Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Davosing

Hello Davos at long last! It feels a little weird—being here in summer, and also like the prom date who's been stood up four times. but Davos is on, and there are 1,500 private planes here to prove it. I’d hired an assistant named Mila for the conference because I couldn’t very well be seen setting up my own meetings or trying to get myself into parties. I had several invites already but you never really do know which ones will be the hot ticket until you get here.  I’d also set her to the task of sorting out a driver.

A summer conference meant summer clothes, and I refused to be clomping around in wedge-sandals just because modern pavement hadn’t met old Europe. This is among the things Americans find particularly galling and I am starting to agree with them. Hotels never advertise the abysmal water pressure, the inability to use a hairdryer in bathroom, or the two children’s beds shoved together and presented as a king. 

I walked through the Partner’s Lounge after checking in with hospitality and could see there were very few women, in addition to a thousand fewer attendees than in previous years. It was hard to know if the drop-off in attendance was rising anti-elitist sentiment, or Putin's war in Ukraine, but many of the A-listers weren’t coming at all. Not Biden, or Boris, or Macron, or Prince Charles or even Greta. And not even Jamie Dimon, which was a double blow because Jamie’s always liked me, and it meant no JP Morgan Chase-hosted suite. Boo! In its geographic place this year is the Covid testing area, to which we all had to submit upon arrival.

Welcome to the World Environmental Forum.

Mila arrived on foot, and with a local bus map mumbling something about Line 4 (Flüelastrasse). Bus? This wasn’t going well. I was going to have to skip the second half of Xi Jinping to get ready for the India Today party.  It’s just as well, it was hard for me not to focus on the singular-plural mismatch by Xi’s translator. Also I wasn’t happy Klaus opened with Xi. I know we are the World Economic Forum but let’s be honest, the environment is our focus and I won’t give China any credit in that department. Detractors may find us duplicitous (we really should be called the World Environmental Forum) but they don’t grasp how important it is to do our fine work by any means necessary.

India Today went all out for the party, even if it wasn’t terribly exclusive. India itself had the biggest presence at the conference and they wanted to make sure everyone knew it. They had a hundred CEOs and a dozen government leaders. They insist its ‘India’s Century’, that they have the talent pool, and that they played a critical role in vaccinations. Did they? I seem to only remember Donald Trump saying he personally saved two million lives with his vaccine. But tonight I am to accept that India contributed the most. Maybe. But the planet is my passion and as for India… it was #2 on my environmental offender list, and I didn’t have a #3.  

Also missing from this year’s conference were every single one of my clients. It was just as well because the theme seemed to be bullseyes on the billionaires. And I was having a tough time squaring this because everyone that I work with is committed to zero carbon emissions and doing what they can to save our planet.

Day two came both bright and early. Perhaps one too many Mumbai Mules. The last I remembered was a back-and-forth between California’s Darrell Issa and England’s Nick Clegg.  I don’t know anything about Mr Issa but the most interesting thing about Nick is his wife and he turned up without her. Separate from that, I’ll never understand why he thought it smart to tell GQ he had bedded ‘not more than thirty women’ but I think he will always be remembered for his failed attempt to reform the House of Lords. All of this escaped Mr Issa, an American congressman who used to chair something called ‘The Oversight Committee’. That kept me laughing most of the night. 

Klaus Schwab

And the winner is...

Today I get my Schwab Foundation Award! I wanted to wear an asymmetrical Armani knit but I was afraid it wouldn’t photograph well so I opted for a sustainable label. No sooner had I stepped off the stage, I was rushed by a pre-pubescent prat sporting the dreaded orange (press) badge. UGH! He wasn’t here to congratulate me either. He launched into a rant against Barclays (the presenter of the awards). Seriously? How dare you! I’m the bug hostess, and my efforts may just make the difference between saving the planet and not! Plus I was kind of hoping I might parlay this into a stakeholder position with Barclays. ‘By the way, Barclays—you idiot—just set aside £17m for a sustainable impact programme’, I said, moving away from him. ‘…and they provide menopause support to retain their top talent!’

I think the last bit shocked him but he yelled back, ’Barclays' renewable energy banking chief has served on the board of the Sierra Club!’ 

‘Well yay Barclays!’ I retorted, really trying to lose him this time. Why is everybody so cranky post-Covid?

He wouldn't stop. ‘But the Sierra Club has been killing off nuclear plants around the U.S., while taking money from renewable energy companies. Turns out it’s a very lucrative business’. 

UGH! He had me and I knew it. Nuclear is by far the safest way to make reliable electricity and its particulate matter is insignificant compared to the particulate matter from fossil-and biomass-burning homes, cars, and power plants, which kill more than eight million people a year. I said nothing and left the room. It was day three and I was sure to let security know one of the orange tags had slipped through and harassed me. Orange Man Bad! as the saying goes.

I decided to interview a few folks myself, to discuss the things I wished to discuss and was heading straight for Henry Kissinger when Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of UNAIDS thrust herself into my mic. Oh Lord. Keep it light I thought, as she jumped right in. ‘Extreme inequality is out of control, it’s undermining our economies, and fueling crime’, she said. 

