The Carbon Diet Fallacy

Published January 16, 2015

Climate Change Weekly #155

The worst metaphor to come out of the global warming debate is “the carbon diet.”

Originally coined in Oregon in 2000, the metaphor didn’t take off until 2005, when David Gershon wrote a workbook titled Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds. Al Gore, among other alarmists, praised it, and in 2006, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) referenced it upon announcing new greenhouse gas emissions restrictions in California.

Schwarzenegger compared Earth to an overweight person who is consuming too much energy (primarily fossil fuels), making the planet unhealthy. The cure: Apply willpower and make changes to our carbon-crazy lifestyles so the planet will avoid an early death – presumably of heatstroke.

The carbon-diet metaphor has seeped into everyday language. Alarmists have convinced world leaders and much of the general public the world needs to “cut back” on fossil fuel consumption in the same way an obese person needs cut back on food consumption.

However, from its inception, the metaphor was flawed. First, the planet is not a living organism with some particular state of existence objectively describable as being “healthy.” The idea there is an ideal temperature or state of the global climate is a human invention.

Second, taking the metaphor seriously leads to perverse, fatal results for billions of the world’s people – primarily the poorest among us. Those who already suffer from poverty, malnutrition, lack of education, and dearth of political representation ultimately suffer the most from climate alarmism. A carbon diet would make the sick even sicker. In the present world, in the words of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, restrictions on fossil fuel use are a “sickness unto death.”

An article in Slate rightly points out “[m]ost of the world does not need a carbon diet.”:

Three-quarters of the global population uses just 10 percent of the world’s energy, 1 billion people lack access to electricity, and 3 billion cook their food over dung, wood, and charcoal, leading to millions of early deaths. These people are energy starved – and they need a feast, not a diet. People in Angola, Bangladesh, and Cameroon, for example, use about 250 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, while people in the U.S. use 12,246.

People in developed countries should not be thrown into poverty and chaos by massive fossil fuel restrictions. Fossil fuel use has allowed humans to adapt the environment to our needs rather than, as we have for the vast majority of human existence, remain dependent upon and in fear of the vicissitudes of nature.

Even clean development mechanisms are misguided; paying the poor not to develop, or to attempt to develop using only renewable energy, will result in developing nations having only enough energy per capita to power a set-top cable box, leaving people cooking over dung and wood without the electricity needed to light a lamp.

In the end:

The carbon diet is a miserable prescription for the world’s future because it contains no vision of a shared future and shared prosperity. Instead, it offers a default vision of a dog-eat-dog world where starving hordes will tank the planet.

The Slate article should sit alongside Alex Epstein’s The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels in our intellectual medical library as a diagnostic manual for the world’s energy ills.



Climate models overstate feedback … Wheat yields increase under warming … Historic warm periods hotter than now … India cracks down on climate campaigners … Climate threats exaggerated … Moose decline not caused by warming


Global warming predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other climate alarmist organizations are unreliable because the climate models they use incorporate a flawed feedback calculation in their math and, as a result, grossly overstate the amount of warming we should expect from introducing any amount of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Using a simpler model, the faulty feedback amplification mechanisms produce a prediction of future climate that should worry no one.

SOURCE: Science Bulletin


The Journal of Plant Growth Regulation published a paper demonstrating the positive impacts of modest nighttime warming on the mass and volume of wheat. Chen, et al. note under predicted warming during the winter and spring, daily minimum temperatures, typically at night, should see three times the amount of warming than increases in daily maximum (usually daytime) temperatures. Under these conditions, the team of Chinese researchers found wheat crops had a longer growing season, and grains of wheat increased in weight by 6.3 percent, adding to the overall biomass by 12.3 percent and yield by 12 percent. Chen’s team concluded “wheat production in North China may benefit from predicted climatic warming.”

SOURCE: CO2 Science


In a paper published in the Chinese Science Bulletin, researchers derived sea surface temperature (SST) histories for the South China Sea for two 80-year windows of time around 50 AD within the Roman Warm Period (RWP) and 990 AD during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA). Results show the mean annual SST of RWP was 1.4° C higher than the Current Warm Period (CWP); MCA was 0.8° C higher than CWP. Temperatures were higher in both the summer and winter for both previous warm periods than at present. In addition, the researchers note winter temperature reconstructions for eastern China and the Tibetan Plateau also indicate higher temperatures in RWP and MCA than at present.

SOURCE: CO2 Science


India has joined Peru in finding Greenpeace persona non grata, which means unacceptable and unwelcome. Peru arrested Greenpeace members for their destructive acts at the Nazca Lines, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. India is labeling Greenpeace and other U.S.-based environmental groups “unwelcome” due to their costly climate activities. India has wearied of Greenpeace’s efforts to prevent the building of coal-fired electric power plants. India’s intelligence bureau declared Greenpeace “a potential threat to national economic security,” and India calculated the organization’s activities cost the country between 2 and 3 percent of its GDP each year. India is restricting the international travel of Indian Greenpeace activists and has blocked their access to foreign funding. A member of another environmental lobbying organization had his bank accounts frozen and is being required to explain every deposit from the group’s U.S.-based offices.

SOURCE: The Daily Caller


Two out of three scientists on a panel at a meeting of the India Science Congress argued threats posed by global warming and warming itself were likely of natural origin. Concerning claims of melting glaciers, Dhruv Sen Singh of the Centre of Advanced Study in Geology at the University of Lucknow stated, “While I agree that glaciers are melting because of global warming, if this is because of man, then what was the reason for the melting of the glaciers in the Gondwana period long before man arrived on the planet?” According to Singh, climate alarmists are using propaganda to “unnecessarily cause panic.” Panelist Rajesh Agnihotri, senior scientist at the National Physics Laboratory, mapped changing monsoon trends but found nothing to suggest human actions played a role. “Hypothetically, even if man stopped industrial activity, stopped using cars and stopped using air-conditioners, monsoon patterns would still change,” said Agnihotri. He added, “Natural forces like solar intensity appear to be dominating monsoons to a greater extent than man-made climate change.”

SOURCES: Economic Times and the India Times


Recent declines in moose populations in Minnesota are likely part of a natural boom-and-bust population cycle and are certainly not due to human-caused global warming, says Jim Steele, director emeritus at the Sierra Nevada Field Campus at San Francisco State University and author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism. According to Steele, “The biggest threat to the integrity of environmental science is bad science, exaggeration and fear mongering. The recent hype about declining moose populations is just one more example of global warming advocates hijacking and denigrating ecological science.” Steele points out while environmentalists are blaming Minnesota’s moose population decline on overheating and increased parasite infestation due to warmer temperatures, the facts are “the greatest spike in moose mortality happens in March at the end of severe winters. Milder winters can be beneficial. While alarmists blame moose deaths on ‘global warming,’ the rapid decline in northeastern Minnesota has happened in a region experiencing bouts of record breaking low temperatures.” Steele also says while warming is supposed to be a global phenomenon, moose die-offs are not global. Indeed, moose populations in adjacent habitats in southern Ontario are stable or increasing. Scandinavian moose populations, despite a century of warming, have reached record highs.

SOURCE: Watts Up With That