Climate Change

Should We Abolish Fossil Fuels to Stop Global Warming? A Soho Forum Debate

Jeff Nesbit vs. Bjorn Lomborg on the threat of climate change and what should be done about it


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To combat climate change, the world's nations must make it their highest priority to completely replace the burning of fossil fuels within the next 20 years.

If governments don't completely eliminate fossil fuels by 2040, society is doomed, says Jeff Nesbit, author of This Is the Way the World Ends.

That kind of apocalyptic rhetoric "costs us trillions, hurts the poor, and fails to fix the planet," says Bjorn Lomborg, the author of False Alarm.

Are fossil fuels an imminent threat to human life, or are attempts to eliminate them more destructive? That was the subject of an Oxford-style online Soho Forum debate hosted on Sunday, October 18, 2020.

Arguing in favor of the complete elimination of fossil fuels over 20 years was Nesbit, who is the executive director of Climate Nexus. He went up against Lomborg, who is the president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center. The debate was moderated by Soho Forum director Gene Epstein.

Narrated by Nick Gillespie, edited by Ian Keyser, intro by John Osterhoudt

Music: "Under Cover" by Wayne Jones

Photos: Gina M Randazzo/ZUMA Press/Newscom; SEBASTIAN SILVA/EFE/Newscom; imageBROKER/Jim West/Newscom; Stefan Boness/Ipon/SIPA/Newscom.

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  1. “…If governments don’t completely eliminate fossil fuels by 2040, society is doomed, says Jeff Nesbit,..”

    If he does not support nuclear power, we know he’s not serious.

    1. Unless he flew back from Beijing or New Dehli to be in this debate, we know he’s not serious.

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    2. Yes. We have nuclear energy technology now. We don’t have to wait decades for it to become widely available, especially if we get rid of the stifling government regulations that triple the time it takes to build a nuclear plant. The technology of today is far better than that of Chernobyl. Also, the waste from “renewable” energy sources like solar panes will be much greater than that generated by nuclear power plants.

  2. oy. Lomborg is correct.

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  3. Clearly, Nesbit is a fucking idiot.

  4. If governments don’t completely eliminate fossil fuels by 2040, society is doomed, says Jeff Nesbit, author of This Is the Way the World Ends.

    I wonder how many copies his book sold in China and India?

    Do you think he knows it’s just a dumb coffee-table books for rich white people or do you think he spends his summers handing them out on the street corner in Beijing and Bangalore really trying to get the word out? I suspect the latter.

    1. I suspect the latter.

      Ugh, former.

      *glares at empty coffee cup*

  5. Should we shoot ourselves in the head before we inevitable die of old age or disease?

    1. How far advanced is the age and disease?

  6. Oh it’s 2040 now. OK then.

    Prediction: we will still be using natural gas long after that.

    1. My all-time favorite group = Rush

      1. Don’t tell White Knight.

        1. LOL. Almost spit out my food…

  7. Should we let doomsday prophets decide how we live our lives? No.

    1. Yes, because covid

  8. The problem with false dichotomies is that they’re false.

    For some reason, a huge number of my fellow libertarians (and fellow capitalists), who are dubious or downright disdainful of all other progressive claims, have internalized progressive bullshit about how the only solutions to climate change are authoritarian and socialist. I believe this is why the primary reason why they insist there isn’t a problem. Regardless, I have never seen a situation where the best solution to anything was authoritarian and socialist–and global warming is no exception.

    Musk is selling electric cars hand over fist to eager buyers. He’s now promising to have an electric car for sale in three years that costs less than $25,000. That’s mostly about supply chain improvements and increasing scale in their battery production. Who is there that both supports the Green New Deal and would bet against Musk’s projections? Does anyone imagine that Tesla (or its competitors) would have done an even better jobs if the government had “invested” $2 trillion over a period of four years? That wouldn’t have increased Musk’s performance or the real world performance of Tesla’s competitors. It just would have created a mountain of Solyndra’s for Tesla to compete with. It might have caused successful companies like Tesla to fail.

    Natural gas is another example of something that makes greenhouse gas levels fall. Natural gas releases about 40% less C02 into the atmosphere to create the same amount of energy as coal. Natural gas hasn’t replaced coal because of regulation. Natural gas would have displaced coal even without it. The adoption of natural gas in place of coal has always been driven by the underlying market forces. Natural gas is in abundant supply. It’s less labor intensive to get out of the ground, and it costs less to transport it by way of a pipeline than coal by way of railroads.

