The Fatal Policy Flaw transcript
And world leaders like to brag that they are “taking action” on climate, or “solving the climate crisis.”
But there’s a catch, and it’s one they’re not keen to talk about. Namely, they know it won’t work.
The same scientists who have told them there’s a problem have also told them that none of these policies will make any difference to the global climate. No matter how much they cost, they won’t “tackle” or “solve” climate change. In fact, they won’t do much of anything.
Let’s begin with the Kyoto Protocol which was signed in December 1997. It was an agreement that, if implemented, would have capped CO2 emissions from wealthy countries and reduced global CO2 emissions by about 5%.
Well, in a 1998 study, climate modeler Dr. Tom Wigley looked at what Kyoto would accomplish if fully implemented.
He showed that by the modelers’ own assumptions, full implementation of Kyoto would have had barely noticeable effects on climate over the 21st century. Atmospheric CO2 would still have gone up, just very slightly more slowly. Instead of reaching its forecast “no Kyoto Accord” level of 680 parts per million in the year 2100, with Kyoto fully implemented by everybody, it would have gotten there in 2105, just five years later.
So, massively cutting human energy use worldwide, with all the misery that would have resulted, would have yielded the same outcome as “business as usual” a century from now.
Or, to be fair, two tenths of a degree under the best-case scenario. As in, no real-world effect at all. Nothing you’d notice, not directly, not indirectly through its effects. Bupkis.
And, Kyoto turned out to be too expensive to implement. So most countries failed to keep their promises. That’s why Kyoto failed. It offered huge costs for minimal benefits.
So what about Paris? Here’s the harsh truth that politicians and activists don’t seem to want to hear.
A 2016 study by Doctor Bjorn Lomborg showed that if all signatories of the Paris Agreement do everything they promise, global average temperatures will only be about one tenth of one degree lower by the year 2100, than if we do nothing at all.
So as with Kyoto, under Paris, we get the same global average temperature increase as if we don’t cut emissions, though, a tiny bit slower, in return for enormous sacrifice in terms of standard of living.
It’s the Kyoto problem all over again. The policy is too costly to implement and too ineffective to solve the alleged problem. It’s all cost and no benefits, and we’ve learned nothing.
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And now, back to me.
Now, notice that the argument I’m making here has nothing to do with whether man-made global warming is a problem or even a crisis. It’s about whether by the alarmists' own logic, the alarmists’ own recommendations, would fix the crisis that they are certain exists. And the answer is a resounding, and-you-know-it “No.” It doesn’t matter how urgent you think it is that we do something. If the thing you’re calling for us to do can’t possibly work based on the same reasoning that says we have to do something, it makes no sense to do it.
So, in looking at this issue, don’t get distracted by calls to action, or insults about “deniers”. Focus here on the crucial intellectual point that the same scientists who call for these actions say they won’t accomplish anything. You know a great many alarmists may not understand this point, and if so it needs to be brought to their attention. But the serious modelers do understand it perfectly well, and they are doing us all a real disservice by not being frank about several key aspects of the situation.
The reason climate policies don’t have any effect over the 21st century, is that the global carbon cycle is so big compared to human-made carbon emissions, and most emissions aren’t even covered by the treaties, especially those from developing countries who, taken together, account for more than half the world’s emissions.
What it means is that policies that are affordable accomplish next to nothing. Policies that would actually stop climate change would devastate the global economy.
Picture a global shutdown like the one we experienced for COVID-19, but lasting for 50 years. That’s the scale we’re talking about. Or rather, that’s the scale we’re not talking about. Nobody is talking about it because it would make no sense.
It would make no sense because even the worst-case projections of the effects of climate change over the coming century only involve shaving a few percentage points off a growth path that leads to doubling or tripling of global income.
Trying to prevent that minor harm by destroying the global economy would be like treating a sprained wrist by cutting the patient’s arm off then letting him bleed to death. Wouldn’t make sense even if you put a tourniquet on and the patient didn’t bleed to death because by the alarmists’ own models, fully implementing Paris wouldn’t change global temperature at all. Just the way cutting the arm off won’t make the wrist work.
So, let’s stop pretending that proposed or actual climate change policy will “stop” climate change, or even slow it down in any significant way. It won’t and they know it.
When it comes to practical measures we really only have two strategic options. One is, we let economies grow and then we deal with whatever climate changes are coming our way with the extra wealth that’s been generated. The other is to waste a megaton of money on a futile effort to stop climate change, and then deal with whatever climate changes are coming from a much worse economic position.
Now if anyone thinks there’s a third option, in which we stop the climate from changing significantly, they need, if I may coin a phrase here, “start listening to the science.”
For the Climate Discussion Nexus, I’m John Robson.