This post is part of a presentation from the Heartland Institute’s 13th International Conference on Climate Change by Dr. Craig D. Idso. (Read paper and see slides here).
In today’s world it’s almost impossible to avoid the seemingly daily deluge of pessimism surrounding climate change. The intended message and unifying thread of these so-called journalistic reports is that dangerous climate change, caused by rising levels of atmospheric CO2, is presently occurring to the detriment and peril of humanity and the natural world. And because the combustion of fossil fuels is the principal source behind the CO2 rise, society must abandon all use of fossil fuels. In a nutshell, this is the position and objective of climate activists, who seek to enforce government and private sector efforts to restrict fossil fuel use via tax, caps or fiat limits on CO2 emissions.
Reality, however, paints a much different picture. The real story is that there is no upcoming climate catastrophe and CO2 emissions and fossil energy should be celebrated for enhancing life and improving the standard of living for humanity and the natural world, and they will continue to do so as more fossil fuels are used in the future. Consequently, efforts to restrict CO2 emissions or limit fossil energy should be avoided, as such actions will most certainly bring about adverse outcomes and unintended consequences that will harm humanity and nature.
How CO2 emissions and fossil energy improve human prosperity:
1) Countries with lower per capita CO2 emissions have lower values of per capita GDP, whereas countries with higher per capita CO2 emissions have higher per capita GDP. So what does this mean? As countries have embraced and increased their production of fossil energy, their citizens have been amply rewarded with increased economic development and growth.
2) Higher CO2 emissions are associated with lower levels of extreme poverty. Nations enjoying the lowest percentages of their citizens living in extreme poverty are those that use the highest amounts of fossil energy. Consequently, it can confidently be concluded that abundant access to energy is an essential component to improving a nation’s living standards and alleviating its poverty.
3) A third metric documenting the positive relationship between fossil fuel use and human prosperity is found in trends of global literacy. For most of the first hundred years of the record, the vast majority of the population older than 15 was unable to read and write; in 1820 only one out of every ten persons older than 15 years was literate. By 1930 the literate portion of this population jumped to one-third. Fast forward to the present and 4.6 billion out of the 5.4 billion persons on earth today over the age of 15 can read and write. Contrast that to two centuries ago when there were less than 100 million who shared these skills. Thankfully, as nations have utilized fossil energy to industrialize, their populations have spent less time performing labors required of sustenance living and more time in the classroom becoming literate and gaining an education.
4) Plots the two hundred year trend of human life expectancy and fossil fuel consumption, revealing a high degree of correlation among the two records. Two hundred years ago, the average life expectancy of a child born was a mere 29 years. Health care was relatively non-existent and 43% of the world’s newborns died before reaching their 5th birthday. Thereafter, things began to change, though slowly at first. Society began to use fossil fuels on a much larger scale and industrialize. Rising energy production brought economic prosperity and literacy, which helped reduce poverty. Housing and sanitation improved. People ate more and they ate healthier, nutritious foods. A more educated population coupled with fast-developing societies provided fertile ground for key scientific breakthroughs in modern medicine that both saved and prolonged lives.
Fossil energy has also improved the natural world:
1) Among the most commonly recognized of these CO2-induced benefits to the natural world is an increase in plant productivity and growth. This occurs because carbon dioxide is the primary raw material or “food” utilized by the vast majority of plants to produce the organic matter out of which they construct their tissues, which matter subsequently becomes the ultimate source of food for nearly all animals and humans. And, as has been demonstrated in literally thousands of laboratory and field experiments conducted on hundreds of different plant species, the more CO2 there is in the air, the better plants grow. And the better plants grow, the more food there is available to sustain the entire biosphere.
2) A second major biological benefit stemming from the modern rise of atmospheric CO2 is increased plant water use efficiency.
3) A third major benefit of the ongoing rise of atmospheric CO2 is an amelioration of environmental stresses and resource limitations. Here, atmospheric CO2 has been shown to help reduce the detrimental effects caused by stresses of high soil salinity, high air temperature, low light intensity and low levels of soil fertility. Elevated levels of CO2 have additionally been demonstrated to reduce the severity of low temperature stress, oxidative stress, and the stress of herbivory (animals eating plants). ☼
Note: Dr. Craig Idso is the chief scientist of the blog: http://www.co2science.org/ an organization which reviews and reports on scientific literature. The folks at CO2Science have just established a non-profit educational organization advocating for the continued development and improvement of society and the natural environment: The Institute for the Human Environment ☼