Patterson: Net zero by 2050 has zero chance


Thomas C. Patterson is a retired physician and former Arizona state senator who lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Arizona State University president Michael Crow believes we are in such danger that we should amend the U.S. Constitution to empower the government to deal more expansively with climate change. Dr. Crow’s view that constitutional protections of our liberties should be eliminated when they become inconvenient wouldn’t square with the Founders’, but his estimate of the dangers and required remedies for our changing climate are quite mainstream.

“Net zero by 2050” has become an article of faith among our corporate and academic elites, no longer requiring proof or intellectual defense. The notion that we must eliminate all carbon emissions by midcentury if we want to save the planet is the organizing principle for environmental, social and corporate governance investing. In 2022, it was mentioned more than 6,000 times in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The commission has helpfully proposed climate disclosure rules to help investors “evaluate the progress in meeting net-zero emissions and assessing any associated risk.” Skeptics are sidelined as “climate deniers.”

But mounting scientific evidence suggests that net zero is wildly impractical and probably not even achievable. In September, the Electric Power Research Institute, the research arm of the U.S. electric power industry (which would seem to be naturally inclined to support proposals which increase reliance on electricity), released a sober report on the practicality of net zero.

The study concluded that “clean electricity plus direct electrification and efficiency … are not sufficient by themselves to achieve net-zero economy-wide emissions.” Translation: It can’t be done. No amount of wind turbines, solar panels, battery power, fossil fuel or other available technologies will achieve net zero by 2050.

Furthermore, even “deep carbonization” — drastic reductions in atmospheric carbon levels — is an impossible dream. With natural gas and nuclear generation forced to the sidelines, that would require options like carbon-removal technologies, which would cost a quadrillion (million billion) dollars, which would … well, you get the picture.

Finally, the report concludes that living in a net-zero world may not be all that great. Supply chains operating only on electricity and the reliability and resiliency of a net-zero electricity grid could be highly problematic.

The response to this nonpartisan and obviously consequential report was silence. There has been essentially no media coverage. No climate activists rushed to dispute the methodology nor challenge the conclusions.

This is a significant tell. You could assume, if the eco-activists were genuinely concerned about our climate future, they would have some interest in responding to this major challenge to their assumptions. But they ignored it to cling to their groupthink.

Yet, other indications that the transition to renewable fuels is already off the tracks keep coming. The government-certified North American Electric Reliability Corp. recently issued its 2022 Long-Term Reliability Assessment. It concluded that fossil fuel plants were being removed from the grid too quickly to meet electricity demand, putting us at risk for energy shortages and even blackouts during extreme weather.

But wait, there’s more. PGM-International, a large grid operator in the Northeast, recently released projections indicating it will soon lose 40,000 megawatts, 21% of its generation capacity. The looming plant closures are mostly “policy-driven” by onerous Environmental Protection Agency regulations and mandatory environmental, social and governance commitments.

Renewables, although lavishly subsidized to replace the lost electricity, consistently underperform and will be able to produce at most half of the electricity lost. Meanwhile, the government is perversely mandating electric vehicles, appliances and whatever.

They point out that there is no basis for claiming an upcoming existential crisis. Carbon dioxide is not primarily a pollutant but a necessary basis for life. Moreover, there is no statistical evidence that global warming is intensifying natural disasters. Panic is dangerous, with the potential to plunge us into perpetual poverty.

They charge that climate science has degenerated into a discussion based on beliefs, not on “self-critical science.” Historians of the future, reflecting on our era of hyperpoliticized science, will undoubtedly agree.

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