Boris Johnson, who has dominated British politics since the middle of 2019, is now facing a possible ejection from office and the end of his political career for the sin of attending parties at Number Ten Downing Street during the period that his government was enforcing anti-Covid regulations that forbade ordinary citizens from attending not only parties but also funerals, marriages, and the bedsides of dying family members. This scandal, inevitably named party-gate, has aroused extraordinary public anger against Johnson because it crystallizes the widespread public feeling after two years of Covid lockdowns that “there’s one law for Them [i.e., the political class] and another law for Us."
That’s an especially damaging charge against him because until recently Boris was seen by a large slice of the British public, especially blue-collar Tories and Brexit supporters, as their defender against a remote and corrupt establishment. Not to mention that the charge comes at a time when Boris is losing popularity more generally because several groups in the broad conservative coalition oppose his other policies.
I dealt with his plight which is a serious one—and how he might succeed in keeping his job—in a recent article in National Review Online:
The odd truth is that although he helped to put together an election-winning coalition, he is now alienating all the major Tory factions one after another by his various policies: Thatcherites by his reckless over spending and abandonment of tax cuts; patriotic Tories by failing to counter the deracinated ideas of Wokeness conquering so many British institutions; younger and less affluent Tories by not tackling the unavailability of affordable housing effectively; small savers and investors by allowing inflation to revive; cautious pragmatic Tories by “big government” projects on an almost Napoleonic scale such as Net-Zero; even Brexiteers by the long-drawn-out negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol; and much else. (My emphasis).
That’s a formidable list of disasters, but the one that will spring out at The Pipeline readers is the reference to Net-Zero and more broadly to Boris’s passionate embrace of a radical, expensive, and life-altering program of left-wing environmentalism and global redistribution. He was the impresario of the COP26 U.N. conference at Glasgow that was meant to entrench Net-Zero as a legally-binding international obligation on the West. It failed in that, but he probably hopes to revive that campaign as soon as he can. Should global “lukewarmers” (i.e., those who think, like The Pipeline, that the costs of climate alarmist policies are heavier than the costs of climate change) want therefore to see Boris brought down over party-gate on the grounds that Net-Zero would perish with him?
That’s a serious question because the fall of Boris would be a major international sensation and some of the commentary on it would cite Net-Zero as a contributory factor in his demise. Having made two recent visits to London, however, I would argue the opposite case on four grounds:
To sum up, a world in which the Government is urging voters to travel by bus, cut down on foreign vacations, eat less meat, and accept colder homes in the winter while ministers and CEOs travel by official cars and private planes to pleasant climates where they discuss the sacrifices that must be made to realize Net-Zero looks awfully like a world in which “there’s one law for Them and another law for Us.” Boris is acutely vulnerable to—and so most anxious to avoid—that suspicion at present.
My conclusion therefore is that climate realists should not be too keen on seeing Boris ousted any time soon. The argument is moving in our direction and Boris is losing the authority and perhaps the desire to halt or reverse that.
In politics as in markets the tough question is not whether there’s going to be a crisis—believe me, there is—but when. Getting it right too soon or too late is to get it wrong. That remark could be about any kind of crisis, but in what follows I’m discussing the West’s crisis not over global warming but over the energy policies intended to solve it.
For the last two years The Pipeline has been predicting that the drive for a carbon-free world was certain to run into political trouble when the voting public began to realize that it would mean horrendous costs for them in higher taxes, bigger energy bills, electricity blackouts, and unpleasant life-style choices (i.e., no meat, fewer vacations abroad, and colder homes in winter).
What looms ahead, we’ve been warning, is an inevitable clash between the supposedly irresistible force of Net-Zero policies and the immovable object embodied in a democratic political system. It’s taken time for the crisis to arrive, but it began to hit the fan last fall when the wind across Western Europe failed to blow as strongly as its electricity grids needed; continued with the failure of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow around the same time; and is reaching its climax with the combination of cold weather, rising energy prices, and signs from Russian president Vladimir Putin that he might soon be turning off the gas pipelines which provide Western Europe with half its energy.
Here are two early signs that this is producing political second thoughts about climate change orthodoxy in European government circles:
That’s a huge change because almost all governments and parties in Europe pledged themselves to support tough carbon emissions reduction twenty years ago. How did they sustain this? In place of a democratic conversation between politicians and the voters in elections, the parties substituted a conversation between themselves, business, and what they called “civil society” which is a nice-sounding name for NGOs, which itself a synonym for pressure groups, usually in this context Green ones.
Ben Pile who’s that rare pollical animal—a climate-skeptical activist on the U.K. Right—points out that this common position deprived the voters of democratic choice over climate policy. But that common front can’t really be sustained when the voters start to get genuinely worried about whether they can pay the bills and taxes that the policy requires. Then you get what the sociologists call a "preference cascade" as the voters wise up and start protesting first the consequences, then the policy, in an impressive cascade as they realize that many others share their opinions.
That happened with Brexit. It’s happening now. It’s what’s supposed to happen in democracies. And it should logically be followed by a change of policy. Indeed, almost everywhere Net-Zero has been offered to the voters, they have rejected it—most recently in a Swiss referendum that asked them if they would pay higher taxes in order to meet Net-Zero targets. They voted no.
