Off-the-cuff alarmism from the World Bank

Ben D. Kritz

Ben D. Kritz

AT the World Bank’s annual meeting held last week in Lima, Peru, Rachel Kyte, the institution’s special envoy for climate change, delivered this whopper in an interview with AFP: “If we accept that we need to have less carbon in our growth, then we might have a financial risk associated with the prominence in our economy of companies who are heavily invested in carbon. That’s the whole question of the carbon bubble.”

“Bubble,” eh? In the words of that timeless sage Inigo Montoya, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

Kyte’s concern is that if the world embarks on a more environmentally sustainable development path, which would necessarily require a massive technological shift away from the use of fossil fuels, the move could wreck the world economy because carbon-based industry is so embedded in it. To a certain extent that is plausible concern, because we ordinarily do not realize just how vital “carbon” is to everyday life. We tend to think of the problem of greenhouse gas emissions in terms of its most obvious sources, oil and coal used to fuel our vehicles and power plants, but our reliance on these natural resources is, of course, much deeper than that. The second biggest use for oil after fuel is the manufacture of plastics; coal is still the most widely used fuel for electricity generation, and its biggest use after that is in the manufacture of steel.

Try to imagine a world without plastics and steel and their many derivatives. It can’t be done. That spectrum of materials isn’t a “bubble” in the global economy; it is an inseparable part of the framework of human civilization. Whether Ms. Kyte or other climate action advocates like it or not, our species, as it is now and as we hope it will be in the future can no more do without those things than a person can live without a spine.

All of which reveals a certain simplistic flaw in Ms. Kyte’s assertion, and in fact, the entire approach to mitigating global warming.

In the much heralded global climate talks to be held in Paris in December, the hoped for outcome is a general agreement whereby countries, in proportion to their contribution to the overall problem, will budget X amount of money annually to reduce carbon emissions by whatever amount is necessary to reduce the rate of atmospheric temperature increase to Y degrees within Z number of years. The target numbers right now are $100 billion per year to reduce carbon emissions to 60 percent or less of 2010 levels, thus limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by the year 2050.

Assuming that agreement is actually reached – the outcomes of previous climate summits, where agreed “targets” have either been much lower than anticipated or deferred for future discussion suggest that chances are pretty good that it will not be – what is lacking is any sense of just how those numbers will be achieved. It is not, as Ms. Kyte cautioned, just a matter of potentially putting some industries out of business – it is rather the disturbing realization that in order to even come close to achieving what the world’s climate change experts breezily suggest must be done, the whole of human civilization as we know will have to be upended and radically reconfigured.

Ironically, the only people who seem to understand that are those whose questioning of the advertised effects of climate change is dismissed out of hand by the climate change mitigation advocacy; the skeptics are indeed motivated by fear, as the advocates charge, but there’s probably a good reason for that. While it is obvious to everyone that we are wearing out the planet, rushing into large-scale solutions without absolutely understanding the problem, and more importantly absolutely understanding what those solutions really have to be – a fundamental makeover of the human species – in order for them to work is probably not the best approach.

In the end, we may simply have to face the reality that we have doomed ourselves, and that all that is left to us is to enjoy the century or two our species has left. Many people, I suspect, would be content with that – especially if the alternative, the real, effective alternative that would achieve the climate goals we believe we should have, is to change ourselves into something we are not, and may not even be capable of understanding.


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  1. Brian Stanley-Jackson on

    Since, as the Columnist rightly avers, the carbon/warming problem cannot be fixed by a bottom up solution.
    The way to deal with the carbon is to use currently available technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere above the poles.
    Heliostats tethered at 65,000 feet on each line of longtitude around the arctic and antarctic circles equipped with solar powered extreme energy lasers which emit femto-pulses of high power tuned to the frequency of carbon dioxe can disassociate the atoms within the Co2 molecules and the carbon will fall. It takes a mere 50 electron volts to disassociate a Co2 molecule.
    This continued bombarding of the Co2 will hold the situation and over time reduce the concentration and also the temperature.

  2. NASA has already declared that carbon is a refrigerant, leaving it to you to make the conclusion that it cannot possibly contribute to global warming. There is also the fact that these emissions are food for the plants, and plants give us oxygen. Because global warming could not be indisputably established, climate alarmists changed the calling to climate change, but is still attributing these changes to man made factors while leaving out other perhaps more weighty natural influences, like the sun. Climate analysis nowadays, therefore, have become like the business of political analysis where objectivity is next to impossible because the analyst cannot hide his bias. This means to me that somewhere out there is another hidden agenda behind all this fuss over the climate. By the way, did you notice that it has been raining cats and dogs since they sounded the alarm about the El Nino drought?

  3. A better-known Inigo Montoya quote ends with, “prepare to die.”

    But I don’t agree with you that we as a species are headed that way, partly because there is still time to change, but mostly because some humans can actually adapt to quite a bit of hardship.

    Luxury, as we currently understand it, will go extinct.

  4. Very very very good, Mr. Kritz. You forgot to mention that, along with some of the deeper-minded scientists, Pope Francis has called on mankind for human beings to change their values so they can become able to save our planet and themselves and our species.
    Please continue writing. More power.