‘Thank you’.  I said. I'd heard her speak earlier. She thought if anyone has any more than another, it qualified as inequality and someone was cheating. ‘We don't want countries to simply come to Davos, we want them to put the burden on companies and rich people'. She used the example that in 1970 the top  tax rates were around 62 percent and that today they've been 'negotiated down by rich people’. 

‘Do you know I work with poultry workers in the richest country  in the world?  The United States?  And the poultry worker I spoke to has to wear diapers because she is not allowed to go to the bathroom.  These companies pay their CEOs well and cheat workers down the line’. 

Of course I didn’t know any of this, nor did I believe it,  but she wouldn't shut up so I googled it on my phone to find that the average salary of a poultry worker is $29,000 a year or about $14.10 per hour. No mention if that included diapers. ‘Do you know that $170 billion of profits, every single year, does not  get taxed? Think about that, $170 billion a year that is not given to others to support themselves', she banged on.

No diapers and 14 bucks an hour too!

There was no point explaining to her that all profits were not owed to someone else, and that if every country that came to Davos was forced into 'the burden of high taxation' no one would come here. This she called inequality. And  she went on about how 'jobs were not enough… people need dignified jobs'.  Fascinating really. This woman from Uganda, now making a quarter of a million dollars a year, was telling me that American jobs were not dignified--enough. And failure to hand over profits was stealing.  'Not dignified enough',  she insisted.  

I wanted to ask if she knew there were nearly ten million slaves in Africa but I did not.  But more than that, I wanted her to shut up. Apparently she had checked with the IMF and they told her, companies could afford to pay more. And in her mind that translated to must. This she explained, would fight climate change because apparently with more money, the first thing people  do is become passionate about their carbon footprint.

I tried to interject, and eventually I said:  'As I haven’t the occupational garments of those poultry women… I really must excuse myself.’ Suddenly, I was thankful for Mila and her bus schedule. 

Chasing the Future by Slow Train

San Francisco in recent years has become an advance warning for the collapse of city government, urban life, and even of civilization itself. Now it seems that “a survey of electric vehicle (E.V.) charging stations in the San Francisco area has discovered that about one in four don’t work.” It’s no surprise, of course, that some of the urban infrastructure of San Francisco might not be in the best of shape.

At the same time, California used to think of itself until very recently as the future of America and even of the world—the harbinger of innovative technologies that will transform our lives for the better. It’s also the state that has the deepest-greenest consciousness in the U.S. There’s a “tension” between these two self-perceptions, as we’ll see, but they combine easily enough to make Californians the Americans most likely to lead the switch from petrol-driven to electric vehicles.

And the latest statistics confirm that. With only 10 percent of the nation’s cars, California now accounts for over 40 percent of all zero-emission cars in the U.S. As sales of E.V.s rise, however, there needs to be a matching increase in the number of electric charging stations to give the new model vehicles the juice to keep them on the road.

Gov. Newsom's got things well in hand.

As Yahoo News discovered, when researchers drove their E.V.s to hundreds of public charging stations in nine Bay Area counties, they found that 27.5 percent were unusable for one reason or another. Given the newness of the technology, the list of failings had an oddly familiar, almost domestic ring to it. The most common fault, at 7.2 percent of stations, was a payment system failure. Second was a charge initiation failure, at 6.4 percent, where charging either didn’t start after paying or stopped within two minutes. Around the same number had a problem with the screen — either totally blank, non-responsive or displaying an error message. Almost 5 percent of chargers had cables too short to reach the car, and a few had broken connectors or other trouble connecting with the cars.

Because a full tank of electricity goes less far than one of petrol, E.V. drivers often have to calculate pretty accurately how long a journey they can afford to take in time rather than money. If a quarter of charging stations aren’t working, they can be stranded unexpectedly. Hilly San Francisco has its own kinds of hazards for stranded drivers—ditto California’s endless series of spaghetti junctions—but only very rarely will they include the weather (earthquakes, more so).

What, however, of the great plains? Even for everyday driving tasks, people there are accustomed to going long distances through places where you wouldn’t want to be stranded on a cold day anyway, but in particular if you were driving an E.V. since they don’t work so well on cold days.

Consumer Reports has recently examined the performance of E.V.s in this regard. The experts they asked pointed to two problems: first that an E.V.’s battery power and range declines as the temperature falls, especially when it falls below zero Fahrenheit—not uncommon in large parts of the U.S. during the winter, from the Upper Midwest across to New England; second, even at somewhat warmer temperatures, the car’s internal heating arrangements draw electricity from the battery and decrease its range.

Pro tip: dress warm in the Dakotas!

How severe are these problems? Consumer Reports put two E.V.s through the following test last January in Connecticut: three different journeys, amounting to 64 miles in all, with the E.V.s allowed to cool down after the first two journeys so that they would need to reheat each time. What CR found was as follows:

The Nissan Leaf (with its base 40 kWh battery; a longer range version is set to go on sale later this year, Nissan has said) has an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 151-mile range. At the end of our 64-mile drive, the predicted range left was only 10 miles. Using the advertised range, the car should have traveled 141 miles before it was left with only 10. That’s more than double the anticipated loss in range.

The Tesla Model 3 has an EPA-estimated 310-mile range. At the end of that same 64 mile drive, it indicated there were 189 miles of predicted range. Put another way, the Model 3 used 121 miles worth of range in only 64 miles. That’s almost double the anticipated loss.

