Superb article from SOTT.net. Hats off to author Luke Baier for a well constructed, hysteria-free bit of research and presentation! MH
Tue, 08 Oct 2019 18:35 UTC
Does the current wave of climate change hysteria as represented by Greta Thunberg make you feel a bit uneasy? Or maybe you have to deal with friends, colleagues or relatives who are confused about all this? In these situations, it can be useful to take a step back and bring some rationality to this debate. By definition, hysteria is the opposite to level-headed analysis. This is the reason why there is so much irrationality and confusion around the climate change issue – and it’s not just about the scientific debate, as we’ll see. Because no matter where you stand on the validity of the man-made global warming theory, there’s plenty of myths and problems with the Greta-inspired, Fridays For Future-style mania.
As a German, I live in a country that has made climate change a central theme of its policies for decades now. So let this be a cautionary tale for other countries. Keep in mind that even though radical activists and most of the media frame this debate in black and white terms and try to make it a left vs. right issue, this just isn’t true. There are a great variety of opinions about climate change both on the left and the right, both within mainstream science and the so-called ‘climate-skeptic’ community. Once you drop the hysterical mindset, these nuances become very visible. And while they make things much more complicated, taking these nuances into account is the only alternative to the disastrous consequences of political hysteria. So here are my top ten arguments to counter the current climate craze:
1. Problem Or Apocalypse?
Probably the biggest trap this whole climate movement fell into is the idea that “if we don’t act now, we are all going to die soon”: apocalyptic thinking. This shuts down calm, rational thought. But once you get out of that mindset, the issue simply becomes a problem among many. How many of those protestors and activists are even able to tell you what the consequences of CO2 emissions are – even according to the ‘official science’ of the IPCC?
SPIEGEL: “Are there any thresholds above which irreversible processes begin?”
Marotzke: “We cannot rule this out, but the evidence for such tipping points has so far been rather weak. A warming of 2 degrees could most likely lead to the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet, causing sea levels to rise by seven metres in the long term – that would be a highly dramatic change. But even if this were to happen, defrosting would take 3000 years. All other alleged tipping points such as the Gulf Stream drying up or the West Antarctic melting are unlikely in the foreseeable future.”
Another lead IPCC scientist, Oxford Professor Myles Allen, has said something similar in a short YouTube message: the world isn’t going to end soon, and there are certainly no deadlines by which we ‘must act’ to avoid some kind of apocalypse.
Mind you, despite some shrill tones in the IPCC’s press releases, this is the ‘official position’ in science and has nothing to do with ‘climate skeptics’. It could be summed up like this: “Yes, we do have a problem and we need to figure out a way to deal with it, but there’s a lot we don’t understand yet, and anyway, it will take many years until that problem manifests, which gives us enough time to solve it.” At the very least, this shows that contrary to popular belief, there is much diversity even within mainstream science about the effects of climate change. This fact alone should make us immune to politicians and activists who want to rush through drastic measures and policies, and ignore the likely unintended consequences, with the argument that if we don’t take these measures right now, we are all going to die.
2. The Folly of Long-term Predictions
Without getting into the scientific debate about climate change, it should be obvious to anyone with some common sense how ridiculous it is to make long-term predictions when it comes to human affairs. Just think about how people in 1900 imagined the world would look like in 1950. Or how those people in 1950 imagined the world in the year 2000. Heck, how different our world is in 2019 to everything people could have dreamed of even in the year 2000!
Just think! During the next few decades, we could have a world war that leads to massive de-industrialization. There might be a technological break-through that changes everything and renders climate alarmism moot. (Think about how electricity or the combustion engine have changed the world.) We could have an economic recession that cuts the world’s CO2 emissions in half over night. In other words, the very idea that our climate is ‘man-made’ means we cannot predict it, because everything in the human sphere is utterly unpredictable. And that’s not even taking into account black swan-type natural phenomena that could massively change our CO2 calculations: for example, a couple of volcanoes going off could immediately render all our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions irrelevant!
