Now It's Six Months to Doomsday

Stop me if you've heard this one before:

World has six months to avert climate crisis, says energy expert

The world has only six months in which to change the course of the climate crisis and prevent a post-lockdown rebound in greenhouse gas emissions that would overwhelm efforts to stave off climate catastrophe, one of the world’s foremost energy experts has warned. “This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.

“The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond,” Birol told the Guardian. “If we do not [take action] we will surely see a rebound in emissions. If emissions rebound, it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future. This is why we are urging governments to have sustainable recovery packages.”

Carbon dioxide emissions plunged by a global average of 17% in April, compared with last year, but have since surged again to within about 5% of last year’s levels.

Now, hold on there, pardner. What we have here is an argument from authority, which posits that we must accept the equation that carbon dioxide = pollution. Furthermore, we must also accept the thesis that the entirely unnecessary coronavirus lockdown has been a happy event that has reduced said "pollutants" to near-optimal levels, but that the bad old days will soon be upon us again if we don't stop the increase in pink elephants... er, carbon emissions, right now.

The corrupted "scientific" Left has been moving in this direction practically from the start of the coronavirus hoax. As I wrote on this site recently:

It's long been obvious that the panic over the coronavirus -- and the draconian "solutions" to it -- is all part of the warmup for "climate change" strictures as we go forward. Having accustomed both the European and American publics to the thoroughly unconstitutional restrictions placed upon the citizenry in the name of "safety," the surging Left will use them as the template for how they plan to destroy the Western economies and functionally enslave the people as the sheep shout hosannas for having been saved from the invisible bug. They're prepared to elide the public's temporary fixation on the Wuhan virus, which has put some "green energy" projects on the back burner, and bring on their punitive Green New Deal as soon as the immediate crisis is over.

By leveraging a variation of the annual flu into a hair-on-fire international, media-fueled panic, the "climate-change" crew has succeeded in getting many of their policy prescriptions implemented in a flash by preying on peoples' fears and politicians' limitless thirst for exerting power. Throw in the manipulated figurehead of a damaged Swedish teenage scold standing in for the Oracle of Delphi, climatology division, and you have a movement that was only briefly shouldered aside by the mayhem of BLM/Antifa, but is now roaring back.

The media is doing its part to slow the reopening of the economies by constantly harping on the number of new Wuhan Flu infections, especially in the United States -- handy, because they can beat President Trump with it, laugh at the red states who are now discovering the extent of the virus via the very same testing the media was shouting for  two months ago -- as if infection = death. But simplistic equations is what the America media is all about these days.

According, the IEA is now prepping its part of the battlespace with a new report, which begins:

The unprecedented health emergency and economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic risks to be a setback for clean energy innovation efforts at a time in which faster progress is needed. The report quantifies the needs for technology innovation and investment for a cleaner and more resilient energy sector at net-zero emissions. It identifies key technology attributes that can help accelerate innovation cycles.

This is a lie, of course -- far from being a "setback," the lockdowns provide the framework the Left has long been seeking for the imposition of draconian economic measures. For our own good, of course.

The report also offers five key innovation principles for delivering net-zero emissions. It highlights issues requiring immediate attention, such as the importance of governments maintaining research and development funding at planned levels through 2025 and considering raising it in strategic areas.

Ever helpful, Britain's left-wife Guardian sums up the report's key findings:

[The IEA has} set out the first global blueprint for a green recovery, focusing on reforms to energy generation and consumption. Wind and solar power should be a top focus, the report advised, alongside energy efficiency improvements to buildings and industries, and the modernisation of electricity grids.

Creating jobs must be the priority for countries where millions have been thrown into unemployment by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns. The IEA’s analysis shows that targeting green jobs – such as retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient, putting up solar panels and constructing wind farms – is more effective than pouring money into the high-carbon economy.

Proving once again the validity of our own John O'Sullivan's Law that "all organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing," the IEA was founded in 1974 in response to the Arab oil embargo and resulting "energy crisis," an event that gave the U.S. soaring gasoline prices, the 55-mph speed limit and the wholly useless Department of Energy under Jimmy Carter. The eventual weakening of the cartel got American speed limits back to where they ought to be, and the advent of fracking and American energy independence brought prices down. The DoE, of course, is still with us.