But the powerful economic and ideological interests that support climate alarmism have already set in place barriers to any change of mind by the voters. The first such barrier has been constructed by an alliance of capitalist fund managers and banking regulators—among them former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Bank of England governor Mark Carney—which seeks to compel investors to accept lower rates of return on their savings by, in effect, stopping the flow of funds to fossil-fuel companies. Their argument is that as fiduciary guardians and regulators respectively they have duty to protect these investments from the undue risks that fossil fuels represent. It is a ludicrous argument, exploded on this website a year ago, by among other arguments this knockdown refutation from economist John Cochrane:
Relative market demand for fossil vs. alternative energy is as easy or hard to forecast as anything else in the economy. Exxon bonds are factually safer, financially, than Tesla bonds, and easier to value. The main risk to fossil fuel companies is that regulators will destroy them, as the ECB proposes to do, a risk regulators themselves control. [My italics.]
And indeed, in the months since then, fossil fuels have strongly outperformed the market, owing ironically, at least in part, to the kind of policies that Carney and Bloomberg advocate, which have encouraged the European energy crisis and the corresponding sharp rise in demand for oil, gas, and even coal. It is probably too much to hope that the Green Grandees will now have second thoughts.
At about the same time, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, writing in the Daily Telegraph, was pointing to the second barrier to democratic re-thinking on climate: legal warriors are busily weaponizing international law, in particular human rights law, to obstruct democratic governments in their pursuit of policies to guarantee cheap and reliable energy supplies:
There has been a cascade of judgments based on the UN Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights, or national constitutions. They are compelling governments to act faster than they had planned, or are capable of doing without resorting to revolutionary economic and social measures. [My italics.]
Mr. Evans-Pritchard is sympathetic to the aims of the climate legal warriors on the grounds that they represent the judgment of mankind expressed in the policies of more than a hundred governments. But do they really represent the judgment of mankind? Or merely the convictions of passionate minorities who exploit the somnolence of most citizens in order to rig the rules of politics and law so that when the majority wakes up, it will be unable to express its conscious and deliberative second thoughts in the voting booth with any practical effect.
We may be about to discover that.
In the meantime, here’s a tip on how to deal with people who tell you that climate change is too important to be left to the voters in democratic elections. Ask this question:
“Okay, I’ll accept that on one condition: Tell me the policy so vital to the world’s well-being that you would accept the decision of a non-democratic junta of experts to carry out the opposite of the policy you want."
Since classical physics seemingly clashed with quantum mechanics, scientists have tried to find an overarching theory. Searching for the Theory of Everything is the catchiest way to describe the grand quest. My quest is more base than grand, being steeped in political calculation. Yet it has a commonality of sorts with the theory of everything. I’m after a common factor which explains the loss of public support for three political leaders. Each quite different from one another.
My three subjects are Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, and Scott Morrison. According to the polls, support for each of them has plummeted since they were elected. If elections were held today each of them and their respective parties would be routed.
On the political spectrum, Biden has gone from (supposedly) moderately left to green-new-deal junkie. Johnson has gone from an irreverent, freedom-loving Brexit hero to a tax-raising, Covid-panicking, climate zealot. Morrison, true to expedient form, has embraced net-zero to appease wets among his colleagues, to assuage corporate carpetbaggers and, so I understand, to please Scandinavians.
In the past, the issues of the day were more bread and butter than they are now. Generally, the state of the economy determined whether a government was returned or kicked out. "It’s the economy stupid," used to be the theory of everything.
Clearly, inflation is affecting the popularity of Biden. A touch of the past there. But that certainly isn’t playing out in the U.K. or in Australia to nearly the same extent. Nor does the dreaded Wuhan virus tip the balance either way in my view.
My impression is that those seeking safety, and astonishingly they are in their legions, are happy enough with their government. That’s because all three leaders have reacted with feckless paranoia at the least sign of sickness. Moreover, those hardy folk who are prepared to take a risk or two for freedom’s sake have largely been battered into submission by media and government propaganda machines. Being constantly told that your freedom poses a deadly risk to the vulnerable is unnerving. Who wants to be accused of recklessly killing grannies and grandpas? No one. Game, set and re-election.
Biden has a border problem, as does Johnson to a lesser extent. This undoubtedly affects their popularity. But among which voters? That’s key, as I’ll come to.
Australia has the advantage of being an island continent. It’s easier to keep so-called asylum seekers out. Boats have to travel a fair way. Still, you have to be prepared to turn them back. Under Tony Abbott, prime minister from 2013-2015, they were turned back. If they scuttled their boats, hoping to be rescued and brought ashore, they were provided with life boats and pointed seaward.
Of course, the usual suspects were outraged. However, no political party, except the delusional Greens, has ever risked going to an election promising to overturn the policy of turning back boats. They would like to. But they sniff the votes. The votes they’re sniffing are not those of the inner cities, the professional and corporate types, the public servants, the educators. They’re all now overwhelmingly left-cum-green voters. The votes at risk are in blue-collar outer suburbia, and in regional and rural towns.
John Howard, Australia’s prime minister from 1996 to 2007, won repeatedly by attracting the “Howard battlers.” Voters who in days past would have voted for the Labor Party. This section of the voting block also brought Boris Johnson his victory in 2019, as the so-called “red wall” of Labour constituencies in the Midlands, Northern England and in parts of Wales fell to the Tories. This story applies in similar measure to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 and also to Scott Morrison’s come-from-behind win in 2019.
It’s not so much the issue as the constituency. Trump appealed to America first; in other words, to old-fashioned patriotism. A lot followed from that. Defending the southern border; protecting American industry from predatory international competition and from onerous regulations; and withdrawing from draining foreign military engagements.
Johnson also keyed into patriotism. Brexit was won on patriotism not on financial calculations. Who's patriotic anymore? You’d mostly search in vain in white-collar inner-suburbia. Patriotism lives among blue-collar workers and in regional and rural communities.
