Science deniers? Yes, sir. Those who deny the science that failed forecasts imply failed theories, and those that claim fossil fuels have been more harmful than good to the human race. Invariably and amusingly, these deniers use fossil fuel-derived technologies, like computers, to make their claims. But we don’t expect rationality from deniers, do we?
Deniers is as stupid a word as it sounds, folks. Be embarrassed for whomever uses it. To the book!
Here is a scientific near certainty: if we were to curtail dramatically the use of fossil fuels, the world would be destroyed. Here is a scientific probability: that if we do not dramatically curtail the use of fossil fuels, the world might be inconvenienced by global warming.
The chance of heat doom is exceedingly small both because the models which predict this devastation have proved themselves incapable of making skillful forecasts, thus there is little evidence of such a calamity, and because humans are clever at adapting to changes in the environment, proved by you sitting at your computer reading this. But the chance that we fall into chaos and death by the removal of oil is so certain as to be almost a truism.
Incidentally, when Epstein uses world he means human beings, their livelihoods and culture and not anything else. Aren’t these the most important things on the planet? Doesn’t the welfare of human beings trump every other consideration?
If you say “yes”, you are sane. If not, not—and probably even a little dangerous. If you would choose the life of a tree or snail over a person, then you are fundamentally broken. Many are. And it is this divide—people versus everything else—which most interests Epstein. This is why he says correctly things like “the 50-95 percent bans [of fossil fuels] over the next several decades that have been proposed, is a guaranteed death sentence for billions—we would be willing to accept ten times more hurricanes if we had to.” And “The less [oil] we produce, the more preventable suffering and death will exist. To not use fossil fuels, therefore, is beyond a risk—it is certain moral peril for mankind.”
Wait. Who endorses 95-percent bans? Bill McKibben, for one. And don’t forget John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, called McKibben “the nation’s leading environmentalist.”
I was thrilled to read that Epstein understood “hindcasting” is not a measure of future forecast skill. He knows “a model is not valid until it makes real, forward predictions“, a once prominent scientific precept now abandoned for obvious political reasons. Epstein also knows that “every prediction of drastic future consequences is based on speculative models that have failed to predict the climate trend so far and that speculate a radically different trend than what has actually happened in the last thirty to eights years of emitting substantial amounts of CO2.” I wept when I read that.
Here’s more science Epstein knows: “What’s most striking is that these extremely positive plant effects of CO2 are scientifically uncontroversial yet practically never mentioned, even by the climate science community. This is a dereliction of duty.” I once mentioned this to a prominent scientist during a television interview at the Madrid Royal Science Academy. The scientist went apoplectic, said it wasn’t, couldn’t be true! Yeesh. Try taking carbon dioxide from plants and see how many bowls of Corn Flakes you can fill.
A thousand words
The book is filled with wisdom, but my favorite story is the (admittedly cartoon-like) graph which appears at the top of this post. Unquestionably, CO2 output from humans is on the increase. But look at what tremendous benefits that arise from this! Life expectancy is soaring, and so is our ability to create things. Population is also increasing.
“Briggs, you fool! Population increase is a bad thing!”
Why? Don’t you like people? Are you a hater? Those who misunderstand Malthus never get this right. It is increasing food supplies and other creature comforts provided by oil that caused the population increase (and now decrease in birth rates in Western nations). “To put it bluntly, in our ‘natural climate,’ absent technology, human beings are as sick as dogs and drop like flies.” If there wasn’t enough food, then there wouldn’t be new people. That’s that. That people can’t see this seems to be one of those uncorrectable errors, an error which is a central tenet of enviro-religion.
Epstein emphasizes that resources are made, not discovered. Gaseous and liquid pockets of stuff underground amount to nothing until we turn them into useful things. “Oil is the most coveted (and controversial) fuel in the world because it is almost eerily engineered by natural processes, not just for cheapness, not just for reliability, not just for scalability, but also for another characteristic crucial to a functional civilization: portability.” And “It’s true that once we burn a barrel of oil, it’s gone. But it’s also true that human ingenuity can dramatically increase the amount of coal, oil, or gas that is available.” Like by the new f-word, fracking.
