×

Quick Comebacks

ALL
CATASTROPHE
ECONOMICS
POLITICS
SCIENCE
Although climate change has taken a backseat to the Coronavirus pandemic, it is as essential as ever that we not lose momentum in fighting the climate crisis.

No, it is essential that we learn the right lessons from the pandemic. Those of us who have been critical of the “climate emergency” movement have pointed out that the so-called climate crisis does not look like a real crisis, especially since human welfare has improved so dramatically over the past century. The pandemic has proven our point by showing us what a real crisis looks like. It has also shown us what a severe economic downturn looks like. Radical alarmists wave away the potential for harm from wrecking the economy. During boom times they can get away with that because people forget what a nightmare an economic collapse really is.

The global response to the COVID-19 crisis shows us how the world could pull together and tackle the climate crisis.

No it doesn’t. World leaders came together and inflicted an emergency shutdown on the economy because the viral pandemic was a real crisis. Despite all of last year’s posturing about the phony “climate emergency” they were clearly not willing to inflict comparable economic harm, nor would it have been justified. Environmentalists who have spent years demanding a radical shutdown of global economic activity in the name of fighting climate change can barely conceal their excitement that it’s happening, albeit for other reasons. But they are doomed to disappointment. This shutdown is only temporary until the pandemic eases. After that everyone is going to want the economy to fire back up as quickly as possible.

“The burning of fossil fuels is destabilizing the very foundations of life on the planet.” (An actual quotation from a recent Canadian newspaper opinion piece.)

No, actually the burning of fossil fuels has radically improved the foundations of life on this planet. It has given us safe and inexpensive lighting, heating, cooling, refrigeration, transportation, electricity generation, construction, food production, and just about everything else we depend on for our standard of living. To the extent it has also caused a slight warming of the atmosphere due to CO2, that clearly has not turned the whole thing into a net loss. Weighing the costs and benefits together there is simply no question fossil fuel use has served to benefit humanity greatly.

The time for talk is over. We have to act now.

The challenge has always been, and still is, to avoid actions that do more harm than good. "Action" that makes the situation worse is no solution. Mainstream estimates of the social damages of CO2 emissions imply that policies should not cost more than about US$50 per tonne of emissions for at least another decade. Many of the policies Canada has pursued ended up costing hundreds of dollars per tonne, and the radical actions that activists seek would cost even more. If the cure is worse than the disease then we're no farther ahead. So let's act, but not act foolishly.

The world's largest corporations get it: they are realizing that climate change is going to have a direct impact on their bottom line.

No, they're realizing that climate alarmism and hysteria are leading to bad policy decisions that will have a direct impact on their bottom line. Whether they do anything constructive to face that threat remains to be seen. Much of the time corporations seem determined to make the situation worse by piling on the adulation and fawning over celebrity alarmists in the hopes their company will be eaten last. So it was very refreshing to see US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin take a well-deserved swipe at Greta Thunberg in Davos last week, asking her to go study some economics before she lectures the world on how to manage the economy.

Don't believe the naysayers: the transition to a low-carbon economy is an incredible economic opportunity and we need to embrace it now.

Great, then it will happen through private sector innovation and investment, the way all major technological transformations have happened. If you're right, we don't need to impose it from above using costly government interventions. But don't try to tell us both that it's a brilliant source of profits and job growth, and that it will only happen if we force it through with subsidies and regulations. It's one or the other, it can't be both.

The experts tell us that putting a price on carbon is the best way to tackle climate change.

Yes but they also say it's the only policy you should use. But no government is ever satisfied just with a carbon tax. They always add in subsidies, regulations, rules, standards and all sorts of other stuff the experts say they're not supposed to do if they really accept the logic of the carbon pricing theory. So we end up with taxes and rules, the worst of both worlds. And even if they just stuck with a carbon tax, the best it will do is reduce carbon emissions a little bit. It won't "tackle climate change" because it can never be done on a big enough scale.

The vast majority of climate scientists are telling us we face a crisis and we have to act.

No such survey has ever been taken. The surveys that have been taken say that scientists agree greenhouse gases have a warming influence and it may create some problems in the future, but they don’t agree it’s a crisis. In fact, the last IPCC Report concluded: “For most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers. Changes in population, age, income, technology, relative prices, lifestyle, regulation, governance, and many other aspects of socioeconomic development will have an impact on the supply and demand of economic goods and services that is large relative to the impact of climate change.” The real crisis is that we are being fed so much misinformation on the issue.