It wasn’t patriotism per se that Morrison tapped into in 2019 but it was related and the constituency was the same. Climate-change apocalypticism threatened the coal industry in Northern New South Wales and Queensland and, with it, the livelihoods and way of life of surrounding communities. The common factor in the victories of Morrison and Johnson and Trump before them was their appeal to the national interest. Their thinking was spot on.
From spot on to derangement. Climate-change apocalypticism has finally had its way. Nobody illustrated that better than Biden in New Hampshire at the end of 2019:
Anybody who can go down 300 to 3,000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well...Give me a break! Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for god's sake!
Of course, the extent of Biden’s derangement is a special case. Nonetheless, the common factor in the falling popularity of all three leaders is their embrace of globalism in the place of the national interest. And, hence, their willingness to sacrifice the well-being of multitudes of their citizens in a quixotic quest to cool the planet. Maniacal, inexplicable, but true.
Maybe Biden didn’t really have much of a choice with AOC and Bernie Sanders snapping at his throat. Not so with Johnson and Morrison. Though I suppose, in part excuse, Johnson has his leftist wife, Prince Charles, and David Attenborough to deal with. I can’t find much of an excuse for Morrison.
Last time he did a Trump and put Australia first. There was a big contrast between his Party’s climate policy and the opposition Labor Party’s. Now they are both aiming for net-zero; bizarrely dependent on unknown future technologies. In the meantime, onward with wind and solar boondoggles; and to blazes with Australia’s fossil fuel industries and the communities which live off them. There will be a comeuppance. As the votes of such communities drift away to conservative-minded independents, Morrison can forget about winning.
By and large, most Republicans understand today’s political landscape, I think. Johnson and Morrison seemingly don’t. Johnson has more time to change course. He won’t. His party needs to change him. Morrison, having swallowed the poisonous climate bait will likely meet his doleful fate. Dispatched to the opposition benches in the forthcoming May election.
It’s been an eventful year, and there are many candidates for the title of 2021’s most momentous event. But the winner has to be the failure of the U.N.’s Climate Change conference in Glasgow in November. That is in part because COP26—its formal title—was billed as the event that would save the world from an existential emergency crisis of global warming that would otherwise consume civilization in a massive conflagration. Or something like that.
If you bothered to read the fine print in the reports of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, you would find that the situation was really not as dire as that. As is the way with such things, however, the press handouts (which are written by government and U.N. officials rather than by scientists) went straight to the “worst case” scenarios and proceeded to exaggerate them—as The Pipeline has demonstrated on numerous occasions. Then the media devoted its famous skepticism to suggesting that these doom-laden forecasts might well be rosy scenarios.
On top of this the British government—which was the main host of COP26—had arranged a massive propaganda barrage extolling the world-historical importance of the Conference and of Boris Johnson’s role in it. Its theme was that COP26 could not be allowed to fail, and the BBC told us this repeatedly.
Alas, fail it did, not only in the predictable sense that it could not possibly reach its promised target of reducing the world’s carbon emissions to Net-Zero (compared to late 19th century levels) by 2050—that’s always been obvious—but in the much more embarrassing political sense that some of the most important countries at Glasgow more or less said so.
Admittedly, this was done with a kind of bureaucratic hocus-pocus: every pledge came with a get-out clause. Countries will meet next year to agree on more cuts to carbon emissions, but previous pledges haven’t been met, and these pledges won’t be legally binding. One such pledge was that coal was to be “phased out,” but when China and India objected, that became “phased down.” There was talk of a trillion-dollar-a-year fund to finance a switch by developing countries from fossil fuels to cleaner ones, but earlier pledges of a fund one-tenth of that amount have not been fulfilled. Richer countries will phase out subsidies to fossil fuels domestically but, ahem, no dates have been set for this.
Or as the BBC analysis observed wearily, most such pledges will have to be “self-policed.”
A heavy sense of déjà vu clings to these proceedings. It wasn’t the first failure of the U.N. “Kyoto process”—the 2009 Copenhagen conference had a similar outcome—but it was the most disappointing because it was meant to be the moment when the world not merely endorsed Net-Zero but also made it legally enforceable on nation-states. Its failure was therefore the collapse of a passionate delusion.
Or perhaps several delusions. There is the recurring belief among climate alarmists that developing countries like India and China will be prepared to give up the cheap energy that is the only way their populations will emerge from grinding poverty. That’s remarkably similar to the delusion that oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia will give up selling energy and so force their populations back into the grinding poverty from which they have only recently emerged. Neither group of countries (whatever they say at COP conferences) will plunge their countries into poverty merely to please Europe’s Green parties. And indeed they disappoint the climate alarmists at every COP.
Another delusion of climate alarmism is the following logic: if global warming is an existential emergency crisis for the world, then any solution to it must be a good one. But a solution that imposes heavier costs on the world than the costs of living with global warming is no solution at all. That’s what Net-Zero does. But attempting to replace fossil fuels—which now provide the world with about eighty-five per cent of its energy—with more expensive and less reliable energy sources is the opposite of a solution. It’s choosing to create a problem voluntarily. And as Net-Zero moves from the realm of rhetoric into that of real life, more and more people are realizing that.
That’s why the failure of COP26 has led to public lamentations by climate activists but also, more quietly, to governments looking for alternative energy policies that reduce emissions without crashing the economy and living standards. These usually turn out to be some mix of nuclear power, natural gas, and encouragement of technical innovation.
Michael Shellenberger recently reported that Britain, France, and the Netherlands are reviving plans for nuclear power to be a larger part of the mix. Even in Germany, with powerful Green parties in its new left-wing government, “resistance is growing . . . to closing nuclear plants, and a new YouGov poll finds that over half of Germans say nuclear should remain part of their nation’s climate policy.”
