The climate non-skeptics are lulled into hapless orthodoxy, and the skeptics are quieted into non-pa

The climate non-skeptics are lulled into hapless orthodoxy, and the skeptics are quieted into non-participation.

The article “Why EROEI Matters” by David Turver (Eigen Values, fascinates me. It gets my skeptic up. I won’t upstage Mr. Turver by summarizing it, but EROEI (Energy Recovered On Energy Invested) is a great way to compare the efficacy of energy sources, and his article is an excellent critique of our policy direction. You should read it.

Often labeled “deniers,” skeptics today get a bad rap. We (I include myself as a skeptic) are too readily dismissed. Our expert class speaks with 100-percent certainty, so contra-observations must be false, or the observers must be stupid. That’s hard to swallow when you are a witness to such facts. We don’t accept authoritative narratives just because they are popular and repetitive. We need some convincing. Claims must match our independent observations or triangulate in such a way that it makes sense to us.

Skeptics are especially maligned when it comes to climate change. On this topic, I’m not even that skeptical. The climate has always changed. It is common sense to me that if we un-bury carbon that has been in the earth’s crust for eons and release it into the atmosphere, it will have some effect on the nature or pace of the change. You don’t need to spend much time in a smoggy, metropolitan traffic jam on baking asphalt, knowing that such incidents occur in tens of thousands of places every day, to realize the potential scale. Understanding the impact is a worthy effort.

But the resulting orthodoxy is clearly unhealthy. While skeptics are smeared, non-skeptics are being lured into an intellectual trap. I offer some experiences.

In 2016, I took an Uber from downtown Denver to a community about an hour away. The Prius driver was pleasant enough until we passed a distressed pine forest. She observed that “we” were doing horrible things to that forest. She asserted that human-caused climate change caused shorter winters, so the cold that would normally kill an invasive pine beetle was no longer killing the beetle, so the beetle was killing the trees. This was new information to me. I accepted her premise and haven’t researched it since. The following conversation with her is paraphrased.

“We really need to do something about this,” she said, shaking her head. “We’re killing everything on the planet!”

“Except the pine beetle, obviously.” I said, attempting humor, which turned out to be a mistake. I detected a look of disgust when she glared at me in the rear-view mirror.

“Seriously! If we don’t do something in the next few years, it’ll be too late!” She lectured.

Based on her demeanor, I felt it best to avoid further levity. “Yeah. Probably the quickest way to lower carbon emissions would be to replace coal power with nuclear power as fast as we can.”

“No way,” she said. “Nuclear is too dangerous! We need to make solar collectors out of something natural, like pine needles or something that the earth replaces.”

“If we don’t know how to do it today, won’t it be too late? But forestry is something we know how to do,” I offered, “and burning pine needles or wood should be carbon neutral except for the energy to harvest and transport it.”

“No way. Deforestation is a blight … .” she claimed, and continued dismissing every constructive step humanity could take to avoid an existential crisis that she was certain was only a couple years in the future. Very unpleasant.

That same year, and largely based on that conversation, I approached several high school teachers with the following idea. Each year for the next five years, I would provide a $1,000 scholarship to the winner of an essay contest answering this question: If global warming was not caused by humans, how should we adapt? I would enlist independent judges to gauge each essay on its argumentation, structure, and scientific and philosophic merit. I had no takers. I thought the premise would be eye-opening. They thought the premise was potentially damaging, even as a simple thought experiment. (Nobody said this, but it was as if I suggested describing the positive aspects of fascism!) Skepticism rejected!

North America experienced a heat wave this summer. Every morning we were inundated with instructions on how to stay safe because the world was absolutely melting! It’s three or four degrees hotter than it’s ever been! Take that, deniers! (“This Summer's Record-Breaking Heat Waves Would Not Have Happened without Climate Change,” Scientific American) I took walks and golfed anyway. I observed that it wasn’t hotter than the extremes I had experienced my whole life. As a farm kid, I recall baling hay in near-100-degree temperatures in the 1970s.. So I checked the data for my region, the Quad Cities, which straddles the Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois. (Data are included in the appendix. All measures degrees Fahrenheit. Sources and

Here is what I found:

* The seasonal temperature profile at the Quad City Airport in Moline, Illinois, year-to-date is not markedly hotter or colder than 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010, or 2020.

* As of this writing, (August 16, 2023), the temperature in Davenport, Iowa, has not achieved 100 degrees in 2023. It last did so in 2012.

* In my lifetime (since 1958), only two of the top 27 hottest temperatures recorded in Davenport have occurred. That was 104 degrees in 2012 and 1988. That ranks as the 17th hottest temperature ever. The other 25 hottest temperatures were recorded between 1901 and 1936.

* In my lifetime (65 years, if you need it calculated), there have been 34 days in which Davenport’s temperature reached 100 degrees. In the prior 57 years, there were 93.

* In my lifetime, Davenport has experienced 21 of the 25 coldest temperatures ever recorded, the top two being -33 degrees and -29 degrees on January 31 and 30, 2019, respectively.

This is not an argument that the climate is cooling, or that climate change isn’t or won’t affect the Quad Cities! I don’t believe either of those things. But it does argue that skeptics are justified in their skepticism. In this instance, the hysterics of the media and expert class fall flat against our actual experience – the things we see out our own window. We are relegated to the images produced for effect on our screens, which diminish in credibility with every unfulfilled alarmist frenzy. Meanwhile, the skeptics are chastised into silence.

And that’s how the trap gets set. The non-skeptics are lulled into hapless orthodoxy, and the skeptics are quieted into non-participation.

The trap springs, though, when such an emasculated public is mis served. That’s where I fear we are. If climate change is truly an existential issue, why would we not spend any amount of money on decarbonizing technologies that we already know work, such as nuclear and hydro? Why is our entire bet on wind and solar? Since 2009, U.S. increases in wind and solar barely covers our increases in consumption, at great expense, now accounting for less than six percent of our total use. So our only net decarbonizing is by substituting natural gas for coal. (Calculated from

Our leadership and expert classes know this. And that, readers, is why I’m skeptical. Their solutions don’t match the problem, if we believe their version of the problem. I’m skeptical – do they even believe themselves?

Joel Lorentzen lives in Rock Island, Illinois, and publishes a column on titled “Uncommon Sense.” Find all of his essays at

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