Bill McKibben has a letter responding to an error-riddled Wall Street Journal op-ed — though I guess that’s redundant. This one attacks clean energy and the fossil-fuel divestment effort McKibben supports.
Robert Bryce’s Dec. 17 op-ed (“Harvard Needs Remedial Energy Math“) attacking campus efforts to have universities divest themselves of holdings in fossil-fuel companies is interesting for what it omits: even the slightest attempt to rebut the mathematical logic that shows fossil-fuel companies have become outlaws against the laws of physics. Here are the numbers: In order to prevent the two-degree Celsius rise in temperature that even the most conservative governments on earth have committed to avoiding, scientists tell us we can burn enough coal and oil and gas to produce 565 gigatons of CO2. Unfortunately, the planet’s fossil-fuel companies, and the countries that operate like fossil-fuel companies (think Venezuela and Kuwait), have five times that much in their reserves. It’s what their share prices are based on; they obviously plan to burn it; indeed, they spend hundreds of millions of dollars daily looking for more. If their business plan is carried out, the planet tanks.
Mr. Bryce is entirely correct that it will be hard to move away from fossil fuels, an enormous engineering challenge. But the Germans are demonstrating it can be done, and the most recent studies shows that we could rely on renewables for our power upwards of 99% of the time as early as 2030 if we got to work. Which we won’t, if the fossil-fuel industry continues to exert its massive financial muscle to block change. That’s why students in 189 campuses have so far risen up to demand divestment—this is the great moral challenge of our time, and maybe, given the stakes, of all time.
Bryce, of course, is one of the most debunked disinformers on the face of the Earth, who famously wrote (in the WSJ of course), “If serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere” (see “Robert Bryce Makes Mockery of Science, Is Mocked in Return“). Hmm, if Bryce can be dead wrong about Einstein, then he’s probably dead wrong about everything else.
Bryce works for the Manhattan Institute, which “has received millions of dollars from donors tied to the fossil fuel industry” and the Kochs to spread pro-fossil-fuel messages. Media Matters’ post, “Who Is Robert Bryce?” has more detail. See also
- “Small IS Beautiful”! Robert Bryce Pushes Nuclear Power by Quoting Famous Author Who Called It “an Ethical, Spiritual, and Metaphysical Monstrosity”
- Debunking Robert Bryce’s power hungry gusher of lies
Bryce’s nonsense is not worth debunking in detail — one could waste a lifetime doing that. But given that he claims “Harvard Needs Remedial Energy Math,” it’s worth noting one of his own countless instances of innumeracy, the tired “wind power uses too much land” myth: