2017-08-10 10:03:52 UTC
affordable, abundant energy and a livable climate to flourish.
But the worlds leading source of energy is also the leading source
of increasing greenhouse gases.
What to do? This is the vital question Al Gore took on in his 2006
film An Inconvenient Truth, and takes on again in his newly released
follow-up An Inconvenient Sequel.
As the most influential figure in the international climate
conversation, Gore has a responsibility to give us the _whole
picture_ of fossil fuels impacts both their benefits and the
risks they pose to humans flourishing. Unfortunately, Gore has given
us a deeply biased picture that completely ignores fossil fuels
indispensable benefits and wildly exaggerates their impact on
The running theme throughout An Inconvenient Sequel is that Gores
first film was even more right than he expected. The movie begins
with defenders of fossil fuels mocking or ignoring the dramatic
predictions of An Inconvenient Truth. Leaving aside a heroic (and
highly disputed) portrayal of Gore rescuing the Paris climate
accord, the rest of the movie focuses on vindicating Gores two
chief predictions: 1) That we could replace fossil fuels with cheap
solar- and wind-powered renewables; and 2) that continued use of
fossil fuels would lead to catastrophic temperature rises,
catastrophic sea-level rises, catastrophic flooding, catastrophic
drought, catastrophic storms, and catastrophic disease
To justify these claims, Gore makes extensive uses of anecdotes: he
shows us the town of Georgetown, Tex. and its use of 100-per-cent
renewable energy, a deadly heat wave in India, a deadly flood in
Miami, a deadly drought in Syria, a deadly storm in the Philippines,
and the Zika virus penetrating the United States.
He has to make the case that climate dangers warrant so
much human misery
Some of his anecdotes are meant to prove that cheap solar and wind
are, as 2006 Gore prophesied, quickly dominating the worlds energy
supply and, as 2006 Gore also warned us, that our rapidly warming
climate is killing more and more people each year. But he has not
given us the whole picture.
Take the rising dominance of solar and wind, which is used to paint
supporters of fossil fuels as troglodytes, fools, and shills for Big
Oil. The combined share of world energy consumption from renewables
is all of two per cent. And its an expensive, unreliable, and
therefore difficult-to-scale two per cent.
Because solar and wind are unreliables, they need to be backed up
by reliable sources of power, usually fossil fuels, or sometimes
non-carbon sources including nuclear and large-scale hydro power
(all of which Gore and other environmentalists refuse to support).
This is why every grid that incorporates significant solar and wind
has more expensive electricity. Germans, on the hook for Chancellor
Angela Merkels self-righteous anti-carbon commitments, are already
paying three times the rates for electricity that Americans do.
Stories about 100-per-cent renewable locations like Georgetown,
Tex. are not just anecdotal evidence, they are lies. The Texas grid
from which Georgetown draws its electricity is comprised of 43.7 per
cent natural gas, 28.8 per cent coal, 12 per cent nuclear, and only
15.6 per cent renewable. Using a virtue-signalling gimmick pioneered
by Apple, Facebook, and Google, Georgetown pays its state utility to
label its grid electricity renewable even though it draws its
power from that fossil-fuel heavy Texas grid while tarring others
on the grid as non-renewable.
If we look at the overall trends instead of engaging in anecdotal
manipulation we see that fossil fuel energy is the fastest-growing
energy source in the world still. Fossil fuels have never been
more vital to human flourishing. There are 1,600 coal plants planned
for the near future, which could increase international coal
capacity 43 per cent. Advances in technology are making fossil fuels
cleaner, safer, and more efficient than ever. To reduce their growth
let alone to radically restrict their use which is what Gore
advocates means forcing energy poverty on billions of people.
Gore and others should be free to make the case that the danger of
greenhouse gases is so serious as to warrant that scale of human
misery. But they should have to quantify and justify the magnitude
of climate danger. And that brings us to the truth about climate.
The overall trend in climate danger is that it is at an all-time
low. The Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) shows 6,114 climate-
related deaths in 2016. In other recent years the numbers have maxed
out in the tens of thousands. Compare this to the 1930s when,
adjusted for population, climate-related deaths hit the 10-million
mark several times.
The most significant cause of our radically reduced climate danger
is industrial development, which takes a naturally dangerous climate
and makes it unnaturally safe. And industrial development is driven
by cheap, plentiful, reliable energy which, today, overwhelmingly
means fossil fuels. Climate will always be dangerous so priority
number one is to have the energy and development to tame it. Modern
irrigation, residential heating and air conditioning have made once
uninhabitable places perfectly comfortable.
Gores Inconvenient Sequel gives a biased, self-serving, and
convenient picture of fossil fuels and climate convenient for
Gores legacy, that is, but inconvenient for the billions his energy
poverty policies will harm. As citizens, we must start demanding
responsible thought leaders who will give us the whole picture that
life-and-death energy and climate decisions require.
: Alex Epstein is author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels
: and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.
"Nobody is interested in solutions if they don't think there's a
problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to
have an overrepresentation of factual presentations on how dangerous
it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what
the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve
- Al Gore acknowledges exaggerating the dangers of "global warming"