“Al Gore was right about one thing in his rant at the World Economic Forum in Davos: CO2 emissions have continued to climb and show no sign of being affected by ‘climate policy’.” (Jenkins, below)
In less than 800 words, Holman Jenkins, a Wall Street Journal opinion columnist (Feb. 4 – 5, 2023), cut the whole global warming mania down to size. Basically, it’s all over but the shouting. The science is “looking up,” (it never looked down, actually), for reasons that Jenkins only partially examines. And ExxonKnew as a PR stunt is exposed.
Below, I parse Jenkins’s op-ed with subtitles and let his words speak for themselves.
The Al Gore Problem
Al Gore was right about one thing in his rant at the World Economic Forum in Davos: CO2 emissions have continued to climb and show no sign of being affected by “climate policy.”
He didn’t mention his own contributions to this outcome, intervening in the early Obama years to turn climate policy into an excuse for protectionist pork barrel, with no real effect on climate. Nor that he was the seminal author of a brand of green hyperventilation that almost guaranteed real climate action would become a polarizing dead letter.
He also didn’t mention his singular stroke of luck in the history books, which will let him off more kindly than he deserves because the science now paints a less dire picture of our climate future.
Comment: The Al Gore problem is that he is a walking, talking hypocrite (check energy usage in his fiefdom) and his obvious exaggerations. For a decade or more, many on both sides of the debate believe he hurts his cause by being so public and hyperbolic.
The climate press proved the point, amid his Alpine Vaudeville, by collapsing critically in front of a newly-released “Harvard” study allegedly revealing that Exxon 40 years ago predicted today’s warming with “breathtaking,” “stunning,” “astonishing” accuracy.
These adjectives aren’t in the study itself, which is merely tendentious, sponsored by the activists at the Rockefeller Family Fund. But the timing probably wasn’t an accident. In fact, Exxon’s results were identical to those of other scientists because it collaborated with them. Its findings weren’t hidden “behind closed doors,” as one report alleged. They were published in peer-reviewed journals. Apparently, to get to its desired result, the “Harvard” study also had to attribute to Exxon outside research that its scientists merely “reported.”
This retread builds on Rockefeller’s previous greatest hit, paying journalists in 2016 to flaunt Exxon’s decades-old scientific efforts. Exxon was accused of “emphasizing the uncertainty” when uncertainty was the crucial scientific output. No matter what Exxon said, not sellable to policy makers at the time was spending unknown trillions to reduce future temperatures maybe by 4.5 degrees Celsius, maybe by 1.5 degrees. Yet this was the best guidance science could provide for four decades. Rockefeller prefers to stress the $30 million Exxon once spent on climate-skeptical think tanks. This money, not the scientific uncertainty or humanity’s desire for cheap energy, explains the failure to enact meaningful CO2 reductions. It’s all Exxon’s fault.
OK, studies like this one sponsored by Rockefeller and served up by provocateurs at the Harvard history department and Germany’s Potsdam Institute exist to exploit media shallowness. They wouldn’t exist otherwise.
Comment: Putting Exxon’s old study in historical context refutes what the PR campaign is trying to convey. Exxon’s CO2-climate investigation came at a time when global cooling was the climate news, and Peak Oil and Peak Gas were the corporate fears. Climatology was an infant profession whose predictions came from back-of-the-envelope investigation, not formal models.
Exxon did not study the temperature offset of aerosols or the positive effects of CO2 concentrations, such as plant fertilization and warmer winters. Meanwhile, solar power, wind power, and electric vehicles were not industries that offered the prospect of an “energy transition.” (More arguments can be found here.)
The hindsight fallacy abounds. Climate modelers, if their forecasts are borne out, can’t know if they were right for the right reasons. The study also perilously juggles apples and oranges due to the difference between equilibrium and transient climate sensitivity.
Comment: I believe that climate models, by imparting false information, are worse than nothing.
More to the point, nothing here redeems Rockefeller philanthropic money being poured down a Greta Thunberg rathole when real needs go unmet. Never mind.
Comment: It is not only wasted philanthropy “when real needs go unmet.” The colossal waste is all the ‘climate dollars’ that could have been spent on resiliency and adaptation. It is the resource misdirection associated with government-forced duplication of the power grid and the transportation network. And it would mean less spending, smaller budget deficits, and less currency inflation.
After 40 years, an authoritative U.N. panel, which once shared Mr. Gore’s Nobel Prize, has made real progress on the uncertainty puzzle, not only narrowing the consensus range of likely climate outcomes, more importantly reducing the estimated risk of worst-case warming.
This upshot of its long-awaited Sixth Assessment Report in 2021-22 goes unreported by the same press that gobbles up Rockefeller’s Exxon hate-mongering. It significantly uprates the likelihood that human society will weather the expected changes handily. In turn, as I noted recently, scientists have been able to refocus usefully on outlier risks and geoengineering solutions if those outlier risks should materialize.
Comment: Holman Jenkins’s interpretation of the IPCC science is more from the body of the report and less from the (biased) Policy Summary–and still less from the media exaggeration of the 6th assessment.
Jenkins will be pleased to know that 1) recorded satellite temperatures are showing much less warming than was model-predicted; 2) the mainstream has turned against the upper-end warming models of the IPCC family; 3) reality-based temperature reconstructions indicate warming of roughly 1.5C-2.2C for a doubling of CO2 (see here, here, and here) versus the IPCC’s AR6 range of equilibrium climate sensitivity of 2.0C-4.5C.
Public Policy Failure
Hooray. This is progress. In the meantime, though, thanks to Rockefeller, Mr. Gore and others, we ended up with policy option C— spend X trillion to have no effect on climate.
Comment: Has the anti-CO2 crusade actually increased emissions? The low marginal costs of wind and solar have ruined the economics of nuclear capacity, causing premature retirements. Same for gas plants. And the reliability/price problems from dilute, intermittent energies have increased coal and oil and wood burning around the world. Energy density rules.
Our obsessive focus on green energy subsidies pleases many constituents but incentivizes more energy consumption overall. The human appetite for energy, after all, is limitless if the price is right. Meanwhile, unused and even denigrated by the left is the only tool that was ever likely to reduce meaningfully the path of emissions, a carbon tax.
Comment: Forgive Jenkins for his club-in-the-closet, a CO2 tax. Does he know the “right” price? Are we willing to implement international trade barriers to prevent “leakage”? Government failure and analytic failure far more than negates “market failure” in this regard.
Oh well. Climate policy is effectively over and that’s probably fine. The energy machine will certainly incorporate new technologies, including renewables; there won’t be a major shift in emissions from the path they would have taken anyway.
Comment: Worry about the next century’s “problems” in the next century–and enjoy affordable, plentiful, dependable energy in the meantime. And global lukewarming might even be an insurance policy against a global cooling from a string of volcanoes or from the natural forces that we know so little about.
Mr. Gore will continue his angry prophet act. Politics will continue to fuel a sacred pork scramble. The climate press will balance on its noses whatever memes are tossed its way. And humanity will adapt to the climate it gets, which the best current guess says will probably be another 1 to 2 degrees Celsius warmer over the next century.
Final Comment: Global greening and other benefits from CO2 enrichment will continue and expand. The mitigation strategy of the United Nations, the UK/EU, and the Biden Administration has failed. The path forward is anticipation and adaptation to weather/climate, which points toward free markets and societal wealth, not global energy statism.
How can an otherwise reputable (though largely misguided) college like Middlebury allow a total nutcase like Bill McKibben anywhere near impressionable students?