Ben Shapiro on Climate Science

Ben Shapiro can lean toward Ted Cruz-like ideological rigidity, so on a standalone basis he tends to not be overly helpful in restoring the operational “center” of American politics. But because he is not a politician looking to garner votes, his political ideology is very pure, which makes him a must-read/listen Right wing political commentator, in my opinion. 

(That is not to say that I believe I am anywhere close to playing in the same intellectual ballpark as Shapiro. Far from it. He is one of the sharpest politicos in the business; and his fact-based approach makes him an extraordinarily good debater…one that I certainly would not want to face! Where my skill set lies is in assembling facts and the opinions of experts into a “portfolio” that seeks to generate operational solutions; so for my purposes of attempting to help restore the operational “center” of American politics, Shapiro is a source of facts and expert opinion within that portfolio.)

In episode 289 of the Ben Shapiro Show (video below), Shapiro tackles Climate Change largely in the manner in which I believe it should be tackled: Develop a climate science consensus; quantify the effects of projected changes in the climate; then analyze the “net present value” (NPV) of potential solutions. 

(Please bear in mind that reading, watching or listening to Shapiro is a bit like panning for gold, as one must wade thru his jabs at the Left in order to glean important factoids.)

Around 13:20 Shapiro lays out the climate science consensus as: The earth is warming and human activity contributes to the warming. He says that the debate largely centers on the extent of the human contribution, and that opinions range from as low as 10% to upwards of 50%. 

No matter your political ideology, this is a fantastic framework – simple, yet all-encompassing. From here, we can proceed to quantifying the effects of climate change…

Around 13:50 Shapiro, citing Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute, says that the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (IPCC) is the gold standard for climate science. Quoting Cass, he says that after averaging widely varying projections and assuming no aggressive efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, the IPCC projects an increase of 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit and a rise in sea levels of 2 feet, by the year 2100

Again, no matter your political ideology, this is a fantastic simple-yet-all-encompassing quantification of the effects of projected changes in the climate. From here, we can proceed to analyzing the NPV of proposed solutions…

Unfortunately this is where Shapiro goes off the bipartisan rails a bit. He correctly calls out job-stifling climate-related regulations, as well as the political Left for hypocritically opposing natural gas fracking; but he goes on to essentially say that clean energy projects are a waste of government funding. 

Shapiro’s utter disdain for federal government involvement in any part of the economy blinds him to the fact that federal government is in place to fund goods and services that do not generate a return on investment (ROI) above the free market hurdle rate (FMHR). In other words, if the climate consensus was that a climate crisis is highly likely to occur in the next 50 years without drastic intervention, and said intervention did not generate an ROI above the FMHR, it would be the federal government’s duty to intervene…even if the measures taken were structurally incapable of ever generating an ROI above the FMHR. 

So while the current climate science consensus does not project a climate crisis, it does support the global push for clean energy. Where I believe Shapiro and I could come to an agreement is that the federal government should be involved only to the extent that it is funding clean energy projects that have a high probability of generating an ROI above the FMHR over time. Because we are not facing a climate crisis, an all hands on deck approach is not necessary, thus structurally unprofitable projects should not be pursued by the federal government. 

To emphasize, the key to this framework is time horizon. Simply because a clean energy project does not currently generate an ROI above the FMHR does not mean the project does not deserve federal government funding. A realistic, probability-weighted analysis of a project’s NPV is required to determine if and how the federal government can bridge the gap to long term structural viability.

Based on the rapidly increasingly scale of the Renewable Energy industry, we know that clean energy is structurally capable of generating an ROI above the FMHR over time. As such, I would argue that the federal government should in fact massively increase its involvement on the funding side. But because we are not facing a climate crisis, I would also argue that there is significant room for the federal government to roll back job-stifling climate regulations. As the natural gas displacement of coal demonstrates, the free market is more than capable of creatively destroying “dirty energy” over time. 

And to conclude, were I Global King, I would apply my non-group healthcare insurance reform framework to the Paris Accord and rewrite the agreement to establish Renewable Energy industry investment and profitability targets: Let the federal government fund it, and the free market run it. 

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