Last but not least, there is also the problem that climate scientists use models to make their predictions. But even the best models have an (often large) margin of error, which means that their accuracy declines rapidly with the time span of their prediction. This is another reason why long-term predictions should be taken with a huge chunk of salt.
A case in point is this article from the year 1989 that cites someone from the UN making the following predictions:
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.
Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of ″eco- refugees,′ ′ threatening political chaos, said Noel Brown, director of the New York office of the U.N. Environment Program, or UNEP.
He said governments have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effect before it goes beyond human control.
As the warming melts polar icecaps, ocean levels will rise by up to three feet, enough to cover the Maldives and other flat island nations, Brown told The Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday.
Coastal regions will be inundated; one-sixth of Bangladesh could be flooded, displacing a fourth of its 90 million people. A fifth of Egypt’s arable land in the Nile Delta would be flooded, cutting off its food supply, according to a joint UNEP and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study.
So according to this ‘scientific’ prediction, we have been ‘doomed’ for 19 years now. The list of unpredictable things that could massively change the whole picture – whether you accept the man-made global warming theory or not – is endless – and therefore the probability that our long-term predictions are accurate rapidly approaches 0%. So anyone who tells you that we all are all going to die in X years if we don’t reduce CO2 now is not thinking straight. I must admit though that perhaps humanity will indeed undo itself soon – but if so, it will have much more to do with the massive hysteria here on Earth than with CO2 emissions!
3. Real Environmentalism vs. Climate Hysteria
A big part of today’s confusion about climate change is that many people don’t distinguish between the ‘CO2 is an evil toxin’ narrative and real environmental issues such as pollution, the killing of endangered species and the general wastefulness and rampant consumerism that destroy mother nature. All environmental concerns somehow get mixed up with climate change. Consequently, in some people’s minds, if you are sceptical about the climate hysteria, you must be an evil right-winger who wants to do away with all environmental protection regulation and likes to pour barrels of toxic sludge into rivers just for fun.
The truth is very different though. Among those who are critical of the current climate hysteria are many environmentalists and ‘old-school greens’ who genuinely care about our wildlife, about reducing waste and toxins and generally don’t like the rampant consumerism in today’s world. And this is precisely why they don’t like the climate hysteria either: the fear of CO2 overshadows all other, genuine concerns for the environment. Indeed, this hysteria is often a direct threat to real environmentalism, for example when wind turbines kill birds and destroy forests, when electric cars lead to child slavery, more waste or simply because most funds today are channelled into climate change instead of nature conservation projects. It is heart-breaking for those who care for our environment to see people and politicians argue that it’s okay to kill endangered birds with wind craft installations because if we don’t do something about the climate, they will end up dead anyway in the future. The cruelty and insidiousness of such arguments should be obvious to everyone with some decency left.
4. The Instrumentalization Of The Youth
Yes, they are cute. But do you really believe these children have any idea whatsoever what they are protesting against?Say what you will about the leftist movement of the 60ies, but these people at least were up against the authorities of the time and risked something by joining the movement. Not so today’s ‘climate activists’, who pretty much tout the party line and are showered with praise by the powers-that-be, from politicians to celebrities to the pope. If you still believe this is a ‘grassroots movement’ against the establishment, consider this: the biggest German bus operator offers free rides for those traveling to the protest marches.
It’s one thing if young people take to the streets for various reasons, justified or misguided as they might be. It’s quite another if teenagers and even children are exempted from school to attend marches and rallies: it’s a form of top-down, state-sanctioned movement that is the hallmark of fascist and communist totalitarian regimes. It’s a blatant instrumentalization of the young who, if they are children, have no clue what all of this is even about, and just see it as a fun thing preferable to school. It is quite telling that those who actually don’t want to attend are bullied by their peers and even their teachers into joining ‘the movement’. One school even officially made attending the rallies mandatory!
