Talking Points on Nations not Meeting their Climate Targets

By Alex Epstein

Today the news is panicking over a UN report that says nations are not meeting the greenhouse gas reduction targets (“NDCs”) they said they would to avoid 1.5 or 2° total warming since the 1800s. But these targets were deadly and impossible, so it’s good and unsurprising news.

Quick Summary

  • A goal of limiting warming to 1.5° since the 1800s never had any scientific basis whatsoever. The 1800s were a very cold time (Little Ice Age) and the 1°C warming since then has coincided with the greatest improvement in human life in history—in large part due to fossil fuels.
  • When people talk about 1.5°C of warming as catastrophic, it's even more absurd than it sounds because it's not 1.5°C warming starting now, it's 1.5°C total since the 1800s. Which means 0.5°C warmer than now--in a world where far more people die of cold than of heat.1
  • A goal of slashing GHG emissions to the levels that the UN claims are necessary to limit warming to 1.5°C never had any chance of happening—because fossil fuels are by far the lowest-cost source of reliable energy for most of the world. Unreliable solar and wind can’t come close.
  • The main reason global GHG emissions are rising is because billions of people in the developing world are bringing themselves out of poverty by using fossil fuels to power factories, farms, vehicles, and appliances. This is a wonderful thing that we should not stop.2
  • When you hear scary claims about a “climate crisis,” keep in mind that climate catastrophists have been claiming climate crisis for 40 years. For example, Obama science advisor John Holdren predicted in the 1980s that we’d have up to 1 billion climate deaths today.3
  • After 40 years of “climate crisis” predictions by climate catastrophists, human beings are safer than ever from climate. The climate death rate has decreased by 98% over the last century.4
  • Fossil fuels were supposed to make climate far more dangerous in the last 40 years but they have actually made it far safer by providing low-cost power for the amazing machines that protect us against storms, protect us against extreme temperatures, and alleviate drought.
  • Fossil fuels' CO2 emissions have contributed to the warming of the last 170 years, but that warming has been mild and manageable—1 degree Celsius, mostly in the colder parts of the world.5
  • Fossil fuels' CO2 emissions have not only contributed to mild and manageable warming, they have also caused the benefit of significant global greening. Thanks to fossil fuels the Earth is far greener than it was just 40 years ago.6
  • If the world continues using fossil fuels to provide reliable, low-cost energy to billions of people, the result will not be a climate crisis but continued slow warming, significant greening, and a far better life for billions of people.
  • The head of the UN says “the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7° of heating.” But 1) that really means 1.7°, since we’ve already had 1°, 2) that specificity of prediction is impossible, and 3) it would occur mostly in cold places during a cold time in Earth’s history.7
  • The actual catastrophe we face that will, to use the head of the UN’s words, “be measured in the massive loss of lives and livelihoods” is not slightly warmer temperatures but the banning of the fossil fuels that alone can provide low-cost, reliable energy to billions of people.
  • The upcoming UN climate conference seeking to get the world to rapidly eliminate fossil fuel use is a crime against humanity, especially the poor, and should be canceled. I encourage African nations in particular to boycott the event, as they are its greatest victims.


  1. UK Met Office HadCRUT5 dataset
    Zhao et al. (2021)

  2. U.S. Energy Information Administration - International Energy Outlook 2021

  3. “As University of California physicist John Holdren has said, it is possible that carbon-dioxide climate-induced famines could kill as many as a billion people before the year 2020.” -Paul Ehrlich, The Machinery of Nature (1986), p. 27.

  4. For every million people on earth, annual deaths from climate-related causes (extreme temperature, drought, flood, storms, wildfires) declined 98%--from an average of 247 per year during the 1920s to 2.5 in per year during the 2010s.

    Data on disaster deaths come from EM-DAT, CRED / UCLouvain, Brussels, Belgium – (D. Guha-Sapir).

    Population estimates for the 1920s from the Maddison Database 2010 from the Groningen Growth and Development Centre, Faculty of Economics and Business at University of Groningen. For years not shown population is assumed to have grown at a steady rate.

    Population estimates for the 2010s come from World Bank Data.

  5. UK Met Office HadCRUT5 dataset

  6. Regional trends vary, but overall the world's leaf area increased by 5.4 million square kilometers, or an amazon rainforest worth of greening, between 2000 and 2017 alone with over 1/3 of vegetated land showing an increase while only 5% showed a loss of green vegetation.

    “Long-term satellite records reveal a significant global greening of vegetated areas since the 1980s, which recent data suggest has continued past 2010. … Global vegetation models suggest that CO2 fertilization is the main driver of global vegetation greening.”
    Piao, S., Wang, X., Park, T. et al. Characteristics, drivers and feedbacks of global greening. Nat Rev Earth Environ 1, 14–27 (2020)

  7. Euronews - U.N. sounds 'deafening' warning on climate change
    Ross McKitrick - New Confirmation that Climate Models Overstate Atmospheric Warming
    NOAA - Climate change rule of thumb: cold "things" warming faster than warm things