Now, these are early days in the development of E.V.s, and their development teams are very confident of finding ways to improve their performance on battery power and distance range as on much else. For the moment, however, EVs can’t travel very far in cold weather, and in wide open spaces they depend upon the availability of a large network charging stations (that actually work). That means the more thinly populated areas of the United States will need to expand their network of E.V. charging stations very considerably to make it worthwhile for local folks to buy E.V.s—which in turn means a vast program of electrification across the fruited plain.

To get some idea of what that means and will cost, let me quote a U.K. study by a distinguished British engineer, Mike Travers, who in The Hidden Costs of Net-Zero estimates that the cost of installing the E.V. charging points alone will be a considerable one—something on the order of £31 billion in the much smaller geographical area of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Travers goes on to estimate the impact not only of switching to electric cars but also of wider policies of decarbonizing, for instance, home heating, and concludes that the extra demand for electricity would overwhelm the existing system of electricity distribution and require massive infrastructure repair and development at a total bill of £410 billion. Adjusted for population and expressed in U.S. dollars, these figures become $201 billion, $2,665 billion, and just short of $20,000 per household. And for what?

These figures should be taken with a pinch of salt, but they give some idea of the magnitude of the costs of switching from petrol-driven cars to E.V.s in a few years—the Brits are being told to do so by 2035. And they don’t include all the government costs of subsidizing the switch over. In California they include grants to low-income families to purchase E.V.s from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Don't worry: the BAAQMD is here to help!

But what these government rules and subsidies are financing is not the switch from petrol to electricity itself—the evolution and spread of EVs is happening anyway—but its acceleration in response not to market forces but to the non-market instructions of the administrative state. Some of the early flaws and drawbacks of E.V.s would be solved and overcome anyway during the process of market expansion—in effect subsidized by the wealthy acting as pioneer consumers of new luxury products as they always have—while the price gradually comes down. Instead, governments are spending a great deal of money—and making us poorer in the process—in order to make something happen more quickly at the cost of making it happen inefficiently and less cheaply.

Do we really want our economic progress pioneered and charted by government which creates a Bay Area Air Quality Management District to finance the purchase of the latest luxury goods by the poor but can’t manage to maintain the charging stations that enable to all drivers to be sure of reaching their destinations?

Look who’s in the White House. Consider Gavin Newsom in the Golden State. Apparently we do.

California's Long Hot Summer—and Ours

To supply shortages on everything from silicon chips for cars and household appliances to food, including baby food, this summer promises an exceptionally miserable shortage—electricity in California, and other things elsewhere in the country. California energy officials warned that the state lacks sufficient capacity to meet electric demand if other extreme events—perfectly predictable ones by the way—like heatwaves, and wild fires, and drought –occur.

Days later the Wall Street Journal observed that “power-generating capacity is struggling to keep up with demand, a gap that could lead to rolling blackouts during heat waves and other peak periods as soon as this year.” It's easy to make fun of California for its absurdly unrealistic, aggressive "climate-change" energy policies, but these warnings are now spreading “from California to Texas to Indiana,” but I pick that state because it is the most absurd.

It’s not the variations in weather we should blame. It’s weather—we have always had variations due to La Nina, wildfires, and drought. It’s why energy producers have always built in excess capacity. It’s idiotic policies, not least of which is retiring power plants before they can be replaced by "renewables" or conventional energy. Of course, the most idiotic of all policies is the notion that depriving people of needed energy will make it possible to control the climate which in their fantasy world is heating up at an unprecedented and terrifying rate because of CO2 emissions.

I did that?

National economies are intricate webs of interrelationships in which monomaniacal planners lack the sophistication of natural supply/demand operations of millions of actors—us, the consumers. Take one small example: as the electrical-generating capacity in California increasingly fails to meet demand, California has encouraged the purchase of electrical vehicles, instead of gas or diesel-fueled vehicles, and has mandated electrical home ranges instead of gas. When predicable electricity shortages again occur this summer, millions of Californians will be unable to store food, or cook it, or drive to get some from somewhere. And they’ll be hard pressed to find water to drink, wash in, or grow food with because of similarly nonsensical water policies which are diminishing hydro electrical generation.

Reliability of supply of something as critical to health and welfare as electricity should never be dependent on intermittent sources like wind and solar. Maybe some day someone (Elon Musk, for example) will invent large batteries to store their output so it will be available when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun isn’t shining, but we aren’t there yet, and until we are we simply cannot replace conventional electrical generating power plants with them.

As for hydro, for years now La Nina’s hot winds have reduced available hydropower, not just in California, but in surrounding states on the Western grid as well, including parts of Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming and Mexico and all of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. If that grid goes down because of shortfalls in hydro power it could take days or weeks to restart it.

Lake Oroville, Calif.

Two of the largest reservoirs which supply hydro power to the state are at such low levels it will not take much for California to go dark. The water level in Lake Mead in Nevada is so low in fact, they are recovering bodies from what once were its depths. The man-made lake provides hydro electricity via  the Hoover Dam, and that electricity goes to Nevada and Arizona on a western grid connecting to California. Last year the warnings were made clear—doubtless it’s worse now.