Not everyone is taking the failure of COP26 so sensibly, however. I am grateful to the newsletter of the Science and Environmental Policy Project SEPP for drawing my attention to one particular academic program at the University of Bern in Switzerland designed to make us take climate sustainability more seriously than we apparently want to do. It’s worth quoting at some length: Published in the journal Cortex, the abstract reads:
While many people acknowledge the urgency to drastically change our consumption patterns to mitigate climate change, most people fail to live sustainably. We hypothesized that a lack of sustainability stems from insufficient intergenerational mentalizing (i.e., taking the perspective of people in the future). To causally test our hypothesis, we applied high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) to the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ). We tested participants twice (receiving stimulation at the TPJ or the vertex as control), while they engaged in a behavioral economic paradigm measuring sustainable decision-making, even if sustainability was costly. Indeed, excitatory anodal HD-tDCS increased sustainable decision-making, while inhibitory cathodal HD-tDCS had no effect . . . Shedding light on the neural basis of sustainability, our results could inspire targeted interventions tackling the TPJ and give neuroscientific support to theories on how to construct public campaigns addressing sustainability issues.
In short: we have ways of making you think sustainably.
As noted yesterday, Bill Gates is particularly dangerous as a vaccine pusher. It is pretty well common knowledge by this time—or should be—that the vaccines are “leaky,” that the vaccinated are no less prone to viral infection and transmission than the unvaccinated, causing a virtual war between shedders and skeptics, and that an indefinite number of booster shots will be deemed necessary to fight the proliferation of novel variants, or viral mutations. There seems to be no end in sight of these variants, which now include Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Kappa, Lambda and Mu. Even the variants are spawning variants. Delta variant AY.4.2. has just appeared on the scene, 10 percent more infectious than its parent. Indeed, there are now 56 Delta offspring, one short of the Heinz number. Variants are coming thick and fast, outstripping the effort to keep up with them—in effect, making the pandemic permanent. Could that be the plan?
To put it bluntly, we are experiencing not a pandemic but a vandemic. Reputable virologists, like Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier and mRNA inventor Robert Malone, have argued that the vaccines may be responsible for the variants owing to a process called Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE). The virus is clever; it recognizes the vaccine and mutates its way around it, thus causing viral replication. Yet Gates continues to laud the potency of the vaccines and to grubstake their production.
“One way the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation secures its conducive policy environment,” the Navdanya report continues, “is through its direct influence over international research institutions.” The Foundation “stands as… a product of recent, precarity-inducing history, and will only serve to continue to corrode life in the future.” Gates and his private business partners, the report concludes, create worse problems than the one they purport to solve, “while simultaneously working to concentrate ever more power into corporate hands [via] million-dollar grants to private corporations and private market interests.” Patent lock-ins may also be an issue.
Gates is now, Forbes writes, “pouring money into synthetic biology,” a megatrend which “involves reconfiguring the DNA of an organism to create something entirely new.” Interfering with the human genome is by no means a fail-proof program, as the profusion of adverse reactions to the vaccines attests.
The International Journal of Vaccine Theory, Practice, and Research warns that “manipulation of the code of life could lead to completely unanticipated negative effects, potentially long term or even permanent, [and potentially] transgenerational.” This is tempting fate. Some people feel that the laws of nature should not be tampered with, forgetting that most medical cures do in fact tamper with nature. But changing the genetic structure of the human being is changing the human being into something else, a kind of bioengineered hybrid. It is doing God’s work, so to speak. And hubris always seems to come with too high a price, which the Greek tragedians called nemesis.
Of course, conducted in the proper sphere, there are benefits to synthetic biology as well, particularly in agricultural production that can improve and prolong the lives of millions of people, an outcome that clearly works against Gates’ project of reducing world population. Contradictions abound.
Gates’ latest venture involves partnering with the U.K. in a £400 million investment package to boost the development of Green technologies, cementing the deal with Boris Johnson at a Global Investment Summit at London’s Science Museum. Henry Deedes at The Daily Mail was not impressed. Johnson told his audience, he writes, “how much money they could make out of alternative energy. Wind power, for example, was a ‘licence to print money’.” Even if, Johnson joked, we have to sacrifice a goat to the wind god, success—and profit—are assured. Much festivity all around.
This new investment scheme is foreshadowed in Gates’ recent book How To Avoid A Climate Disaster, chock full of fantasy-laden initiatives and elysian imaginings. Gates admits that his “background is in software, not climate science,” and it shows. He champions climate modelling—as Michael Crichton observes in State of Fear, a very dodgy way of charting and predicting future climate events, most likely to be wrong. A cascade of constantly revised simulations does not inspire confidence. Gates believes in the validity of the U.N.’s discredited IPCC prognostications, and assumes that Green will provide “massive amounts of reliable, affordable electricity for offices, factories and call centers.”
Call centers? Seriously? The book reads like a piece of stargazing divination and one wonders what Gates is really up to here. Does he really believe in his fantasia? Has he been seduced by his own rhetoric? Is he trapped in a state of cognitive dissonance? Or does he have other, clandestine intentions? Is he involved, as many fear, in the most significant extension of corporate and political power in historical memory? In his speeches and books, Gates sounds too good to be true—literally.
Peter and Ginger Breggin arrive at the same conclusion. In their encyclopedic COVID-19 and the Global Predators, they present a summary of Gates’ ambitions, which reads like “a list of the essential elements of totalitarian globalism.” Gates’ investment in the pandemic, as they show in prodigious detail, “probably goes into the multibillions… Gates does not give money away to the people… He is making a market of them.” In fact, Gates was wargaming the pandemic in January 2017, announcing in “a series of filmed talks surrounding Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum” that he was “funding and implementing plans… to rush through vaccines for an anticipated pandemic.” Something is going on here, obviously.
