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Reject Net Zero, Embrace Energy Freedom

The drive to reach “Net Zero by 2050” would have devastating consequences for our energy-poor world. What is needed is not less but more fossil fuels. The lives and prosperity of billions of people are at stake.

Reject Net Zero, Embrace Energy Freedom
Bild: Unsplash/@Galen Crout.

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Would you be concerned if I told you that the most popular political idea in the world would be apocalyptically destructive if fully implemented and catastrophically destructive if barely implemented?

Unfortunately, I believe this the case today. The popular political idea is “Net Zero by 2050,” and the destructive consequence is far less energy for billions of people who desperately need far more energy to survive and flourish.

“Net Zero by 2050” policies are (coercive) government actions whose primary and binding goal is the net-elimination of CO2 (and other greenhouse gas) emissions, whose number one source is fossil fuel use, by 2050. In practice, Net Zero means: rapidly eliminate most fossil fuel use. “Net Zero by 2050” policies include: escalating restrictions or bans of fossil fuel development, escalating restrictions or bans of fossil fuel use, mandated alternatives, and subsidies for alternatives. They often also include hostility to development in general and hostility to nuclear.

“Net Zero by 2050” is currently the number one cultural and political goal in the world, in that most world governments are committed to it, leading corporations and financial institutions support it, and leading corporations and financial institutions are privately invested in it.

I’ll argue that “Net Zero by 2050” policies – despite their popularity – should be totally rejected in favor of what I shall term “energy freedom” policies. Energy freedom policies are government actions to protect the ability both of producers to produce all forms of energy and of consumers to use all forms of energy, so long as they don’t engage in reasonably preventable pollution or endangerment of others. These include: protecting the freedom to develop fossil fuels and other forms of energy (e.g., deep geothermal development) and protecting the freedom to use fossil fuels and all other forms of energy (e.g., nuclear energy).

To determine the best policy toward fossil fuels – the energy source that powers most of the world, but whose CO2 emissions have a warming impact on its climate system – we need to follow a common-sense principle that is, unfortunately, not common practice: carefully weigh benefits and side-effects.

This includes factoring in – with evenhandedness and precision – 1) fossil fuels’ overall benefits, 2) fossil fuels’ “climate mastery” benefits (which can neutralize negative side-effects), and 3) the climate side-effects of fossil fuels.

The benefits of continuing fossil fuel use

The benefits of continuing fossil fuel use can be reduced to three essential facts.

  1. Cost-effective energy is essential to an abundant and safe world. Cost-effective (affordable, reliable, versatile, scalable) energy enables us to use machines to become productive enough to transform our naturally deficient and dangerous world into an abundant and safe world.1
  2. Cost-effective energy is desperately needed by billions more people. Billions lack the cost-effective energy they need to live lives of abundance and safety. Three billion use less electricity than a typical American refrigerator. Most of those people use wood or dung for heating and cooking.2
  3. Fossil fuels are uniquely able to provide cost-effective energy. Fossil fuels provide 80 per cent of the world’s energy and are still growing despite huge hostility, because no other source can match their combination of affordability, reliability, versatility, and scalability.

If we are free to use fossil fuels, billions more people can have the energy they need to be productive and prosperous. If we follow “Net Zero,” virtually all the world’s 8 billion people will plunge into poverty and premature death.

«If we follow ‹Net Zero›, virtually all the world’s 8 billion people will plunge into poverty and premature death.»

The climate mastery benefits of continuing fossil fuel use

The climate mastery benefits of continuing fossil fuel use can be reduced to three essential facts.

  1. A major use of fossil fuels is “climate mastery.” A huge benefit we get from fossil fuels is the ability to master climate danger—e.g., fossil fueled cooling, heating, irrigation—which can potentially neutralize fossil fuels’ negative climate impacts.
  2. The climate mastery benefits of fossil fuels have thus far overwhelmed any negative climate side-effects. Climate-related disaster deaths have decreased 98 per cent in the last 100 years as CO2 emissions have increased. And this climate mastery has been powered by fossil fuels.
  3. Leading anti-fossil-fuel “experts” ignore fossil fueled climate mastery. This isn’t just true of the media but even the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose multi-thousand page reports omit fossil fuel climate mastery—including declining climate disaster deaths.

If we are free to use fossil fuels, we’ll get ever-better at neutralizing climate danger, natural or man-made. If we follow “Net Zero” policies, climate danger will drastically increase from today.

The climate side-effects of continuing fossil fuel use

The climate side-effects of continuing fossil fuel use can be reduced to three essential facts.

  1. Far more people die of cold than of heat. While leading institutions portray a world as increasingly riddled with heat-related death, the fact is that even though Earth has gotten 1°C warmer far more people die from cold than heat (even in India!).3
  2. Greenhouse warming is concentrated in colder regions, during colder seasons, and at colder times. The mainstream view in climate science is that warming gets concentrated in colder places (Northern latitudes) and at colder times (nighttime) and during colder seasons (winter).
  3. Even extreme projections of biased sources are masterable with fossil fuels. Even the IPCC projects impacts from warming that would be masterable with fossil fuels. E.g., storms being 1 to 10 per cent more intense; or sea levels rising 2 to 3 feet in 100 years.

If we’re free to use fossil fuels, we’ll continue to have a warming impact that we can master and flourish with. If we follow “Net Zero” policies we’ll have a less-impacted but much less livable climate and world.

«If we’re free to use fossil fuels, we’ll continue to have a warming impact that we can master and flourish with.»

Note that while “Net Zero” policies will lessen climate impact in the short term, energy freedom policies are more likely to lead to long-term emissions reductions – because they accelerate the rate at which nuclear and other alternatives become cost-competitive.

In practice, because “Net Zero” policies are so destructive, they will not be implemented. What will happen is that they will wreak catastrophic destruction and actually slow the emergence of low-carbon alternatives. This is exactly what’s happening in Europe.4

The “Net Zero” movement has not come anywhere near achieving its goal of rapidly eliminating fossil fuel use. But just by slowing the growth of fossil fuel use it has caused a global energy crisis. It’s time to abandon “Net Zero” and embrace energy freedom.

  1. Statistical Review of World Energy. In: Energy economics, BP, 2023, https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics.html.

  2. SDG7: Data and Projections: Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, in: IEA, Reports, September 2023, https://www.iea.org/reports/sdg7-data-and-projections.

  3. QI Zhao et al. “Global, regional, and national burden of mortality associated with non-optimal ambient temperatures from 2000 to 2019: a three-stage modelling study”. In: The Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 5, 7, July 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00081-4.

  4. Alex Epstein. Talking Points on how Europe’s fracking bans have contributed to its natural gas crisis. In: EnergyTalkingPoints, https://energytalkingpoints.com/european-fracking-bans/

Die Klimaseniorinnen aus der Schweiz im Gerichtssaal während der Urteilsverkündung vor dem Europäischen Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte (EGMR) in Strassburg, Frankreich, am 9. April 2024. Bild: Keystone/EPA/Ronald Wittek.
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