Of course, California could fix things but its Coastal Commission will not allow desalination plants to be built along its very long coast, which would make more water available for hydro power production, nor will it store reserve water. It just empties that water into the sea, choosing instead to drain the reservoirs and in the process weakening their possible contribution to generating power. This year two of its largest reservoirs are already noticeably depleted before the heat of summer. Lake Oroville is another hydro site that California relies heavily on and it’s already low:

This week, Shasta Lake is only at 40 percent of its total capacity, the lowest it has ever been at the start of May since record-keeping began in 1977. Meanwhile, further south, Lake Oroville is at 55 percent of its capacity, which is 70 percent of where it should be around this time on average.... Last year, Oroville took a major hit after water levels plunged to just 24 percent of total capacity, forcing a crucial California hydroelectric power plant to shut down for the first time since it opened in 1967. The lake's water level sat well below boat ramps, and exposed intake pipes which usually sent water to power the dam.

California's Air Resource Board just passed a regulation banning gas-powered generators by 2028. If this survives legal challenge and becomes effective, it will be hardest on those in remote rural areas and make self-help when the grid goes down impossible. If you live in California, I strongly recommend you buy a generator now or spend the rest of your summers in the dark without food or air conditioning.

The best climate change for California would be a sharp shift in the political winds. But given the state's headlong plunge into self-destruction, that's not likely to happen any time soon.

'Green Energy' Unsafe for Birds and Other Living Things

Wind and solar energy technologies, which eco-religionists claim will save the planet from the ravages of capitalism and the destruction it supposedly causes, are culling endangered animals and wiping out their habitats. Michael Shellenberger pinpointed the problem with renewable energy in a May 2018 Forbes article: “If solar and wind farms are needed to protect the natural environment, why do they so often destroy it?” It’s a fair question.

Researchers looked at 23 endangered bird species killed at wind and solar outfits in California, according to “Vulnerability of avian populations to renewable energy production,” published March 30 in Royal Society Open Science. The study of the impact on wildlife of renewable energy, which requires more land than conventional means of energy production such as oil and natural gas drilling, was funded by the California Energy Commission, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the University of California at Davis. Hydroelectric dams were not dealt with in the paper, but the U.S. Geological Survey reports it is known that they “create barriers to fish migration and alter upstream and downstream ecosystems.”

The paper states that of the 23 bird species, renewable energy generation appears to have made things significantly worse for eleven, or 48 percent of them. Those eleven species “were either highly or moderately vulnerable, experiencing a greater than or equal to 20% decline in the population growth rates with the addition of up to either 1,000 or 5,000 fatalities, respectively.” For five of the eleven species, “killed birds originated both locally and non-locally, yet vulnerability occurred only to the local subpopulation."

R.I.P. tweety bird.

In the United States, anywhere from 140,000 to 328,000 bird fatalities take place per year at monopole turbines, but the real figure is probably much higher because, as the paper acknowledges, the estimate comes from data gathered a decade ago when installed capacity was only 57 percent of the current figure. Solar energy generation back then, when capacity was only 37 percent of the current figure, caused up to 138,600 birth deaths in the country, most of which took place in California.

California, of course, has an economic death wish – it’s betting everything on a utopian carbon-free future, the well-being of its human population be damned. In September 2020, the state’s Democrat governor, Gavin Newsom, who couldn’t even be bothered to follow his own pandemic rules, decreed that no gasoline-fueled automobiles will be sold in the state by 2035, the goal being to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, he urged that fracking be banned.

Encouraged by Newsom, anti-growth fanatics forced the state to mandate 33 percent renewable energy by 2020. Utilities achieved this early and now the goalpost has been moved to 60 percent renewables by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free energy by the middle of the century. Some California cities even want to ban natural gas heating and cooking in new buildings.

All this pressure to go renewable has to lead to more animal deaths as wind and solar generation expands. The Royal Society paper states that of California’s “23 vulnerable bird species studied (barn owls, golden eagles, road runners, yellow-billed cuckoos…), scientists have found 11 are now experiencing at least a 20% decline in their population growth rates because wind turbines and solar panels are killing them and/or destroying their limited-range habitat.”

Birds and bats are particularly susceptible to wind turbines, which nowadays are typically mounted on towers 200 feet high or higher with rotors spanning 150 to 260 feet, which means blade tips can reach higher than 400 feet above the ground. Rotors can spin at speeds from 11 to 28 rpm with blade tip speeds of between 138 and 182 mph, the U.S. Department of Energy reports.

Beware of barotrauma.

Birds tend to be killed directly by collisions with turbines, meteorological towers, and power transmission lines, and indirectly by habitat disruption, behavioral effects, drowning in wastewater evaporation ponds, and other causes. Bats are typically killed by collisions and barotrauma, which means catastrophic damage to internal organs caused by rapid air pressure changes. Migratory bats could go extinct if wind energy production keeps growing, a May 2017 paper in Biological Conservation argues.

The Royal Society paper states that photovoltaic solar panels used at solar farms convert the light produced by the sun into electricity via turbines. There are environmental tradeoffs. The 6,000 birds that fly annually into the concentrated sunlight beams produced at the Ivanpah Solar Plant in California’s Mojave Desert, are instantly cremated alive, leaving puffs of smoke behind to mark their passing. A large fence erected to keep endangered desert tortoises out of the plant made it easier for coyotes to prey on roadrunners.