Personally, I do not trust Bill Gates any further than I could throw Klaus Schwab. The goal of systematically reducing human population, even if well-intentioned, comes with disturbing historical baggage, a fact of which Gates should be aware. I cannot peer into his soul and say without any doubt what his drives, impulses, designs and objectives may actually be. But I do not trust anyone who promotes a vaccine that is really a gene-therapy drug developed without adequate safety trials, whose benefits are unknown and which may indeed be harmful, as the International Journal of Vaccine Theory, Practice, and Research fears, “prim[ing] the immune system toward development of both auto-inflammatory and autoimmune disease.”
I do not trust environmental zealots. I do not trust a member of the Davos set, plutocrats who fly into that elite Alpine village on emission-belching private jets under the pretext of saving the world from carbon in the name of those who fly economy class—if they are permitted to fly. Can anyone who owns two Gulfstream G650s and promotes “jet zero” be taken at face value?
Bill Gates is an inordinate meddler with a Prometheus complex. His pixilated and imperial view of the world can lead to nothing good. Trust him at your peril.
The U.K. government apparently plans to install 600,000 heat pumps per year into British homes to replace ‘polluting’ gas. No such plans have yet been announced in Australia. Gas heating is used less here than in colder climates. Nevertheless, natural gas is a popular enough form of heating. I have it in my flat. For how long, who knows? The Australian government is sidling its way into the net-zero-by-2050 club. Perforce, setting in train all manner of even more unnatural things than erecting monstrous wind farms.
But what things? There’s the rub. Choices to be made. And, ominously, in the keeping of government.
I viewed one of those Grand Designs TV programs from England. The guy building his innovative house was a green-minded engineer, intent on warming his heavily-insulated house via heat extracted from underground. When finished he pointed to the temperature on his hand-held thermometer with some pride. He had managed to warm his spacious living room to an ambient temperature of 16°C (61°F). His wife in the background looked unimpressed. But that’s his problem not ours.
Spent his own money. Got a cold house. His choice alone. It’s a whole different kettle of fish when government decides on a particular technical and engineering solution and goes about mandating and subsidising its wholesale implementation. So unfolds a process so fraught with risk that it defies belief that governments could be so foolhardy. Doesn’t it? Not really.
When the economic recession was raging in 2009, the Australian Labor government under Kevin Rudd decided to embark on a range of so-called stimulatory measures. All failed miserably but one stood out. This was the so-called “pink-batts” scheme. The government decide to provide free ceiling insulation batts to anyone who wanted them. This killed two birds with one stone you understand. First, the insulation industry would be stimulated. Second, global warming would be dealt a blow.
Sadly, the outcome did not go according to plan. An aging rocker Peter Garret, finding a second life as a politician, was the government minister in charge; satisfying the requirement (if you’ve ever seen the British TV series Yes Minister) of having no relevant expertise or experience. The existing insulation industry was ruined as main chancers became installers overnight. Imports of insulation batts from China soared; stimulating their manufacturing not ours.
Three untrained installers were electrocuted, another died of hypothermia, several others suffered third-degree burns and ninety-four houses caught fire. The scheme was abruptly closed down. Millions upon millions of insulation batts lay unwanted in warehouses.
Governments doing silly things with vast amounts of taxpayers’ money is not a rarity. However, hold onto your hats, we ain’t’ seen nothing yet. Unparalleled, climate-combatting catastrophes lie ahead. They’re inevitable. Conditions are ripe. Governments want action. Free markets won’t deliver. This means governments must make choices among alternatives, often mutually exclusive alternatives, armed with insufficient information and foresight; and without the guidance of market prices. What could possibly go wrong? Most everything.
Replacing gas heaters in millions of homes with heat pumps is a huge and irreversible exercise. Too bad if better technological and engineering solutions arise. Of course, when put together with the need to insulate the same number of homes, else rampant hypothermia among the aging, it will prove impossible to accomplish. Nevertheless, if you studiously don’t do the sums in advance, keep blinkered and myopic, there is no telling how far down the road you can get and how much damage you can do before everything falls apart. Look at the pink-batts scheme for a mere taste of the thrilling ride ahead.
Of course, heat pumps are a very small part of governments’ efforts to cure global warming by undoing prosperity. Take electric vehicles. Figures from the International Energy Agency show transport, almost completely fueled by refined petroleum, accounting for 35 percent of total energy usage in 'selected economies' in 2018. Passenger cars make up two-thirds of that. Residential space heating came in at only 11 percent in comparison.
Leave aside the feasibility, practicability, and affordability of extracting and processing the materials required to manufacture sufficient numbers of batteries; never mind their later disposal. It’s the charging of them that’s so much the bigger challenge.
Unfortunately, electric vehicles cannot work their way gradually to a position of dominance and then universality. Not without ubiquitous charging infrastructure. And ‘gradually’, in any event, is not the right word for the wet dreams of woke politicians.
Joe Biden wants half of all cars sold in the United States to be electric, fuel cell, or plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2030. Justin Trudeau has set a date of 2035 for new cars and light-duty trucks to be zero-emission. Boris Johnson wants to ban the sale of new conventionally fueled cars by 2030 and hybrids by 2035. And, think, Glasgow’s on the horizon to steel their reveries.
Imagine what will be required to support electric vehicles in a zero-emission world. Where is the power to come from? I have seen estimates which suggest that up to 50 percent more electric power will be required. My rough calculation, based on figures published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, suggest that it might be quite a bit more than that. And this, when dispatchable power (sourced from coal and natural gas) is gone and largely replaced with unreliable and intermittent power from wind and solar. Literally incredible.
