A Free-Market Energy Blog

Toward a Fossil-fueled, Prosperous Future (new NIPCC report released)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- October 8, 2018

“Nearly all the impacts of fossil fuel use on human well-being are net positive (benefits minus costs) or are simply unknown.”

The global war on fossil fuels, which commenced in earnest in the 1980s and reached a fever pitch in the second decade of the twenty-first century, was never founded on sound science or economics. The authors of and contributors to Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels urge the world’s policymakers to acknowledge this truth and end that war.”

In a challenge to world leaders and policymakers engaged in climate alarmism/forced energy transformation, 117 scholars have released a new report calling for an end on “the global war on fossil fuels [which] … was never founded on sound science or economics.”

Some excerpts from Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels: Summary for Policymakers  follow.

Human Prosperity

The primary reason humans burn fossil fuels is to produce the goods and services that make human prosperity possible. Put another way, humans burn fossil fuels to live more comfortable, safer, and higher-quality lives. The close connection between fossil fuels and human prosperity is revealed by the history of the Industrial Revolution and analysis of more recent technological innovations.

Fossil fuels are essential for fertilizer production and concrete manufacture, and responsible for such revolutionary technologies as the steam engine and cotton gin, early railroads and steamships, electric power and the U.S. electric grid, the internal combustion engine, and the computer and Internet revolution.

In particular, the spread of electrification made possible by fossil fuels has transformed the modern world, making possible many of the devices, services, comforts, and freedoms we take for granted (Smil, 2005, 2010; Maddison, 2010; Gordon, 2016). Access to affordable, plentiful, and reliable energy is closely associated with key measures of global human development including per-capita GDP, consumption expenditure, urbanization rate, life expectancy at birth, and the adult literacy rate (United Nations Development Programme, 2010; Šlaus and Jacobs, 2011).

Scholars have closely examined the connection between the cost and availability of reliable energy (from fossil fuels and other sources) and economic growth, typically measured as per-capita GDP. This research reveals a positive relationship between low energy prices and human prosperity (Clemente, 2010; Bezdek, 2014; 2015a).

A similar level of human prosperity is not possible by relying on alternative fuels such as solar and wind power. Wind and solar power are intermittent and unreliable, much more expensive than fossil fuels, cannot be deployed without the use of fossil fuels to build them and to provide back-up power, cannot power most modes of transportation, and cannot increase dispatchable capacity sufficiently to meet more than a small part of the rising demand for electricity (Rasmussen, 2010; Bryce, 2010; Smil, 2010, 2016; Stacey and Taylor, 2016).

The contribution of fossil fuels to human prosperity can be estimated in numerous ways, making agreement on a single cost estimate difficult. However, estimates converge on very high amounts: Coal alone delivered economic benefits in the United States worth between $1.275 trillion and $1.76 trillion in 2015 and supported approximately 6.8 million jobs (Rose and Wei, 2006). Reducing reliance on fossil fuels in the United States by 40 percent from 2012 to 2030 would cost $478 billion and an average of 224,000 jobs each year (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2014).

Reducing GHG emissions to 90 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 “would reduce world living standards in 2050 to a level they were more than two centuries prior. That is, virtually all of the economic gains of the industrial revolution and everything that followed would be nullified” (Bezdek, 2015b, p. 77).

Conclusion

Fossil fuels have benefited humanity by making possible the prosperity that occurred since the first Industrial Revolution, which made possible investments in goods and services that are essential to protecting human health and prolonging human life.

Fossil fuels powered the technologies that reduced the environmental impact of a growing human population, saving space for wildlife. IPCC and national governments around the world claim the negative impacts of global warming on human health and security, occurring now or likely to occur in the future, more than offset the benefits that come from the use of fossil fuels. 

This claim lacks any scientific or economic basis. Nearly all the impacts of fossil fuel use on human well-being are net positive (benefits minus costs) or are simply unknown. The alleged negative human health impacts due to air pollution are greatly exaggerated by researchers who violate the scientific method and rely too heavily on epidemiological studies finding weak relative risks. The alleged negative impacts on human security due to climate change depend on tenuous chains of causality that find little support in the peer reviewed literature.

IPCC and its national counterparts have not conducted proper cost-benefit analyses of fossil fuels, global warming, or regulations designed to force a transition away from fossil fuels, nor are they likely to do so given their political agendas. The CBAs conducted for this volume find the social benefits of fossil fuels exceed the costs by a wide margin.

A forced reduction of GHG emissions to 90 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 would require that world GDP in 2050 be reduced to only 4% of what it is projected to be in that year. Most regulations aimed at reducing GHG emissions have costs that are hundreds and even thousands of times greater than their benefits.

The global war on fossil fuels, which commenced in earnest in the 1980s and reached a fever pitch in the second decade of the twenty-first century, was never founded on sound science or economics. The authors of and contributors to Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels urge the world’s policymakers to acknowledge this truth and end that war.