In case you still doubt the top-down, totalitarian flavor of the movement, here’s the official position of the school board in Vancouver, Canada:
On Monday, Richmond’s superintendent of schools also gave permission to students to attend climate rallies.
“There is ample evidence to support the argument that climate change is real and must be taken seriously. As a public school district, we play a crucial role in educating students about global warming and its potential impacts on our planet,” said Scott Robinson in a letter posted to the school district’s website.
“In many classrooms across the district, climate change will be a topic of discussion this week as teachers engage students in a variety of lessons and activities. I also encourage you, as parents, to discuss this topic and the global advocacy movement with your children.”
Even if you agree politically with the movement, you should still be terrified of state-sanctioned, semi-mandatory political rallies involving teenagers and children. What if tomorrow, they will send your kids to a cause you, or even your kid, wholeheartedly disagrees with? It is unacceptable.
5. The Budget Dilemma And Limited Resources
Bjorn Lomborg has often made that point, and it’s an excellent one: of all people, climate alarmists should understand that our resources are limited. This is true, of course, for government resources as well. But ‘doing something about climate change’ is very costly indeed. This means that every cent you put into the ‘fight against climate change’ you cannot put elsewhere. So if you had the choice between, let’s say, investing $1000 in the fight against climate change, or using the same money to save a dying child in Africa, what would you do? Or would you rather ramp up public support for the elderly instead of doling out subventions for rich, ‘green tech’ companies? These are crucial questions that get most people to think. And if the answer is ‘why not do both’, this is missing the point: every cent invested in the climate change issue, every hour a public servant spends on climate change, and every headline published about climate change in the media is a resource lost for another cause, period. You have to choose, and choose wisely.
But you don’t really have a choice now, do you? If the alarmists tell you we are all going to die if we don’t cut emissions, then cutting emissions becomes theonlyworthy cause. If you think it through, this would mean pouring all resources into fighting climate change. This is the inevitable conclusion of the alarmists’ proposition, whether they themselves realize it or not. And it will play out if people don’t come to their senses and acknowledge that there are many other, immediate problems that need to be addressed and that deserve much more airtime, money and brainpower.
6. Personal Responsibility
How about giving up your beloved smartphones, climate activists? One of the things that irks me most about climate activists is that for them, it’s always others who have to give up things to save the climate, never themselves. And if they do give something up (rarely failing to virtue-signal their heroic feats to the whole world, which in and of itself is a vice), they never give up something they actually care about.
It’s easy for people to proclaim they don’t use a car when they are living in a big city where they don’t need one, or to say they don’t go to far-away places for holiday if that’s not their thing anyway, or to bash those who drive big cars if they can’t afford one. No, that’s not what sacrifice means. For that, you would have to give up something that you value. How about dumping your smartphone and order an old dumb-phone from ebay? I’m sure those Chinese factories that produce your gadgets pump a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere! Or why don’t you give up your café latte routine? Or limit your internet use to one hour a day, saving tons of server energy? But no, it’s always someone else who needs to change, it’s always other people who need to give up something they value.
Of course, sacrificing something for the greater good is a noble act. But it should be a sacrifice for the right cause, and most of all a voluntary sacrifice. Being bullied and shamed by hypocritical politicians and activists is certainly not a noble act. We should see through the alarmists’ game of using the current hysterical atmosphere to coerce us into doing what they want us to do – and from which they profit!
7. Economic Development for the Poor
Economic growth and CO2 emissions are tightly correlated. This means that if you want to reduce those emissions, you need to fight against economic growth. And where do you find most of the economic growth? In the developing countries and emerging markets, of course. How is it fair for the developed West to stifle economic development of those countries just starting out? Should those people not be connected to the grid, construct houses and factories and water systems – all of which lead to more CO2 emissions? How dare you?
