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Uh-oh, we just had the best decade ever

22 Jan 2020 | Science Notes

As the Spectator explains, the world has just experienced the best decade ever. It had its horrors, personal and geopolitical. But on all the usual measures of overall well-being, from extreme poverty to education, health care, human rights and more, the trends are not only going in the right direction but the speed of improvement is breathtaking. Even our ecological footprint is shrinking including using energy a lot more efficiently than before. So why would anyone think things are getting worse? Perhaps because they read a news feed full of climate panic, went into a classroom, watched a protest or listened to a politician telling us we already experienced what, in fact, is only likely to happen if we follow their proposals.

The material progress of the past decade, and the century leading up to it, didn't happen by magic. It happened because we had reliable inexpensive energy for the first time in human history.

That energy, from fossil fuels starting with coal 200 years ago, opened up the endless possibilities of travel, industry, heat, computing power, education, sanitation, light, refrigeration, medicine, air conditioning, manufacturing and everything else we now enjoy. Basically, everything we take for granted about our modern standard of living that has added two decades to life expectancy around the world since 1950. Don’t assume the improvement was confined to the developed world. It’s actually been most dramatic recently in poorer countries.

Of course the climate alarmists also like to point out that the world has warmed over the past century. According to their calculations most of the warming since 1950 was caused by greenhouse gases. And, they imply (without ever coming out and saying it), that makes the last few decades a net loss. If you count the real costs, they seem to think, we’ve done badly. But of course measures like life expectancy do cover costs as well as benefits.

Thus, as we discuss in our new video on The Catastrophe Question, even if we grant the argument that all the warming since the end of the Little Ice Age was due to man-made greenhouse gases, the numbers show that it hasn't been a catastrophe, it’s been the opposite. It's been a time of amazing improvement. Nor do the experts tell us that, if current trends continue, the next century will be a catastrophe either. Rather, the changes will be manageable and living standards will continue to rise. Indeed, the changes will be manageable because living standards will continue to rise.

The real threat would be if we give in to alarmism and embrace extreme climate policies that stall economic progress. Then it would be time to panic.

One comment on “Uh-oh, we just had the best decade ever”

  1. The woke generation, from AOC to Greta, are adamant that we must dismantle everything you say is responsible for improving outcomes for the past 200 years: free markets, world trade, and especially cheap, reliable energy. So, as long as the woke generation is in the ascendancy, I'll remain pessimistic, and even a bit panicky.
    Actually, no. I won't shed a tear for the first generation to be poorer than their parents. By their own lights, the woke generation will have something more treasured than material blessings and a long life: they will have social justice. You can't put a price on that!

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