According to a January 2008 paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management, about 4,700 birds, including golden eagles, are killed by wind turbines at California’s Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA). “Every year, an estimated 75 to 110 Golden Eagles are killed by the wind turbines in the [APWRA]. Some lose their wings, others are decapitated, and still others are cut in half.”

Led by California’s crazed, hardline push to get off so-called fossil fuel-based energy production and into "renewable" energy, commercial wind energy generation capacity in the entire United States has gone up almost 300 percent since 2009. The current installed capacity exceeds 107 gigawatts from about 59,000 turbines and is expected to rise to more than 160 gigawatts by 2030, the Royal Society paper states.

Solar energy generation has gone up 9,400 percent in the country, from 0.4 gigawatts in 2009 to more than 38 gigawatts in 2009. In the coming 5 years capacity may blow past 75 gigawatts.

This will take a toll on fauna. But that’s fine with environmentalists, who observe a hierarchy of values. Animals, especially those with wings, will continue to die for our sins as "renewable" energy expands.

From Secret Passages to Burning Bushes

In November last year, a paper was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It describes a geological "secret passage," located nearly 62 miles (100 km) below Earth's surface. Researchers think it allows a flow of mantle materials to travel from beneath the Galápagos Islands to beneath Panama. It may offer an explanation for why rocks from Earth's mantle have been found more than 1,000 miles from where they originated. What's significant about the secret passage is that until now, no one knew it even existed.

Such revelations are increasingly common. They deepen our understanding of things considered to be already understood or reveal things where little is understood. Whether revelations in physics, cosmology, or math and computer science, these discoveries have led society to develop technologically, economically, and even socially in an exceptionally brief period of time. Making new discoveries reminds us that we don’t always know as much about things as we think we do.

What lies beneath?

Enter climate change. It has been ascribed the pejorative cause for so many circumstances and events with a certitude that defies scientific reality? How has climate change made its way into corporate investing strategies and board room battles? How has it become the nagging cry from those in politics around the world, who seek to use it as a tool for greater control over every part of our lives?How has climate change become a religion for some while becoming a punch line for others?

At a time when we understand how much we still don’t know about so many things, how has this single narrative become the culprit for every foul weather event, thawed acre of tundra or fuzzy creature wandering in a forest too close to human populations? Climate change it seems, is the grim reaper of the 21st century. It is so predictable that it's become… boring.

As 2022 opens, perhaps a quick dip into climate change calamities of the past will remind us that from secret passages to burning bushes, climate change isn’t the cause of everything.

Star(fish) Power
Beginning in 2013, starfish began dying on a scale not previously seen. The starfish fell apart… with pieces of their arms walking away, or their bodies disintegrating into mushy piles. With no understanding of what was causing these deaths, climate activists quickly snatched up the opportunity to assert that they knew the mush-inducing mess was caused by climate change. The assertion, after all, is the proof. It requires no more than a non-profit newsletter to make the claim and NPR to report on the newsletter and…boom… case closed.

"What we think is that the warm water anomalies made these starfish more susceptible to the disease that was already out there," says Joe Gaydos, the science director at the University of California, Davis' SeaDoc Society and one author of a study out today in the journal Science Advances.

He and co-authors analyzed data collected by scuba divers and found that divers were less likely to see living sea stars when the water temperatures were abnormally high. "To think that warmer water temperature itself can cause animals to get disease quicker, or make them more susceptible, it's kind of a like a one-two punch," Gaydos says. "It's a little nerve-wracking."

RIP. Gotta be climate change.

But what of the truth? It turned out to be a virus.

Eventually dubbed "Sea Star Wasting Syndrome," the phenomenon caused a massive die-off of multiple species of starfish stretching from Mexico to Alaska. Tissue samples of sick and healthy starfish were ultimately analyzed by a team of international experts. They sought all the possible pathogens associated with diseased starfish. The research team then conducted DNA sequencing of the viruses and compared them to all the other known viruses. Once they had identified a leading candidate, they tested it by injecting the densovirus into healthy starfish in an aquarium. Then they watched to see if the disease took hold. And sure enough it did. The virus killed the starfish in the aquarium the same way it had been killing them in nature.

The die-off was also linked with an increase in urchin population and a reduction in kelp, according to a study published in Science Advances. In other words, there was more going on than merely the vague, all-encompassing, "climate change" theory. Thankfully, scientific inquiry won out over political postulating and the actual cause was ascertained. Spoiler…it wasn’t climate change.

Burning Bushes
Wildfires are a well-understood aspect of living in the western United States. But so too are forest-management practices. Fail to manage forests and wildfires will be more frequent and more devastating. But like flies to honey, the media rallies around the "climate change" narrative without a scintilla of interest in understanding the real causes of wild land fires.

According to the U.S. Department of Interior, as many as 85 percent of wild land fires in the U.S. are caused by humans. That’s right, humans, not climate change. Human-caused fires result from unattended camp fires, the burning of debris, downed power lines, negligently discarded cigarettes, sparks from vehicles or equipment and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 15 percent are started by lightning or lava.

