Book Review: ‘Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels’

Written by Cliff Ollier

The book, ‘Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels’ is available online for free, in PDF format, at ClimateChangeReconsidered.org. This publication consists of a large book (768 pages) including a 23 page Summary for Policymakers which is also presented as a separate booklet.

It is available for purchase online at the Heartland Institute store and at Amazon.com. A Kindle ebook edition is also available.

Here I am giving a summary, not a critical review or my own opinions. In places my brevity may have lost some of the qualifications in the original.

This brief notice cannot convey the huge amount of information, graphs, diagrams and tables in the original beautifully-produced book.

The book assesses the costs and benefits of the use of fossil fuels, and focusses on research
overlooked or ignored by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
who claim that dangerous interference with the climate system is occurring.

The basic issue is whether global warming was caused by humans, and how much the planet will
warm in the 21st century. Can we afford to radically reduce CO2 emissions and would such reduction improve the climate?

Part I, FOUNDATIONS, deals with Environmental Economics and Climate Science.

In Environmental Economics the authors say many climate scientists are not familiar with economic research, and that many economists also accept unsubstantiated claims that the “science is settled”.

They say ‘The most valuable concept economists bring is opportunity cost, the value of something
that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else.’

Economists can help people understand the trade-offs of protecting the environment while using
natural resources for the goods and services needed by mankind. They have pointed out the pitfalls
facing renewable or carbon-neutral energy systems. A forced transition from fossil fuels without
understanding the true costs and implications of alternatives can lead to needless expense and
minimal or even no reduction in emissions of CO2.

The prosperity caused by using fossil fuels has made environmental protection possible, and a social value around the world. Energy freedom rather than government interference can balance the needs of today with those of tomorrow.

Climate Science presents an overview beginning with an explanation of the Scientific Method. This
includes experimentation, testing competing hypotheses, discerning correlation from causation, and natural variability. ‘In each of these areas, the IPCC and many scientists whose work is prominent in climate science have been shown to fall short’. Scepticism, not consensus, is the heart of science.

The authors severely criticise the claim that “97% of scientists agree” that climate change is the result of human activity.

Two other methodology topics are the role of consensus, and ways to manage and report uncertainty. The IPCC and many others issue seemingly confident predictions without error
bars.

The authors suggest that fossil fuels are widely used because of carbon’s unique chemistry. Climate models are described at length, and their defects noted. They are unable to reproduce many important phenomena, and have to be “tuned” to produce results that fall into an “acceptable range” of outputs.

Equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) is a controversial measure of projected warming on doubling
the atmospheric CO2 concentration. The IPCC estimate is one-third higher than most recent scientific estimates.

Controversy also surrounds claims of the adverse effects of climate change. There is little or no evidence that the so-called trends or projections of most concern lie outside natural variability.

Part II. THE BENEFITS OF FOSSIL FUELS deals with human prosperity, human health benefits
and environmental benefits.

Humans burn fossil fuel is to produce the goods and services that make prosperity possible – to live in comfort and safety and have higher quality lives. There is a close correlation between CO2 emissions and gross domestic product (GDP). Fossil fuels were behind the technological advances from the steam energy to widespread electrification that made possible the services, comforts and freedoms we take for granted.

Fossil fuels today supply 81% of global primary energy. They are also essential in the production of
fertilizers, concrete and steel.

There is a positive relationship between low energy price and human prosperity. Wind and solar
power are much more expensive, intermittent and unreliable, and cannot power most modes of
transport. They require fossil fuels to build them and provide back-up power.

Human Health Benefits of fossil fuels starts with an account of the change in life expectancy over the centuries. Fossil fuels have lifted billions of people out of poverty and improved their well-being and safety.

This was by way of such things as labour saving devices, air conditioning, heating, lighting,
transport and improved food supply, The chapter on Environmental Benefits reviews evidence showing how human use of fossil fuels benefits the environment. Increasing concentrations of CO2 are overwhelmingly beneficial, affecting rates of photosynthesis, biomass production, decreasing water loss and more.

The carbon cycle minimises the effect of human emissions of CO2 by reforming it into other compounds and sequestering it in oceans, plants and rocks.

In 2010 fossil fuels, thermal and hydropower required less than 0.2% of the Earth’s ice-free land.
Fossil fuels covered roughly the same surface areas as renewable resources, yet delivered 110 times as much power.

They make it possible for humanity to flourish while preserving land needed for wildlife
to survive.

Part III. COSTS OF FOSSIL FUELS covers air quality, human security, cost benefit analysis (CBA), integrated assessment models (IAMs), the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) and provides new
CBAs for global warming, fossil fuels, and emission mitigation programs.

