Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Deadly Myth of Net Zero


By Ed Fallon, reprinted with permission.  First published for Fallon Forum June 24,2021.  You can check out Fallon’s blog and hear the podcast:


Two months ago, The Conversation published a provocative and timely piece written by three climate experts -- James Dyke, Robert Watson, and Wolfgang Knorr. The authors note that, collectively, they have "spent more than 80 years thinking about climate change. Why has it taken us so long to speak out about the obvious dangers of the concept of net zero? In our defense, the premise of net zero is deceptively simple – and we admit that it deceived us.”

Net zero is the magical point at which greenhouse gas emissions are offset by techno fixes that remove those gases from the atmosphere. Simple, right? Yes, simple enough to appear to make sense while being dangerously flawed.

The article is essential reading for anyone concerned about humanity's future. I encourage you to read what these experts have to say and listen to my conversation about it with Charles Goldman. For a quick overview, here are key excerpts from the article:

“[Net zero] is a great idea, in principle. Unfortunately, in practice it helps perpetuate a belief in technological salvation and diminishes the sense of urgency surrounding the need to curb emissions now.

“The idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier burn now, pay later approach, which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar. It has also hastened the destruction of the natural world by increasing deforestation today, and greatly increases the risk of further devastation in the future.

“The mere prospect of carbon capture and storage gave policy makers a way out of making the much needed cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. By 2009 it was becoming increasingly clear that … given the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into the air each year, humanity was rapidly running out of time.

“[After the 2015 Paris Climate Summit] instead of confronting our doubts, we scientists decided to construct ever more elaborate fantasy worlds in which we would be safe. The price to pay for our cowardice: having to keep our mouths shut about the ever-growing absurdity of the required planetary-scale carbon dioxide removal.

“It should now be getting clear where the journey is heading. As the mirage of each magical technical solution disappears, another equally unworkable alternative pops up to take its place. The next is already on the horizon – and it’s even more ghastly. Once we realize net zero will not happen in time or even at all, geo-engineering – the deliberate and large scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system – will probably be invoked as the solution to limit temperature increases.

“The only way to keep humanity safe is the immediate and sustained radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Rather than acknowledge the seriousness of our situation, we instead continue to participate in the fantasy of net zero. What will we do when reality bites? What will we say to our friends and loved ones about our failure to speak out now?

“The time has come to voice our fears and be honest with wider society. Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. That is the very simple acid test that must be applied to all climate policies. The time for wishful thinking is over.”


Ed Fallon resides in Des Moines, IA, and hosts the Fallon Forum on the radio, and information about that, podcasts and his blog is all available on

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