What if the United States and the rest of the world eliminated carbon emissions – would the planet’s climate “change”?

The climate will certainly change – regardless whether carbon emissions from man-made sources are eliminated.

William H. Gates, III, co-founder and long time chief of the Microsoft Corporation (now retired), earlier this week warned on his “GatesNotes” blog that we must “eliminate the world’s carbon emissions.” If not, “the loss of life and economic misery caused by this pandemic are on par with what will happen regularly.”

Mr. Gates predicts the “death toll from climate change” will equal the pandemic by 2060, and exceed it five-fold by 2100. He further asserted that economic conditions in the next two decades could be “as bad as having a Covid-sized pandemic every ten years.” In other words, warmer temperature equals more death.

To paraphrase platoon Sergeant Hulka, lighten up, Bill.

Mankind’s contribution of carbon dioxide from tailpipes, exhaling, power plants and everything else comprises 0.12 percent of all greenhouse gas. Total CO2, in turn, comprises four ten thousandths (0.04%) of all atmospheric gases. How would “eliminating” this infinitesimal man-made amount, assuming it were feasible, alter the planet’s average global temperature? Theoretically, if eliminating man-made carbon emissions cooled the planet by a degree or two in temperature, ceteris paribus—as in, other things equal—do we live happily ever after?

The planet is way more complex.

If man-made carbon emissions were “eliminated,” as in, China, India and the developing world went along with this economic fools’ errand (hint: they won’t), there are many the other influences on the planet’s climate. We cannot stop El Nino and the ocean currents, which have a say in this; we cannot alter the Earth’s tilt on its axis; and we surely cannot stop the rate of sunspot activity. In other words, “other things” do not stand still to comport with climate computer models assembled by scientists funded by Mr. Gates or from grants awarded by federal climate bureaucracies.

These and other natural phenomena get a vote on the planet’s climate, and impact its “change” one way or the other. They all are beyond the reach of the aging baby boom generation—including its billionaire class—and successor generations X, Y and Z, no matter how many protest marches, emails to Congress, meatless Mondays, UN conferences, or corporate virtue signals they generate.

I mention these other wrinkles in the climate discussion, and quote Sgt. Hulka, as no disrespect to Bill Gates. He is a larger than life figure and a historically talented and successful businessman and job creator. Not for nothing was he the wealthiest man on the planet for many years running, until being eclipsed recently by Amazon head, Jeff Bezos.

Mr. Gates’ business acumen made personal computers ubiquitous, revolutionized the workplace and, more broadly, contributed to our increased standard of living. Gates also is a generous philanthropist as his and his wife Melina’s foundation has spent billions of dollars worldwide to combat disease and improve education, among other good works.

None of these exceptional accomplishments, however, make him a sage on predicting Earth’s climate and resulting deaths by 2060 or 2100.

Centuries ago, the world was warmer than today, and humans survived without air conditioning. Then the planet got cooler not because we replaced incandescent light bulbs, stopped driving SUVs and banned air travel and plastic straws. The Medieval warm period and subsequent Little Ice Age occurred all by themselves, naturally.

Credit Mr. Gates on this: he rejects the idea that less driving or air travel will have much impact, and does not attempt to shame us into curtailing our economic lives, as others do. Instead, he correctly points to innovation and technological solutions to adapt to climate conditions and “fight” global warming. Some of his visionary ideas can be useful on their own, even if they end up fruitless in changing the weather four or eight decades from now.

Bill Gates is free to invest his remaining tens of billions to help find ways to live better and cleaner, and even carbon-free. But we all should be a bit more humble and sober about the efficacy and necessity of policies to alter the climate in a different direction from its natural course.

Author

  • Peter Murphy, a CFACT analyst, has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy, both in the non-profit sector and in government in the administration of former New York Gov. George Pataki. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the NY Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post, Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal. Twitter: @PeterMurphy26.