My Gold Plan for a Green Future
By David Lashar, Libertarian Party candidate for Maryland Governor
- As a candidate for Maryland Governor, I affirm that climate change is real, but I urge my fellow Marylanders, especially younger Marylanders, not to panic, because when we follow the science, we learn that international experts see five different paths for the future, not just a single path to calamity as too often reported in the media. So, don’t panic. It’s not all gloom and doom. We do have encouraging options in front of us.
- As Governor, I will implement the Maryland Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 with fidelity and competence while also promoting a diversified energy portfolio that is reliable and affordable as well as clean.
- As Governor, I will remove barriers to developing next-generation clean-energy technologies in Maryland, so that our citizens and our communities can enjoy economic growth and new job opportunities in addition to cleaner air and cleaner water as we move into a de-carbonized future.
- As Governor, I will pursue a multi-prong strategy for a cleaner Chesapeake Bay that is an engine for economic vitality for the whole Delmarva region.
We, the people, are facing a formidable challenge due to climate change. But we need to recognize that we have reasons for optimism, not just dread, about the future of humankind and our planet.
The key is to retain confidence in the human capacity for innovation and change while resisting the temptations for succumbing to panic and imposing drastic changes that are sure to bring unintended costs and consequences, as drastic changes made in service to political panic always do.
Another key is to remain alert to the range of possibilities for the future that the science says are before us. We need to take the science in its whole, not its selective parts.
In this statement, I will summarize the popular narratives about the climate, and I will review some of the scientific analysis from the UN Climate Panel and other sources.
I will then move to my own ideas for addressing climate change and cleaning the Bay — which to be clear:
- Are genuine challenges to which we, the people, must rise, and
- Are top priorities to which I as Maryland Governor will be devoted.
I will close this statement with some reasons for longer-term climate optimism along with my shorter-term call to action.
I am, in other words, presenting a Libertarian plan… a Gold plan as opposed to a Red plan or a Blue plan… for reliably, affordably, and sustainably securing a Green future for us all.
The popular narrative that has been embraced and promoted by Wes Moore (D) is that we are facing an imminent catastrophe for both humankind and the planet in the event that we, the human race, do not take radical action in the next one or two handfuls of years to arrest and reverse climate change.
We must therefore, according to this narrative, devote enormous sums of public money to environmental programs while quietly yielding to the government officials and cultural elites who will deliver us from the alleged climate apocalypse.
This narrative is wrong in its understanding of the science (see below) and wrong in its recommendation for policy. We need to meet the challenge, yes. Indisputably. But we need to do with a strategy that is both realistic and responsible; with a strategy that is effective in reducing carbon emissions while also being affordable and tolerable for the regular people who will be most affected by it.
(Remember: If any governmental strategy undertaken is not both economically affordable and socially tolerable for regular people, it will not be sustainable over the medium to long term except by authoritarian or totalitarian coercion. In which case, whether through civic disaffection or statist coercion, the strategy will not be successful in achieving its avowed objectives.)
The other popular narrative as embraced and promoted by Dan Cox (R) is that human-induced climate change either is not a foremost public challenge (i.e., “climate change is not real”) or is not his responsibility. This narrative too is wrong in terms of either understanding the science or championing a strategy that will be good for either Maryland consumers (whether apartment renters or home owners) or Maryland businesses (whether big or small); will be consistent with Maryland responsibilities to the greater good (whether humankind and/or the planet, as you yourself might say it).
Climate Science: The UN Climate Panel. Perhaps the number one under-appreciated truth about the science is that the UN Climate Panel reports… which are the reports that constitute “The Science” to which politicians, professors, and pundits are constantly referring… do not upon examination say that which The Washington Post and The New York Times would have you believe.
Most notably, the UN Climate Panel reports do not present a single apocalyptic scenario as the trajectory for humankind and the planet. The reports present five different scenarios. And it is only the worst of the five scenarios that the established media outlets are presenting in their panic-inducing stories.
The middle scenario, which is unceremoniously called The Middle of the Road Scenario, assumes a global path “in which social, economic, and technological trends do not shift markedly from historical patterns.” It is a stay-the-course scenario for society.
And even though CO2 levels and other climate factors do rise under this scenario more than I myself would like to see them rise, the changes are still well within the ability of society and the planet to adapt. It is not apocalypse. It is not reason for either lying awake at night or fearing to bring children into this world.
