Chris Hayes wants to kill about 5.7 billion people

The virtuous cadre of fossil-fuel “abolitionists” will have to compel these fat cats to give up their wealth. And like John Brown and Julia Ward Howe before them, they can take heart despite the immensity of the task, because the toll of human suffering is right before their . . . because the horrors of the vile institution are clear to . . . because the conscience recoils at the sight of . . . Well, it’s kind of hard to say what the actual societal gain of eliminating fossil fuels would be, because fossil fuels are the main reason modern society exists at all.

As simply as possible: It took 2 million years or so of human history for the population of Planet Earth to reach 1 billion, early in the 19th century. A few years prior to that landmark, the continuous-rotation steam engine was invented. And by the strangest coincidence, that population number went on to increase seven-fold in only 200 years.

A perceptive person might conclude that internal combustion and the use of fossil fuels had something to do with that progress, at least by providing a range of options beyond freezing, starving, dying in infancy, or any of the other indignities that constitute most of human experience in a state of nature. A person in an expansive mood might even say exploitation of fossil fuels is a miracle, enabling transnational markets for food, widespread travel and education, heavier-than-air flight, full-time employment for left-wing commentators, and even the abolition of slavery. (Observe how deftly Hayes avoids putting two and two together in that sentence above about how slaves were energy before fossil fuels.)