    Do people not realize that C02 emissions have fallen in the United States since 15 years ago, and that this is largely attributable to the fracking revolution and the use of natural gas? To ban the burning of natural gas is ban an important part of the solution–a solution that contributes to people’s standard of living by giving them the same amount of energy for less money in real terms.

    Meanwhile, we haven’t even addressed the elephant in the room–public opinion. Destroying all fossil fuels will have such a devastating impact on the economy, the American people will surely vote the party that implements their economic destruction out of power at the first opportunity. This has happened before in other parts of the world, notably Australia. When the Prime Minister brought in a carbon tax–on top of other taxes–it seemed like a revolutionary and maybe even a popular idea–right up until the bills showed up. Australians were so angry about the costs, they threw both the PM and her party’s government out of the Australian parliament at first opportunity.

    No solution can succeed if it isn’t grounded in market fundamentals. It’s like trying to design an airplane without taking physics into consideration. It doesn’t matter how badly we want it to fly or how much we believe. It doesn’t matter if you love or don’t care about polar bears. The fact is that if banning the use of fossil fuels isn’t grounded in market fundamentals, it will fail. The good news is that the market is rife with solutions. And I consider the fact that using the coercive power of government to inflict those solutions onto American consumers (over their objections and against their will) will almost certainly fail to be good news, too. What an awful world it would be if authoritarian government were the legitimate solution to our problems.

    P.S. Joe Biden is a crook.

    1. And unless we’re going to go to war to make China and India play along, we can’t do a damned thing about the overall issue anyway.

      PS: Joe Biden is a crook.

    2. Good post Ken.

      I would add that anybody who won’t consider nuclear an option to something they claim is an “existential threat” is either not that convinced of the threat or they’re in the bag for other energy sources.

      1. anybody who won’t consider nuclear an option to something they claim is an “existential threat” is either not that convinced of the threat or they’re in the bag for other energy sources.

        I actually know a woman who believes it is an existential threat and won’t consider nuclear, but I should add that she needs medication for her mental issues.

    3. I have never seen a situation where the best solution to anything was authoritarian and socialist–and global warming is no exception.

      This really can’t be said enough.

      1. Hell, people should just look at photos of W. Berlin vs E Berlin right after the fall of the Berlin Wall. E. Berlin was a filthy shithole, as are most authoritarian shitholes.

    4. Do people not realize that C02 emissions have fallen in the United States since 15 years ago, and that this is largely attributable to the fracking revolution and the use of natural gas?

      Also can’t be said enough.

    5. > my fellow libertarians… have internalized progressive bullshit about how the only solutions to climate change are authoritarian and socialist.

      Those fautarians are pretty damned rare. The most you’ll see from a Real(tm) Libertarian is some kind of Pigouvian Carbon Tax (which is NOT the same as the shit California enacted), and even that is fairly rare. Most seem pretty forward about their advocacy of carbon-free energy in the form of nuclear power, as well as the disincentive structures put place by the petroleum/state complex.

      Global warming is problem of negative externality. It’s a pollution problem. And Rothbard (not a socialist last I checked) had a solution to pollution that didn’t involve authoritarian socialism. It only needed a system of torts. Which we have. Except the state won’t let us files torts in cases of pollution.

      All those 70s era papers on the libertarian solution to the pollution crisis apply perfectly to the global warming problem.

      1. That involves property rights and socialists can’t admit to property rights. They’ve spent a lot of energy and time destroying them and denying they exist in order to implement their socialist programs and plans.

    6. If using carbon based fuel for electric production and “IF” that is the cause of global warming then yes the world would need to stop using carbon based fuel in all forms. And sooner the better. But I am not so sure that it is the cause. There has been several cooling and warming spells over the last several thousand years. much of that time humans were not using carbon based fuel except where fire had been tamed and then it was wood.
      The problem is if all carbon based fuel is to be eliminated how many million megawatts will be needed to replace that carbon fuel? But that is not the only problem. How many billions of dollars of infrastructure upgrades just to the electric system will be needed to carry the extra load. Then when you throw a continued population growth these numbers will be much to low.

