Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
I think that applies to climate change. David Leonhardt of the New York Times said that climate change was simply the most important story of 2018. He said “nothing else measures up to the rising toll and enormous dangers of climate change,” after all, “2018 was the “fourth warmest year on record.”
Arnold Schwartzenegger recently summed up climate change simply by saying he wishes he could have traveled back in time to stop fossil fuels from ever being used. The Citizens’ Climate Lobby says a carbon fee and dividend will make Americans richer.
Mark Twain observed that “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” What is it about the fourth warmest year on record that elicits a “rising toll and enormous danger of climate change”? The record is one out of only 125 years. What happened during the other 11,575 years since the last ice age?
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
Was 2018 the fourth warmest during this period? If Arnold the Terminator was able to stop all fossil fuel use, energy-wise we would all be living in 1910. The Great Fire of 1910 burned 3 million acres in the west and killed 87 people.
A fee on carbon would continuously raise the price of fossil fuels until renewable (wind and solar) energy sources would look more economic. Will this stop the climate from changing and reduce all the bad weather we are having?
The Citizens’ Climate lobby suggests a fee on carbon of $15/ ton, raising it $10/ton every year, with the proceeds going back to consumers in the form of a dividend. For the example of gasoline, by 2040 this will raise the price in the United States from $3 a gallon to about $5 a gallon. Even doubling the carbon fee only brings the price of gasoline by 2040 to about $7 a gallon, about the cost in Europe. This will do little to convince people to buy electric vehicles. In 2017 Europe sold fewer electric cars than the U.S. (1.1 percent of all vehicle sales versus 1.7 percent in the U.S.).
That a carbon fee makes Americans richer does not pass the snicker test. You don’t get richer by arbitrarily tripling energy costs and switching to 100 percent non-dispatchable renewables (California’s goal by 2040). This road will require significant lifestyle changes by middle-income Americans, which are seldom mentioned.
Finally, it states in the CSSR Climate Report issued 2017, “the systematic paleoclimatic model-data mismatch for past warm climates suggests that climate models are omitting at least one, and probably more, processes crucial to future warming…”
These omissions bring into question the very basis on which trillions-of-dollar decisions are being made.
Irrespective, a carbon fee will not change the climate and weather of the U.S. a whit, as it would change global temperature less than 0.1 degrees. As George Will, syndicated columnist, said, “When a politician says the debate is over, you can be sure of two things; the debate is raging; and he's losing it.”
Craig Brown, of Richland, is a retired nuclear engineer (AREVA) with 30 years experience benchmarking reactor computer models.