In an embarrassing scene that further underlines the curious mix of certainty and vagueness of climate alarmist policy-makers, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana questioned Deputy U.S. Energy Secretary David Turk on May 23 as to when he thought the United States could reach carbon neutrality and was told 2050. Then he asked how much it would cost and was told “So the cost that I focus on even more is all the costs that will happen if we don’t get our act together.” Kennedy persisted and Turk said “It’s going to cost trillions of dollars and it’ll cost tens of trillions of dollars if we don’t get our act together.” So to borrow a line from Edmund Blackadder, one thing he hasn’t seen is a lot bigger than another thing he hasn’t seen. But how does he know?
Kennedy pressed him as to “How many trillions of dollars” and was told “I don’t have the estimate or the numbers in front of me. I’ve seen a variety of different estimates but it’s a large amount fundamentally transforming our energy economy.” The resulting exchange is worth quoting at length:
“Tell me the estimates that you’ve seen.” “I don’t have those numbers right on hand.” “So you’re advocating that we become carbon neutral but you don’t know how much it’s going to cost.” “So there’s an awful lot of estimates out there, it depends on technology improvement and other things.” “Yeah but you’re the deputy Secretary, you’re the expert, I’m asking you how much it’s going to cost.” “I know with the certainty of all the experts I’ve spoken about it’s cheaper to get our act together than it is to not get our act together on climate change.” “OK then tell me the cost if we don’t do it.” “I think it’s orders of magnitude different.” “I know that. But you don’t have a cost? You want us to get there but you can’t tell the American taxpayer how much it’s going to cost? Is that your testimony?” “It’s going to save us money and there’s a lot of jobs…” “Well how do we know if you don’t know how much it’s going to cost?” “I’d be happy to pull up the latest numbers that I’ve seen.” “How about 50 trillion dollars, is that right?” “It’s going to cost trillions of dollars, there’s no doubt about it.”
Kennedy then commented that “it disappoints me that you’re not willing to give me the estimates. I hope you’re not telling me you have no idea what it’s going to cost. That creates a whole new host of problems.” Indeed. But either Turk doesn’t know yet claims to be certain, or does know yet won’t say. And he wouldn’t even acknowledge that question either.
The Senator claimed “I’m all for carbon neutrality, by the way” then pointedly raised another very relevant issue. Namely if the U.S. manages at a cost of, say, $50 trillion “as some of your colleagues have testified” to get to Net Zero by 2050, “How much is that going to lower world temperatures, or how much is that going to reduce the increase in world temperatures?”
Turk clichéd that every country had to do it because the U.S. was only 13% of global emissions. But Kennedy asked him to give his estimate based on eliminating U.S. net emissions regardless of what happened elsewhere, and Turk reverted to pontificating about the net cost on the firm position that while he did not know what it would cost, or what it would do, or what it would cost if it were not done, he did know it was a bargain even at some multiple of total U.S. GDP because he’d compared three numbers none of which he knew.
Kennedy wasn’t buying it:
“Let me ask again. Maybe I’m not being clear. If we spend $50 trillion and become carbon neutral by 2050 in the United States of America, how much is that going to reduce world temperatures?”
After Turk continued babbling about everyone doing their part, the Senator asked bluntly “You don’t know, do you?” and Turk replied “You can do the math” though evidently he couldn’t. Kennedy repeated “You don’t know, do you, Mr. Secretary?” And then declared in exasperation:
“If you know, why won’t you tell me? You just want us to spend $50 trillion, and you don’t have the slightest idea whether it’s going to reduce world temperatures. Now I’m all for carbon neutrality, but you’re the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy, and you’re advocating we spend trillions of dollars to seek carbon neutrality, and you can’t, and this isn’t your money and my money, it’s taxpayers’ money, and you can’t tell me how much it’s going to lower world temperatures? Or you won’t tell me? You know but you won’t?”
It is possible that Turk knows the answer, according to the computer models, is a vanishingly small fraction of a degree. Or that he has no idea. But either way he wasn’t saying. Rather than answering, or even acknowledging the question’s content or legitimacy, Turk replied “In my heart of hearts, there is no way the world gets its act together on climate change unless the US leads.” Kennedy once again asked for numbers not clichés, and Turk repeated his clichés.
It’s not exactly deliberate evasion. It’s how alarmists talk among themselves, and they are not challenged from outside and do not challenge one another, because they’re so certain they are right that details don’t matter.