The Air Quality section has a strong American focus and is largely about statements of the the US
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The evidence presented shows the EPA and other
government agencies exaggerate the public health threat of fossil fuels.

By all accounts air quality improved in the US and other developed countries throughout the twentieth century and the trend continues. Yet the EPA claims particulate matter and ozone are public health problems. This is where EPA misconduct and violation of sound methodology is most apparent.

It resisted calls for transparency and accountability, and even violated the law when it set National Ambient Air quality standards. The authors of Chapter 6 conclude that air pollution caused by fossil fuels is unlikely to kill anyone in the US in the twenty-first century.

Chapter 7 is about Human Security, which the IPCC defines as “a condition that exists when the vital core of human lives is protected, and when people have the freedom and the capacity to live with dignity”. The IPCC collects circumstantial evidence to link climate change to an almost endless list of maladies but never tests the null hypothesis that the maladies may be due to natural causes.

The assumptions and tenuous associations fall far short of science. For example the cost of war in the Middle East is sometimes attributed to ‘addiction to oil’, but many of the conflicts have origins and justifications unrelated to oil. Empirical data shows no direct association between climate change and violent conflicts.

Extensive historical research in China and elsewhere reveals close positive relationships between warmer climate and peace and prosperity, and between a cooler climate and war and poverty.

The authors of Chapter 7 conclude it is probably impossible to attribute human impact on climate to any impacts on human security. If a warmer world occurs it is likely to bring more peace and
prosperity than war and poverty.

Chapter 8 is about cost-benefit analysis (CBA), an economic tool that tries to determine if the
financial benefits of a project exceed its costs. In climate change debate it is used to estimate the net
costs and benefits that could result from unabated global warming, or from alternative energy,
emission reduction schemes, or sequestering CO2. CBA is also used to estimate the ‘social cost of
carbon’.

The chapter starts with a tutorial on CBA, including its history and use in public policy, and explains integrated assessment models (IAMs). The main problem with IAMs in climate debate is the mounting uncertainty with each step in a complex formula where variables and processes are either unknown or uncertain.

It is suggested that this cascading uncertainty makes IAMs “close to useless” for policymakers.

In such complex cases the best forecasting method is to project a simple linear continuation of past trends, and not to rely on “expert opinion”.

The complexity of both climate science and economics makes conducting CBAs a difficult, perhaps
impossible challenge. Harvard Professor of Economics Martin Weitzman note “the economics of
climate change is a problem from hell”.

Two prominent CBAs are the U.S. Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon, and the British Stern Review. Both were severely handicapped by unacknowledged uncertainties, low
discount rates and reliance on the IPCCs flawed science.

They present a table of Impacts of fossil fuels on human well-being, with twenty five topics including Agriculture, Catastrophes, Extreme weather, Sea level, Water resources and so forth.

Unsurprisingly perhaps they find mostly Benefits, and only Oil Spills is a simple Cost.

The IPCC says CO2 emissions must be cut 40% to 70% by 2050 to prevent ~2oC of warming that
would otherwise occur. But economic growth is related to CO2 emissions, which are a proxy for
fossil fuel use for energy production. Original analysis for this book shows that reducing ‘greenhouse gases’ to 70% below 2010 level by 2050 would lower world GDP by 21%, a loss of $61 trillion.

The IPCC also neglected the physical limits of wind and solar energy to generate enough energy
available on demand to entirely replace fossil fuels. So energy consumption must fall, and as
population grows per-capita energy consumption must decline even faster.

One estimate taking this into account finds reducing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 would reduce GDP by 81%, plunging the world into permanent economic recession. Reducing GHG emissions enough to avoid a 2oC warming by 2050 would cost 42 times as much as the benefits.

In brief, even accepting the IPCCs flawed science, there is no justification for adopting GHG emission mitigation programs.

In conclusion the IPCC and its national counterparts have not conducted proper cost-benefit analyses of fossil fuels, global warming, or regulations to reduce the use of fossil fuels. The global war on fossil fuels, which started in earnest in the 1980s and is at fever pitch today, was never founded on sound science or economics, The authors urge the world’s policymakers to acknowledge this truth, and end that war.


BOOK REVIEW by Cliff Ollier:  cliff.ollier@uwa.edu.au

Keywords: Bezdek, R., Idso, C.D., Legates, D. and Singer, S.F. (Eds.) 2019. Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels. Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). Arlington Heights, IL The Heartland Institute.

The book is  available for purchase online at the Heartland Institute store and at Amazon.com. A Kindle ebook edition is also available.


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