Efforts to rein in global warming by eating less meat, driving electric cars, or subsidizing solar energy are completely ineffective, writes a professor at the Copenhagen Business School, and constitute nothing other than “pointless virtue signaling.”
“It is absurd for middle-class citizens in advanced economies to tell themselves that eating less steak or commuting in a Toyota TM-0.18% Prius will rein in rising temperatures,” states Bjørn Lomborg, the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist.
“Although I am a vegetarian and don’t own a car, I believe we need to be honest about what such choices can achieve,” Lomborg declares in an essay this week riddled with damning facts about how ridiculously little impact such efforts have.
According to “a systematic peer-reviewed study,” Lomborg observes, going vegetarian reduces individual CO2 emissions “by the equivalent of 540 kilos — or just 4.3% of the emissions of the average inhabitant of a developed country.”
“Furthermore, there is a ‘rebound effect,’ as money saved on cheaper vegetarian food is spent on goods and services that cause additional greenhouse-gas emissions,” he adds. “Once we account for this, going entirely vegetarian reduces a person’s total emissions by only 2%.”
The ineffectiveness of a vegetarian diet is echoed in the choice to drive electric cars, Lomborg states.
Although electric cars are “branded as environmentally friendly,” the fact is that “generating the electricity they require almost always involves burning fossil fuels,” he writes.
“Moreover, producing energy-intensive batteries for these cars invariably generates significant CO2 emissions,” he says, so that electric cars have a huge carbon deficit when they hit the road, and “will start saving emissions only after being driven 60,000 kilometers.”
Even if sustained political pressure and increased subsidies were able raise the percentage of electric cars in the world to 15 times their present numbers by 2040, electric cars would only reduce global CO2 emissions by just 1 percent, he notes, citing a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
“We already spend $129 billion per year subsidizing solar and wind energy, yet these sources meet just 1.1% of our global energy needs,” he adds, and yet the IEA estimates that “by 2040 — after we have spent a whopping $3.5 trillion on additional subsidies — solar and wind will still meet less than 5% of our needs.”
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol put the figures in stark perspective, noting that in 2018, electric cars saved 40 million tons of CO2 worldwide, equivalent to reducing global temperatures by a mere 0.000018°C — or a little more than a hundred-thousandth of a degree Celsius — by the end of the century.
“If you think you can save the climate with electric cars, you’re completely wrong,” Birol observes.
The fact is, Lombord declares “cheap and reliable energy underpins human prosperity” and this will be provided by fossil fuels until alternative sources of cheap and reliable energy can be found.
Only by producing green energy that is “cheap enough to outcompete fossil fuels” will any significant reduction of emissions take place, Lombord concludes.
In the meantime, no dietary adjustments, solar subsidies, or hybrid cars are going to make a whit of difference.