“For something to be cheap and plentiful, every part of the process to produce it, including every input that goes into it, must be cheap and plentiful.” This is not so for wind and solar energy, nor biofuels. The first two are not reliable, are expensive, variable and unpredictable. The last sacrifices food for expensive feel-good car fuel. How about hydropower, then? Why not! It’s clean, sure, and efficient? Oops. No. “Environmental activists have spent decades shutting down as many hydroelectric dams as possible…despite hydro’s proven track record as a cheap, reliable source of CO2-free power, in the name of protecting species of fish, free-flowing rivers, and other justifications that focus on nonhuman nature.”
People are well down the list of things to protect for environmentalists.
Example? Epstein writes of a lake in China, a “vast, hissing cauldron of chemicals…seven million tons a year of mined rare earth after it has been doused in acid and chemicals…Dalahai villagers say their teeth began to fall our, their hair turned white…severe skin and respiratory disease..cancer rates rocketed.” Etc. He puts this story to college students who then call for whatever it is that caused this lake to be “banned”.
Until they learn this waste is the result of processing for solar energy materiel. Then students have appointments they suddenly remember.
Environmentalists want to “minimize” our “impact” on the environment. But to minimize is to eliminate, for if any man lives, even for a moment, he must necessarily “impact” the environment. Even dying “impacts”. Thus the only way to minimize is for everybody to commit suicide instantly.
Skip it. Logical arguments won’t get you far when dealing with enviro-religion, nor with the mostly well-to-do Westerners who pray at the temple of Gaia. Quoting Milton Friedman: “The rich in ancient Greece would have benefited hardly at all from modern plumbing—running servants replaced running water. Television and radio—the patricians of Rome could enjoy the leading musicians and actors in their home, could have the leads artists as domestic retainers] ” The wealthy environmentalists have their comforts, but what they can’t abide is anybody else joining their club.
“There are 7 billion people in the world, but 1.3 billion have no electricity” and another 3 billion have very little. If by allowing these people to use oil, we ever-so-slightly, and probably not at all, increase the chance of a wee increase in the temperature, one which we could well adapt to, then it’s worth it. Unless you care more about yourself than others.
Ah, but everybody already knows environmentalists love The People and hate people. Example. “Prince Philip, former head of the World Wildlife Fun, has said, ‘In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation.'” Charming.
We need to say “loudly and proudly” that “human life is our one and only standard of value.” Yet what do oil companies do? Epstein discovered Exxon Mobil, Shell, and Chevron won’t even use the word oil on their home pages. They instead focus on “charitable contributions”, they praise their enemies as “idealistic”, they apologize for their “environmental footprint.” They play only defense. “The industry’s position amounts to this: ‘Our product isn’t moral, but it’s something that we will need for some time as we transition to the ideal fossil-free future.'”
Appeasement never works: it only exacerbates.
Epstein outlines four common bad arguments (there are more). (1) “Abuse-use”: “It is irrational to say that because a technology or practice can be abused, it ought not be used.” If we followed this reasoning, we’d have to eliminate all government. Right? (2) “False-Attribution”: As in showing your water can catch fire and blaming fracking. “A more sophisticated version of false attribution uses prestigious studies based on speculative models.” Amen. (3) “No-threshold”: “A poison or pollutant is always a combination of substance and dose….People said we should have zero tolerance for radiation—not knowing, apparently, that the potassium in their bone tissue emits radiation, enough so that sleeping with a spouse gives you almost as much radiation as standing right outside a nuclear power plant.” (4) “Artificial” “Man-made.” All we need say here is Boo!
What about fusion, the epitome of clean, renewable, potentially unlimited energy? “Leading environmentalist Jeremy Rifkin: ‘It’s the worst thing that could happen to our planet.'” “Paul Erhlich: Developing fusion for human beings would be ‘like giving a machine gun to an idiot child.'” And that’s only a small sample of the appeals to emotion progressives use. Radiation! Boo!
Epstein wanders into strange territory when he says curious and false things about religions (“many religious people think that it is wrong to eat certain foods or to engage in certain sexual acts, not because there is any evidence that these foods or acts are unhealthy or otherwise harmful to human beings but simply because they believe God forbids them”), and he uses too many stacked bar and line charts, which are always a sin. But nobody bats 1.000. Buy the book.
Mr Epstein graciously provided me with my draft copy of his book. All emphasis marks above original.