During the decades we’ve been waiting for actual climate data to validate or invalidate our climate models (we’re still waiting), at least one phenomenon has been reliably observed. This is the political domestication and co-optation of the once-vexing global warming hypothesis.
A pioneering shaman of this transmutation was BP CEO John Browne, who in the 1990s declared his company “beyond petroleum,” then proceeded on a series of mergers that made it an even bigger petroleum company. GE, Ford, DuPont and others quickly lined up behind a U.S. cap-and-trade bill. There can be something for everybody in treating carbon dioxide as a problem, they realized. That is, as long as nobody is so crazy (wink, wink) as to actually try to slow down materially the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere.
Which brings us to President-elect Trump’s meeting this week with Al Gore.
Details weren’t released but we can be pretty sure of the message Mr. Gore delivered. It’s the message he’s been delivering since President Obama’s election in 2008: Climate change no longer requires any painful root-canal actions. No need for unpopular energy taxes or giving up our energy-rich lifestyles.
The problem can be solved with handouts to the green energy lobby. Who doesn’t like distributing handouts?
A credulous piece in the New York Times tells us Elon Musk makes a “compelling case” that Tesla would be better off without federal subsidies yet the paper doesn’t tell us what the case is. Here it is: Mr. Musk would certainly be better off without federal fuel-mileage mandates that cause his competitors to make and dump electric cars on the market at a $9,000 loss. But those rules aren’t going away even under President Trump. And there is no sign Mr. Musk is eager to do without his own subsidies. He was last seen berating the California Air Resources Board for failing to create enough “zero-emission” credits to suit Tesla.
A study from Arthur D. Little finds that, over its lifecycle, an electric car will generate just 23% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a gasoline-powered car. If every car on earth were electric, this translates into a mere 1.8% decline in total emissions.
Yet even a small electric car will cost its owner $20,816 more to own and operate than a comparable gas-powered car, and its total “human toxicity”—mainly due to heavy metals and graphite—will be three to five times greater.
This is hardly the first study to demonstrate that electric cars solve no environmental problem. Will it make a difference? No. We’re way beyond that now.
News reports say Ivanka Trump organized the Gore meeting, undoubtedly due to her keen nose for the social incentives that make complying with the climate narrative a no-lose proposition for the kind of people who have a Manhattan socialite’s ear.
Kara Alaimo, an assistant professor of public relations at Hofstra University, in a Bloomberg News op-ed this week stated that Exxon sells a product that “scientists have proven threatens the continuation of human life on earth”—an idiotic statement that no scientist would make and yet is the kind of thing that passes uncontested these days.
Which is ironic since the science has just started to get interesting again.
In its latest report, issued in 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expanded the range of uncertainty regarding future warming—and in the direction of less warming.
It abandoned its central forecast, in its 2007 report, of 3 degrees Centigrade of warming. Now it issues no central forecast.
It said in 2007 that a warming as slight as 1.5 degrees was “very unlikely.” Now it puts the bottom stop at 1 degree.
The latest climate models are backing off on the size of “climate sensitivity.” This implies climate change will be smaller and less severe than earlier estimates.
Even less noticed, it implies a higher, more astronomical cost for avoiding any given amount of warming.
If climate sensitivity is high, you might have to avoid only 50% of future emissions to avoid 2 degrees of warming. If climate sensitivity is low, as increasingly seems the case, you might have to avoid 100% of future emissions to avoid just 0.5 degrees of warming.
Don’t expect to hear about this in the mainstream media for a decade or so, and then only because today’s editors and reporters have retired. The climate reporting industry has long since given itself over to propaganda rather than actually reporting on climate science.
The larger lesson here isn’t about climate change. It’s about democratic sclerosis. It’s about the endless multiplication of vested interests that taxpayers and consumers are forced to support in our supposedly free society.