Then there’s the charging infrastructure. Untold numbers of charging stations and the upgraded substations and cabling required to support them. For comparison purposes, there are around 150,000 gas stations in the United States.
To fill up now takes about five minutes. Currently the fastest charger takes 30 minutes to give your car about 200 miles. Presumably that is so inconvenient that charging technology will drive the time down to something bearable, if batteries can handle it.
Let’s realise what’s happening here. Intensive-energy petroleum (what a boon to human progress) gives out its power incrementally over the whole journey. Whereas, all of that same power and more must be delivered into batteries inside some minutes; multiplied by millions of vehicles. Has anyone in any western government done the sums?
Governments are making an irreversible choice. Spending billions upon billions of dollars and committing untold resources to bring about their currently favoured means of propelling vehicles. They didn’t choose petroleum back near the turn of the 20th century; the market did. And the difference that makes, we’ll discover painfully.
Between now and October 31, connoisseurs of political embarrassment will be licking their lips and looking forward to a veritable feast as the British government prepares to host the 2021 U.N. Climate Change conference in Glasgow (or COP26 in bureaucratese.) Their enjoyment may be even more thrilling in the twelve days following the end of October when the conference wends its slow way through a vast program of policy pledges to keep the global mean temperature to within a 1.5 degree increase above its pre-industrial level—and, more enticingly, another vaster program of how to make the pledges reality
You might say: “So what’s new?” These pledges have been made time and again in the years since the climate change game was launched in Rio de Janeiro in the early 1990s. After all, this is the 26th U.N. climate change conference, and the other 25 were about exactly the same topic. Even though one or two of them were pronounced failures—for instance, the Copenhagen Summit conference in 2009—most ended with mutual congratulations and “doubles all round.” But these pledges have not been redeemed by actions. As the latest report of the U.N.’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to argue, the effects of climate change have continued to worsen.
Boris Johnson’s “Conservative” government, in addition to hosting the conference, governs the nation that has made the boldest promises to cut emissions. To be fair, it has so far lived up to these promises better than most (though some U.K. emissions have been “exported” to other countries which now emit on behalf of U.K. corporations that make carbon-heavy investments abroad and sell the products back in the U.K. And Boris had hoped to bask in a green spotlight on a U.N. stage in Glasgow as the man leading Britain and the world into the broad carbon-free sunlit uplands of which legend speaks.
That is now looking less likely.
There’s always been a logical gap in the green case for a full-scale policy of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. Policy-makers simplistically assumed that if too many carbon emissions were the problem, then the solution must be requiring fewer carbon emissions—an approach known as mitigation. Simple, neat, an obvious solution.
But there’s more to solving problems than simply reversing their cause. Here are two alternatives to mitigation:
People adapt to risks and dangers as follows. They try to establish which solution is the least costly and most effective one, and having done that, they then ask if that solution is less costly and more habitable than living with the problem, here rising emissions.
And that’s the big problem. The costs of mitigation—Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050—are enormous both financially and in terms of reduced lifestyles (eating less meat, no flying, higher electricity prices, switching to costlier and less efficient home heating, etc., etc.) They are certain to be deeply and unavoidably unpopular; voters rarely vote to make themselves poorer in democratic elections. It’s the classical problem of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. How did it happen?
Policy-makers committed themselves to arranging a clash between the voters and international treaties, and they did so quite deliberately. They calculated they would get rewards for green virtue at the time, but that later when the clash came, they could plead that their hands were tied by “legally-binding” obligations. No worries. The voters would swallow it.
But now the witching hour has arrived, and at a most inconvenient moment. With less than two months to go before the Greenbeanfeast in Glasgow, governments are beginning to reject the obligations they had imposed upon themselves and the voters when they saw the price tag electorally.
Two such inevitable betrayals of the global “consensus” on Net Zero occurred in the last ten days. Internationally, a meeting of G20 energy and environmental ministers failed to agree a date on which they would phase out the use of coal—not surprisingly, since coal is the original source of most of the electricity that is supposed to replace it. Without such a universal pledge, however, the COP26 conference will not be able to achieve the promised agreement on limiting global warming to 1.5C as even the U.K. minister responsible for the policy conceded. Such an agreement, said Alok Sharma, would now be “extremely difficult.”
Nor will Boris Johnson be able to shuffle the responsibility for this ecological backsliding onto the G20. In the same two-week period, Whitehall leaked the story that the government would probably push back the regulation banning the sale of gas boilers and heaters from 2035 to 2040. Hydrogen boilers and air-source heat pumps cost £14,000 and £11,000 more than the gas boilers they will be mandated to replace. Which means that some gas boilers would still be in use in 2050. That would itself a serious setback for Britain’s Net-Zero promises and for Boris personally on the eve of COP26.
And it is unlikely to be the last retreat. As the U.K. media speculated:
It comes amid a mounting backlash over the spiralling cost of Mr Johnson's so-called green revolution, with Government insiders fearful that the proposals could add another £400billion on top of the enormous sums accrued during the Covid pandemic.
As Hamlet points out, moreover, when troubles come, they come not in single spies but in battalions. To add to the government’s troubles in this matter, Mr Johnson’s Downing Street press spokesman, Allegra Stratton, upon being asked by The Independent what ordinary citizens could do to prevent global warming, she suggested first that they might put their dirty dishes into the dishwasher without rinsing them first, and then upon more mature consideration, she added:
'What can they do?', they can do many things. They can join Greenpeace, they can join the Green Party, they can join the Tory Party.
