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This eventually in: tortoise beats hare

07 Jul 2021 | News Roundup

Ultimately the debate on climate change will be settled not by rhetorical excess or quantity of funding. It will be settled by evidence. As so often in public policy, confusion and abuse seemed to get out of the gate with frightening speed. But ultimately it will be the tendency of the planet to become uninhabitably hot and stormy, or not to do so, that will decide the matter. Just as the Berlin Wall fell because freedom is stronger than tyranny, and when it fell it was shown beyond rational doubt to have been a prison gate, as the West claimed, and not a defensive fortification as Soviet Communism and its apologists maintained. Which brings us to California. Not because it has been taken over by communists or their postmodern cousins, although there are some worrying signs. But because one of those worrying signs is that blackouts loom as electricity prices go nuts. So one thing plodding awkwardly across the finish line in the climate debate is that renewables don’t work. And another is that energy is necessary.

You’ve heard the cliché about a frog placed in a slowly heating pot. Probably from a climate alarmist. It’s not actually true though, like the fable that King Canute actually thought he could stop the tide, it still seems to be in the lead over the prosaic facts. But if it were true we would cite it here to note that people now find it unremarkable that California and Texas would have energy shortages. It is nothing of the kind.

In the case of Texas it is surely obvious why. Despite the best efforts of the state’s promoters, when the Lone Star State is mentioned the vast majority still think “oil, that is… Texas tea” or something to that effect. But California, whatever else it produces, also accounts for over 8% of total American crude oil extraction and over 10% of its refining. And it is fifth among American states in per capita GDP, eight places ahead of Texas (not counting Washington, DC, whose per capita GDP is more than twice that of any state, a curious achievement by big government). So how can it be short of energy?

You could ask New York, whose per capita GDP is second only to that of Massachusetts. Plans to decarbonize the grid there are not going well, Francis Merton reports, and indeed seem clownishly amateur. But it’s not funny to contemplate what a winter there might be if they somehow pull it off, or apart, and get into blackouts through some California dreaming. To say nothing of President Biden’s vacuous but vigorous determination to do it nationwide.

As Michael Shellenberger bluntly put it, noting that energy shortages kill people during heat waves, as we add they do more generally, “The Real Reason They Blame Heat Deaths, Blackouts, and Forest Fires on Climate Change Is Because They’re Causing Them”, adding “Journalists, experts, and elected officials are today blaming heat wave deaths, forest fires, and electricity shortages in New York, California, and Texas on climate change, but the underlying cause of those events is lack of air conditioning, lack of electricity, and the failure to properly manage forests, not marginal changes to temperatures.”

Of course a blackout in the formerly Golden State, or even the collapse of the grid, doesn’t prove that climate change isn’t real. Indeed alarmists could say told you so, it’s the exploding demand for air conditioning as summers become intolerable. And NBC predictably did. But however that may be, you will not persuade someone suffering under such conditions in one of the wealthiest societies the world has ever seen that the power system is working, or that it doesn’t matter that it’s not.

Thus one leathery foot at a time the truth thuds on. (Including the truth that a turtle’s appendages are indeed technically feet not paws, in case you were wondering.)

3 comments on “This eventually in: tortoise beats hare”

  1. Suppose the planet doesn't heat up to intolerable levels by 2050; suppose there is no more warming between then and now. Would that prove the activists wrong? Not at all! As long as the activists succeed in getting enough of a reduction in CO2 emissions before 2050, they will claim they were successful at stemming the tide of global warming. "Net-zero by 2050 was always a stretch goal," they will say. "We never expected to actually get there, but we wanted to get enough people motivated enough to get as far as possible down that road. And we succeeded! That's why our dire predictions of an uninhabitable planet never materialized." What would have been the case in the absence of mitigation efforts will still be as unsettled as ever. So, it is slightly optimistic to think that the science will win out before the activists do. The science is catching up quickly, which might explain why the activists are giving such a big push right now. They want to get far enough along the zero-carbon path to be able to claim success no matter what the temps are in the future.

  2. Ah, but surely the Chinese, the Indians and eventually the Africans will continue to pump out the CO2 which may make claims that the rather small reduction efforts of the West made the difference? I sure hope so anyway!

  3. Most of the economies in the world have been almost totally shut down for the past year and a half. What improvements in the climate have been noted? Heat wave out west? Something does not fit here.

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