There is no way around it: climate alarmism is a form of neo-colonialism and patronizing of developing countries. Just to give you an example: here in Germany, we have completely cut down our forests many times over in our history. We have built our civilization in part using these resources – for heating, cooking, for building houses and ships and weapons and furniture and other products. And yet we have the audacity to forbid other countries from using their natural resources because of our climate change hysteria! And even if they follow strict sustainability policies, unlike the West just a few decades ago, we still chastise them for not doing enough. How do you think such countries perceive this arrogance and hypocrisy? How dare you indeed!
8. The Danger of Climate Change Policies
Hysteria on a political level can only lead to catastrophe: if you are convinced that we are all going to die if we don’t take extreme measures now, then the end justifies every means.
The first thing politicians will do, as I have witnessed here in Germany for a long time, is find ever-new means of raising taxes. Meat tax, Renewable Energy tax, Eco Tax on fuel – inventing new taxes is one area where politicians show some remarkable creativity. And if you think that being against tax increases is just a right-wing talking point, consider this: all such taxes simply make essential products like food, electricity or fuel more expensive, which disproportionately hurts the poor and disadvantaged. The rich don’t care about meat and fuel prices, but those struggling from pay check to pay check certainly do. But what can you say? Remember, without these taxes, we are all going to die!
The result of hysterical climate change policies: someone’s getting rich here – without any effect on emissionsBut this mindset goes beyond tax increases and is much more insidious. Already, politicians and activists have begun to justify violence and the destruction of property ‘because climate change’. The following story is very instructive in this regard:
A German farmer complained on Twitter after 500 climate activists trampled over his fields during a ‘march’, destroying his crops. He said the financial loss isn’t really the problem, but it hurts him to see food destroyed and the fruit of his labor taken away from him. And as if the irony of “climate activists” destroying crops wasn’t enough, a politician from the Green party tweeted this: “Your carrots are not as important as our climate. Sorry.”
This story should give us pause: what else will politicians and the authorities justify in the name of ‘our climate’? How about forbidding ‘climate change denial’ and removing the right to free speech? Or how about regulating how much energy you are allowed to use – or even prescribing the exact purpose of your energy use? Maybe meat will become illegal? And then, what’s next? Wake up folks, this is scary stuff!
9. Renewable Energy Doesn’t Work
Germany is often presented as a shining example of a successful transition to renewable energy. But let me tell you a different story. It is important, because renewable energy is one of the most visible (and nastiest) of climate change policies that might soon affect your community.
Renewables, by which people typically mean wind and solar, don’t work. The reason is simple: sometimes there is neither sun nor wind, especially at night – and so the energy output of the renewables drops to zero. This means that you cannot replace even one single conventional power plant with renewables.
The sad truth about renewable energy technology…
But the erratic and largely unpredictable output of renewables causes even more trouble. While it is possible to constantly adjust conventional power plants, mostly gas plants, to make up for the ditches and spikes of wind and solar, this has technical and practical limits. The result is that a) many wind turbines are simply shut down even though there is wind, which you can see a lot in Germany and b) Germany actually pays its neighbours to take our energy during spikes because there simply isn’t enough load available within the country. They euphemistically call it “selling energy at negative prices”. It would be pretty funny if it didn’t cost us taxpayers a fortune.
The result of all this is that only a tiny fraction of the capacity of the renewables can actually be used. If you combine that with the massive costs and energy needed to produce all those wind turbines and solar panels, ship them around the world, install them, cut down forests, build new transmission lines etc., taking into account the life cycle of these devices and the problem of their disposal, there can only be one conclusion: this is a bad idea if there ever was one!
…and the sad truth about renewable energy economics Now there are two main suggestions on how to solve these issues. One is that Germany should build massive transmission lines between north and south (costing huge sums, destroying forests etc.) to ‘flatten’ the energy output of wind turbines by connecting all of them. The theory is that “somewhere, there’s always wind”. But this is obviously silly, because it is enough to look at a weather map to realize that wind speed is massively correlated across the country. How could it be otherwise? In fact, for the theory to work, you would need a negative correlation between different parts of the country. No dice! A Europe-wide low-pressure area is, well, Europe-wide. There goes the theory.