Originally, the IEA was supposed to keep the supplies of oil coming in order not to crippled the Western economies. Now, having been taken over by a cabal of its enemies (the late Robert Conquest's Third Law of Politics), it works precisely against its initial objectives and mandate. But such is the way of all Western institutions these days.

 

 

 

 

 

The Coming Covid Curveball

It seems like every morning we wake up to the news that some entity, public or private, is unveiling a "bold new initiative" in response to "the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic," which everyone who has been paying attention knows they've wanted to do already.

Take baseball. I'm a big baseball fan, but not of current MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, a man who doesn't seem particularly fond of the game he presides over. Others have noticed this -- here's an article from a few months back entitled Does Rob Manfred Hate Baseball? and another called Rob Manfred Is Ruining Baseball. The gist of them is that Manfred, worried that baseball is less exciting than the other major sports, has spent his five years as commissioner whittling away at the things that make the game unique. For the most part his rule changes have been aimed at making the games shorter, but his efforts have been for naught -- the average game is now three minutes longer than it was when he took over, and viewership is down.

This, of course, hasn't deterred Manfred. He's pushed ahead with plans to, for instance, institute a new, Reality TV informed playoff format whereby,

The team with the best record in each league would get a first-round bye, and then the other two division winners and the wild-card club with the best record could end up picking their opponents in a televised seeding showdown.

This is, to put it mildly, gimmicky as hell.

For the most part Manfred's tinkering has been confined to the edges of the game, and he would probably tell you that that's why it hasn't had the desired effect. That, unfortunately, he has been cursed with conservative, history obsessed fans who are resistant to alterations which make today's game less like the one played by Joe DiMaggio and Hank Aaron. Which is to say, he'd probably dislike me as much as I dislike him.

But a man can dream, and for years we've heard whispers that Manfred's great aspirations included increasing offense by imposing the Designated Hitter on the National League, which has resisted this innovation since the 1970s; starting extra-innings with a runner on second base to speed things up (or, a fan might say, limit the amount of baseball fans were getting for free); and contracting the Minor Leagues, so that MLB resources could be directed away from entertaining yokels in, say, Dayton, OH or Montgomery, AL, and towards virtue signalling social justice initiatives which get lots of applause from the great and the good.

And then came the miracle Rob Manfred had been been praying for: the Wuhan novel coronavirus, which, thanks to the incompetence of politicians like Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio, spread like "a fire through dry grass” throughout the nursing homes of the northeastern United States (as healthcare analyst Avik Roy has pointed out, 42 percent of U.S. deaths from Covid-19 have occurred in the 0.6 percent of the population who reside in nursing homes and assisted living facilities).

But, more to the point, it gave him an excuse to make big changes to the game purportedly for the sake of player safety. And what changes did he implement? Imposing the DH on the National League; beginning extra innings with a runner on second; and the elimination of up to forty-two minor league teams.

I think that this is a pretty good (and comparatively innocent) illustration of what is going on across America right now.

California, for instance, raised its gasoline tax again this month, so that it now sits at 50.5 cents per gallon. Why would California's politicians be so foolish as go ahead with this hike during an economy-destroying pandemic (what you might call Pulling a Trudeau)? Well,

“Driving is way down, so in theory this is a great time to catch up on highway investment,” observed Ronald Fisher, an economics professor at Michigan State University. While less driving temporarily means less revenue from a gas tax, it also means less disruption from road work. Fisher also pointed out that the state typically contracts with private companies to perform such infrastructure repairs, which means proceeds from the higher gas tax could actually serve as a stimulus for the California economy in the form of job creation.

Right...

In another example from the Golden State, Gov. Gavin Newsom has formed a Recovery Task Force to address California's dire financial situation in the wake of the pandemic. It is co-chaired by uber-environmentalist and failed Democratic Presidential candidate Tom Steyer (a bad sign), and, shockingly, it has concluded that green energy has the potential to be a “huge job creator," according to Steyer. As if this were something which had just occurred to him. Environmentalist Hal Harvey concurs,

[Steyer's] right. Clean energy can be the economic engine for California.... The path is clear: Decarbonize the electric grid, then electrify everything—creating good jobs and thriving clean tech industries along the way.

