In this issue:
- Bjorn Lomborg on “False Alarm” about climate change
- My most in-depth interview ever
- My favorite tweet of the week
Bjorn Lomborg on “False Alarm” about climate change
On this week’s Power Hour I interview Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, author of False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet. As I discussed in my review of the book several weeks ago, I think this is an extremely valuable book, on two counts above all. 1. It documents in case after case how the media and political leaders wildly distort the conclusions of mainstream climate research.2. It documents in case after case how human adaptation can neutralize climate danger. The book was recently attacked in a New York Times “review” by the famous near-socialist economist Joseph Stiglitz. Bjorn systematically refuted the pseudo-review in this impressive LinkedIn article.
On the show we discuss:
- How trusted media sources manipulated a climate research paper to predict 187 million climate refugees when the number was actually around 300,000 (half the number of people who move out of California every year)
- Why we always need to look for positive and negative impacts, not just one or the other
- How many seconds worth of electricity all of America’s batteries can store today
- The true state of solar and wind in the world today
- How people in developing countries around the world demand “real electricity,” not the meager, unreliable electricity provided by much-heralded solar installations
- The prospects for nuclear energy
- Some of the crude errors of the New York Times review of False Alarm
- How global capitalism will encourage energy progress even when specific technophobic countries reject it
My most in-depth interview ever
Last Thursday I was interviewed by former Australian Senator Malcolm Roberts as part of a project by him to educate Australian politicians and members of the general public on energy and climate.
We ended up going 2 hours and 15 minutes. I think this was overall my best interview performance ever, as a result of a) the excellent questions he asked, and b) the fact that my thinking is clearer than ever as I finish The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels 2.0 and a set of energy talking points I’m writing for the 2020 elections.
To give you a flavor of the interview, here’s a transcript of the very beginning.
Hi, I’m Senator Malcolm Robertson in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. And I’m with a real dynamo here this morning, in Alex Epstein. Now, Alex has got an undergraduate degree in philosophy. He actually started studying philosophy in high school, but he’s got an undergraduate degree from the acclaimed Duke University. He then went on further in philosophy, a lot of it is self-taught, which means this guy knows what he’s doing. He’s educated himself. He’s spoken at leading universities. He’s debated people across many organizations. He’s appeared in fortune 500 companies. He’s testified to the US Senate.
But look, the most important qualification I can give this man is that he uses his brain, he thinks critically, and I’ve read his book. I don’t know if he’s written more books, but The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. It’s a New York Times bestseller, 80,000 copies. So this guy will sell himself, and I’m not talking about selling as in marketing. This guy, you just listen to him. So let me start by saying, Alex, I’m very proud of being a human, and as someone who has worked in the coal industry, I’m very proud to have provided hydrocarbon fuels to Australia and for export. Should I be proud?
Yeah, but I think it’s notable that it’s very unusual. Both of those are very unusual. So it’s very unusual right now for people to say, “I’m proud to be a human,” and, “I’m proud to be involved in coal.” And I think that we should definitely be proud of both for the same basic reason. And so there’s a question of what makes you proud in life? And that really depends on your view of morality, on what’s good. We tend to be proud of things that are aspirational, that are ideal. And for me, there’s nothing more aspirational than doing things that improve the lives of billions of people, and that allow them to live longer, happier, healthier, more opportunity-filled lives. If you do something that allows a lot of people to have a better life, even just one person, that’s a lot. But if you do something that allows a lot of people to have a better life, then that is something that if you care about human life, you should be proud of.
And if you look at the perspective of the human race, look at how much better life has gotten in the last 200 years. Today we hear that life is getting worse and worse, but overall life is getting much, much better. I use the statistic when I was born in 1980, 42% of the world lived on less than $2 a day. Think about it, less than $2 a day, and that’s adjusted for inflation. And now it’s less than 10%. So even in the last 40 years, what the human race has done to improve the condition of the average human being, is incredible. And if you think about it from the perspective of the planet, never has the planet been such a human friendly place. So we can talk about, oh, what have we done badly in terms of the planet, but overall, this world is an incredible place to live.
And then that goes to coal. Why is it an incredible place to live? And we’ll talk about this more, but I think if you look at coal, oil, natural gas, these are part of a phenomenon of human beings being able to use machines to improve their lives. Human beings are naturally very weak, the natural environment is very inhospitable to us, it’s very dangerous and it’s quite deficient and the things we need, like food, clothing, shelter. And so we need to be productive, but naturally we’re very weak. And so what we need to do is that we need to harness machines to do vastly more physical work than we can do ourselves. And to do vastly more types of work, things like digital, computer work, which obviously we can’t do with our own bodies.