The two most optimistic scenarios in the UN Climate Panel reports actually show CO2 levels reversing in the second half of this century, even without policy changes of the type already under way in America and Europe; even without technology innovations of the type already emerging from labs and coming to market.
So, while the UN Climate Panel reports do present some troubling scenarios, they also present some encouraging scenarios. They are a call for action, yes. But not a cause for panic and despair.
(And to repeat my message of a formidable challenge indeed being upon us: The relatively optimistic scenarios in the UN Climate Panel reports are not reason for denying a need to take action. My own plan for rising to the challenge before us is below.)
As a final note on the UN Climate Panel reports, it should be recognized that while the so-called Assessment Reports (ARs) draw upon peer-reviewed scientific studies, the ARs are not themselves peer-reviewed scientific reports. Much like the methodologically flawed Kirwan Report on education here in Maryland, the ARs are consensus documents produced via a political negotiation process, as the rejection of free markets and the promotion of social justice in the footnotes make evident.
Climate Science: Additional Analysis. Another underappreciated truth for the purveyors of climate apocalypse is that there is a considerable body of legitimate science that makes the computer models and the worst-case scenarios from the UN Climate Panel reports a valid topic for reasoned debate.
Citizens who wish to be well-informed about climate change and policy options ought at least to be familiar with some of this literature — none of which denies the challenge before us; all of which urges a well-thought, multi-prong approach so as to bring about more good than harm over the medium to long term.
Steven Koonin, a founder of modern computer modeling and a top science advisor in the Department of Energy under the Obama administration, has written Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. Koonin addresses a number of popular misconceptions about the climate. He points out that the computer simulation models cannot accurately replicate the climate of the past, putting their reliability into doubt. And he reminds us that adaptation to change is a hallmark of both humanity and nature, making worst-case predictions about the future unlikely to come true, because humans and nature alike will find ways to adapt.
Michael Shellenberger, a progressive activist on environmental issues for decades, has written Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. Shellenberger came to my attention due to his argument, with which I agree, that the more concerned a person might be about carbon emissions and climate change, the more obligatory it becomes to embrace low-emission fossil fuels (mainly natural gas) and modern nuclear power as necessary elements of our clean-energy portfolio. Shellenberger lives in the San Francisco area and has focused on the political battles in California over nuclear power.
Bjorn Lomborg is another recognized author drawing responsibly upon data and history to make his arguments. His book is False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Plane. Like me, Lomborg acknowledges climate change but cautions against belief in the more dire of the climate predictions. He emphasizes an under-appreciated point made by the UN Climate Panel itself, which is that growth and migration in the human population (as more people move to relatively high-risk coastlines) is responsible for most of the economic costs that are predicted in the computer models.
Real Science: A Reminder. We have all seen the yard signs stating that “science is real.” But what is science, really?
By way of reminder, science is a mindset and a method, not an answer. The mindset is one of skepticism and humility. The method is one of vigorous debate and frequent dissent.
Also by way of reminder, the objective of science is truth irrespective of political implications, knowing that our recognized and accepted truths of the moment will always be shifting as we progress in our learning and understanding.
Why is this point worth mentioning? Because in politics today, science is too often invoked exclusively for the issue of climate change. And even within the issue of climate change, science is too often selectively applied in support of the prevailing narratives.
As I trust is clear by now, I myself do not think this way. Regardless of the issue, I am skeptical and wary. I welcome debate. I respect dissent. I test and adjust my ideas. I progress and evolve.
And on the climate, I have arrived at the conclusion that while the scientific reports do not justify panic, they do indeed oblige us to act.
A Diversified Clean-Energy Portfolio. We need energy that not only is clean but also is reliable and affordable. The implication of which is that we need an energy portfolio that includes low-emission fossil fuels and no-emission modern nuclear as well as renewables such as wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal.
The approach for bringing about this portfolio must be market-driven, meaning that energy consumers need to be given a variety of choices while energy suppliers need to receive incentives that are neutral across emerging and existing technologies. Neither elected politicians nor government officials should be picking winners and losers. They should instead be promoting a diverse portfolio of options.
They should also be rejecting prejudice and removing regulatory barriers so as to enable modern, modular nuclear power such as that being pioneered by Maryland’s own X-energy in Rockville to become part of our clean-energy portfolio.
As reported by the Aspen Institute in its 2021 report, Building Cleaner, Faster, these regulatory barriers are a critical link in moving from clean-energy policies to a clean-energy reality. To transition successfully, we must as the report says “address the challenges of delay, uncertainty, and cost of our current environmental review and permitting system that threatens the build out of decarbonization infrastructure.”
