In an email, Czech physicist Lubos Motl warned claims of Net Zero being “cheap and easy” are naïve, “insane”.
Globally, the costs would in fact be economically ruinous and explosive in terms of social cohesion.
Here’s the excerpt of what he wrote (edited to remove names):
Some people claim promoting Net Zero would be totally easy and cheap, below $2 trillion (total integrated expenses) – as long as we built a bunch of nuclear power plants. But such claims are completely insane.
All electric cars is basically impossible
First, nuclear power is fine but it is no ‘miracle’ in comparison with coal. Every forcedly shut down power plant – whether it runs on coal or uranium – is a huge waste of money. Equally importantly, for Net Zero, it totally fails to be enough to replace the power plants. You also have cars etc. The replacement of cars by electric vehicles is basically impossible in the decades to come. The market already shows that the demand for EVs has almost evaporated. Instead of the promised exponential growth, the EV makers are probably facing a decline. It is no surprise.
$20 TRILLION every 7 years – just for the cars!
An EV might be said to be comparable to an internal combustion engine (ICE) car when it is running, but to buy it, you still have to pay $15,000 extra above the price of a comparable ICE car. Such an EV must be replaced every 7 years or so because the battery gets problematic and at that moment, the technology is obsolete so a new EV is better than the old one with a new battery. You simply have an extra $15,000 per car and per 7 years. There are 1.5 billion cars in the world. That is already an extra $20 trillion per 7 years just for the type of the cars. These $20 trillion per 7 years, or $3 trillion every year, still doesn’t include the charging infrastructure plus the extra batteries that would have to be placed on the grid to deal with the non-uniform timing of the charging of the cars.
And the costs above are still underestimates because we will run out of some commodities that are needed – even if we find huge new lithium reserves, they will get more expensive to mine because we must dig deeper, and we may run out of copper, cadmium, something else. And it is just cars.
The nonsense is in plain view
Then you have the cows with the methane etc. Can we replace them by a tech fix? There is no acceptable tech fix, a tiny miraculous solution like nuclear power plants that may turn the ultimate pipedream of Net Zero into reality. I can’t believe that any climate crisis skeptic could switch to the opposite camp in this important issue – which is mainly a policy issue but the rational argumentation needed to figure out that Net Zero is insane with nukes or without is really elementary science and economics.
The real battle is against lunatics
The appropriation of science and the ‘science’ brand by climate alarmist crackpots has been a huge blow to the civilization. 30 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed that something like that was going to happen (the world surely looked like becoming a capitalist U.S. 1980s-style, boring utopia for a century or more!) but it simply did happen. We are in a new world which is fighting different battles and the lunatics’ efforts to impose their idiocy and lies on the economic policies are probably the most important part of the climate-related confrontations now. So it may be more important than ever that somewhat sensible people speak a sufficiently united voice when it comes to the policies.
It is BS that the CO2 is behind the bad individual weather events or extremes and pretty much everyone understands that 1-2 deg C of (uniform) warming per century is not a problem by itself, regardless of the causes of this hypothetical change (my certainty that CO2 added less than 1 deg C in a century is not very certain – but I also think it is not a very important question for applications).
Pseudoscientific delusion: CO2 behind weather events What is terrible is that CO2 has been irrationally blamed for storms and other things that have existed on Earth for billions of years, pretty much with the same distribution (but they are much more globally hyped these days than they used to be), and even this higher-hardcoreness crackpottery is becoming rather mainstream. While people ‘blaming’ CO2 for the (surely beneficial if true) warming seems like an irreversible fact (at least up to the hypothetical moment when the warming really switches to cooling, which it surely could, as far as I can say, but I still think that some warming in the next decades is just a bit more likely), the idea that CO2 witches are behind all sorts of catchy weather events is a more idiotic pseudoscientific delusion that could still be disproved in the eyes of the public and policymakers.
So we should still try. The greenhouse effect, even if it is important, is acting almost uniformly across the globe, across the seasons and day cycles. So it cannot really increase the pressure differences and other variables that are igniting dramatic local phenomena like hurricanes. Ideas that some bans on ICE cars or family houses in Europe and North America will reduce the number of destructive weather events is completely wrong and it is important enough to team up with everybody who still understands that this proposed policy is wrong, nutty, and suicidal.”
Luboš Motl is a Czech physicist who was an assistant professor in physics at Harvard University. His scientific publications focused on string theory, and he is currently a visiting scholar at Rutgers.