Fossil fuel-driven economic growth over the past 30 years has pushed us to the brink of a global climate catastrophe.

If the small amount of warming we have experienced were such a catastrophe, why has everything gotten so much better? Fossil fuel-driven prosperity has cut extreme poverty around the world by nearly two-thirds, allowed us to dramatically increase food production and cut hunger and malnutrition around the world, spread access to electricity to billions of people on every continent, cut child mortality in half, and added 7 years to average life expectancy. If you could have prevented the fossil fuel use at the cost of never having experienced all this progress, would you have done so?

We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do whatever it takes to stop the climate catastrophe.

No, we owe it to our children and grandchildren to stop exaggerating the climate change issue, because by doing so we are putting their future economic well-being at risk. Despite the global warming of the past few decades, human and economic vulnerability to climate extremes have declined, mainly in wealthy countries. Economic prosperity is the best protection against whatever changes the climate might have in store. The agenda of radical climate alarmists would put this at risk, not only making us economically worse off, but also more vulnerable to climate hazards.

It's incredibly short-sighted to say you're not willing to accept modest changes to your lavish lifestyle to stop the planet from burning up in our children's lifetime.

If only it were that simple. If we were just being asked to accept modest changes we could make them and be done with it. But the little policy gimmicks like an extra tax here and a curly lightbulb there don't even begin to cover what the alarmists have in mind. They want an end to fossil fuel use and a massive reduction in our living standards. If the planet really were burning up maybe we'd have to do it. But it's not. Warming is not nearly the crisis it's been made out to be. Our children will not thank us if we destroy the economy in a panicked reaction to foolish slogans about the sky catching fire then falling.

So you're saying you don't believe the science?

The “science" makes a lot of different claims based on a lot of different lines of evidence. You can't "believe" all of it because it's full of inconsistencies. Do you believe the scientific data that shows less warming than predicted by climate models? Or the science that shows hurricanes aren't more frequent or more severe? I certainly don't believe alarmist interpretations of the science that cherry-pick computer simulations and try to frighten us with implausible worst-case scenarios. A better question is whether you mainly believe the models or the data, because in a lot of key areas they disagree with each other.

Endless debates about climate change are just wasting time and preventing us from taking action.

This claim is like someone saying when you’re lost in the woods you shouldn’t waste time debating which way to go before starting to run. If the “action” being proposed wasn't so costly and harmful we might not need to debate it. But when activists say the science requires we just stop asking questions and go ahead with policies that could plunge millions into brutal poverty or trap them there, and we find after carefully looking into the matter that the science doesn’t say what they claim, we should certainly not just give in and let them set the agenda because they’re shouting in a panic.

The low-carbon transition is one of the greatest economic opportunities of our generation and we need to make sure Canada is at the forefront of it.

Great, if it’s an economic opportunity then we don’t need to force it on people through big-government regulations, they’ll choose it for themselves and the private sector will lead the way. No one had to be forced to switch from vinyl records to CDs, or from CDs to digital streaming. Businesses saw opportunities to profit by innovating and consumers saw a chance to replace old inferior products with better, cheaper substitutes. The problem with the “low-carbon transition” is that this isn’t what its proponents have in mind. They want us to give up reliable, low cost energy and cheap gas-powered cars in favour of unreliable high-cost energy and overpriced electric or hybrid cars. Since people don’t see this as an improvement, they have to be forced to do it through regulations and subsidies. That’s the very opposite of opportunity

The science is telling us we have to act now to stop climate change.

Can you be more specific? Which science? And what action? This response isn’t nitpicking, it’s a serious request. Please show me where the entire world of science has expressed itself in the way you are describing. And don’t just say “in the IPCC.” The IPCC has put out a lot of reports over the years, and they don’t point to any one specific action as being necessary. Nor do they demand we take urgent action or say a lot of other things people claim they say. Go and find where the world’s scientists have all come together and said what you think they did, and then we can talk.

The science is clear: Canada faces a climate crisis

If climate change is a crisis, then everything is a crisis. The most that can be said is that many locations across Canada have warmed slightly over the past few decades, although on the scale of a whole century it's not a lot of warming. And the warming that occurred hasn't caused many obvious problems. The economy has prospered, human health has improved and life spans have grown by decades. The use of fossil fuels has been a big contributor to that. Even where things like increased urban flooding has occurred, it's doubtful greenhouse gases are the cause. If you're going to call this a crisis, then what isn't a crisis?

