A Free-Market Energy Blog

“Save Earth”: Houston Chronicle Goes 1970s (Malthusian alarm getting long in the tooth)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- April 30, 2019

“All economic pain and no environmental gain is bad politics coming and going. The Democrats do not seem to want to touch it, if their vote on the Green New Deal was any indication.”

” … history will judge the climate alarm as exaggerated, CO2 as the gas of life, and carbon-based energy and modern living as heaven on earth. Governor Abbott, thank you.”

During the day, Houston, Texas, bustles as the oil and gas capital of the world. The daily business fare as reported by the hometown Houston Chronicle is a new offshore project here, new refinery or petrochemical plant there, new onshore production plays elsewhere.

And then there is a whole new industry within an industry, LNG exports from Texas and Louisiana to distant ports–and even LNG tank cars crossing into Mexico.

But on the Chronicle editorial page, an alternative reality plays out. Some years ago, as documented by former Chronicle reporter Bill Dawson, the Houston Chronicle has gone Left–hard Left. The no-conservatives-no- libertarians-allowed editorial board delights in sticking it to the fossil-fuel industry.

BUT fossil fuels just keep on winning as the rest of the paper documents on a daily basis.

The Chronicle’s animus is partly about its intense dislike of President Trump, but its fossil-fuel animus existed during the Obama years. Their editorial board has bought into climate alarmist as advocated by the certain climate alarmist, Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M.

“Save Earth” Editorial

Below is the lead unsigned (editorial-board) editorial from last month, Save Earth. (Its full title on the Internet was “Save the Planet, Gov. Abbott. What’s the Worst That Can Happen?”)

Thoroughly Malthusian, the editorial board probably has no idea that the climate crusade is but the latest in a long string of exaggerated problems–and should be scrutinized as such rather than believed at face value. It was Peak Oil just a decade ago; Peak Demand a few years back–and Global Cooling before Global Warming in the 1970s. I editorialized about these false alarms in the old Houston Chronicle, in fact.

The “Save Earth” editorial-board editorial is parsed below (in red) with my comments in black.

Some religious people say everybody finds God in the end. We’ve all heard stories of death-bed baptisms and conversions. Maybe the converted are motivated by fear, maybe by an elementary risk assessment.

If God exists, even a devout atheist has much to gain by accepting Him. On the other hand, the guy dying has nothing to lose in saying a quick prayer. Let’s apply that logic to another existential pickle: global warming.

Bad analogy. Saying a quick prayer is virtually costless–taxing/regulating fossil fuels out of existence portends a hell-on-earth. After all, the market share of fossil fuels is 80 percent in the US, which accounts for about 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. (The global share for oil, gas, and coal is 85 percent.)

Politics has made the term radioactive in some parts of this country, including Texas, even as the warnings from climate scientists grow more dire by the week.

Comment: Citizen voters do not believe that theirs is a climate in crisis beyond what they read here in the excitable media. Not only Texas but also Washington State is saying NO to a carbon tax, with good reason. The politics do not seem to work, Left or Right.

Of course, we all wish this warming stuff really was nonsense, that our great-grandkids would some day stroll down a sidewalk in downtown Houston without needing galoshes, maybe even take an Alaskan vacation and spot a real live polar bear — in the wild.

Comment: The Chronicle hurts its case by being so black/white alarmist.

Nice fantasy. But we can’t stake our future on wishful thinking. Seems better to err on the side of caution — on the side of science.

Comment: The precautionary principle works against climate policy, not only physical climate change itself. And how does sloppy, watered down politicized global warming policies the world over constitute an insurance policy? The premiums are far too expensive, and the redemption value speculative, makinge insurance analogies off-base.

Industries and economies built on fossil fuels will lose money initially, but nothing they can’t make up with investments in forward-thinking technology and alternative energy.

Comment: Present pain–please quantify. Future benefits–please quantify. Green New Deal anyone?

If human behavior increases global warming — and more than 97 percent of climate scientists say it does — we’ve got everything to gain by taking action, including the survival of our whole planet and mankind. In the unlikelihood that it’s an elaborate hoax or a gross miscalculation, what do we have to lose by ridding the air of some heat-trapping gases?

