What hope do we have when even senior, supposedly sober Telegraph columnists engage in such ludicrous reasoning on climate change as this:
If it’s a choice between Trump and Greta, I’m with the teenage zealot …
Where have our winters gone? I miss them .. It is hard to recall an old-fashioned winter where it would snow at least two or three times between December and April.
You mean you’ve already forgotten those bitingly cold winters we’ve been having in the last decade?
I am reluctant to attribute what might prove to be temporary weather glitches to long-term climate change, but there is clearly something going on that cannot be ignored.
Reluctant? You’ve just done that.
We don’t have to buy into the apocalyptic angst of Greta Thunberg, on show again in Davos yesterday, to recognise that something has to be done.
He actually said ‘Something Has To Be Done’. How about we do a snow dance, Philip? That’s ‘something’.
Whether or not you are a sceptic about the impact of CO2 on the climate or question man’s involvement in producing the greenhouse gas, our energy future is a non-carbon one, like it or not.
Our energy future involves a lot of talk about non-carbon energy sources, while relying on ‘carbon’ for a long time to come.
Virtually every government has committed to this as an overt aspect of public policy and those that haven’t, like China or the US, have a rapidly growing green energy sector poised to exploit the move to a carbon‑free future.
You mean the China that’s building coal-fired power plants at a rate of knots? That China?
Perhaps Mr Trump would be persuadable if he were to recognise there is a hard‑headed economic imperative here. He should listen to someone like Marco Alvera, an oil and gas CEO who understands what is going on and has ideas to address it.
At a conference in Venice at the weekend, he said we should commit to the one clean energy source that is plentiful, easy to transport and getting cheaper to produce.
Ah, another ‘journalist-went-to-a-talk’ story. This is where all this is coming from.
Mr Alvera likes to adapt the argument known as Pascal’s wager to our climate change conundrum. The 17th‑century French philosopher and mathematician asked what we should do if we had to bet our lives on the existence of God. Pascal posited that the rational response was to behave as though he did exist because we have nothing much to lose if it turns out that he doesn’t, but risk eternal damnation if he does.
Climate change is the same. If Greta is right then the consequences of doing nothing are calamitous. But if she is wrong, changing to a cleaner energy future is a good thing in itself and can even generate growth and prosperity.
Seriously? Pascal’s Wager, which has been long ridiculed by most scientists and philosophers and thinkers, is now the basis for the largest and riskiest economic and political transformation in human history?
Pascal’s Wager justifies any proposed change in response to any possible threat. It’s possible that all the ducks in the world are really super-intelligent and they’re about to launch a takeover, so we need to kill them all. It’s possible that nylon stockings are eventually going to cause a nuclear explosion. Make your own ones up. The consequences of doing nothing, should these claims turns out to be true, are calamitous. In fact, they’re far more calamitous than most of the possible climate change scenarios.
Proper risk analysis, on the other hand, tells us to look at probabilities of the possible bad outcomes, not just how bad some possible bad outcome would be, were it true. The catastrophic climate change scenarios all have tiny probabilities. Even the IPCC admits that.
(James Delingpole tackled the Pascal’s Wager argument a decade ago in Watermelons in a clear fashion, see pp. 126-8.)
Then we have to look at the costs of the proposed action. The real costs, that is, not just vague claims like ‘Oh, moving everything to solar energy would be, like, you know, cool, my friend went to this talk once and she said that apparently solar works just as well as coal’. The costs – the real costs – are what needs be weighed against alternative courses of action.
The costs of abandoning fossil fuels are not zero. Not even remotely. Changing to renewables will be massively expensive, destroy jobs, and hinder prosperity, because they cannot provide anywhere near the energy we need. ‘Generate growth and prosperity’ is nonsense, and Johnston should be ashamed of himself for falling for this.
Besides, nothing we do will make much difference to CO2 levels. We can all start taking holidays on sailing boats instead of planes and the difference it will make will round up, for all practical purposes, to zero.
In the past, hydrogen has been too expensive relative to fossil fuels but that will change as new taxes are loaded onto coal and gas to meet CO2 targets and the cost of renewable energy continues to fall.
If we’re loading new taxes onto coal and gas then most of us will be poorer. On the one hand people like Johnston say ‘It’s like Pascal’s wager, it doesn’t cost anything to change to renewables, so we should do it anyway’, but the reality is cripplingly high energy bills for most people. Which people like him wave away with exactly this sort of comment:
No one pretends the transition will be straightforward
If I had a penny for every time I heard an environmentalist use the euphemism “No one pretends the transition will be straightforward”. It’s doublespeak for ‘Many of you will be crying with fear every time you get an energy bill, but that’s worth it because we have to be doing something’.
but if there’s widespread adoption of the technology and the necessary infrastructure, it will become increasingly affordable.
Translation: ‘Possibly your grandchildren, or maybe your great grandchildren, will see a day when energy poverty doesn’t rule their lives. Although don’t bet on it. But at least the temperature of the Earth will have only gone up 0.0012 rather than 0.0013 degrees’.
You do not have to be a teenage zealot to see sense in that.
You don’t have to be a teenage zealot to think this makes sense, but being an old fool seems to help.