97% of the world's scientists agree that climate change is a crisis, so why should I believe you?

No such survey has ever been taken so you should stop believing whoever told you that factoid. There have been surveys of climate experts, but they mostly focus on the non-controversial stuff, like whether carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which is why they get high levels of agreement. On the more contentious details the level of agreement quickly drops. Watch the CDN backgrounder on the supposed 97% consensus to find out what the surveys really asked, and how much disagreement there really is.

Canada needs to continue to show global leadership on the climate issue. Now is not the time to turn our back on the progress we've made since Rio in 1992.

By "leadership" do you mean mindlessly following the crowd in the same futile and costly gestures we've been stuck with for the past 30 years? We've spent a fortune on policies and treaties that we have known all along accomplish nothing even if everyone does what they say they're going to do, which they never do. Leadership would mean blowing the whistle on this fiasco and insisting only on policies where the benefits are higher than the costs, even if that means we end up doing next to nothing.

A new study shows that, if we don’t make deep carbon emission cuts, climate change could cost X city/region/country $Y billion/trillion/quillion/bazillion dollars by the end of the century.

Fill in the X and Y and this claim gets repeated ad nauseum around the world, based on glossy consultant reports that governments seem to be unable to resist commissioning and then beating people over the head with. The first question to ask is: “Is the report’s ‘business-as-usual’ baseline by any chance the RCP8.5 scenario?” If the answer is yes, into the trash can it goes. You’re being lied to. The second question to ask is, if we do make your desired deep emission cuts, will it prevent the climate damages you foretell? If the answer is yes, into the trash can it goes. You’re being lied to. We already know that the same modeling techniques that predict dramatic warming also say policies like Kyoto and Paris won’t change the future path of warming, to say nothing of small local policies. The third question is, will the proposed policies cost more than the supposed damages they prevent? The answer is yes, by a long shot. So guess where your recommendation goes.

By causing a climate crisis you have stolen our children’s future.

Every age has its share of doomsters who are convinced the end is nigh. Somehow the modern version of this message is more extreme than ever before, even as the world achieves more prosperity and well-being than ever before. We do not face a climate crisis. The data don't tell us this and the experts don't claim it. What does amount to stealing our children's future is filling their heads with irrational panic and putting in place irresponsible, draconian policies that will deprive them of their chances at jobs and livelihoods.

The vast majority of climate scientists are telling us we face a crisis and we have to act.

No such survey has ever been taken. The surveys that have been taken say that scientists agree greenhouse gases have a warming influence and it may create some problems in the future, but they don’t agree it’s a crisis. In fact, the last IPCC Report concluded: “For most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers. Changes in population, age, income, technology, relative prices, lifestyle, regulation, governance, and many other aspects of socioeconomic development will have an impact on the supply and demand of economic goods and services that is large relative to the impact of climate change.” The real crisis is that we are being fed so much misinformation on the issue.

Fossil fuel-driven economic growth over the past 30 years has pushed us to the brink of a global climate catastrophe.

If the small amount of warming we have experienced were such a catastrophe, why has everything gotten so much better? Fossil fuel-driven prosperity has cut extreme poverty around the world by nearly two-thirds, allowed us to dramatically increase food production and cut hunger and malnutrition around the world, spread access to electricity to billions of people on every continent, cut child mortality in half, and added 7 years to average life expectancy. If you could have prevented the fossil fuel use at the cost of never having experienced all this progress, would you have done so?

We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do whatever it takes to stop the climate catastrophe.

No, we owe it to our children and grandchildren to stop exaggerating the climate change issue, because by doing so we are putting their future economic well-being at risk. Despite the global warming of the past few decades, human and economic vulnerability to climate extremes have declined, mainly in wealthy countries. Economic prosperity is the best protection against whatever changes the climate might have in store. The agenda of radical climate alarmists would put this at risk, not only making us economically worse off, but also more vulnerable to climate hazards.

It's incredibly short-sighted to say you're not willing to accept modest changes to your lavish lifestyle to stop the planet from burning up in our children's lifetime.

