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Climate Retreat: Thomas Friedman on COP26 (energy density, anyone?)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- November 17, 2021

Two planets are talking to each other. One looks like a beautiful blue marble and the other a dirty brown ball.

“What on earth happened to you?” the beautiful planet asks the brown one.

“I had Homo sapiens,” answers the brown planet.

“Don’t worry,” says the blue planet. “They don’t last long.”

Climate alarmism has turned into a big funny. The above, a joke at COP26 recalled by Thomas Friedman, says much about the stalled-out Church of Deep Ecology. It seems that enough governments are self-interested to slow down the march on road to serfdom–and a lot of Homo sapiens really care about energy affordability and reliability.

So much for the quixotic quest to substitute dilute, intermittent energies for dense mineral energies.

Of course, the energy intelligentsia refused to deal with that stubborn thing called Energy Density, opting for a blank check for wind, solar, and batteries. After all, didn’t Mark Jacobson assure all that a pure renewable energy economy was doable by 2050? [1]

Back to Tom Friedman, climate alarmist extraordinaire at the New York Times. Reading his latest reveals the mess of climate policy and a turn to mysticism for climate salvation. If only he understood W. S. Jevons’s early analysis and the modern work of Vaclav Smil (SUVs here, airplanes here, and natural gas here and here).

But as Milton Friedman noted back in 1979:

The only person who can truly persuade you is yourself. You must turn the issues over in your mind at leisure, consider the many arguments, let them simmer, and after a long time turn your preferences into convictions.


Here are excerpts from Thomas L. Friedman, “The Climate Summit Has Me Very Energized, and Very Afraid” (Nov. 9, 2021) with my comments.

I spent last week talking to all sorts of people gathered for the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, and it left me with profoundly mixed emotions.

Comment: Twenty-sixth meeting–and virtually nothing has happened. Should there be a 27th?

Having been to most of the climate summits since Bali in 2007, I can tell you this one had a very different feel. I was awed by the energy of all the youth on the streets demanding that we rise to the challenge of global warming and by some of the amazing new technological and market fixes being proposed by innovators and investors. This was not the old days — everyone waiting for the deals cut by the priesthood of climate diplomats huddled behind closed doors. This was the many talking to the many — and I am buoyed by that.

Comment: Quick fixes, paper promises.

But for me, there was one question that hovered over every promise coming out of this summit: When you see how hard it’s been for governments to get their citizens to just put on a mask in stores, or to get vaccinated, to protect themselves, their neighbors and their grandparents from being harmed or killed by Covid-19,how in the world are we going to get big majorities to work together globally and make the lifestyle sacrifices needed to dampen the increasingly destructive effects of global warming — for which there are treatments but no vaccine? That’s magical thinking, and it demands a realistic response.

Comment: So Amory Lovins and Joe Romm and many others were wrong? They told us that the ‘soft energy path’ was a free lunch, even a lunch you are paid to eat!

For the first time, it felt to me that the adult delegates inside the conference halls were more afraid of the kids outside than they were of one another or the press….

Comment: So what does that tell you other than alarmist parents indoctrinating the kids and then not knowing what to do with them? What a strange state of affairs.

Gen Z — all those who were born between 1997 and 2012 and grew up as digital natives — is now the world’s largest population cohort, 2.5 billion strong, and their presence is palpable at the summit. They know that later is over, that later will be too late and that sticking to our business-as-usual trajectory could heat up the planet by the end of the century to levels no Homo sapiens have ever lived in.

Comment: Reeducation is ahead for the climate indoctrinated–and they might just be upset at the cult that wasted their time and emotions.

One day last week, Greta Thunberg, the 18-year-old Swedish climate activist, and hundreds of other youth gathered at a Glasgow park for a snap rally to call out global leaders with the chant, “You can shove your climate crisis up your. …” I watched the video and couldn’t make out the last word. Must have been “glass.” ….

Comment: A funny from Tom. Climate change is the new punch line. It causes all bad things …. including Greta’s scary look and angry words.

Good news, Gen Zers: You won the debate on climate change. And thanks for that.

Comment: The kids … they know science better than the adults?

Both governments and business are now saying: “We get it. We’re on it.”

Comment: Greenwash and action around the edges. But it is a fossil-fuel world because of the need for modern, first-class energies.

The bad news: There is still a huge gap between what scientists say is needed by way of immediately reducing use of the coal, oil and gas that drive global warming and what governments and business — and, yes, average citizens — are ready to do if it comes to a choice of heat or eat.

