Aside from a few strange arguments, you will not learn anything about the Green New Deal from Alex Epstein’s video… not even the most basic reason that a New Green Deal has been proposed: namely, that preventing an acceleration of climate change will require attention to economic and social issues. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” required a large-scale effort to combat the Great Depression, likewise a large-scale effort is needed for today’s challenge.
The Green New Deal has had several incarnations in the last 10-20 years. The most recent was a Democratic-led proposal in early 2019 which was preemptively rejected by Senate Republicans without allowing discussion or expert testimony. It is fair to say that Green New Deal legislation will not happen during the current administration.
So, on to Alex Epstein, a non-scientist who has made a career of glorifying fossil fuels. Epstein’s tactics in this video include caricaturing Green New Deal proponents, as well as offering weird and specious arguments.
As an example of the first: according to Epstein, Green New Deal proponents “say that we have 12 years to save the planet from rising CO2 levels”. This is a popular oversimplification, stemming from a 2018 UN report that discussed what it would take to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by mid-century. Achieving this goal would require significant progress during the coming decade; it cannot be accomplished if we wait until mid-century to act. Climate action proponents are not suggesting that the apocalypse will occur in 12 years, as Epstein implies.
Epstein ridicules the inaccuracy in past predictions about climate change. His best example is:
There are two things wrong here. First is a mischaracterization of what was said. The Associated Press article in question reported:
Mr. Brown only said this about flat-island nations, and he did not specify a timetable for when this would occur. Second—and more importantly—Epstein seems to be suggesting, “A climate expert’s predictions were inaccurate in 1989, therefore we should not trust what they are saying today.”
A similarly disingenuous argument is made when Epstein criticizes the idea of switching to solar and wind technologies:
Ok, but, so what? Solar, wind, and storage technologies (in many circumstances) aren’t yet cost effective. Who is saying otherwise? More to the point, though, with the rapid technological improvements we’ve seen in the past two decades, why couldn’t they eventually become cost effective?
Speaking of technology, Epstein argues that deaths from natural events have been decreasing, thanks to
Is this serious? “We may be wreaking havoc on our climate, but we can now build better fortresses to withstand the increasing hurricanes/fires/etc. that we ourselves are causing” ?
Finally, Epstein attempts to pooh-pooh the whole topic by characterizing recent global warming as unremarkable:
Granted, the Earth has seen large temperature swings during the past 500 million years. But during the most recent 10 thousand of those years, temperatures have been very stable. Why are large swings hundreds of millions of years ago relevant to this discussion?
In summary, does this sound like someone who is interested in the truth? Who is interested in playing fair? Even if climate change worries were excessive, would a responsible public figure use lazy arguments and tactics like these?
Anyway, Epstein may not care much what you and I think. Look at the frightening call-to-arms at the beginning of his presentation:
Notice who Epstein identifies as the prospective loser. It appears that his target audience isn’t us citizens, but rather is the oil and gas industry. Perhaps this video will help ensure the continued funding of his crusade by that industry.