Welcome to the inaugural Cosmopolitan Globalist debate. Our subject: All things considered, what’s the best way to provide energy for the globe’s 7.9 billion people?
Greetings fellow Cosmopolitan Globalists. Claire Berlinski has asked me to moderate this debate.
I began working in energy when I was 19, delivering fifty-kilogram steel bottles of liquid propane gas in Miami. Now I’m a nonresident senior fellow at the International Institute for Sustainable Development.
In between, I worked for a municipal power plant in northern Florida; had summer internships in graduate school at two US National Laboratories, Brookhaven and Argonne; worked as a young professional in the US Energy Information Administration; then headed to the Netherlands on a Rotary Foundation Scholarship, where I worked under the direction of the late Professor Peter Odell, a British economic geographer and expert on North Sea oil and natural gas.
In 1987, I joined the International Energy Agency here in Paris and produced their first estimates of subsidies to European and Japanese coal producers. I then shifted to trade policy at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In 2016, I took a sabbatical to serve as the Director of Research for the Global Subsidies Initiative of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, where I wrote and oversaw almost a dozen studies on subsidies to biofuels. After returning to the OECD, I supported the G20’s efforts to phase out subsidies to fossil fuels, oversaw the creation of the OECD’s Inventory of Government Support to Fossil Fuels, and chaired the first six peer reviews of G20 members’ fossil-fuel subsidy reform efforts. Since retiring, I’ve been writing about fossil fuel subsidy numbers, trade, and the environment.
My role in this debate is to play the neutral arbiter. I hope, too, to remind people of history. There are reasons, dating back to the 1970s, for the world’s heavy reliance on coal; there are reasons for the widely varying views about natural gas and nuclear power; and reasons, too, for the way rich and poor nations have divided the responsibility for putting the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions.
All of our readers are welcome—indeed, encouraged—to participate in this debate about the central question:
Omnibus perpensis, what’s the best way to provide energy for the globe’s 7.9 billion people?
We’ll be running excellent essays about fossil fuels, nuclear power, and green tech; we’ll be taking all questions from our readers—as well as submissions, should they wish to write at length; and at the end of it, we’ll wrap it up with a Grand Cosmopolicast Debate, followed by the announcement of a winner.
Among the essays in the queue is one by Adam Garfinkle, a member of our editorial board, explaining why former US President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change wasn’t the calamity that climate activists around the world insisted it was. By extension, he asks whether it makes any difference that President Biden has rejoined it.
For more than 40 years, nuclear power has frightened people, even though it’s the world’s best and most scalable source of clean energy. Robert Zubrin, author of The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility, will make the climate case for nuclear power. Geoff Marcy, an American astronomer, backs him up, arguing nuclear power should be a major component in the electrical portfolio of developing countries, enabling them to raise their standard of living with a reliable, carbon-free source of electricity.
Casey Handmer, a physicist and software engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will offer a Minority Report. He argues nuclear has already lost the market to solar.
Alexander Hurst and Benjamin Wolf will discuss Europe’s Greens: Are they the political future? Are their proposals any good? If they take power, can they govern? Could their worldview even supersede liberalism and global capitalism?
Gareth Lewis, a geologist and 30-year veteran of the oil and gas industry, will spell out the unstated assumptions inherent to the vision of a green energy transition powered by renewables, and asks whether these assumptions are correct.
Cosmopolitan Globalist co-editor Vivek Y. Kelkar will file a piece examining key concepts in the corporate world’s philosophy of climate change.
We’re delighted, too, to announce that the Cosmopolitan Globalists’ new resident climate expert will contribute. Dr. X, as we’ll call him for now, is a distinguished scientist who works on the mathematical modeling and computational simulation of ice flows and their interactions with the ocean and atmosphere.
We asked him if he would be kind enough to join the discussion this week to ensure none of us inadvertently descends into scientific illiteracy. This was his response:
I’d be honored to serve as a resident climate expert for the Cosmopolitan Globalist. I’d prefer to stay anonymous, at least for now, and to advise behind the scenes.
I appreciate your attachment to the aims and ideals of the Enlightenment.
We hope that Dr. X will find the discussion so stimulating that he emerges from his occultation. Failing that, the Cosmopolitan Globalist is—always—impressed by good arguments, unimpressed by credentials. If Dr. X’s arguments are sound, they will speak for themselves absent his name; if they are not, no name and no fame can save him.
Welcome, Dr. X! We’re so pleased to have you.
Ronald Steenblik is a nonresident senior fellow at the International Institute for Sustainable Development.