Which is to say that the powers that be are using this moment of disruption to enact their preexisting agendas. They're taking advantage of your exhaustion, your inclination to give in, in the hope that sometime soon everything will go back to normal. And that's why we need to be especially vigilant right now.

At the center of baseball is a psychological game between pitchers and batters, where the former works to make the latter think that one pitch is coming his way, and then throws him another. Fastball inside, fastball outside, fastball inside, fastball outside. And then comes the curve, and the batter who isn't looking out for it finds himself walking slowly back to the dugout.

Keep yours eyes open. Don't let them sneak the curve past you.

Who's Afraid of 'Climate Change'?

If you don't already keep tabs on Michael Shellenberger, you should. While you may not always agree with him -- Shellenberger is a self-described environmentalist and man of the left -- you will find him to be an honest, insightful, and even brave writer. Brave because he consistently uses facts to counter the hysterical narrative of the Green New Deal wing of the green movement, which as you might imagine doesn't win him a lot of friends.

One example of this: Forbes, where he is a regular contributor, pulled down his most recent piece, 'On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,' within a few hours of publication.

In the piece, essentially a pitch for his book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Shellenberger reviews his environmentalist bona fides, working to save the California redwoods and lobbying the Obama administration to spend billions on so-called renewable energy, etc. Increasingly, however, he became disturbed by other environmentalists distorting the science to make a case for hysteria, and shutting down anyone who questioned their conclusions.

Shellenberger

They've been so successful that children routinely report having nightmares about climate change and people around the world are convinced the end is near. Eventually Shellenberger came to feel he had a responsibility to speak out and counter their propaganda.

Here are some facts few people know:

• Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”
• The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
• Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
• Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
• The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
• The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
• Air pollution and carbon emissions have been declining in rich nations for 50 years
• Adapting to life below sea level made the Netherlands rich not poor
• We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
• Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
• Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
• Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism.

(more…)

Oil and Gas: Students Educate their Teachers

In a letter well worth reading, students at various universities across the country, members of a group called Students for Canada (SEC), addressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, encouraging him to rescue and promote Canada’s ailing energy sector. The letter is a powerful, meticulously documented and near-irrefutable report meant to counter an earlier petition by 265 academics—which I have referenced in a previous article for The Pipeline—urging Trudeau to shut down the oil and gas industry entirely. 

The letter brilliantly reverses the relation of authority. These students know infinitely more than the profs, technological and economic illiterates who proceed from purely ideological motives, whereas their student adversaries base their thesis on actual realities. The two lead authors of the student letter are candidates in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; the competencies of the two lead authors of the academic letter are in Political Science and Sociology. This should tell us something about relevant expertise. (Ironically, the University of Alberta is home to both the students and the pedagogues.)

Offering a vista of unexpected hope for the return of intellectual sanity to an ideological wasteland, these students have largely managed to resist the left-wing and “social justice” curriculum of the indoctrination factories our universities have become. In four pages of resource-rich material and dispositive evidence, they have exhibited not only an informed concern for the country’s welfare, but a thorough familiarity with the complexities and minutiae of energy production, industry safety standards, employment issues, technological innovation and bread-and-butter outcomes, all benefiting the country’s future political stability and economic prospects.

They advocate fumigating the language around the Canadian energy sector. “The use of the terms ‘tar sands’, ‘war’, ‘dead’ and ‘bail out’ tend to… trigger… anger and divisiveness.” Loaded language is a sure-fire way to preempt debate. Reputable contributors to a contentious issue need to invoke clarity of expression and neutral terminology. “Members of Geothermics understand that carefully chosen words can encourage people to listen and critically think about the issue to promote integrated solutions, especially if the issue involves oil and gas.” After all, “how can the Canadian oil and gas industry be ‘dead’ when Canadian Energy companies provide social benefits and are continuously developing clean innovations?”

