We hear an awful lot about climate change – indeed, the language that is used to talk about the subject qualifies as apocalyptic. Humanity is destroying the planet, we are told, and therefore we must modify our lifestyles in order to save the earth. Fossil fuels, of course, must be dispensed with because they are dwindling non-renewable resources that release carbon into the atmosphere and therefore are accelerating the warming of the planet. Dissent is not allowed.
I’ve always responded to this with a hearty cry of “Bullsh*t!”
After all, my own knowledge of history and climate science has led me to question the degree to which the warming of our planet, if it is actually taking place, is related to human activity. Climate changes, but the changes are cyclical and resemble a sine wave. We saw warming and cooling long before industrialization took place – and even before humanity came into existence. Besides, the same scientist who tell us that increasing temperatures were going to destroy the earth in the next generation told us that the catastrophe would already be upon us back during my college days in the 1980s. What’s more, only a decade before that some of these “experts” (and their mentors) were telling us that Science showed that a massive cooling trend would send the world in the world spiraling into a new ice age. The so-called “consensus” on global warming simply didn’t convince me.
I’ve found a kindred spirit in Alex Epstein, who has written The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. In it he looks at the so-called “consensus” and its advocates and notices that they have been wrong time and again about what is happening and what is supposed to be happening with our climate. He also notes that these scientists start with a presumption against the human race – that humanity is somehow a cancer on the earth rather than a part of the diversity of life on the planet. If everything that people do is presumptively bad, Epstein notes, then it becomes quite easy to take an anti-human stance and advocate policies that will not only result in tens of millions of needless deaths annually but which will also destroy civilization as we know it.
It takes Epstein only one chapter to demolish the anti-fossil fuel argument. Our use of fossil fuels has gotten cleaner over the last several decades as scientific research has found cleaner ways to use coal, petroleum, and fossil fuels. On the other hand, the proposed substitutes (wind and solar power) are notoriously unreliable and significantly more expensive to produce. What’s more, our “scarce’ fossil fuels have gotten more plentiful as we have discovered new reserves or technology to access resources that could not previously be exploited. Oil shale and tar sands, anyone?
It is what comes next that makes this book even more of a gem. Epstein presents a series of well-reasoned moral, ethical, philosophical and scientific arguments in support of our continued use of fossil fuels. These are arguments we don't often here. For example, the Greenhouse Effect has the advantage of increasing world food production, making it possible for us to sustain the planet's increasing population at a level of caloric intake unprecedented in world history. What's more, despite the claims that climate change is killing people, Epstein demonstrates that the number of climate related deaths has decreased even as the world's population has increased. Epstein then lays out a strategy for making energy companies heroes rather than public enemies -- a daunting task in today's political climate, but one that is well-earned if one looks at the facts rather than the propaganda of the purveyors of the faulty science of apocalyptic anthropomorphic climate change. In other words, this is the book that those of us who take a contrarian view have been waiting for.