      The problem here is it was the environmentalists who early prevented many new nuclear power generation. At that time they were pushing for coal (that was before natural gas was available). At that time the environmentalists were afraid of nuclear explosions and radiation poisoning was the problem. Here again there is not any proof of what they are saying nor is there any consensus either. Now there is consensus if the size of the “environmental scientists” are limited. Environmental science is not a hard scientist. The time between an experiment is conducted and the results are to long and there are to many variables that cannot be controlled.

      Now I will say that if electric turns out to be the best then it will sooner or later take over and carbon based fuel will go the way of the horse and buggy.

      1. Ironically the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment went online in ’65. The 70’s environmentalists had the solution right in front of them.

    7. The interesting thing about electric cars is . . . where will the electricity come from? Advocates of electric cars don’t seem able to think this far. We need more nuclear power plants. We will not be generating enough electricity to even replace half of what we currently use with renewables and that’s being optimistic.

    8. One of the obstacles to the adoption of solar is the fact that incentives are structured to benefit power companies rather than consumers. Grid-linked solar, which doesn’t work when the grid is down, eliminates one of the benefits of having a personal power generation system – independence from the grid. If the incentives were structured to make solar more palatable to a homeowner – i.e. grid-linked solar with automated transfer switches that allowed operation (daytime) during outages, then it would be far more attractive – particularly now that battery packs are becoming affordable. That would speak to consumer interest in having an independent source of power, without paying transport charges, that operated through emergencies, and could well span off-hour (nighttime) usage with battery packs. That’s an alternative that mirrors the automobile adoption – refrigerator and TV operation through blackouts, lower cost, no hassle or maintenance. The grid companies lobby against autonomous solar, and so its adoption is retarded – and so is its cost reduction curve. Bad policy, but that’s what lobbyists breed.

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  10. Here’s a well researched study that refutes the “danger” of additional CO2, the cliff notes version – you could double it from today and not measure much effect.
    And to quote Ken Schultz:
    Joe Biden is a crook

  11. There is no realistic way to eliminate fossil fuels in twenty years. It is a completely unrealistic proposition. Especially for transportation.

    1. “completely replace the burning of fossil fuels within the next 20 years.”

      I think Nesbit believes we’re five years away from having flux capacitors and antimatter reactors.

      In the real world could you get that many nuclear reactors approved, built and online in just 20 years?
      And what mysterious substance will jets and rockets use? Compressed air? Huge tanks of hydrogen?

      1. Mmm they MIGHT figure out graphene batteries in five years which is just as good.

    2. Eliminating fossil fuels is a goal, but it won’t be reachable any time soon, especially since no one is really serious about doing so. People seem to either be in complete denial or living in some fantasy. We need to be practical. We also have to consider the impacts of developing nations, which includes huge swaths of places like India and China. I guarantee they are not going to satisfied to remain in poverty just to satisfy the desires of privileged liberals in developed nations.

  12. Time to take a page from Joe Biden’s incremental approach to “no additional taxes if you make over $400,000 per year.” Based on the number of Biden yard signs and contributions from people in that category, I’m sure they would all be enthusiastically on board with banning airline trips, second cars, second homes, boats over 16′, etc. “only if you make more than $400,000 per year.” After all, it’s for our Planet Earth.

    1. I would say the boat can be of any length, but only powered by oars or sails.

      1. but some people can’t afford a sailing yacht, so we will have to ban large sail boats too, for equity concerns

      2. Obviously sails is the way to go as that’s “wind power”. Though oars might be encouraged as that’ll create more “jobs”.

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  14. When something more reliable and just as cheap comes along, we’ll switch all on our own. Nuclear is actually more reliable and would be just as cheap without the intense bureaucratic shit surrounding it, but it’s not allowed. We could have electric cars that aren’t powered by carbon based power plants. Save the petroleum for fertilizer, plastics, and the odd recreational vehicle.

    It’s almost like the Leftists don’t want a solution.

  15. The actual debate should be “If we abolish fossil fuels, will it affect global climate warming change?”

    1. and if so, how much, and if that much, is it worth the cost?

      1. like what if “we” spend eleventy trillion dollars, and temperature only changes by 0.01 degrees? or what if the eleventy trillion dollars worth of planned actions actually does slow global warming by a degree or two, but the cost turns out to be eleventy bazillion trillion dollars? is it still worth it?