And so what we’ve done, is we’ve figured out how to use machines to make our lives much better, but those machines require food. And what coal, oil and gas are, is those are machine food. And what the fossil fuel industry has done, is they’ve produced the most affordable machine food for the most people. And that’s a huge achievement, because it’s allowed billions of people to have the miracle of machine power to improve their lives, versus the natural state where people are mostly relying on manual labor and suffering. And yet there are still 3 billion people in the world, basically, who are living manual labor lives. And I say we need more coal, oil, natural gas, or something that’s as cost effective, for them. So I think the world needs more energy, not less to be a much better place. And I believe the economics show that for the foreseeable future, that means more fossil fuels, not less.
Here’s the very long list of topics we covered.
- Should Senator Roberts be proud to be a human being, and be proud to have worked in the coal industry?
- The vast improvement in human life and the role of fossil fuel “machine food” in that improvement
- How much the human environment has improved in the last 200 years
- How fossil fuels make it much easier to preserve the most desirable parts of nature
- How fossil fuels helped end slavery and servitude
- The three ways in which fossil fuels are crucial to medical science
- How fossil fuels make possible today’s amazing division of labor
- What going back to nature would be like in a world of 8 billion people
- The question our society should be obsessed with but isn’t
- The right way and wrong way to think about “changing the system”
- Why the view that we are in a climate crisis is a religious, not scientific, view
- Fossil fuels, opportunity, and happiness
- Human beings’ capacity for caring and how it is manipulated
- What actually leads to a better future for future generations
- How property rights are required for a proper relationship between human beings and the rest of nature
- The untold devastations of our anti-property rights policies such as the Endangered Species Act
- A thought experiment: how would we think of fossil fuels if they sucked CO2 out of the atmosphere
- Why people expect rising CO2 levels to be bad even though science tells us they will a) significantly increase plant growth and b) warm mostly the coldest parts of the world.
- The “anti-impact framework” underlying most of today’s energy and environmental thinking
- Why the moral case for fossil fuels does not depend on CO2 having a negligible impact
- Sea level rise as by far the most plausible threat of rising CO2 levels—and why even that is a weak threat
- The disingenuousness of “climate justice”
- The four major types of energy
- Why it’s wrong to compare the prices of reliable and unreliable energy
- How “unreliables” don’t replace the costs of reliables, they add to the costs
- How “unreliables” cannot make themselves but depend on fossil fuels for their existence
- 100% renewable plans as “equal parts ignorant and genocidal”
- Why the anti-fossil fuel movement is anti-nuclear
- Why electricity prices in the US have gone up despite cheaper natural gas and coal prices
- How the anti-impact movement stopped the trend of declining energy prices
- The motives of the anti-impact movement
- The role of envy
- “The anti-impact framework”
- How anti-impact, anti-human moral ideas attract power-lusters
- The human flourishing framework
- Why hydrocarbon companies don’t stand up to the anti-fossil fuel movement
- The difference between executives’ and politicians’ public views on climate and their private views on climate
- When are we obligated to speak the unpopular truth?
- The power of one courageous voice
- Why I focus on spreading the good news about climate livability
- My relationship to the fossil fuel industry
- Are we going to run out of fossil fuels?
- Why having “good intentions” must include the intention to understand the relevant facts
- How I approach thinking about moral issues
- Why we can never have faith that the intellectual elite of a given era is right
- The lessons of deadly anti-DDT policies
- How understanding energy and environment from a pro-human perspective will make us enjoy life more
My most popular tweet this week
“Climate change” is real. “Climate crisis” is a delusion caused by 1) a religious belief that nature gave us a perfect CO2 level and 2) a primitive ignorance of modern humans’ ability to master an incredible variety of climates.
Thanks for reading this week’s newsletter. I continue to spend most of my time in editing mode for The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels 2.0, as well as helping pro-freedom candidates with their energy messaging. Next week I’m planning on releasing a series called “The Ambitious Citizen’s Guide to Energy,” which give candidates and citizens talking points for every major energy and environmental issue this election season. Thanks to all the Accelerators who help make this possible.
To Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Energy,