Definitely climate change.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, more than 7.6 million acres burned in the U.S. in 2021 due to wildfires. That's about 2.6 million fewer acres than in 2020. California's Dixie fire was the largest 2021 wildfire, burning more than 960,000 acres and destroying more than 1,300 homes and buildings before being contained. Activists asserted that drought, caused by climate change, was the reason the fire had started. However, just recently Cal Fire said investigators have determined that a tree contacting Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power lines caused the Dixie Fire. Proper forest management -- the kind California used to be able to do in its sleep -- likely would have prevented the destruction.

The 2020 fire season was no different. The 7,000-acre El Dorado fire, was started by electronic equipment that malfunctioned at a "gender-reveal" party. That particular fire was reported in the media as being the result of climate change. Other fires throughout the state that year were started by lightening. California’s poor forest management practices allowed all of the fires to grow out of control, not climate change. Worth remembering to never blame on climate change that which can be explained by general governmental incompetence or ideologically-driven political messaging.

California's Fatal Energy Lysenkoism

In the art of distorting scientific facts for political purposes, California has to earn a global Lysenkoism medal. Its politicians are seemingly wedded to the idea that man is responsible for global warming and reducing fossil fuel use will reverse this trend. They have engaged in a series of misdirected actions that will only increase fossil fuel emissions worldwide while creating more poverty, famine and death .

Even assuming for the sake of argument what cannot be proven—that man can control the earth’s climate—California continues to enact legislation and regulations at cross purposes with this aim and at a perilous cost to its citizens and the world.

Rather than developing readily available energy sources under rational federal environmental regulations, that state—like the Biden Administration—demonizes them. Its unique regulatory environment has made manufacturing difficult if not impossible and as a consequence it relies on imports to meet the state’s energy and other needs. Unfortunately, in catering to the green crazies who have extraordinary political clout there, they only are creating more very dangerous air pollutants.

Trofim Lysenko, the man who starved millions.

Ronald Stein explains: " You see most of what Californians import enters the states on cargo ships, and they are the biggest transport polluters in the world, using low-grade bunker fuel, the cheapest, most polluting fuels ,fuels known to emit cancer and asthma-creating pollutants. Worldwide “90,000 ships…burn approximately 370 million tons of fuel per year, emitting 20 million tons of sulfur oxides.” This level of pollution is equal to that of 50 million vehicles.

Among the cargo ships unloading in the state are those carrying hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil—58 percent of the crude oil used in the state -- largely as feedstock to refineries for manufacturing oil and derivatives necessary for military use, medical supplies, airlines, cruise and merchant ships, among countless other  things.

Here's the tradeoff California governor Gavin Newsom has made, instead of allowing production in-state of crude oil in one of the most oil-rich states in the Union:

Instead of protecting Californians’ health by forbidding production in-state and ridding the state of crude oil altogether without any viable replacement in the name of stopping "climate change," the result will instead be millions of fatalities from diseases, malnutrition and weather-related deaths.

If you think that is a hyperbolic description of the consequences, consider the problem created by California’s banning of gas-powered generators, lawnmowers and leaf blowers. This month the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to ban the sale of off-road generators in equipment starting in 2024 and portable generators in 2024. All are to meet zero-emission standards in 2028.

Gavin Newsom, the man who killed California.

The standards set by the CARB are so unrealistic, it’s likely to be impossible to find any such equipment by 2024. (Of course, the run on them in Nevada and a burgeoning black market then is predictable because these are such valuable tools.) But aside from reducing noise, which bothers neighbors who are rich enough to afford to pay for the extra labor it takes to mow the lawn and rid their property of fallen leaves or strong enough to manage these tasks, there are serious consequences.

Among those are this: California’s grid is underpowered and faces rampant outrages.

Banning generators could have countless and dangerous consequences. In fact, just last year, many Californians had to use generators to charge their electric vehicles so they could leave their homes during outages and reduce strain on the grid... California's electric situation is so problematic that earlier this year the state actually paid people to ignore emissions standards and use gas-powered generators to lighten  the load on the failing power grid... This option will be drastically reduced and could create massive and deadly problems for the state's residents.

But there’s more. Banning generators could seriously endanger lives of these who depend on them. People who need oxygen and other life-support equipment like CPAP machines, wheelchair lifts, elevators, and air conditioners, rely on home generators. And then there are RVs, often a choice of full time living quarters for retirees and the less affluent in the state’s pricey real estate market. These need generators. California state legislators in Sacramento are unconcerned with such things as they are of the consequences to remote construction and lumber production in areas far from the electric grid, occupations dependent on portable energy generation.

Lysenko’s fancy of hardened seeds and crop rotation led to widespread famine in the old Soviet Union. Newsom’s fantasy of life without fossil fuel will lead to disaster, too, unless somehow checked.

Sowing the Crime Wind, Reaping the Whirlwind

Who would have thought she was doing something dangerous? The young mother was returning home from a late afternoon walk on Nov. 28, pushing her infant child in a stroller. She opened the security gate in front of her home in the upscale Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, taking no notice of the two men in the car stopped across the street. Before she could close the gate and enter her home, the two men followed her into her yard and robbed her of her backpack and diaper bag before escaping. Neither the woman nor her child was injured.

