Bjorn Lomborg says when it comes to carbon emissions, we need to be very skeptical of government accounting. New Zealand, for instance, has consistently claimed success in meeting its carbon targets… by counting new forests. But only recently. Not that politicians would ever utter self-congratulatory half-truths, of course. Unfortunately reducing emissions of reliable data does not help reach genuine climate goals.
Lomborg rightly notes the terrible paradox for climate alarmists in power that the only way to meet their airy promises of major CO2 reductions is to use less fossil fuel: “reducing emissions is hard, because it leaves countries worse off. Emissions are largely byproducts of productivity, and curtailing them implies higher costs.” And bear in mind here that Lomborg believes in man-made global warming and wants to try to do something about it. He just thinks we need to understand what we’re doing and talk honestly about it.
For instance, “A government-commissioned report by the respected New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) shows that just reducing emissions to 50% of 1990 levels in 2050 would cost NZ$28 billion ($19.2 billion) annually by 2050…. about what the government spends now on its entire education and health-care system. And that’s only the cost of getting halfway to the carbon-neutrality target. According to the NZIER report, getting all the way will cost more than NZ$85 billion annually, or 16% of projected GDP, by 2050.”
To be sure, if we can find reliable, efficient alternatives this problem will be solved or drastically reduced. But thus far there’s been far more hype than substance to wind and solar. The same is, therefore, true of various claims to reduce emissions, like those the previous Liberal administration in Ontario planned to make by buying credits in California rather than by actually, you know, giving off fewer GHGs. And the question is: What exactly is the point of all this hype, if not to burnish the reputation of politicians at the expense of… oh dear… the environment.
As Lomborg observes, in the Paris Agreement “countries made a grandiose commitment to keep the global increase in temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, but all their promises together add up to less than 1% of what’s needed. New analysis shows that only 17 countries – including Algeria and Samoa – are actually meeting their commitments, in most cases because they promised very little. The second lesson is that because honest and deep carbon cuts are staggeringly hard, achieving carbon neutrality anytime soon is an empty ambition for almost every country.”
In New Zealand, Lomborg notes, the trees that the government successfully negotiated to have included in its official emissions figures were planted privately. (The country also bought credits from Russia and Ukraine that would be unlikely to withstand scrutiny.) “But growing forests also reduced New Zealand’s emissions in the comparison year of 1990. If we – more honestly – include the impact of forests and land use on emissions across the entire period from 1990 to 2008-12, the country’s net emissions during this period actually increased even more, by 38%.”
It’s almost as if they were serious only about the optics, and didn’t really believe in the severity of the crisis on which they were virtue-signaling. If you really thought man-made global warming driven by emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse cases was a threat to civilization, you would talk frankly to people about this. Instead they start massaging the data and when that doesn’t work they start beating it up.