COP28 President and Chief Executive of the UAE state oil company Adnoc, Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber let the cat out of the bag this week when he said there was “no science” that says phasing out fossil fuels will achieve a cap on global warming of 1.5°C. In an interview with the impressively self-important Irish politician Mary Robinson, he demanded to be shown a roadmap for sustainable socioeconomic development “unless you want to take the world back to caves”. You would have had a heart of stone not to enjoy the antics of the BBC green activist-in-chief Justin Rowlatt as he tried to finesse Al-Jaber’s remarks. What a creative chap to write a BBC story about it headed, ‘Is the world about to promise to ditch fossil fuels?‘
Rowlatt claims that the UAE has recognised the world has to kick its addiction to unabated fossil fuels and has decided to put itself decisively on the right side of history by trying to own the decision. “But yes, at the same time it is planning to increase capacity and sell even more oil,” he helpfully added.
Other more realistic interpretations are available. The world will need as much, if not more, fossil fuel in 2050 as it consumes today, and its biggest customers will be those who are too virtuous to drill and frack the hydrocarbons for themselves. As is usually the case, the meek are unlikely to inherit the Earth. Al-Jaber might have slightly underestimated the type of housing stock available in future ‘Net Zero’ countries – mud and grass huts are suggested in a recent United Nations report, although sustainable caves could occupy a premium niche. With money comes power and all the trophy assets vast wealth can buy. For instance, by 2050 the Gulf Arabs, along with Saudi Arabia, will be able to buy all the football clubs they want. In the end it might just be easier to relocate the entire English Premier League into state-of-the art, air conditioned local stadiums.
Al-Jaber’s remarks blew holes in a ‘settled’ science narrative that has been carefully curated over decades by collectivists aiming to transform global societies with a Net Zero project. A bewildered John Kerry, the U.S. presidential climate envoy, suggested the comments may need “clarification” and “maybe just came out wrong”. Kerry’s irritation showed clearly that Al-Jaber had undermined the fixed idea that reducing human-caused carbon dioxide will somehow stop temperature moving around in a chaotic atmosphere. Despite 50 years of trying, scientists have yet to produce conclusive proof that humans control the climate thermostat. A rival hypothesis that trace gases such as CO2 ‘saturate’ past certain levels and lose much of their warming abilities has the advantage of offering an explanation for the absence of an obvious temperature-CO2 link over the last 600 million years.
For alarmists, Al-Jaber’s linking of his remarks with the 1.5°C limit was very unfortunate. The idea that humans need to cap a rise in global temperature to 1.5°C is an invented number designed to invoke panic and concentrate the political mind. The setting of an arbitrary target is credited to IPCC lead author and former climate adviser to Angela Merkel, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. At first he set the limit at 2°C, and in 2010 he was asked by Der Speigel why he had imposed the “magical limit” to which all countries must adhere. In reply, Schellnhuber said: “Politicians like to have clear targets and a simple number is easier to handle.” The ploy was so successful that it was ratcheted down to a scarier 1.5°C to persuade politicians to sign the Paris climate agreement in 2015.
Again, none of this is based on science. The rise of 1.1°C since the lifting of the Little Ice Age is tiny in climatic terms and to be expected after hundreds of years of slowly declining temperatures. In the cyclical historical record of the last few thousand years, temperatures were similar in Medieval and Roman times, while observational evidence from the mid Holocene suggests large rises of around 3-4°C
Rowlatt’s copy is of interest since it hints at the dawning realisation that a world without the power provided by hydrocarbons is impossible to achieve. He quotes the new head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Professor Jim Skea who explains that stopping the temperature rise will mean getting rid of unabated coal completely. But, in Skea’s view, the world of Net Zero will still need 40% and 55% of its current oil and gas supplies respectively. Rowlatt picks up on the word ‘abated’, noting that the technology to do that “does not exist at anywhere near the scale needed”. This is the guiding “science” that Al-Jaber is talking about, concludes Rowlatt, at a time when the Gulf States sell huge quantities of oil and gas to power-starved Western countries leading the way to Net Zero.
For some inexplicable reason, Rowlatt fails to channel similar understanding when campaigning to ban fossil fuel exploration in the U.K. And to think of all the jobs and wealth that might have been created if frackers had got on with fracking, while an understanding press praised their scientific credentials and were happy to waffle on about unworkable abatement technologies.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.