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  • Peter

    December 6, 2020 at 07:32

    You make some good points here Ken.

    I also read Alex Epstein’s book with great interest.

    In case not seen this is a short summary of the book’s argument that I posted on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/TheAustrian3/status/1333182793203986433?s=20

    Here are some further thoughts on The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels:

    I agree with Alex’s philosophical approach to assessing the ethics of energy production.

    We need to think about the problem of energy from the standpoint of human flourishing, and weigh any benefits of CO2 reduction against the huge opportunity costs associated with that action.

    There is a trade-off to be made if we are to transition to using only wind and solar. There is no “economic opportunity” that can result from reducing fossil fuel use. It may, however, be a very painful thing we need to do because of the drastic negative side effects.

    It is also important to acknowledge the inherent hostility of the natural environment to human life and the contribution fossil fuels make to our protection from it.

    Having said that, I do have reservations about the scientific basis for claiming that climate change won’t be that bad (or that it might even be positive).

    I actually emailed Alex with some questions after the Nov 30th seminar with Saifedean.

    Here is an extract from that email summarising my main reservations…

    Whilst I’m sympathetic to your book’s arguments, I am hesitant to conclude that nothing needs to be done to limit CO2 emissions.

    My main objection is the following:

    CO2 levels in the atmosphere are currently the highest they have been in 800,000 years, and have risen at an unprecedented rate.

    The earth is a complex system and, as your book’s critique of climate models shows, we don’t fully understand how the climate works.

    An argument that Nassim Taleb makes about complex systems (see: https://www.thendobetter.com/investing/2017/9/18/nassim-taleb-climate-change-risk) is that, because we don’t understand them, we shouldn’t alter their parameters too much.

    Radically altering a key parameter like CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere could give rise to relatively sudden and unpredictable effects, and we don’t have another planet if things go wrong.

    Taleb argues we should act in accordance with the precautionary principle and not increase CO2 too much. Given the enormity of what is at stake, he says the burden of proof is on those who say climate change will not be catastrophic, rather than the other way round.

    Moreover (and this relates to my question during Monday’s seminar) although your book does examine climate models, I think a case can be made that they have actually stood up reasonably well over time.

    The Hansen model you referenced as a key example of a falsified model isn’t actually that far off where we are now (the gap has closed somewhat since your book was written).

    Furthermore, the model was created in 1988 before the Montreal Protocol came into effect, which radically reduced CFC emissions, putting downward pressure on the Hansen curve (this is an argument made by The Guardian here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/jun/25/30-years-later-deniers-are-still-lying-about-hansens-amazing-global-warming-prediction).

    Given the above, it seems reasonable to take climate models seriously, even if they’re not spot on.

    If something close to what they predict transpires, we would see a rise of several degrees Celsius over the coming decades.

    Whilst one or two degrees divergence could conceivably be okay (or even a benefit to mankind), a strong case can be made that such a large temperature increase takes humans into unchartered territory, with potentially catastrophic consequences. These consequences could hit us more quickly than we could adapt.<i style=”font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;”>”