If only it were that simple. If we were just being asked to accept modest changes we could make them and be done with it. But the little policy gimmicks like an extra tax here and a curly lightbulb there don't even begin to cover what the alarmists have in mind. They want an end to fossil fuel use and a massive reduction in our living standards. If the planet really were burning up maybe we'd have to do it. But it's not. Warming is not nearly the crisis it's been made out to be. Our children will not thank us if we destroy the economy in a panicked reaction to foolish slogans about the sky catching fire then falling.

The science is clear: Canada faces a climate crisis

If climate change is a crisis, then everything is a crisis. The most that can be said is that many locations across Canada have warmed slightly over the past few decades, although on the scale of a whole century it's not a lot of warming. And the warming that occurred hasn't caused many obvious problems. The economy has prospered, human health has improved and life spans have grown by decades. The use of fossil fuels has been a big contributor to that. Even where things like increased urban flooding has occurred, it's doubtful greenhouse gases are the cause. If you're going to call this a crisis, then what isn't a crisis?

By causing a climate crisis you have stolen our children’s future.

Every age has its share of doomsters who are convinced the end is nigh. Somehow the modern version of this message is more extreme than ever before, even as the world achieves more prosperity and well-being than ever before. We do not face a climate crisis. The data don't tell us this and the experts don't claim it. What does amount to stealing our children's future is filling their heads with irrational panic and putting in place irresponsible, draconian policies that will deprive them of their chances at jobs and livelihoods.

The global response to the COVID-19 crisis shows us how the world could pull together and tackle the climate crisis.

No it doesn’t. World leaders came together and inflicted an emergency shutdown on the economy because the viral pandemic was a real crisis. Despite all of last year’s posturing about the phony “climate emergency” they were clearly not willing to inflict comparable economic harm, nor would it have been justified. Environmentalists who have spent years demanding a radical shutdown of global economic activity in the name of fighting climate change can barely conceal their excitement that it’s happening, albeit for other reasons. But they are doomed to disappointment. This shutdown is only temporary until the pandemic eases. After that everyone is going to want the economy to fire back up as quickly as possible.

“The burning of fossil fuels is destabilizing the very foundations of life on the planet.” (An actual quotation from a recent Canadian newspaper opinion piece.)

No, actually the burning of fossil fuels has radically improved the foundations of life on this planet. It has given us safe and inexpensive lighting, heating, cooling, refrigeration, transportation, electricity generation, construction, food production, and just about everything else we depend on for our standard of living. To the extent it has also caused a slight warming of the atmosphere due to CO2, that clearly has not turned the whole thing into a net loss. Weighing the costs and benefits together there is simply no question fossil fuel use has served to benefit humanity greatly.

Don't believe the naysayers: the transition to a low-carbon economy is an incredible economic opportunity and we need to embrace it now.

Great, then it will happen through private sector innovation and investment, the way all major technological transformations have happened. If you're right, we don't need to impose it from above using costly government interventions. But don't try to tell us both that it's a brilliant source of profits and job growth, and that it will only happen if we force it through with subsidies and regulations. It's one or the other, it can't be both.

The experts tell us that putting a price on carbon is the best way to tackle climate change.

Yes but they also say it's the only policy you should use. But no government is ever satisfied just with a carbon tax. They always add in subsidies, regulations, rules, standards and all sorts of other stuff the experts say they're not supposed to do if they really accept the logic of the carbon pricing theory. So we end up with taxes and rules, the worst of both worlds. And even if they just stuck with a carbon tax, the best it will do is reduce carbon emissions a little bit. It won't "tackle climate change" because it can never be done on a big enough scale.

The low-carbon transition is one of the greatest economic opportunities of our generation and we need to make sure Canada is at the forefront of it.

Great, if it’s an economic opportunity then we don’t need to force it on people through big-government regulations, they’ll choose it for themselves and the private sector will lead the way. No one had to be forced to switch from vinyl records to CDs, or from CDs to digital streaming. Businesses saw opportunities to profit by innovating and consumers saw a chance to replace old inferior products with better, cheaper substitutes. The problem with the “low-carbon transition” is that this isn’t what its proponents have in mind. They want us to give up reliable, low cost energy and cheap gas-powered cars in favour of unreliable high-cost energy and overpriced electric or hybrid cars. Since people don’t see this as an improvement, they have to be forced to do it through regulations and subsidies. That’s the very opposite of opportunity

A new study shows that, if we don’t make deep carbon emission cuts, climate change could cost X city/region/country $Y billion/trillion/quillion/bazillion dollars by the end of the century.