Comment: The qualitative effect of anthropogenic warming from the enhanced greenhouse effect is not a per se problem. Modest warming and modest precipitation increases are positives to climate economists. Any characterization of a “market failure” from the human influence is speculative (and must negate the benefits of CO2 fertilization), and analytic failure and government failure urge caution for any coercive solution.

The rest of us earthlings will get cleaner air to breathe; more sustainable energy infrastructure; burgeoning new energy industries, some hopefully based in Texas, employing thousands; a few species saved. Overall, sounds like a good bet.

Comment: Forced energy transformation by the political means is a recipe for failure. Does the Chronicle editorial board really want industrial wind turbines everywhere? Omnipresent solar farms? Building-sized batteries to deal with intermittency?

That’s why it’s so curious when politicians refuse to even entertain the idea of a death-bed conversion on climate.

Take Gov. Greg Abbott. In December, he spoke of the “urgent” need to “future-proof” the Gulf Coast after a sweeping report by his Commission to Rebuild Texas recommended dramatic reforms in a state where sea levels are rising and storms are becoming more frequent and more severe. But asked by a reporter whether human impact on climate change affected Texas’ weather disasters, Abbott replied: “Listen, I’m not a scientist. Impossible for me to answer that question.”

Comment: Governor Abbott does not trust the scientists, who have a different agenda in mind than prosperous modern living. But a lot of the rest of us want that. And there are plenty of top scientists who will correct climate exaggeration that hides behind an alleged “consensus.”

The very next month, 27 climate scientists, researchers and professors from schools such as Texas A&M, the University of Texas at Austin and Rice University sent the governor a letter offering to brief him on climate science and what Texas needs to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to warming. The governor didn’t respond.

Comment: I personally editorialized against Abbott giving an audience to the Leftist scientists who have all but shut out skeptics of climate alarmism from academia.

“No one ever contacted us,” Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences at A&M, told the Chronicle editorial board. “My sense is that many of our Texas legislators would rather wear a ‘Hillary 2016’ T-shirt around the capitol than have to confront what the science is telling us about potential climate impacts on Texas.”

Comment: I have dealt with the exaggerations of Professor Dessler, the certain climate alarmist, in critical posts, including here and here.

And what is science telling us? The letter to Abbott hit the highlights. By mid-century, the Southern Great Plains, which includes Texas, will experience 30 to 60 more 100-degree days each year. Higher temperatures could result in an additional 1,300 deaths per year by century’s end. Up to $20.9 billion in coastal property is projected to be flooded at high tide by 2030.

Comment: Taking the 4th Assessment at face value is a huge mistake. A whole different set of scientists has and will take this politicized document to the cleaners. (Stay tuned for a second opinion.)

What’s their source for such gloomy predictions? The National Climate Assessment, produced by more than a dozen federal agencies. Texas, as one of the biggest U.S. wind energy producers, can play a key role in reducing emissions and drive future changes. “The only thing missing is leadership,” the scientists wrote.

Comment: All economic pain and no environmental gain is bad politics coming and going. The Democrats do not seem to want to touch it, if their vote on the Green New Deal was any indication.

Even in Washington, we’re seeing leadership among Republicans. The top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee recently wrote Democrats a letter asking to “work together to find bipartisan climate solutions.” A climate change caucus last Congress had 45 Republican House members. Republicans from the late John McCain to former Secretary of State James Baker have called for aggressive action. George H.W. Bush campaigned on it back in 1988, declaring on the shore of Lake Erie, “Those who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect are forgetting about the White House effect.”

Comment: The Republicans have given “lip service” to appease the critics of fossil fuels and industrialization, but the Green New Deal has awoken a large majority to the fact that socialism, Marxism, and central planning is really what the climate debate is about.

In the end, it was lip service. As president, Bush squandered a precious chance to stop climate change.

Comment: Lip service then, lip service now. All good–except the fakery involved in the appeasement.

Abbott is squandering Texas’ chance. Not because he doesn’t get it. Because he prioritizes votes from skeptics who seem to think an occasional snowball negates warming trends spanning a century.

What a legacy. Someday, history books may note that the governor of Texas had a chance to help heal the planet and build new, sustainable energy industries in the process. Salvation sent him an invitation and he didn’t even write back.

Final Comment: Just the opposite, history will judge the climate alarm as exaggerated, CO2 as the gas of life, and carbon-based energy and modern living as heaven on earth. Governor Abbott, thank you.

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