Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels assesses the costs and benefits of the use of fossil fuels with a special focus on anthropogenic climate change. It is the fifth volume in the Climate Change Reconsidered (CCR) series produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).
The NIPCC authors, building on previous reports in the series as well as new literature reviews, find that while climate change is occurring and a human impact on climate is likely, there is no consensus on the size of that impact relative to natural variability, the net benefits or costs of the impacts of climate change, or whether future climate trends can be predicted with sufficient confidence to guide public policies today. Consequently, concern over climate change is not a sufficient scientific or economic basis for restricting the use of fossil fuels.
The NIPCC authors do something their IPCC counterparts never did: Conduct an even-handed cost-benefit analysis of the use of fossil fuels. Despite calling for the end of reliance on fossil fuels by 2100, the IPCC never produced an accounting of the opportunity cost of restricting or banning their use. That cost would be enormous. Estimates of the cost of reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the amounts said by the IPCC to be necessary to avoid causing ~2°C warming in the year 2050 range from the IPCC’s own estimate of 3.4% to as high as 81% of projected global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2050, the latter estimate nullifying all the gains in human well-being made in the past century. Cost-benefit ratios range from the IPCC’s own estimate of 6.8:1 to an alarming 162:1.
The NIPCC authors conclude, “The global war on energy freedom, which commenced in earnest in the 1980s and reached a fever pitch in the second decade of the twenty-first century, was never founded on sound science or economics. The world’s policymakers ought to acknowledge this truth and end that war.”
Chapter 1 describes how economic principles can be applied to environmental issues. The authors explain how economists use observational data (prices, profits and losses, investment and consumption decisions, etc.) to measure and monetize costs and benefits, to understand how people respond to and solve challenges, and to understand why private as well as government efforts to protect the environment sometimes fail to achieve their objectives.
Chapter 2 updates the literature review of climate science in previous CCR volumes. Most notably, the authors say the IPCC has exaggerated the amount of warming likely to occur if the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) were to double and such warming as occurs is likely to be modest and cause no net harm to the global environment or to human well-being.
Chapters 3, 4, and 5 catalogue the beneficial impacts of fossil fuels on human prosperity, human health, and the environment. These benefits are enormous yet missing from the IPCC’s massive tomes. Chapters 6 and 7 address two harms said to be created by the use of fossil fuels: air pollution and what the IPCC calls threats to “human security.” The NIPCC authors show the alleged effects of air pollution have been grossly exaggerated. Similarly, the IPCC’s own literature review shows how weak is the case for claiming climate change intensifies risk factors such as loss of property and livelihoods, forced migration, and violent conflict.
Chapter 8, the final chapter of the book, critiques the IPCC’s claim that the cost of reducing the use of fossil fuels is justified by the benefits of a slightly cooler world a century hence. New cost-benefit analyses of climate change, fossil fuels, and regulations demonstrate how adaptation to climate change is invariably the better path than attempting to mitigate it by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.