Fill in the X and Y and this claim gets repeated ad nauseum around the world, based on glossy consultant reports that governments seem to be unable to resist commissioning and then beating people over the head with. The first question to ask is: “Is the report’s ‘business-as-usual’ baseline by any chance the RCP8.5 scenario?” If the answer is yes, into the trash can it goes. You’re being lied to. The second question to ask is, if we do make your desired deep emission cuts, will it prevent the climate damages you foretell? If the answer is yes, into the trash can it goes. You’re being lied to. We already know that the same modeling techniques that predict dramatic warming also say policies like Kyoto and Paris won’t change the future path of warming, to say nothing of small local policies. The third question is, will the proposed policies cost more than the supposed damages they prevent? The answer is yes, by a long shot. So guess where your recommendation goes.

The time for talk is over. We have to act now.

The challenge has always been, and still is, to avoid actions that do more harm than good. "Action" that makes the situation worse is no solution. Mainstream estimates of the social damages of CO2 emissions imply that policies should not cost more than about US$50 per tonne of emissions for at least another decade. Many of the policies Canada has pursued ended up costing hundreds of dollars per tonne, and the radical actions that activists seek would cost even more. If the cure is worse than the disease then we're no farther ahead. So let's act, but not act foolishly.

The world's largest corporations get it: they are realizing that climate change is going to have a direct impact on their bottom line.

No, they're realizing that climate alarmism and hysteria are leading to bad policy decisions that will have a direct impact on their bottom line. Whether they do anything constructive to face that threat remains to be seen. Much of the time corporations seem determined to make the situation worse by piling on the adulation and fawning over celebrity alarmists in the hopes their company will be eaten last. So it was very refreshing to see US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin take a well-deserved swipe at Greta Thunberg in Davos last week, asking her to go study some economics before she lectures the world on how to manage the economy.

Endless debates about climate change are just wasting time and preventing us from taking action.

This claim is like someone saying when you’re lost in the woods you shouldn’t waste time debating which way to go before starting to run. If the “action” being proposed wasn't so costly and harmful we might not need to debate it. But when activists say the science requires we just stop asking questions and go ahead with policies that could plunge millions into brutal poverty or trap them there, and we find after carefully looking into the matter that the science doesn’t say what they claim, we should certainly not just give in and let them set the agenda because they’re shouting in a panic.

Canada needs to continue to show global leadership on the climate issue. Now is not the time to turn our back on the progress we've made since Rio in 1992.

By "leadership" do you mean mindlessly following the crowd in the same futile and costly gestures we've been stuck with for the past 30 years? We've spent a fortune on policies and treaties that we have known all along accomplish nothing even if everyone does what they say they're going to do, which they never do. Leadership would mean blowing the whistle on this fiasco and insisting only on policies where the benefits are higher than the costs, even if that means we end up doing next to nothing.

So you're saying you don't believe the science?

The “science" makes a lot of different claims based on a lot of different lines of evidence. You can't "believe" all of it because it's full of inconsistencies. Do you believe the scientific data that shows less warming than predicted by climate models? Or the science that shows hurricanes aren't more frequent or more severe? I certainly don't believe alarmist interpretations of the science that cherry-pick computer simulations and try to frighten us with implausible worst-case scenarios. A better question is whether you mainly believe the models or the data, because in a lot of key areas they disagree with each other.

The science is telling us we have to act now to stop climate change.

Can you be more specific? Which science? And what action? This response isn’t nitpicking, it’s a serious request. Please show me where the entire world of science has expressed itself in the way you are describing. And don’t just say “in the IPCC.” The IPCC has put out a lot of reports over the years, and they don’t point to any one specific action as being necessary. Nor do they demand we take urgent action or say a lot of other things people claim they say. Go and find where the world’s scientists have all come together and said what you think they did, and then we can talk.

97% of the world's scientists agree that climate change is a crisis, so why should I believe you?

No such survey has ever been taken so you should stop believing whoever told you that factoid. There have been surveys of climate experts, but they mostly focus on the non-controversial stuff, like whether carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which is why they get high levels of agreement. On the more contentious details the level of agreement quickly drops. Watch the CDN backgrounder on the supposed 97% consensus to find out what the surveys really asked, and how much disagreement there really is.

Subscribe to our

Newsletter

SUBSCRIBE
searchtwitteryoutube-playfacebook-official