Another much hyped solution is the invention of some magic way to store huge amounts of power. But despite decades of massive funding for such research, there is nothing even remotely on the horizon that could do the job. Batteries and renewables work well to power your fridge at your farm, but they are useless for powering modern civilization with its aluminium factories, steel industry and car manufacturers. The truth is that large-scale energy storage systems are just a pipe dream at this point. And even if at some point in the future someone comes up with a system that works, that would be the time to think about renewables instead of building them now when they simply don’t work and waste much more energy than they will ever generate. And if that wasn’t bad enough, all of this is super-expensive for the taxpayer: Germany has spent €160 billion ($180 billion) in the past five years alone on the so-called energy transition. (For some perspective, Germany’s annual military budget is around $50 billion.)
Soon to come to your community But there’s still more, and people need to know that: wind turbines, in particular, are destructive monsters that upset whole communities wherever they are built. They are very loud, even at a distance of 2km, and their characteristic jet engine-like sound drives many people mad and deprives them of their sleep. In addition, they transform every beautiful countryside into a large-scale industrial zone. They throw shadows that freak people out. And many brave doctors in Germany are already sounding the alarm because they see a stark increase in illness in the communities where wind turbines are installed, possibly related to infrasound – which is increasingly confirmed by studies. Should there be plans to build wind turbines anywhere near your home, you should fight them tooth and nail. This story on YouTube is a good example of how climate policies, in cahoots with business interests, prey on people’s good hearts to cheat them out of their properties and peaceful lives. Beware of the wind craft lobby desperately trying to debunk the suffering of thousands upon thousands of citizens!
10. Official Science Has Been Wrong Before
Science is great. However, whenever science gets entangled with powerful political causes or financial interests, or both, a healthy amount of skepticism is always a good idea. In the case of climate change, there is a lot at stake: a whole political generation has built its platform around the issue, plus there is a whole cottage industry of think tanks, government programs, state-sponsored initiatives, research programs etc. that are funded because of climate change. And then, there is the highly subsidised green tech and renewable energy sector. In total, the green energy industry is worth $1.5 trillion dollars. You would be naïve to think that, in this context, it’s all about bleeding heart environmentalism and the truth.
And let’s not forget that science has been wrong, sometimes spectacularly so, in the past. The phrase that begins with: “the overwhelming majority of scientists agrees that…” was historically applied to things like the superiority of the white race (long before the Nazis), the unquestioned truth of historical materialism à la Karl Marx in the communist countries, and countless other, now obsolete, theories that were once en vogue.
This is not the place to go into the science around climate change. You can start your own journey of digging into that if you wish. But what’s most important, I think, is to not fall for the simplistic narrative presented by the media and to look at the nuances. For example, a lot of questions that need to be separated usually get horribly mixed up in this debate, such as:
- Is there climate change going on or not, whatever the cause may be?
- If yes, do greenhouse gases like CO2 cause it? What’s the specific role of CO2?
- If so, how much of it is man-made and what role does the man-made part play?
- Are there other causes besides greenhouse gases and what are their effects?
- Is CO2 causing climate change or are the two just correlated?
- How accurate are the climate models used by scientists to make their predictions?
- What effects could climate change have on our civilization?
- Is it warming or cooling?
- Can we do something about it, and if so, what and how?
If you accept the simplistic idea of an antagonism between ‘the majority of scientists’ and ‘climate deniers’, you won’t get far. But once the various and complex issues are addressed one by one, we might get closer to the truth.
But regardless of what science says, one thing is clear: there is so much irrationality and hysteria going on at the moment that it makes it difficult for people to think straight. If I can at least convince you that it’s a good idea to go back to clear, rational thinking, and maybe even to help your friends, relatives and co-workers get more level-headed about this whole discussion, then my job is done!
Luke joined the sott.net team in 2015. Based in Germany, he has a B.A. in philosophy and communication and runs a consultancy business.