“What is more important, the environment or the economy?” It is better to ask, “Do you walk to school or carry your lunch?” Without earth’s environment there is no economy. Human survival requires we transform an ecosystem that is dirty and dangerous to one that is clean and accommodates human flourishing. Poetic Justice Warrior Alex Epstein explains this masterfully in his 2014 book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.
The key words are “The Moral Case.” Owning the moral high ground is essential to winning the intellectual and political fight. Taking the low road are the forces conspiring to eliminate fossil fuels, the ones we define as the “Climateers.”
Research grant recipients, politicians, teachers, media windbags, wind lobbyists, and carbon bankers holding a government commission authorized for use in economic warfare, especially in the capture and dismantling of enemy merchant hydrocarbon production systems.
The 97% Solution
Today, it’s urban legend that 97% of scientists agree that global warming is caused by human activity. After all, Senators Al Gore and John Kerry told us so. According to Epstein, so did John Cook, et al in a study of hundreds of research abstracts published in a 2013 paper that popularized the 97% consensus.
Suspicious, economist David Friedman studied the report and calculated that only 1.6% (not 97%) of the research explicitly stated that burning hydrocarbons caused more then 50% of global warming. Cook called this group “explicit endorsement with quantification.” The rest of the 97% he classified as “explicit endorsement without quantification,” or better yet, “implicit endorsement.” In other words, a big, big lie repeated over and over again. Several of the scientists surveyed in the study claim their work was misrepresented.
The compelling thing about Epstein’s work is that he acknowledges the facts about CO2 emissions, their greenhouse effects, rising temperatures, and their impact on human and plant life. For example, hydrocarbon oxidation contributes to the greenhouse effect, the fertilizer effect, and the energy effect. But since Climateers only focus on the greenhouse effect, it’s fair to ask, what is its magnitude? Is it linear (every new CO2 molecule adds one unit of heat), is it an accelerating effect, or is it a diminishing effect? Yet almost all people including so-called experts who bemoan the mortal danger of CO2 can’t answer this question.
As Epstein reports, the greenhouse effect is extremely diminishing (Myhre, et al). Despite record levels of emissions since 1988, temperatures have not increased since the late 1990s. Based on objective analysis, it makes sense that an increase in atmospheric CO2 from less than 300 parts per million to about 400 parts per million, both trace quantities, result in average global temperatures increasing (according to NASA) 0.8 degrees Celsius over the last 150 years. This is good for human and plant life.
Complex Systems Defy Modeling
The Climateers can’t abide this. There must be other co-dependent variables, such as water vapor effects, that require sophisticated modeling. Epstein explains their hubris as,
Equating the proven greenhouse effect with the speculative theory that CO2 emissions are dramatically amplified by other atmospheric effects and lead to rapid warming. If a politician talks about the social costs of carbon, or an economist talks about negative externalities, they’re based on model predictions.
There is no evidence that computer models can predict the future of complex, dynamic systems. The financial crisis of 2008 and its massive retirement plan losses is one example. Additionally, Poetic Justice Warrior economist Jesus Huerta de Soto explained that calculations designed for mechanical physics were useless in a dynamic world. He proved that econometric models based on static assumptions missed the crisis. But finance and economics are minor details to the Climateers. They are selling global warming as an existential threat that demands global political solutions. But Epstein explains,
Every climate model based on CO2 has been a failure. Unfortunately, many of the scientists, public intellectuals, and media members have not been honest about their failed predictions. They are attracted to a theory that contradicts reality, they pretend that reality is different from what it is, to the point of extremely dangerous dishonesty.
Political and economic power are the Climateers holy grail. Earth’s actual history of climate change is irrelevant to them. It doesn’t matter that fossil fuels cannot explain the Roman and Medieval warming periods that coincided with two of the greatest advancements in human history.
The Morality of Economic Systems
The Climateers’ fixation on the greenhouse effect panders to fear of imminent death and steals the dreams of the young people they have indoctrinated. In stark contrast, Epstein understands that carbon “has enabled billions of people to live longer and more fulfilling lives.” He focuses on all aspects of hydrocarbon oxidation including fertilization and energy. For example, the fertilization effect is greening spaceship earth as you read this. Additionally, the energy effect is having magnificent consequences for human flourishing.
Epstein explains this by solving the Climateers false premise that “we are taking a stable, safe, climate and making it dangerous.” His logical premise is that with fossil fuels “we are making our volatile, dangerous climate safer.”
Earth’s environment will frequently overwhelm human beings with climate related risks. Primitive peoples prayed fervently to climate gods because they were at the mercy of this volatile and dangerous system. Fossil fuels amplify our ability to adapt to climate, to maximize the benefits we get from good weather, and minimize the risks from bad weather.
The use of fossil fuels in our modern era coincides with a massive increase in life expectancy and population, cleaner water (World Bank) and air (US EPA), increasing oil, natural gas, food production, and fewer climate-related deaths. The dirty environment of food bacteria, poisonous plants, infectious diseases, and rodent infestation have largely been solved. How did this happen? The integration of human ingenuity, technology, energy, and the environment are the only morally defensible system for human life on planet earth.
The Immorality of Government Force
Conversely, wind and solar are unreliable and based on dangerous economics. For example, how much energy is consumed in the extraction of raw materials for a wind turbine? Their refinement and transport to parts manufacturers? The energy expended for their fabrication, engineering, transportation, assembly, installation and maintenance? How does this compare to the energy they generate, or their horrid environmental impact? No one knows, and the Climateers don’t care.
As Epstein contends, they really care about disintegration. “Fewer people, with fewer desires, and fewer ambitions. Human nonimpact is their standard of value, without regard for human life and happiness. This is the exact opposite of holding human life as one’s standard of value.” According to history professor Burton Folsom,
Before 1870, only the rich could afford whale oil and candles. With the drop in the price of kerosene, working-class people all over the nation could afford the one cent an hour that it cost to light their homes at night. Working and reading became after-dark activities new to most Americans.
Poetic Justice Warrior Alex Epstein makes the case best for human life as the standard of value,
In our natural climate human beings are sick as dogs and drop like flies. Technology is useless unless we have the energy to run it. With cheap energy we can achieve a stunning mastery over any climate hazard, natural or man-made. Nature is a wondrous background that gives us the potential for an amazing life, if we transform it.
As poetic justice would have it, Epstein has been honored by Rolling Stone’s Top 10 List of Global Warming’s Denier Elite.