If the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), green activists, climate crusaders, and complicit governments have their way, the global economy will be in permanent lockdown from now on.
This is because the target of cutting carbon emissions to zero by 2050 – only 30 years from now – will necessitate massive cuts in industrial output, with concomitant destruction of jobs and livelihoods. This will be a man-made catastrophe based on the supposedly “settled” science that the burning of fossil fuels (hydrocarbons) is causing the Earth to heat up to dangerous levels and destabilising the climate.
Far from being “settled”, the “science” on which the whole climate scare relies is actually an intellectual house of cards. It is of course true that the burning of fossil fuels is generating a rise in the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. But the claim that these rises in CO2 levels are causing material rises in atmospheric temperature is false. So is the claim that temperatures – if they are now rising more than marginally at all - are rising to dangerously high levels.
Despite a substantial increase (around sixfold) in the burning of hydrocarbons during the period of massive industrial expansion since about 1940, current atmospheric CO2 levels are now very much lower than they have been in the past. There is no evidence that the sixfold hydrocarbon increase has caused global temperatures to rise to any significant degree. In the past, long before anyone was burning hydrocarbons on an industrial scale, global average temperatures have been higher than they are now.
To suggest that “climate change” is something new is fallacious. It has been happening since the beginning of time, since long before humans set foot on the planet, let alone discovered how to make fire. The notion that hydrocarbons are now somehow “destabilising” the climate assumes that it has hitherto been “stable”, which is at variance with the facts.
If there were any truth in the theory that the burning of hydrocarbons is destabilising the climate, then the period since 1940 should have seen catastrophic consequences. But there is no evidence that the ups and downs of climate behavior in the last 70 or 80 years are beyond the bounds of variations and fluctuations over millions of years.
As this column has previously observed, many members of the communications media have committed themselves to promoting the ideology of climate change. Almost routinely now, whenever a drought, or a flood, or a hurricane, or a heatwave, or a wildfire occurs, it is not only the “worst on record”, but also the result of the burning of hydrocarbons by humans. Discarded because it does not fit the required narrative is the possibility that wildfires, for example, have sometimes been made much worse by poor bush and forest management policies imposed at the behest of green activists.
Further discarded in reports about “unprecedented” billions of dollars’ worth of damage done by this or that hurricane is the likelihood that there may now be very many more much richer people with vastly more valuable assets living beside the sea, some of them with subsidised insurance.
Also overlooked because it does not chime with the orthodoxy is the evidence that there is far greater correlation between atmospheric temperatures and the behavior of the sun than there is between atmospheric temperature and CO2 emissions.
As for sea levels, the sixfold increase in the use of hydrocarbons since 1940 has not caused them to rise any faster than they were previously rising. Some of the claimed rises in sea levels have been the result of land sinking thanks to densification of coastal areas. We are treated to alarming stories about Greenland and Antarctica melting, the implication being that they will disappear forever. But both have in the past been sometimes covered in greenery, not ice. This suggests that melting and freezing are natural climate phenomena, spread over millions of years, and that whatever melting might be taking place is not the result of the current burning of hydrocarbons.
Upon the house of cards of “settled” climate science has been built a vast edifice of fanciful “alternatives” to hydrocarbons, especially supposedly “renewable” energy in the form of windmills and solar panels. One key feature of this supposedly “clean” energy is that its installation relies on hydrocarbons. Another is that it is not so much “renewable” as unreliable, necessitating the use of hydrocarbons as backup for when there is no wind or sunshine.
As for “biomass”, its generation relies heavily on the burning of hydrocarbons for the chopping down of vast numbers of trees. The planting and reaping of sugar or maize or other crops to provide “biomass” likewise necessitates the burning of hydrocarbons. The reliable, safe, and clean alternative of nuclear is of course a big no-no for the greens.
In a nutshell: the human race is being ordered to make vast sacrifices in its own welfare on the basis of a faulty hypothesis and policy prescriptions that rely on the pretence that supposedly clean and green energy can be produced in sufficient quantity without burning fossil fuels.
* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. Readers are invited to take a stand with the IRR by clicking here or sending an SMS with your name to 32823. Each SMS costs R1. Ts and Cs apply.