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  17. i think the issue of climate change suffers from many factors that obscure things.

    1. those most concerned with it have a really really bad habit of exaggerating.

    2. those who are most concerned about it fail to even acknowledge that changes have been made. there have been changes made since the 70’s to reduce carbon emissions, but the fear mongers continue to use the worst case projections from back then that included the words “if no changes made.” climate change fighters have had many success over the years, and it is like they don’t even know it. they don’t even tell anyone about it.

    3. those saying we should change something are too quick to attach specific controls to the science itself. the minute people started to attach controls and policies to the science, people who do not like to be controlled reflexively rejected everything the speaker was saying. whether climate change is real, and if humans cause it should never have been a question that was taken seriously…. but somehow it is. somehow people reject the existence of the laws of physics because other people think we should raise taxes to address it. the reality is that the conversation should be about how we respond, not if it exists.

    4. people are stupid…. and the modern confirmation bias culture allows them to continue to be stupid in whatever way they want.

    for me, i believe the answer to to end any practice that gives any government benefit to any particular energy source. this is especially true for oil. if you can’t reach this conclusion as a libertarian, you are not coming to the conversation honestly. next, end all government and policy talk connected to climate change to remove the politics from the subject……. and then educate people. public awareness and attitudes are how we change this. encourage people to want something different, don’t tell them you are going to force it down their throats.

    1. the fear mongers also ignore people’s revealed preferences too: millions of people have been moving to warmer climates for decades. it can’t be all bad.

    2. The reason “if it is happening” became part of the discussion is because the models make no sense. If we were seriously going to reach the point of no return 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 7 years from now, 20 years from now, or whatever goalpost they move to next, there would have been a climate army raised by this point. Instead, they remain a movement because they know there’s money to be made and cultural capital to be amassed.

      If these doomsday models are not accurate to real data (they aren’t), then one must ask if global warming is real or not. You really can’t say it exists when the meaning is so dramatically different that the two separate conceptions of reality cannot plausibly be called the same thing. If we call both a minor, net beneficial warming and an apocalyptic, island sinking, death by the billions, mass extinction event “global warming” then the word has no meaning. Thus, it doesn’t really exist. The real warming we’re seeing should not be called global warming. It exists; the popular conception of global warming does not.

      1. what you describe goes directly to my second point. the biggest estimates come from a report given to congress in the 70’s. in that report, there were two projections. one if proposed regulation changes before congress were made, and one if they were not. thanks to the 1973 oil crisis, the public was already hungry for efficiency improvements… so the proposals were largely adopted. what has happened since almost perfectly matches the “if changes made” model….. but politicians and media continue to reference the “if no change is made” model. it scares people more and gets higher ratings. those who talk about global warming never explain how their past victories have changed things, they just keep using the outdated models.

        the reality is that the science and models have always been rock solid, but those telling everyone about it don’t understand what the science and models actually say. nobody ever explained to Al Gore that the numbers he was talking about were assuming changes were not made that were made. the original calculation for how much temperature increases for a given increase in CO2, the fundamental science behind all models, was published in 1967 and it has been 100% true ever since. the models have never been off. global warming is real, and the increased CO2 from our use of fossil fuels is the cause.

    3. Changes have been made in some countries. This is a world-wide issue. We need to promote nuclear power plants. We have the technology today. We can’t wait for the entire world to transition to so-called “renewable” energy sources, which would be highly impractical and would not address the issue to amywhere near a sufficient degree anyway.

      Anyone who is concerned with global warning who does not also advocate going all in with nuclear power is not serious about global warming.

      1. oh, i absolutely believe in Nuclear power. most of the waste comes from shutting plants down instead of refueling them.

  18. Begging the question/assuming the conclusion fallacy.
    Even if fossil fuels are banned there’s no guarantee global warming will be stopped.

  19. Show me the peer reviewed scientific climate model that demonstrates how reducing or eliminating fossil fuel use reverses climate change and saves our lives.

    If you can’t, how do you know we shouldn’t be using fossil fuels frantically to move people to safety?

    If you did have such a model we could use it to give everyone a carbon footprint calculator to show how the wealthy create many times the greenhouse gas per person than the average person.

