Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A discussion about energy and climate

  • The discussion below occurred after a friend posted a facebook meme contrasting the current climate march in New York with Obama "birthers". 
  • Dave: “Any time world leaders are gathering, their number one focus needs to be what will promote human progress,” Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress, told “The whole focus of this so-called ‘climate summit’ is to only look at the alleged negatives of using fossils fuels – it’s like an antibiotics summit where you only look at the negative effects of antibiotics.”

    Epstein, author of the forthcoming book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, also highlighted the inherent volatility of the global climate. “Nature doesn’t give us a safe climate that we make dangerous," he said. "It gives us a dangerous climate that we make safe, above all, by using energy from fossil fuels.'

    Citing data from the EM-DAT International Disaster Database, Epstein explained that climate-related deaths have actually declined 98 percent over the last 80 years.

    “My conclusion is that, if we look at the big picture, not only are the economic benefits [of fossil fuels] overwhelmingly positive, but the environmental benefits are overwhelmingly positive,” he said.

  • Friend:  I'm sorry, Dave, but you lost me at "Fox News".

  • Friend of friend: Sounds very fair & balanced.  Please read up on Alex Epstein. He's funded by the Koch brothers to shill for oil companies.
  • Alex Epstein  Credentials B.A., Philosophy, Duke University (2002). [1], [2]  Background Alex Epstein is the...
  • David McGruer Let's deal with facts not media, facts not funding, facts not hype, facts not fear-mongering, facts not logical fallacies, facts not statistical manipulation. 

    he fact is that human life quality has flourished as our ability to produce life-promoting energy has increased and at the same time climate related deaths have massively decreased. This is a wonderful and uniquely human accomplishment that should be celebrated!
  • FriendI agree. It should be celebrated. We should also pursue safer forms of energy.

  • David McGruer In that case, let me point out that nuclear has the best safety record of the energy sectors. Energy safety is at an all time high and rising rapidly, as is the quality of human life. The point is that there is a direct, nay causal relationship between energy and human life quality. To ignore or try to destroy this as many in the environmentalist movement do is profoundly immoral.

  • Friend: I suppose it depends on one's definition of moral. To many environmentalists, the overuse of the ecosystem by a single species is profoundly immoral.
  • Friend: I agree that there is a causal relationship between the discovery and use of fossil fuels and the rapid rise of a technological civilization. Technology has greatly decreased the level of toil humans must endure in order to meet the basic needs. In highly developed countries it has decreased so much that we can spend most of our time in non-essential pursuits. Energy consumption has everything to do with this.

  • Friend: I would not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Technology has played an enormous role in decreasing human misery, predicting and preventing disasters, etc. Which leads me to ask you this: if you are a proponent of technology and science, if you trust science to deliver the technology that has eased human existence, why don't you trust it when science says that our current use of fossil fuels will cause harm to the environment we depend on?

  • Friend of friend:  I'm not sure where you get your impression of people in the "environmentalist movement," but what I most often hear from environmentalists is the desire for sustainability. This means that we USE science and technology and engineering to figure out how to make our energy use cleaner and (even) safer than its ever been. We learn how to stop creating so much waste (a major problem with nuclear energy). We learn how to use the incredible amounts of energy freely available to us, via the sun, the wind, the oceans, the heat of the earth, etc., etc., so that we never need to run out of any resources. 

    If you are truly excited about science and energy, I'm not sure why these goals wouldn't get you fired up.

  • David McGruer Easy one. Because it is simply not true and advocates of that point of view wish to stop science and knowledge in their pursuit of controlling the lives and minds of others. The entire "the debate is settled" is clear evidence of this. As I've said and shown before, there is massive multidisciplinary evidence to the contrary, showing that the climate always changes, that the present cycle is not unusual, that the effect of CO2 is minimal, that even if it was it is far more human to further adapt our environment than to cut off our lifeblood. Even the IPCC, fraud-filled though it is, recognizes that all their projections of temperature rise have proven wrong. I believe there about 50 reasons the true believers have offered for why the darn temperature refuses to rise despite rising C02, so clearly even they have no consensus.

    I'd ask you to show me a single indisputable fact of reality showing that dangerous man-made global warming is occurring. With that, we could the rationally dissect the question.

  • David McGruer Besides, science is not a thing to be trusted, it is a process of rational thinking applied to the physical facts of reality. Discoveries lead to more discoveries. Scientific method demands that we challenge everything constantly, always check our premises, repeat and validate findings, believe only what reason supports and assume the null hypothesis at the outset. I may trust a particular scientist, but that has limits determined by my own reasoning. When a statement by even the most reputable scientist disagrees with the facts of reality I observe, I go with reality over the scientist.

  • David McGruer To answer the question about not liking solar tech etc - the striving to make energy production ever more efficient and to make the use of energy ever more efficient is exactly what free thinking and the freedom to trade are all about. Through the competition among great scientific and productive minds, we have gone from the invention of the steam engine to nanotechnology in only a couple of hundred years. Of course I am in favour of continuing to discover how to efficiently capture and use energy from sun, wind, waves, geothermal etc. All methods of energy production must remain on the table and none of them must be subsidized or blocked in any way, unless there is a violation of individual rights. 

    The thing is, no one has yet discovered a way to make solar or wind energy (for example) efficiently enough to compete with the more efficient existing energy sources. I have had my own photovoltaic system at my cottage for 22 years and I am very familiar with its degree of inefficiency, the amount of poisonous metals that need to be mined to create and sustain it and the problem that arises when there is no sun shining - a full backup by a more reliable source is needed.

    I am terribly excited about what appears to be the discoveries associated with a 100MW compact fusion reactor that runs on plentiful and cheap deuterium and tritium (isotopes of hydrogen). This energy source has the potential to displace vast amounts of other energy. Its developers have the right to pursue it, no matter how much disruption it may cause for existing energy producers. Similarly, if people can invent solar, wind or other systems that free consumers decide is their preference, I welcome them with open arms. 

    A great problem is that the environmental movement is not just against fossil fuels of the future, but of the present. They demand that civilization be dismantled, that total socialism be instituted, that free thinkers be jailed, that the free market be stopped, that your choices be dictated by mythical omniscient economic planners. They go so far as to desire the death of a large fraction of the human race, or even the complete elimination of humanity from the planet. They (implicitly or even explicitly, just read the signs at the Climate March) claim to have higher knowledge that trumps the right of others to think and act, assert that nature in the absence of mankind is the highest value, arrogate the authority to take any action to control or end human lives. 

    In contrast, my ideology is one that places human life as the highest value, reason as man's means of knowledge, freedom and individual rights as the proper basis for the organization of society. Such a society embraces thinking and ideas, allows citizens, through their producing and buying decisions in the free market to determine the success or failure of every company and product, and produces the best possible outcomes since every transaction is voluntary and thus a win-win.