This review is a wonderful model of clear and comprehensive thinking. I will re-read it several times, learning more and savoring it each time. It will influence how I structure my talking points when I discuss things with my friends, many of whom are intelligent but reluctant to evaluate critically what has become the standard climate interpretation. Thank you for this post!

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Nov 1, 2022·edited Nov 1, 2022

> “But what about X?” Trust me: For almost any X you have in mind, Fossil Future has answers.

What does Epstein say about particulate air pollution from burning coal? (It seems to me like coal is pretty clearly anti-human because of its immediate health effects, in a way that's not true of fossil fuels or CO2 production in general.)

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I think the idea of comparing “expert” consensus on climate change to “expert” consensus on slavery is really disingenuous. Slavery’s existence is purely a moral question, not a scientific one. Of course there are always trade offs that require moral reasoning in science, but to explore those questions we need as deep an understanding of the objective facts as possible. I feel like the slavery comparison is used solely because of the emotional resonance it carries, and this type of appeal immediately turns me off to whatever else he says. Eugenics is a little bit better of a comparison, but I still think to most people the yuck factor of racism is all they know about that era.

However, it would seem we would agree that the “knowledge system” is tainted such that most of the “communicators” have a clear ideological position on fossil fuels and any presentation of the “science” is obviously tainted by their ideas of the future. These people see climate change as a means to fundamentally reorganize society in a way that would almost certainly leave us considerably worse off than before. Like many others have reported, COVID completely shattered any shred of faith I had in government institutions to handle large scale complicated challenges. After seeing how that was handled, I do not want these people anywhere near climate change. Before COVID I would have been much more skeptical of a book like this.

I think it’s clear where Bryan stands on this given his immigration stance, but I’m curious how the book deals with the obvious implication that climate change would inevitably be much more destabilizing in developing countries. The tragedy in Yemen is, at its core, driven by a severe shortage of water. What happens when severe drought and environment crisis hits other parts of the middle east and Africa? Hopefully these questions are thoughtfully explored in the book, otherwise I have a hard time taking him seriously as a thinker.

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I am reminded of Thomas Sowell's quote: "There are no solutions, only tradeoffs"

The book is on its way, thank you.

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> always excluding nuclear energy and usually excluding large- scale hydroelectric energy

This is blatantly incorrect. Many environmental activists include hydro and nuclear in “renewable” energy. Nuclear energy was recently declared renewable by European Commission.

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Nov 2, 2022·edited Nov 2, 2022

I searched for other works of Epstein. Now an "ad hominem argument"; I found an essay of Epstein et al. (2006) with a strange application of Randian philosophy against Just War Theory ("Just War Theory” vs. American Self-Defense). A few quotes:

„The requirements of 'proportionality' and 'discrimination' are deadly to the nation that takes them seriously. A nation [...] must be morally confident […] of the rightness of killing whomever in enemy nations it must to preserve the lives and liberty of its citizens. [...] may well require killing more of the enemy's citizens than the enemy has killed of ours. [...] break the spirit of a foreign people [...] This often requires killing civilians, and in some cases even targeting them, [...]“

"Insofar as the innocents ['such as dissidents, freedom fighters, and children'] cannot be isolated in the achievement of our military objectives, however, sparing their lives means sacrificing our own; and although the loss of their lives is unfortunate, we should kill them without hesitation."

„Given that a nation's civilian population is a crucial, physically and spiritually indispensable part of its initiation of force [...] it is a morally legitimate target of the retaliation of a victim nation. Any alleged imperative to spare noncombatants as such is unjust and deadly.“

„Doing whatever is necessary in war means doing whatever is necessary. Once the facts are rationally evaluated, if it is found that using tactical nuclear weapons against Iran's nuclear facilities or flattening Fallujah to end the Iraqi insurgency will save American lives, then these actions are morally mandatory, and to refrain from taking them is morally evil.“

“[...] the strategists recognize that the freedom of an enemy country is at most a means to an end for the innocent nation, never an end in itself. [...] our leadership, political and military, is crippled by the morality of altruism, embodied in the tenets of Just War Theory.“

This indicates to me that his work is probably at least "somewhat unreliable", if not "extremely". Changed since 2006?


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Your average person (and nearly all of us in most domains) can only reason empirically. They touch a stove, they learn not to do it again.

Sometimes they can vaguely apply the stove lesson to similar concepts, but the further away you get the harder it gets.

A big downside of this is that people usually need to screw up when facing novel new stimuli in order to learn. The question is how much damage will be done during the learning process. Sometimes the answer may be "quite a lot." Especially if the lead time or relation between action and outcome are long and tenuous.

What expertise is suppose to do is help you to navigate novel stimuli without having to touch the stove. By using those big brains to master the abstractions to guess what will happen when you touch the stove without touching it.

But the big brain people have their own incentive structures and failings (they learn empirically too). Often they are quite willing to dupe others and even themselves.

A consequence of recent times is hopefully people learning to mistrust experts whenever they make claims that require large sacrifices from society at large in the hopes of avoiding theoretical dangers.

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It's worth linking to Robin Hanson's review:


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Epstein also discusses his book in an hour and a half long interview here: https://reason.com/video/2022/05/20/alex-epstein-despite-climate-change-the-future-needs-more-fossil-fuels/.

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This is a good and important post (and book). I make similar arguments in Losing My Religions, specifically in the chapters:

Climate activists are to blame for some of the suffering caused by climate change

Greta Thunberg’s misery is the result of child abuse.

Extinction Is No Big Deal


(PDF is free)

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Tyler Cowen's review (https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2023/01/alex-epsteins-fossil-future.html) is disappointing. There is some sort of mental block people have, where for example Cowen doesn't present an argument but simply announces "we cannot simply keep on [emitting carbon]" as if this is obviously self-evident. But why though? The world is an unpredictable place, but humans are incredibly adaptable. One could imagine humanity keep burning fossil fuels for centuries until the supply runs out, all the while progressing rapidly at developing all the technology we need to thrive in a much warmer world -- advanced agricultural technology, aggressive forest management, weather-resilient infrastructure, etc.

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Ad hominem in extremo: Any person called "Epstein" will be sidelined from the media discourse, at least in a positive perspective. Since Jeffrey E., 2005-2019. - Anyone saying what Alex E. wrote, will be widely ignored anyway. Lomborg, Ridley, Gates: "oh, those (2/3 alt-right) cranks".

Still: as "A. Einstein", Alex might have a chance. Can't names be changed? Any Adolphe Hütler would be helped out even by German bureaucrazy.

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I thought Ronald Coase had settled this everywhere for all time, long ago....

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I have not read these books yet, but they are next on my list. I feel both sides of the argument have valid points, and I do believe as humans we need to strike a balance between fossil fuels and renewable energies, they are both integral and necessary to human existence and expansion. However, the one argument, I do not seem to hear at all is that climate change as they put it, is part of the cycle of our planet and the solar system. I think we sometimes get lost in our focus on the planet, that we forget how the planet is impacted by its rotation, on its axis, and in the solar system.

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And have there been any worthy critiques or responses? It's worth looking at those as well. Simply trumpeting ones philosophical background is not sufficient for good philosophical reasoning . . . .

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I really enjoyed his previous book, so I'm looking forward to reading this one. My main quibble with the first one though was the primacy he seemed to place on the human species over the flourishing of other flora and fauna. Maybe that's appropriate, maybe not, but for some people, it may undermine much of his thesis.

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