You are on page 1of 63

Rational Rational Optimism Optimism::

Matt Matt Ridley Ridley Matt Matt Ridley Ridley

Texas Public Policy Foundation Texas Public Policy Foundation
2014 2014
Are we
better off? better off?
World Economic Growth
World Economic Growth
The fall of poverty
But are we healthier,
happier, safer, better
fed, cleverer, cleaner, fed, cleverer, cleaner,
kinder, freer, more
peaceful, more equal?
Better fed
Fouquet (2011) - The Demand for Environmental Quality in Driving Transitions to Low Polluting Energy Sources
S. Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature, 2011
More peaceful
More equal
Sala-i-Martin & Pinkovskiy (2010) Parametric estimations of the world distribution of income
How is this
possible? possible?
The collective brain
Internet traffic: the Opte Project. Licensed under Creative Commons
Energy amplifies productivity
Can it
go on?
``We cannot absolutely
prove that those are in
error who say society
has reached a turning
point, that we have seen
our best days, but so
said all who came before
us and with just as much us and with just as much
apparent reason...
On what principle is it
that with nothing but
improvement behind us
we are to expect nothing
but deterioration before
us? Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1830
Population growth rate is falling
Dillon Ripley: 75-80% of species by 1995
Paul and Anne Ehrlich: 50% by 2005
Species extinctions
Paul and Anne Ehrlich: 50% by 2005
Thomas Lovejoy: 15-20% by 2000
True figure: 1.3% of mammals, 1.4% of birds
Arctic and Antarctic wildlife
Were using less land to produce more food
What happens to the worlds vegetation
Bioenergy vs fossil fuels
Haiti-Dominican Republic border
Indoor air pollution: 1 in 13 deaths
The changing mix of fuel
Natural Gas
Carbon dioxide levels
Global temperatures up 0.35C in 35 years
Temperature change
Lewis and Crok 2013
Warming by latitude
South Pole
North Pole
Climate change is slower than expected
Sea temperature
Why has Arctic sea ice retreated
but Antarctic sea ice increased?
National Snow and Ice Data Center
Warmer 1000 years ago
Polar Ural tree-line
18 non-tree-ring proxies
Loehle, C. and J.H. McCulloch. 2008. Energy and Environment, 19, 93-100
The long view
The impact
so far so far
Droughts not increasing
No acceleration in sea level rise
No acceleration in glacier retreat
Oerlemanns et al 2005
No increase in cyclones
No decrease in winter snow
No increase in intensity of rainfall
Uncertainty in the sign of projected changes
in climate extremes over the coming two to
three decades is relatively large because
IPCC: no expected change in extreme weather
three decades is relatively large because
climate change signals are expected to be
relatively small compared to natural climate
variability. IPCC SREX, 2012
No worsening of malaria
P. Gething et al Nature 2010
greening greening
Change in greenery, 1981-2011
Our work was able to tease-out the CO2 fertilization effect by
using mathematical modeling together with satellite data
adjusted to take out the observed effects of other influences
such as precipitation, air temperature, the amount of light, and
land-use changes. R. Donohue, 2013
Global greening
CO2 fertilisation effect
The benefits of CO2
Is the cure
worse than worse than
the disease?
Additional biofuel production may
have resulted in at least 192,000
excess deaths policies intended to
mitigate global warming may actually
have increased death and disease in
Green energys death toll
have increased death and disease in
developing countries.
Indur Goklany Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Vol 16,
Spring 2011
To prevent CO
rising, let alone cut them,
would require a new wind farm
the size of Germany every year.
The shale gas effect
The richer we
get, the more
well cut
More growth, less warming
RCP8.5 assumes:
12 billion people
12 billion people
Little trade
50% of energy from coal
10x todays coal use
2x sensitivity
Carbon dioxide levels are rising
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas
The climate has been warming
The planet is greening
Disease and cure
The planet is greening
Global warming is fast and dangerous
Renewable energy is cheap and safe
Are we taking chemotherapy for a cold?
slow and mild
expensive and damaging
Matt Ridley Matt Ridley
TPPF, Houston TPPF, Houston