Not as fortunate was Southern California philanthropist Jaqueline Avant, 81, who in the early morning of Dec. 1 was murdered in her Beverly Hills home. Named as the suspect was Aariel Maynor, 29, a recent parolee from the California prison where he had served a four-year sentence for robbery. Maynor was arrested by LAPD officers after he shot himself in the foot during a second home invasion in the Hollywood Hills, a few miles from the Avant crime scene.

We're no angels.

And out in the equally tony neighborhoods of West Los Angeles, residents are worried over a spate of similar crimes. The map at right, taken from the LAPD’s crime mapping website, shows the robberies, burglaries, and assaults reported across some of the city’s most monied real estate over the last four weeks. In two of the more recent examples, a man was injured and robbed outside a Brentwood hotel early Monday morning, and on Saturday evening, a holiday party in Pacific Palisades was invaded by two armed men who relieved guests of jewelry, iPhones, and an Apple watch.

If the Los Angeles Times account of the Pacific Palisades robbery is to be believed (not necessarily to be taken for granted), the LAPD’s response to the incident left much to be desired. The suspects had fled before police arrived, which is unsurprising, but as of the time the story ran, no detective had collected the security video from the home or even contacted the victims. The suspects, reassured no great effort is being expended to identify and apprehend them, can be expected to hit again.

Also expected to resume their predatory ways are the 14 suspects arrested in connection with a recent series of smash-and-grab robberies in Los Angeles, all of whom were released on little or no bail. Three of the suspects, two adults and a juvenile, were arrested after a car chase into South L.A. The two adults, despite their criminal records, were released without bail.

All of which raises an important question: If police and prosecutors are impotent in addressing surging crime, what is a citizen’s best response when confronted by a robber or home invader? The LAPD, like most police agencies, advocates compliance. “If you are being robbed,” reads the Community Alert Notification, “do not resist the robbery suspects; cooperate and comply with their demands. Be a good witness.” The bulletin also advises against following the suspects. “Leave the job of catching the suspect to the police,” it says.

It's great to get paid.

For most people this is sound advice, even if the police rarely catch the culprits. Few among us are prepared, mentally or physically, to resist an armed attack, and prudence dictates abandoning your valuables rather than risking your life. Recent statistics, however, suggest some Americans may prefer not to meekly surrender to those who would victimize them. The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System recorded 187,585 inquiries for prospective gun purchasers on Black Friday alone, bringing 2021’s total to more than 687,000, slightly behind 2020’s record total.

Obtaining a weapon, though, is the easiest part of preparing for self-defense. Indeed, the presence of a gun can be harmful if one lacks the training, awareness, and mental attitude required to use it when the time comes. A gun in an untrained hand can quickly be turned against its owner. Equally important is knowledge of the laws regarding self-defense. And remember that even the most technically lawful exercise of self-defense can still subject a person to an ordeal in the justice system if the incident takes on political overtones (cf. Rittenhouse, Kyle).

Police officers are often asked when it is permissible to shoot someone in self-defense. The answer is it depends, both on the circumstances and the law in your particular state. As a general rule, deadly force can be used to defend against an attack likely to cause death or serious bodily injury. A stranger approaching while wielding a deadly weapon can in most cases be presumed to be manifesting malign intent, and one need not wait to be shot, stabbed, or clubbed before firing in self-defense.

Some may be surprised that California, with its reliably leftist politics, has a version of the “castle doctrine” on the books. California Penal Code section 198.5, enacted in 1984, grants the presumption of reasonable fear to someone using deadly force against a home intruder. Thus even an unarmed burglar can lawfully be shot by a resident, who need not later prove he was in fear for his safety. Laws in other states differ, so learn the ones where you live before arming yourself for protection. The better firearms training courses include instruction on the laws of self-defense.

No affirmative duty to be a victim.

Outside the home things are trickier and must be examined case by case. The young mother mentioned above, for example, would have been justified in drawing a gun on seeing the two robbers enter her yard, this despite the fact neither of them appeared to be armed. And if they failed to retreat at the sight of her gun, she may have been justified in shooting them. (And how much more satisfying viewing the video would be if she had?)

Keep in mind she was a lone woman with her infant child; a man, certainly one without a child in tow, might not be allowed similar latitude in the same circumstances. This is especially so in Los Angeles, where district attorney George Gascón’s sympathies lie more with criminal suspects than with crime victims.

We are daily presented with evidence that some people across the country are undeterred from their predations by the diminishing prospect of arrest and punishment, leaving to the law-abiding a choice between acquiescence and resistance. If you are among those who have armed themselves, get trained in the safe and effective use of your weapon and prepare mentally for the day you may have to defend yourself or someone else. If you’re going to be in the news, let it be as a defender, not as a victim.

'Blue States Are the Problem'

New York Times journalists Johnny Harris and Binyamin Applebaum take a look at the gross and grotesque inequalities in such "progressive" states as California, Illinois, and Connecticut and discover that the problems are coming from inside the house.

Enjoy the schadenfreude, with a heaping side order of hypocrisy, all washed down by the sweet tears of whine. With special guest appearances by Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren and other enemies of the people:

The report looks at results in the 18 states where Democrats control all the levers of political power and compares the Democrat national party platform's prescription for things like housing and taxes to the reality on the ground. Spoiler alert: NIMBY!

At least rich liberals have common sense, even if they have no principles.

 

What'cha Gonna To Do When the Wind Don’t Blow?