As Maryland Governor, I will pursue changes to the permitting system at the state level. And I will be a voice into Congress for such changes at the federal level.
Finally in regard to incentives for a diverse clean-energy portfolio, we should extend special credits on the consumption side to lower-income and middle-income Marylanders, so that they enjoy opportunity to shift to new energy sources if they so wish. That said, I would urge caution, given the extremes of Maryland weather and the fact that renewable sources of clean energy for the home remain unreliable.
An Eye on Timelines & Targets for Net Zero. Earlier this year, the Democratic Party in Maryland’s General Assembly passed the Climate Solutions Now Act, which sets aggressive goals for Maryland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The new targets are for a 60 percent reduction by 2031 on the way to net-zero emissions by 2045.
The act is now law, so when I am elected Maryland Governor I will execute it with a focus on removing the barriers to siting clean energy projects and innovative next-generation technologies. I will also keep an eye toward the impact of the new mandates for privately owned buildings upon the prices that Maryland citizens and Maryland businesses will be paying for their rents and their leases.
(Note: As of late August, Wes Moore (D)is still presenting the settled targets of the Climate Solutions Now Act as his own proposed targets, seemingly unaware that the law has been passed, and the job of the next Governor is to implement and enforce it with fidelity and competence.)
The negative impact of the new law on rents and leases is still some years away. But it is coming. So as Governor, I will pro-actively seek means of relief.
Two final words on Maryland’s new targets and mandates for achieving net-zero emissions on accelerated, aggressive timelines:
- Politics vs Science. Support for these new timelines was not backed by scientific data or reports from its sponsors. The reason being, Maryland is far too small to make a discernible impact on either the global climate or the mean sea level in the years to come. In reality, and according to the science, the climate and the sea are mainly at the mercy of China and India, neither of which agreed to abide by the Paris or Glasgow plans for abandoning fossil fuels and eliminating carbon emissions. So, there was and there is no science for justifying the new targets and timelines in Maryland for achieving net zero. Tellingly, the reasons voiced in the General Assembly for the aggressive new targets (with their mandates and penalties) were that “we need to be bold” and “we need to lead the way.” Which, even if you agree with the sentiment, needs to be recognized as politics, not science. The implication of which is that we do not need to go any further here in Maryland in regard to accelerating to net zero. We need instead to monitor and manage the unintended and/or unreported costs and consequences that will surely come from the newly passed laws.
- State Office Buildings. That said, I do support making the government office buildings for Maryland’s agencies and employees a model for that which can be achieved in terms of low-impact or net-zero emissions while sticking to budgetary limits. I simply do not agree with the metrics and schedules that are now being imposed upon private building owners without any science-based justification.
A Renewed Effort for The Chesapeake Bay. Just as we need a diversified clean-energy portfolio, we also need a physically clean and economically vibrant Chesapeake Bay.
For a cleaner Bay, progress has actually been pretty good the last 20 years or so, with Maryland on target to meet its 2025 targets under The Blueprint for the Bay. And yet, we still have work to do.
Most important is to continue to improve at controlling runoff from farms and roads, partly by assistance to farmers so that they can restore the lines of trees along their creeks and streams so that fertilizer (including manure) does not run straight into the feeders to the Bay (i.e., a policy to restore so-called riparian buffers).
In regard to agriculture, we need to promote sustainable and regenerative farming practices, which state and federal authorities too frequently are stifling instead of promoting. I myself learned about regenerative farming at the remarkable P.A. Bowen Farmstead in Prince George’s County.
Most important, perhaps, is to compel Pennsylvania to meet its commitments under The Blueprint for the Bay, because it is runoff from Pennsylvania that is flowing down the Susquehanna into the Bay, disproportionately by far contributing to the algae blooms that smother the health of the Bay (by preventing sunlight from reaching grasses along bottom).
To compel this action, I will join forces with Virginia for our respective Attorneys General to take action against Pennsylvania and/or its counties along the Susquehanna for relief from the financial and environmental costs of Pennsylvania agricultural practices.
Finally in regard to the Bay, I will if elected Maryland Governor make a priority of eliminating invasive flora and fauna that are highly destructive to our native habitats, for example phragmites and nutria.
I am, I confess, an optimist. But even so, I have been surprised since stepping forward to stand for Maryland Governor at how many encouraging technologies and reports I have found in regard to energy and the climate, given all the gloom and doom that I was reading and hearing prior to delving into these questions myself.
