Why Climate Change Won’t Matter In 20 Years

  • Date: 21/12/15
  • Josh Gelernter, National Review

Last week, powerful men from all over the world finished negotiating a new climate deal — the “Paris Agreement.” France’s foreign minister, the host of the “COP21” climate conference, called the plan an “historic turning point” in the battle against global warming. Our representative, John Kerry, called it “a victory for the planet.”

The deal sets various goals for 2023, and for 2050 through 2100. It is absurd to think that the world’s foreign ministers can intelligently discuss what the world’s climate, industry, transportation, or energy markets will look like in 2023 — much less 2050 or 2100.

Consider that 2023 is eight years from now. Eight years ago, did anyone at COP21 know Uber was coming? Did any of those foreign ministers know how popular drones would become? That new supersonic passenger planes would be in development? That four different private companies would be launching space flights? That two companies would be going forward with tests of “hyper-loop” transportation? Did they know that zero-friction “quantum levitation” would be demonstrated? Or that hydrogen-powered cars would become commercially available? Did they know about the fracking boom?

Of course not. Michael Crichton — the brilliant novelist and thinker — posed this question in a speech at Caltech in 2003, re climate predictions for 2100. What environmental problems would men in 1900 have predicted for 2000? Where to get enough horses, and what to do with all the manure. “Horse pollution was bad in 1900,” said Crichton. How much worse would someone in 1900 expect it to “be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

“But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80 percent of its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Japan were getting more than 30 percent from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn’t know what an atom was. They didn’t know its structure. They also didn’t know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, Internet, interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, Prozac, leotards, lap dancing, e-mail, tape recorders, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, Teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS. None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn’t know what you are talking about.

Now: you tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it’s even worth thinking about. Our [emissions] models just carry the present into the future. They’re bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives it a moment’s thought knows it.

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