I’ve often thought I should start a new kind of psychological therapy, one I call the Get Real School. Instead of listening to neurotics moan about their childhood toilet-training traumas, I’d have them discuss what their adult beliefs are, and we’d explore how sensible their concerns and plans are. If it took off, I’d expect that California’s and the European Union’s energy supplies  would benefit greatly from this therapy if only I could get their leaders into my office.

They have ignored utterly the need for energy reliability, discounted cost to consumers, overestimated the capacity of renewable energy, and underestimated energy demands. They  do so based  on the ridiculous concept that man can control the climate. To that end everything from cow flatulence to clean-burning natural gas must be stemmed in place of wind, sun and water. In the process, of course, they increase their own power over virtually every aspect of life within their domain.

It’s still mild in Europe right now, though winter is coming, a time when demand is always greater, and yet  even in a more benign fall there’s been a substantial shortage of energy and as a result an incredible increase in energy costs to consumers. 

To infinity and beyond!

Blame it on the North Sea winds which suddenly stopped blowing if you wish. I blame it on ludicrous energy policies. What do you do when the wind stops blowing (one-twenty fourth of its normal electrical production) and the windmills stand still? You rely on fossil fuels. To make up the shortfall, gas and coal-fired electrical producing plants are forced into play as backups.

British political geniuses counted on the wind farms to do away entirely with net carbon emissions by 2050. This may seem odd to officialdom’s deep thinkers, but just as man can’t control climate, so also he cannot control wind or sunshine or rainfall, either. Well, you might say, the U.K. is lucky to still have backup fuels to pick up the shortfall. But, no, the same central planning that counted on wind has also set up a system of purchasable carbon credits to offset the use of such fuels. Quite naturally, the price of those "credits" is soaring as the need for them increases. More sensible planners would have provided for suspension of the carbon-credit system when there’s an urgent need for them, but, of course, they did not.  

How substantial will the hit to the pockets of U.K. consumers be? At the moment electricity prices in the U.K. are seven times higher than they were last September -- up to $395 a megawatt hour for power to be dispatched the next day. France, Germany and the Netherlands are also seeing substantial energy cost increases. Here’s how this works:

Gas is in short supply right now and renewables aren’t pulling their expected share, so utilities must buy more coal, and when they do they have had to buy more emissions allowances as well. And the increased costs have to be passed on to consumers -- directly for electricity  (and indirectly through the higher costs of goods and services). So, wherever possible, energy producers  have returned to gas and that meant gas prices have also shot up. Still, they are able to generate some electricity using these backups right now. But, despite this experience, the U.K. demands that all coal plants must close by 2024. When and if they do, the situation will certainly be more dire.

At the moment, the only companies that profit from the shift to wind power are U.S. exporters of liquified natural gas and Russian gas exporters. This winter, if the North sea wind blows, they better pray it doesn’t at the same time freeze the windmills or blow them down.

Um... hello?

California is also suffering from an electricity shortfall.  And its plan is to allow more air pollution for 60 days. That state has been relying heavily on solar energy  and wind. It also relies on hydroelectric power but drought and wildfires have limited the capacity of that source. The summer heat increases demand for electricity. So much so, that the state predicts a shortfall sufficient to power 2.6 million homes in the coming months.

To avoid that, it has requested that six natural gas units throughout the state be permitted to operate at maximum capacity “notwithstanding air quality or other permit limitations.” It will certainly be ironic if we see that  closing some gas plants that operated under emission controls to save the environment now results in  greater emissions because renewables proved insufficient, and the remaining gas plants were allowed to operate outside emission controls. While it seems not to have considered the consequences of its closure of fossil fuel generating plants, California suddenly seems to have noticed a cost-benefit issue, arguing to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm that the power outages posed “a greater risk to public health and safety” than the greater emissions. The request was granted September 10. Let’s see what happens after the 60-day reprieve is up and the rest of the state’s green energy plan is implemented.

 On a higher  political level than California and the U.K., the game continues. John Kerry, the U.S. "Climate Change" envoy has been shuttling back and forth to India and China, the world’s greatest producers of  carbon emissions in what is certain to prove a vain attempt to persuade them to shortchange their countries of vital reliable, affordable energy. At the E.U., despite rocketing carbon-offset prices due to the insufficiency of renewable resources to meet demand, their climate czar Frans Timmermans, the European Commission vice president, blathers on about that bloc cutting gas emissions “by at least 55 percent by 2030,” and offers up some big new thinking:

Even in Brussels there’s an occasional bright light. In this case it was Poland’s Anna Zalewska who noted citizens  unfortunately will “pay for the ambitions of the E.U.” And  the chair of the Parliamentary committee on the environment, who was all for the banning gas and diesel fueled cars, has contended that the notion of extending the carbon market to transport and buildings went too far. "Because we believe that the political cost is extremely high, and the climate impact is very low.”

What he’s really afraid of is massive social protests against such loony fiddling of something as basic to life as energy. And he should be. Winter’s just around the corner, European gas supplies are short and it’s a struggle, in any event, to get their older gas plants back on line. It may well prove that  a E.U. Christmas means there will either be  coal in the people’s electric plants or in the E.U. bigwigs' Christmas stockings.

Enemies of the People: Gavin Newsom