Alex Epstein’s Fossil Future repeatedly steelmans his opponents. If you love arguments as I do, these steelmen are things of beauty. Case in point:
One argument for their position that could acknowledge fossil fuels’ benefits would be to acknowledge that fossil fuel elimination policies will be catastrophic but claim that they are still needed to avoid an even greater catastrophe from fossil fuels’ CO2 emissions.
This argument would go something like this:
The world desperately needs more energy, and only fossil fuels can provide it on a global scale for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, that energy has the tragic side-effect of causing a global climate catastrophe that threatens our existence as a species.
Thus we need to rapidly eliminate fossil fuels, even though that will, for the foreseeable future, significantly impoverish the wealthy world and keep the poor world impoverished.
After steelmanning, though, Epstein’s next step is to compare his top actually-existing opponents to his hypothetical steelman. The greater the quality gap, the lower the credibility of the opponents:
Looking in-depth into the arguments of our designated experts for fossil fuel elimination, I have found that they do not concede that the loss of fossil fuels’ unique, massive, and desperately needed energy benefits would be catastrophic.
Shockingly, they exhibit no concern about the prospect of losing these benefits, including what would happen to the billions of people who currently lack cost- effective energy or the billions of people who would lose cost-effective energy if fossil fuels were rapidly eliminated without a miraculous alternative.
I would entertain a prediction of a solar and wind revolution if the predictor acknowledged the reality of the present by saying something like the following:
The government’s subsidizing and mandating of solar and wind has caused massive destruction around the world. Solar and wind, while sometimes good for remote locations that need very little electricity, have been a disaster when applied to the massive and dynamic electricity needs of the empowered world.
Adding wasteful, unreliable solar and wind infrastructure to the grid has increased costs and decreased reliability, harming people and industry wherever it has been used to the extent it has been used.
But I have shocking evidence that there are some unimaginable breakthroughs that will cause this destructive energy parasite to become a superior substitute. I know you have no reason to believe this, but here’s the evidence…
Actual friends of solar and wind, however, come nowhere close:
This would be worth entertaining. But this is not what we get. Instead, without any exceptions that I have found, predictions of a solar and wind revolution portray solar and wind as superior competitors already and project them to become even more superior.
Above all, a steelman argument would start by acknowledging that (a) current global conditions are better than ever, (b) our default prediction should be further improvement, but (c) this default, strangely, is false:
Regardless of what you believe about the impacts of rising CO2 levels on the planet’s future, if you are knowledgeable about the state of the world today, you must acknowledge that more human beings are flourishing than at any point in history — and if you’re at all knowledgeable about the ways fossil fuels power our world, you must recognize the use of these fuels as a major contributor to our unprecedented level of human flourishing.
This positive evaluation of the world and of fossil fuels’ role in it should hold, even if you believe that rising CO2 levels will lead to such negative climate impacts that they will overwhelm our fossil-fueled climate mastery abilities and the benefits of fossil fuels to every other aspect of life. Such a view would be expressed something like this: “Fossil fuels have made the world a better and better place to live, including a place where we are far safer from climate — but tragically, in the future, their negative side-effects will be so adverse that it’s worth depriving billions of people of fossil fuels’ massive benefits.”
That would at least be a coherent claim.
But today’s knowledge system, especially its designated experts, does not acknowledge this at all. Revealingly, it treats today’s world, including climate, as being in a horrible state due to fossil fuels—whose benefits it portrays as having already been overwhelmed by negative side-effects. It talks about how fossil fuels have “destroyed” our environment and “destroyed” our climate via the impacts of fossil fuels.
For example, António Guterres, head of the UN, has said “our war on nature has left the planet broken” and “the consequences of our recklessness are already apparent in human suffering,” including “towering economic losses.”
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a climate activist acknowledge that current conditions are excellent, much less that fossil fuels are an important cause of current excellence. Have you?
I've never heard a self-described "climate activist" optimistic about anything except their certainty that we are in dire circumstances.
I feel that this all highlights the fact that most climate/environemental activists are profoundly anti-human.