Understandably, that was too tempting for a Green party leader, Jonathan Bartley, to ignore. He welcomed Stratton's comments and told The Independent:
After decades of inaction from both the Conservatives and Labour, we would absolutely agree with the government that joining the Green Party is the best thing people can do to help tackle climate change. As we witness the Conservatives waste time talking about loading dishwashers and fantasy projects such as Jet Zero [Mr. Johnson’s prediction of carbon-free airlines], it is reassuring to see that they do understand it is only the Greens who can bring about the real change that is needed if we are to prevent climate catastrophe.
And the sad point is that Mr Bartley is quite right. Anyone who wants to pursue the unachievable target of Net-Zero by 2050, destroying the U.K. economy after it has finally recovered from Covid-19, would be well advised to vote for an amiable fanatic like Mr Bartley rather than for an impulsive risk-taker like Boris Johnson who ultimately has the commonsense and self-interest to pull out of crash dive before it hits the environment. Because if he doesn’t yet know it, Boris hasn’t got an ejector seat on this particular voyage.
One of the most consistent themes of this occasional column has been the contradiction between the pessimistic analyses of the costs of the Net-Zero policy adopted by the Western world and the optimistic belief of its governments that its overall impact will be positive all round.
Keep in mind that this contradiction is not an argument that global warming or climate change is not happening, or if it is happening, that it’s not damaging. It’s a question directed solely at whether or not Net-Zero—as a solution to climate change—will in fact make life better or worse. Climate change may be a real problem without Net-Zero being a solution to it. And if that’s the case, we should be looking for other solutions.
Realization of that possibility—which was slightly below Net-Zero a year ago—is now breaking rudely in upon the community of public policy intellectuals. Dominic Lawson in the London Sunday Times pointed out that the G7’s proposed reduction in carbon emissions would be swamped by China’s increase in them and thus render the sacrifices made by the West’ populations pointless. Irwin Stelzer in the Washington Examiner demonstrated that the policy was politically unachievable. And Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus, a veteran of the climate wars, recently argued that the contradiction above--he calls it Orwellian “doublethink”—will collapse into itself when predictions of the International Energy Authority come to pass:
By 2050, we will have to live with much lower energy consumption than today. Despite being richer, the average global person will be allowed less energy than today’s average poor. We will all be allowed less energy than the average Albanian used in the 1980s. We will also have to accept shivering in winter at 19°C and sweltering in summer at 26°C, lower highway speeds and fewer people being allowed to fly.
Let me add the conclusion that all three writers make clear. At these prices, Net-Zero simply isn’t going to happen. Almost everywhere it has been offered to the voters, the voters have rejected it—most recently in a Swiss referendum that asked them if they would pay higher taxes in order to meet Net-Zero targets. They voted no.
Such popular resistance is making itself felt before any serious sacrifice has actually been imposed on electorates. Until now, their pain has been purely rhetorical. How will they react when told that they can’t drive fast cars, take plane rides to Sicily, or turn up the heating on winter nights? They’ll vote no.
Since Net-Zero is not a solution, the obvious question arises: is there another solution we haven’t yet considered?
Dominic Lawson rules out the heavy reliance on higher “hypothecated” energy taxes promoted by the G7 on the commonsensical grounds that if U.K. chancellors have fought shy of raising fuel duty for twenty years, they’re not likely to embark on massive new ones in the more straitened circumstances of today. In his Examiner article, Irwin Stelzer proposes among other things that we should concentrate on developing carbon-capture technologies that would allow us to use fossil fuels without adding to carbon emissions. That’s a narrow solution—we shouldn’t rely excessively on single possible innovation--but it makes sense.
And Bjorn Lomborg offers a broader version of the same thing on the basis of a highly topical comparison:
COVID is fixed with vaccines, not unending lockdowns. To tackle climate, we need to ramp up our investments in green energy innovation. Increasing green energy currently requires massive subsidies, but if we could innovate its future price down to below that of fossil fuels, everyone would switch.
What makes all of these proposals more persuasive, however, is an argument advanced in a monograph published by London’s Global Policy Warming Foundation. In this short analysis, Tim Worstall, a businessman and blogger, begins by establishing that relying on future innovations as a solution to global warming becomes more plausible as the likely crisis looks more manageable.
Not convinced? Think about it this way. If climate change really is an “emergency” likely to produce prolonged droughts, a rise in the sea level threatening coastal cities, crop failures, starvation, and all the other predictions made by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion—and all by the day after tomorrow—then we probably couldn’t rely on continuous gradual innovation to reduce the price of renewables, the carbon emissions of greener fossil fuels, and the invention of alternative fuels not yet imagined. We would be climbing a very steep hill by baby steps.
As Worstall points out, however, those alarming predictions were rooted in a “worst case” scenario of future trends in carbon emissions that assumed a world in which the consumption of coal (the “dirtiest” of fuels which is actually declining in use throughout the West) would rise to higher levels than ever before—with the result that there would be a rise in temperature of almost five degrees (over pre-industrial levels) by the end of this century.
As several environmentalists (including Nature magazine) have complained, however, this worst -case scenario has since been treated as “business as usual” in official and unofficial discussions of climate policy. That in turn has led to a massive exaggeration of both global warming and its “emergency” impact.
How can we be sure that this “cooler” prediction is accurate?
Good question. And it has an even better answer. It’s not a prediction. It’s already been happening for some time. The explanation is fracking, which has reduced the use of coal and replaced it with the cleaner greener fuel of natural gas wherever governments and the courts have allowed it to be developed over the protests of , ahem, the Greens.
The fall in American carbon emissions under the late Obama and Trump administrations occurred almost entirely because of the spread of fracking (which incidentally also fueled a rise in American growth and prosperity.) And if you want a negative example, Angela Merkel’s boneheaded decision to abandon Germany's nuclear power led directly to the greater use of coal and a consequent rise in carbon emissions in a Germany that was meanwhile spending massively on unreliable renewables..
