WASHINGTON – Until a few years ago there was a semi-universal consensus on “global warming”. It was settled that the earth’s temperature is rising. It was settled that human activity, that is burning large amounts of fossil fuels, was the main cause. It was also settled that all countries, especially big ones that use most of the fossil fuels, would agree to drastically cut their consumption of coal, oil and gas, in order to stabilize the earth’s temperature. This change would be made possible by shifting to abundant, inexpensive and environmentally benign renewable energy.
Nothing is settled
Well, as the world leaders gather in New York to look again at this scenario, it appears that nothing is settled.
First of all, while emissions have been rising during the past 10 to 15 years, temperatures have not. This should be impossible. All models indicated that more emissions must result in higher temperatures.
Of course, climate scientists who support the “man-made global warming” theory have tried to come up with explanations. And, who knows, may be there is a plausible reason why there has been a lull in rising temperatures, despite higher emissions. May be we are experiencing just a short pause within a long-term trend indicating higher and higher temperatures caused by fossil fuels consumption.
Man made global warming?
Still, this so far unexplained glitch may raise some doubts. What if the supposedly established cause and effect relationship between higher emissions and higher temperatures is just not there? In that case, the basic rationale for mandating or even suggesting the whole –immensely complex– energy policy shift would disappear. In that case, we would go back to normal. Energy choices will be determined by cost effectiveness, and not by the desire to avoid unproven global warming effects of fossil fuels.
US should change its energy policies
Still, even assuming the validity of the “man-made global warming” theory, what should the United States do? Well, according to those who believe in the official global warming orthodoxy, it is clear that America, as the country with the highest per capita energy consumption and emissions, should be leading the anti-carbon battle.
Really? Well, the facts do not support this. The fact is that, while America is a major contributor to global emissions, (number 2 in the world), taken in isolation its efforts would have almost no impact. Indeed, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the very federal institution that has just come with a major plan aimed at moving America away from fossil fuels, the net outcome of this costly shift from fossil fuels to renewables would be a 0.18% reduction in global emissions.
Policy changes would have no impact
Got that? As a result of major and costly investments in new energy, while closing down coal-burning power plants, we would get 0.18% reduction in global emissions. That’s it.
And this is because all the other major offenders, including China, India, Russia are not on board. Ditto for other emerging countries. Whatever they may think or believe about man-made global warming, they want to pursue economic development. And this requires affordable energy: coal, gas, and heating oil. Simply stated, from their perspective, renewable energy is still way too expensive, and therefore unaffordable.
Is this a good foundation for public policy?
So, here we are. We are confronted with an issue –global warming– whose causes are not quite understood. That said, even if we wanted to believe that rising temperatures are the direct result of higher emissions due to fossil fuels consumption, it is clear that forcing 300 million Americans to shift to still expensive renewable energy would not make any difference on global emissions.
And yet the President, the EPA and eminent scientists strongly believe that we should change our energy policies so that we can stop and reverse global warming.
Let me say this again. According to our national leadership, we should adopt a brand new energy policy in order to counter the effects of a problem we are not totally sure exists, while we know that this far reaching and expensive US effort would make no difference.
This does not make any sense.