Comment: Thank you Tom! Tell us more about the downsides to wind and solar and batteries to put the whole climate crusade under the microscope.

As energy experts point out, it is never a good idea to take off your belt until your suspenders are on tight. Governments will not quit dirty fossil fuels until there is sufficient clean energy to replace them. And that will take longer or require much greater sacrifices than are being discussed in any depth at the summit.

Comment: Gosh, why did we not hear this before in your decades of climate reporting? Have you ever explained the risks and downsides to renewable energies? And please, do not blame the crisis on not having enough bad energy, which crowds out good.

Read this from CNBC’s website on Nov. 3 and weep: “The global supply of renewables will grow by 35 gigawatts from 2021 to 2022, but global power demand growth will go up by 100 gigawatts over the same period. … Countries will have to tap traditional fuel sources to meet the rest of the demand. … That shortfall will only widen as economies reopen and travel resumes,” which will spark “sharp rises in prices for natural gas, coal and electricity.”

Comment: Thank you again, Tom. But why not such analysis before?

We need to stop deluding ourselves that we can have it all — that we can do foolish things like close down nuclear plants in Germany that provided massive amounts of clean energy, just to show how green we are, and then ignore the fact that without sufficient renewables in place, Germany is now back to burning more of the dirtiest coal. This moral preening is really counterproductive.

Comment: Thanks again, but gas-fired power plants and coal plants are also vital for today’s energy affordability and reliability.

Energy is a scale problem. It requires a TRANSITION, and that means a transition from the dirtiest fossil fuels to cleaner fuels — like natural gas or nuclear — to wind and solar and, eventually, sources that don’t today even exist. Those who propose ignoring that transition risk producing a huge backlash against the whole green movement this winter if people can’t heat their homes or run their factories.

Comment: And please read Vaclav Smil. The climate math between a UN goal and reality gets worse and worse every day–and removes the rationale for mitigation versus resiliency for the climate dollar.

… now would be a good time to start praying. Pray that technology plus artificial intelligence can close that gap between what today’s Homo sapiens are actually willing to do to mitigate climate change and what is actually needed. And pray that Homo sapiens start to understand that preserving our future almost certainly will require some pain. Because right now, without sacrifice, our only hope is to design and deploy technologies that allow ordinary people to do extraordinary things at scale…..

Comment: Prayer to the God of Climate. What a last resort!

Comment: Al Gore. His record of failed prognostications, as well as his huge carbon footprint, speak for themselves. And now he has a Big Brother plan.

“We humans don’t have big claws or razor-sharp teeth to survive,” Karsner told me. “Instead, we were endowed with large brains, and I still believe the enlightened self-interest of our species will drive us to come together and use our collective brains to develop and deploy the tools” we need to thrive on this planet….

Comment: This is not an argument for climate alarmism but liberated entrepreneurship to cut hyperbole down to size.

Comment: Which brings up wind, solar, biomass, and batteries taking over the landscape, energy sprawl at its worst.

Comment: Yes, a sea change in climate policy is at the door. And Friedman needs to explain the log-over-linear aspect of climate forcing to land this point. Mitigation loses steam as the atmosphere fills up with CO2, and with COP26’s failure, we are this much closer to adaption as the only game in town.

Mother Nature, Rockström remarked to me, has evolved an amazing tool kit to keep temperatures from fluctuating too hot or too cold and maintain us in this Garden of Eden climate that we’ve enjoyed for the last 11,000 or so years — which enabled us to build civilization.

Comment: This is deep ecology that refuses to accept manmade warmth as either benign or positive.

… WATCH OUT. Our planet can go from a self-cooling, self-moderating system to a self-warming system. If that happens, adaptation will be a daily struggle for survival for hundreds of millions of people.

“We have more and more evidence that the planet is more fragile than we thought,” concluded Rockström. So, it may be hard, it may be impossible, but this is no time to give up on trying to phase out fossil fuels and prevent these tipping points from tipping.

Comment: Tipping points …. wolf at the door…. Old hat. All hat and no cattle. All sizzle and no steak.

How about climate policy as the real threat, not climate change?


[1] Jacobson’s grand plan was dissected by critics, after which he sued and lost, is summarized here.

One Comment for “Climate Retreat: Thomas Friedman on COP26 (energy density, anyone?)”

  1. John W. Garrett  

    I do wish that somebody (anybody!) kept close track of the multitudes of inaccurate and failed predictions and forecasts issued by windbags like Fat Albert and blowhards like Friedman.

    It is difficult to understand why anybody pays attention to Fat Albert or Friedman after decades of being wrong.


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