    1. I knew your faggoty nazi ass would show up here.

    2. so….. what you are saying is you don’t want to believe it, and even if the proof is provided (that you know exists), you will just mumble some stuff about the rich causing more so you still don’t want to do anything……..

      the science is not that complicated. CO2 is transparent to energy at the wavelengths i comes to us form the sun, but it absorbs energy at the infrared that the earth radiates heat back out. science has known this since the 18th century. as our carbon emissions really started to ramp up in the 20th century, and the increasing trend started to appear in the historical data, they put more effort into determining the exact impact. they managed to perfectly predict how much the temperature would increase for a given change in CO2 that holds true to this day as well as gave us the upper atmosphere predictions we can measure that prove the observe increase is due to CO2 and not solar intensity.

      if you go and read through the paper, and then look up the historical CO2 and temperature records, you will find the results perfectly match what they predicted in 1966.

      1. No, you jumped to the wrong conclusion again.

        Evolution comes from doing the right thing based on reality demonstrated by logic and science, not simply doing “something”. If that something isn’t the right thing it could lead to extinction.

        Jumping to complicated conclusions from incomplete science may be wrong. A model that simply predicts that temperature rises with carbon says nothing about what’s important, like when coastal cities will be inhabitable or if stopping fossil fuel use today will even change that outcome.

        All human activity requires carbon. Our economy promotes employing people making factories that make cheap useless lucrative crap.

        Why should rich people be allowed to use 100 times the carbon of everyone else? Because they can pay for it? There’s no benefit to wealth if you don’t consume it. Consumption makes waste.

        We should be basing our decisions on science and logic. The cancel culture makes them political and our society is on the slippery slope today.

        So many important and controversial issues today are completely political and weak on science?

        What would happen to the scientists who determine that human life begins at conception? The logical conclusion to end abortion would immediately save the lives of 750,000 US citizens every year.

        Black crime, drugs, affirmative action etc are all issues made political.

  20. You cant get rid of all fossil fuels. Our world was built on them – to rip them out would cause a massive die off.

    Do you think the military will run its tanks, planes and ships on batteries?

    Our airlines, bulldozers, tractors, graders and such…run them on batteries?

    Ok, Tesla made an electric semi truck. But they seem more practical for shorter hauls. One electric truck company said it takes 90 minutes charge time to add 200 miles of distance.

    And what about roads and roofs?

    All crude based asphalt. Petrochemicals, plastics, poly clothes, guitar strings…all crude based.

    1. There’s a reason we call the, progtards.

    2. i think the problem we have is the all or nothing / overnight or never false dichotomies…. can we get rid of it all overnight? no. is that a reason to NEVER try to reduce usage or seek alternatives? also no. ending subsidies would do a lot to allow potential alternatives to become more competitive.

      there are plastics that can be made without oil. biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen…. we don’t need to use oil for everything, there are alternatives for almost all of it. even the one that is probably hardest, asphalt, is probably where we would prefer all the oil to go because none of it ever gets into the atmosphere. if we only used oil in the few things without many alternatives, it would not be causing climate change. burning it is the only thing we really need to worry about…. and we most certainly have alternatives to that. (And it isn’t just “batteries.”)

  21. This was a very good debate. It is worth noting that both speaker recognized the problem of global climate change and the debate centered on the response to the problem. It was interesting to note that both speakers supported a carbon tax but as Nesbit pointed out these are hard to pass. That very well might be a good starting point as a carbon tax would force innovation with resorting to government direction.

    To all advocating nuclear power. I suggest that the spectors of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukoshima have made this approach difficult, if not impossible.

  22. Nesbit’s argument on investment using the Internet as an example is off-base. First of all, the Internet started as Arpanet funded by DARPA as a cost-justified experiment in a fault-tolerant and attack-resistant communications network for the Department of Defense. Second, the World-Wide-Web followed, not preceded, the Internet, by many years. Third, the Internet ensued from the Arpanet as it was opened up to private enterprise and the public at large, as a superior solution to the predominant use of networks, which was telephone dial-up access to e-mail. The Internet provided direct and tangible benefit to individuals and businesses that attracted them, acting in self-interest, to pay for and use it; it was not a government-mandated change in the way communication was done, shoved down people’s throats, nor were people compelled to pay for its use. It reduced, rather than increased, the cost of communication – and thus was adopted under the same incentives as those which introduced automobiles.

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