I want to share some of these findings here due to having encountered on the campaign trail too many youths who are in a state of panic and dread when it comes to climate change and its potential impact on humankind and the planet (an experience that is confirmed by this global study).
So, not for denying the challenge before us but rather for steeling resolve in rising to the occasion, here are some reasons for optimism:
- Progress with the Bay. As mentioned above, Maryland is on track to meet its 2025 targets under The Blueprint for the Bay. Work certainly remains. But conditions have been improving.
- Leadership in Carbon Emissions. According to multiple studies (for example here, here, here), Maryland is a foremost leader in the nation (#1 in some rankings) for becoming green and reducing carbon emissions, having realized a 35% to 40% reduction over the last 15 to 20 years, depending on the study.
- Surging Investment in Renewables. Due to policies already adopted and investments already committed, renewables are already surging. According to this article, “The IEA forecasts that, by 2026, global renewable electricity capacity is set to grow by 60% from 2020 levels to over 4,800 gigawatts—equal to the current power output of fossil fuels and nuclear combined. So, regardless of when renewables will take over, it’s clear that the global energy economy will continue changing.” An example of the surging investment is in this piece about the automotive industry.
- Possibly a Plastic-Devouring Enzyme. Pollution is, of course, one of the climate concerns. This article shares that “scientists have developed an entirely new enzyme capable of completely breaking down plastic in a matter of days. This has renewed hope that we can begin to effectively manage the world’s leading waste crisis.”
- On-Going Battery Breakthroughs. As can be read here, here, and here, battery technology continues to undergo exciting advances.
- Advanced Nuclear Fission Power. Here is an article about modern modular (“advanced”) nuclear as being promoted and funded by Bill Gates. The Maryland company pursuing similar technology is X-Energy. There is even a technology from a Nobel laureate, potentially allowing nuclear waste to be processed in a timely and safe manner.
- Advancing Nuclear Fusion Power. As this article describes, fusion power “could one day be used to generate massive amounts of power here on Earth… it promises to be a long-term, sustainable, and safe form of energy.” Practicable fusion is surely still some decades away, but the flurry of theoretical and technical advances in the last year or so has been remarkable, as can be read here, here, here, here, and here, making fusion a reasonable expectation for 2050 and beyond.
- Progress in Hydrogen Power. As reported here by MIT, hydrogen power is another clean energy source that has long been pursued for commercial viability… and is now making progress and receiving investment that bodes toward viability by mid-century. Again, it is a solution most likely for 2050 and beyond. But it is a solution that is advancing.
These news items are not from any formal scan of the literature. They are not basis for any definitive conclusions.
But the news items do point to a defect in the computer models and the apocalyptic scenarios in “The Science” from the UN Climate Panel.
The defect is the failure to account for (indeed, the impossibility of accounting for) either the technology innovations or the behavioral adaptations that will be forthcoming from humanity in the roughly 80 years between now and 2100, which is the year to which the Climate Panel’s projections extend. The defect is in presuming to hold a level of knowledge about the future, which level of knowledge is impossible to possess.
What, for example, could any panel of scientists convened upon close of World War II possibly have gotten right in predicting the technology innovations and human adaptations in the roughly 80 years from then to now?
For the very sake of humankind and the planet, some humility is in order when predicting the future.
My Call to Action
For responding successfully to the challenge that climate change poses, the keys are to:
- Retain faith in the human capacity for innovation and adaptation.
- Resist temptation to succumb to panic.
- Maintain fidelity to the scientific mindset, exercising skepticism and embracing debate.
- Pursue a diversified energy portfolio that is reliable and affordable as well as clean.
- Remove barriers to siting clean energy projects here in Maryland, including rationalization of permitting systems, so that we can enjoy both the new jobs and the clean air that come from these projects.
- Recognize that at least for the next 10-20 years, both nuclear power and low-emission fossil fuels need to remain part of our clean-energy portfolio.
- Support initiatives for reducing runoff from farms and roads into our Bay, including action against Pennsylvania for its runoff into the Bay via the Susquehanna River.
- Support methods for sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices.
- Implement the Climate Solutions Now Act while watching for unintended costs and consequences.
This is my Gold plan for a Green future, which is as much a call to science-based confidence as it is a call to science-based action.
If you want leadership that is informed on the issues… if you want realistic solutions instead of political theater… then vote for David Lashar and Christiana Logansmith as new leadership for Maryland.