- - Tuesday, November 27, 2018

President Trump is not happy about the media response to the recent government report on climate change. Whether or not the report is as dire as headlines would have us believe, the response by climate change activists is always the same. They advocate a drastic and economically disastrous reduction of the use of fossil fuels that will greatly harm the world’s economy.

No matter what one thinks of the reality of the climate change problem, the fact that we have been offered only one potential solution fuels the suspicion of many — me among them — that this is a political “one trick pony” driven by progressives and neo-socialists who are anti-capitalist. Their one and only solution is radical carbon emissions reduction.

In this, I agree with the president. If one accepts the proposition that too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a bad thing, doing something about it deserves a more serious study of alternative solutions than we have been offered to date.

A number of scientists have suggested that there are ways to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere without damaging the world’s economy. The fact that potential alternative solutions to the problem were not seriously addressed at the Paris Conference raises serious questions about the integrity of the process. That is a major reason why the United States is withdrawing.

Even if all nations — including our own — do eventually sign off on the Paris goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, nothing effective will have been done about reducing the CO2 already in the atmosphere. Carbon scrubbing technologies such as those developed by Klaus Lackner and Allen Wright of Columbia University have shown potential to not only reduce CO2 overall, but to eventually reverse damage already done. We know that planting more natural trees would do the same thing, but to get the job done, we would have to plant many times the trees than already exist on Earth. That is simply impossible. However, installing a few million artificial “trees” or other types of scrubbing machines for cleaning the atmosphere is technologically feasible.

There are a number of objections to the carbon scrubbing concept that range from economic to political. The economic objection comes from scientists such as Howard Herzog of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology argument that scrubbing technology is currently too expensive to be practical. The same could be said about hybrid technology three decades ago and electric cars as recently as the last five years, but that did not stop visionaries from pushing forward and succeeding.

The real objection to pursuing alternatives to carbon emissions reduction comes from leftists in the High Church of Climate Change who want us all to suffer for the sins of evil capitalists who have despoiled the planet. Selling carbon emissions reduction to the credulous rubes of the world has become a major industry, and those who suggest alternatives to the problem and solution are condescendingly dismissed. We are told that climate change is settled science. Great scientific minds such as Barack Obama, Al Gore and the editorial board of The New York Times have declared it to be so; case closed.

The current plan for the Paris Accords spending is to use $100 billion to bribe nations to compensate for the loss of jobs. It won’t work. As Robert Samuelson pointed out recently in The Washington Post, asking people to act against their own self-interest is counterintuitive. But logic has never been a strong point of the hard-core left. Many climate change activists argue that any technological solution will cause people to turn away from the pain that we all should feel for the damage we have already done to the environment. This denial of human nature will likely make Mr. Samuelson’s prediction a reality as governments try to sell the accords to victim populations.

President Trump was well advised to pull us out of the Paris Accords. We would be much better off if our proposed share of the Accords fund be spent on development and proof of concept of viable alternatives to carbon reduction. If only a fraction of the $100 billion envisioned to cut down on carbon emissions could be put into pursuing alternatives, millions of jobs might be saved, and many added.

The real irony of the global warming debate is that one super volcano eruption will make the entire issue of global warming moot virtually overnight, and we might well need fossil fuels to warm us through a long global winter.

• Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the George Washington University’s Elliott Schools of International Affairs

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