoengineering all by ourselves, and have the effects appear globally.

The punch line in the Reason article:

Diehard environmentalist ideologues… have feared that it would work.

Sadly, many people would rather be right than get it right. They’d rather their idea win out, even if a better one comes along later on, because the credit, glory, and one-upmanship is more important to them than the problem they want solved. That’s especially true of climate alarmists.

The countless failed predictions and un-materialized sky-is-falling warnings have dampened the concerns of many toward global warming, and have fed a reactionary counter narrative that it’s all a giant hoax. I don’t buy into the hoax stuff, but I do believe that the alarmist side has become politicized by those who want to piggy-back or back-door other agendas that involve top-down control and personal gain. This has turned the debate into one that goes far beyond the limits and rationalities of science, into a winner-loser confrontation. Such usually crowd out third ways, where neither side loses, and that’s often anathema.

So, despite strong evidence that nuclear power is the best carbon-free energy source, despite the political reality that forced decarbonization will simply not happen globally, and is therefore a destructive waste of time and resources, and despite the promises of remediation through geoengineering, those most eager to see the world combat global warming insist that only a combination of restrictions or bans on carbon energy and a massive expansion of wind and solar be implemented.

Why?

Pure obstinance coupled with a child’s fantasy of idyllic and pastoral “commune with nature” living and lifestyle. Technology is not “green” in its most superficial sense, even though technology has made the planet greener. Forest cover has tripled since 1900, we grow more food on less land than ever – and first world nations are retiring farmland even as the world’s population grows, cleaner energy generation in the first world has made for cleaner air, fracking has fostered the shift from coal to natural gas, sharply reducing carbon emissions, and modern energy sources don’t generate the particulates that plague developing nations and that have caused so much human ill over the past couple centuries. Nuclear plants are mysterious concrete edifices, not pretty windmills or benign solar panels, even though the latter hog up orders of magnitude more land area per unit energy produced. Oil and coal and gas are “rapes” of the planet, are dirty looking or smelly (yes, methane is odorless, but how many greens know that?), and they’re “easy.” “Easy” doesn’t sell, perversely, to people who’ve never felt real privation, who’ve never been truly cold with no hope for remediation, who’ve never been without electricity for more than a few hours during a technology failure, and who’ve never had to work all their waking hours just to survive the day. “Easy” is somehow cheap and immoral, in some sort of secular equivalent of Puritanism.

Lost on the obstinate ones is the fact that human history has been one long struggle against Mother Nature, that the pastoral idyll is itself the product of substantial wealth, and that solar panels and windmills come at enormous cost, with enormous uncertainty, and enormous negatives.

Lost… or ignored. The information is all out there, in great quantity. I’m sharing no deep secrets here. But, doing the right thing by the environment would require they admit, even if only to themselves, that their fantasies about wind and solar as one-size-fits-all solution were wrong. Yes, there are places they probably make sense. I recently saw a solar energy facility in the Nevada desert, and it made sense, upon first consideration, to harness all that sunshine (but I don’t know the economics, thus the “first consideration”). And, a remote settlement on a windy island could probably optimize its power needs with a windmill. But, there are places where neither is the right answer, and it’s mere recalcitrance to ignore that truth.

Obstinacy that goes unrequited often turns to petulance, and that’s how the current state of global warming alarmism reads. Indeed, many on the Left seem to want this Green New Deal or some equivalent simply because the hated President Trump withdrew from the (utterly useless) Paris Accords. Fulfilling their contrarian urges would be nothing more than a colossal waste of money and massive negative impact on our living standards.

Even if you hold a more dismal view of global warming than I do, it remains that the only logical avenues for action are support for nuclear power and investment in geoengineering research. Carbon caps and taxes are, for reasons I’ve discussed all over this blog, nothing more than a giant and destructive virtue signal, born of an ill-informed prejudice against cheap energy. Moreso, if we shut down our carbon energy production (some argue that we should just leave it all in the ground), we do more harm than good. Our energy is cleaner and more efficient than that in developing nations, and if we take ours off the world market, they’ll simply burn coal (inefficiently) or, worse, trees. People want and need energy, the cheaper and more abundant, the better. It’s not just beyond our ability to deny them, it’s immoral to do so.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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