100% cut in US emissions might get you a 0.2 degree bump

Holman Jenkins hopes for “a chance to clean up rampant cronyism in the energy sector.”

Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, is hardly a green-energy naysayer. Yet last week he estimated that even if electric vehicles accounted for half of global auto sales (currently EVs account for less than 1%), oil consumption would nevertheless continue to rise because the “demand growth is not coming from cars, it’s from trucks, aviation and the petrochemical industry and we don’t have major alternatives to oil products there.”

 Mr. Birol politely failed to mention that the climate effect would also be nil, because these electric cars would be running on coal. China, the world’s biggest consumer of electric vehicles, fires up a new coal plant at the rate of one or two per week and will do so for years to come.

President Obama’s “clean power plan,” costing upward of $200 billion over the next 15 years, will have no discernible effect on temperatures even a century hence. A catastrophic idiocy has informed Europe’s favoritism toward diesel cars: In return for trivial CO2 gains, it got dirtier air in its cities. The Nature Conservancy, in a 2009 study, finds that even a modest U.S cap-and-trade program of the sort preached by greenies would require “an area larger than the state of Nebraska” for biofuels, wind and solar.

And still the effect would be meaningless: A 100% cut in U.S. emissions, by the standard climate sensitivity estimate, would influence temperatures by less than 0.2 degrees centigrade a century from now.

Even a carbon tax—the sensible policy—would offer no help unless the technological possibility already exists of meeting human needs with alternative energy at a price competitive with fossil fuels. If so, such technology will be forthcoming anyway for market reasons.

All this might be terrifically worrisome if climate change fears were soundly established by science. They aren’t. Al Gore-like forecasts of doom rely on doubtful computer simulations. As the International Panel on Climate Change delicately phrases it, numerous possible paths for future temperature are in rough “agreement with observations.” This is a roundabout way of saying that the observations have been unable to discern the effect, if any, of human-scale emissions on global temperature.

But then policies in a democracy are not sustained by their rationale. They are sustained by vested interests.

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One Response to 100% cut in US emissions might get you a 0.2 degree bump

  1. Paul Marks says:

    The world needs to move to nuclear power – in the short term fission, in the longer term fusion.

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