Richard Fernandez reports at his blog a speech given (no link) by a senior Australian climatologist who raised an interesting question. We often see people giving us the latest statistics and scientific opinion on AGW faster than the speed of light. In fact I think we ought to have a new classification: climate science groupies who like rock & roll groupies perform exactly the same function for climate science. Rock star groupies can recite the star’s song backwards and possibly sing it in reverse. Climate science groupies can recite the latest AGW paper like that also.
The climate scientist Richard was reporting on had the following to say:
[W]e are now being asked to cut back on CO2 concentrations to pre-industrial levels at the practical cost of reducing our available energy sources. What nobody has studied is what this reduction in available civilizational energy will do to our resilience. The earth’s climate has been changing for as far back as we’ve studied it, and humanity has responded to climatological variations by adaptation. But you need energy to adapt. Fuel to move food to flooded areas; evacuate victims. Moderate excessive heat; warm against excessive cold. Rebuild after storms. All this requires energy. What does it mean when, in the name of reducing carbon emissions, we reduce our civilizational energy sources and thereby reduce our resilience? Who has thought this through?’
This is a damn good question.
This is the first major top-down forced substitution like this we have ever seen in the history of the modern world. The other two conversions from wood to coal to oil was a bottom up affair in that the market made the transfer as technology created the price point for their introduction. People found better methods to both extract and burn coal during the industrial revolution. St. John D. Rockefeller (who should be canonized if he were Catholic) found ways to refine oil much more cheaply, lowering the price of the refined petroleum to the point where the common man could afford petrol to run a car. These were bottom up transfers or conversions and they immeasurably improved living standards… and yes happiness too.
It’s worrying how we suddenly see so many people who often display little or no faith in the workings of the market telling us that the market will be able to deliver what we need with little pain. It’s worthwhile pondering the question of just what are the consequences of reducing “over civilizational energy sources” with a top down transfer. Libertarians by and large abhor top down changes like a vampire seeing daylight.
No doubt in time modern technology will deliver us to the promised land. But does Penny Wong know that we can reduce CO2 emissions by 90% by 2050 without creating major economic problems. How does she and Malcolm Turnbull know the rate of technological change will match the dates that are being set for emissions limits? And if we don’t achieve it painlessly what are we prepared to give up? Anyone prepared to give up the welfare state for AGW? Somehow I have my doubts.
That’s an interesting question all by itself. Are people like Al Gore and his supporters prepared to sacrifice the welfare state for AGW mitigation if CO2 emissions are the “biggest moral dilemma in our time”. I wonder what they would say?