Fracking! It’s the start of the answer—the remainder is innovation—to the problem of halting global warming without closing down the world economy (which is otherwise the respectable establishment strategy.) If you want to be technical about it, fracking has helped to move the world from a Representative Concentration Pathway of 8.5 to an RCP of between 4.5 and 6. And as every schoolboy knows, that makes a helluva difference.
So, following Chancellor Merkel’s example, Boris Johnson has blocked fracking in the UK, and Joe Biden is placing obstacles to it in the U.S.
There’s a horrible sort of inevitability about that, isn’t there?
The year is 2013. I am a passenger on a container ship as it voyages for twenty-seven days from Hong Kong to Southampton. Magellan, the third largest container ship in the world, is powered by a huge engine, equalled in size by only one other in the merchant fleet. For the mechanically minded; it is a marine diesel, fuel-injected, internal combustion, two-stroke engine, generating 109,000 hp. It has fourteen pistons, each almost a metre in diameter. I can vouchsafe that it is very large and loud.
On this voyage, the ship is carrying the equivalent of nearly 10,000 standard-sized containers. Containers, which can be more than double the length and taller than standard-sized, can hold up to about 28 tonnes of cargo.
Why mention any of this? A container ship provides a practical and grounding lesson on the realities of modern economic life that school children might be taught. As distinct, that is, from being brainwashed with fairy tales of sustainable development.
The lesson might begin thus: Our way of life, our prosperity, our ability to help those among us in need, are all critically dependent on growing, mining, making, trading and transporting things. Needed are entrepreneurship, business acumen, skill, hard work and, critically, cheap and plentiful supplies of energy.
A series of questions might follow to generate discussion. Apropos: If it takes around 4,700 tonnes of marine diesel fuel at $550 per tonne to shift one-hundred thousand tonnes of cargo from Hong Kong to Southampton, how many batteries charged by wind and solar farms would it take and how much would it cost? For mathematics students this would be an instructive introduction to imaginary numbers.
Another question might go like this. Is it possible for us to enjoy the ownership of cell phones, computers, flat screen TVs, cars, and all of our other modern conveniences without the dirty business of their manufacture and shipment? For students of anthropology, this may throw light on the development of cargo cults among primitive peoples. And talking of cargo cults, adult classes might be held for those who vote for green parties who seem equally prone to thinking that goods simply appear out of thin air.
Other instructive questions could be posed for the tutelage of students and greenies alike. Me, I want to stop there and turn back to the crude diesel which powers large ships. According to those who estimate these things, shipping accounts for around 2.5 percent of man-made CO2 emissions. Twice the emissions of Australia by the way. And as Australia is under pressure by the great and good, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson included, to prostrate itself before the deity of net-zero emissions by 2050, it isn’t surprising that shipping is also in the firing line.
The International Maritime Organisation’s voluntary goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least half by 2050 compared with 2008. Bear in mind that tonnages shipped are on course to be far higher in 2050 than they are now. The goal might be described as aspirational. Think of the late Soviet Union’s five-year plans. Even so, it is not going to be nearly enough to satisfy the zealots, when net-zero is their goal.
Norway is doing its bit. Reportedly, as from January 2026, Norway intends to ban cruise ships from sailing through its fjords unless they generate zero emissions. How to bring this about? I don’t know. However, the Norwegian shipping line Hurtigruten announced in 2018 that it would run its ships on dead fish and other rotting matter. Smelly business. Fish at risk. Has limitations.
In an article in Forbes, development economist Nishan Degnarain echoed the UN in calling for shipping to urgently ditch fossil fuels. He claims that shipping is the sixth-largest emitter after China, the U.S., India, Russia and Japan; which, though mixing categories, is about right. What to do?
Degnarain doesn’t mention dead fish. He lists four possible solutions. These come out of a report by the international conservation group Ocean Conservancy. The report was launched at U.N. Climate Week, held virtually in New York in September 2020. Here are the putative solutions:
To take them in reverse order. Environmentalists aren’t keen on LNG. Apparently, it leaks methane in transit. And, anyway, “cleaner” though it is, it is still a foul fossil fuel. Ammonia carries a risk of blowing up and when burnt emits the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. Just a guess, but fuel cells powered by green hydrogen might not be quite ready for widespread installation in ships. One solution mooted is the onboard conversion of sea water to hydrogen. I simply assume that’s a joke. And in that same amusing vein, electrification is clearly a risible solution for ocean-going vessels. Consider the magnitude of the problem.
Leave aside the 30 million or so recreational and fishing boats in the world; lots pumping out CO2. As of the beginning of 2020, there were around 56,000 merchant ships trading internationally. This encompasses 5,360 container ships, over 17,000 general cargo ships, more than 12,000 bulk cargo carriers, around 8,000 crude oil tankers, nearly 6,000 chemical tankers, over 5,000 roll-on roll-off ships, and some 2,000 LNG tankers. All running on fossil fuels, overwhelmingly crude diesel, with a bit of LNG thrown into the mix.
Is it possible to get your head around refitting and/orreplacing this fleet so that it's emissions free? Maybe, if you’re an airhead and assume as-yet uninvented technologies will somehow save the day. If burdened with common sense and realism, you will know that it can’t be done. It is Panglossianism on stilts.
This is the situation. Western world leaders, without political opposition, have bought completely into "global warming" alarmism. Extraordinary, but that is the least of it. They are buying into delusional solutions to a non-problem. You’re sane and trying to figure out what the heck’s going on? Forget it. Just cling onto the rails as they do their damnedest to sail us into the abyss.