They argue that “Canada has founded one of the most sustainable hydrocarbon development strategies in the world,” from which other countries with similar oil reserves could learn. They explain that “global energy demands will continue to increase in the future and that renewable energies are not in a position to replace [fossil fuels] for decades to come.” Indeed, “the totality of renewables supply only 7% of global demand (International Energy Agency, 2019)…illustrat[ing] that oil and gas are valuable natural resources, just like lithium, copper, uranium and iron ore, etc., needed to manufacture goods, medical supplies, electronics, outdoor gear, renewables etc.” They point out that Canada was “ranked number one for Sustainable Development in 2019 relative to the world's top oil exporters (sdgindex.org).” The concern often cited by opponents of energy extraction and delivery regarding methane leaks “is being continually mitigated with the decades of improvement created by companies subject to Canada’s oil and gas sector regulations.”  

Further, the construction of Liquefied Natural Gas facilities is projected to add billions in new government revenue as well as “provide for additional health care, schools, infrastructure and many other services to be filled by future graduating students.” In addition, “the geological and engineering knowledge from the oil industry is directly transferable towards geothermal energy exploration, which is based on exploiting moving fluids within the earth to capture/harness a different source of energy.” Another technological breakthrough “requiring advanced geoscience and engineering is the use of compressed air stored within sealed underground caverns,” which can be recuperated to operate turbines generating electricity. These are only some of the energy sector positives listed by the students. 

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The writers make only one mistake in regarding carbon as a destructive element and promoting the technology of carbon capture and storage in order to stimulate the production of clean energy, thus misunderstanding the relation of carbon to fertility and verdant life. Research and development in oil and gas, they maintain, entails “consequences for all energy sources, such as the societal, ecological and geological impact of dams, the utility of land dedicated to solar farms, [and] the societal and ecological impacts of mining rare earth minerals for solar panels, batteries and wind turbines.” 

I'm renewable!

The argument is ingenious, detailing how oil and gas will lead to solar and wind. This may or may not be so, but if intended as a tactical gesture, a sop to the Greenies, it’s clearly bound to fail. Radical environmentalists are concession-proof. Moreover, wind farms, solar installations and SpongeBob-looking photovoltaic panels disfiguring the landscape do not seem a reasonable innovation in countries already burdened by six months of dark winter and unreliable weather patterns. One way or another, there is no immediate foreseeable replacement for oil and gas, as the students themselves admit. By the same token, the anti-carbon brief is wholly misguided. It is the staple delusion of the global warming/climate change/extreme weather industry and its hundreds of millions of gullible adherents.

Robert Zubrin has shown in a profoundly researched book, Merchants of Despair, that there exists robust scientific proof derived from ice core data and isotopic ratios in marine organism remains that Earth’s climate is a stable system, that CO2 emissions create surplus plant growth that in turn absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide—the proper form of carbon storage—thus restoring climate equilibrium over the long haul, and that under conditions of cyclical global warming agricultural productivity naturally increases and human life immensely improves.

Gregory Wrightstone’s Inconvenient Facts, which puts paid to the anti-carbon crusade, is equally essential reading. Wrightstone, a geoscientist of 35 years experience, shows that the real threat to humankind is not carbon or Thermageddon but “a group of men (and women) intent on imposing an agenda based on seriously flawed science.” Bruce Bunker’s more recent The Mythology of Global Warming is as close to a clincher as one could hope to find. Relying on reams of proven scientific data from the geologic record, Bunker concludes: “The premise that CO2 emissions are causing catastrophic global warming is a total myth.” His pages need to be studied. I should also mention Alan Fensin, an electronic engineer and NASA design consultant, who in Global Warming, The Carbon Dioxide Hoax, a very accessible account, demolishes the fable that a “small trace gas called carbon dioxide [is] responsible for controlling our climate.”

Writing in the Wall Street  Journal back in 2007, Princeton physicist William Happer also highlighted the fact that “Life on earth flourished for hundreds of million years at much higher CO2 levels than we see today.” CO2 levels during the Ordovician Age of 440 million years ago were ten times higher than they are at present, yet the earth prospered. As Science Daily reports, “The Ordovician geologic period included a climate characterized by high atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, warm average temperatures and flourishing life.” (These finding are disputed by left-wing sites like Skeptical Science; physicist John Droz Jr., writing in MasterResource: A Free-Market Energy Blog, demolishes its falsifications definitively.)

The students can be pardoned for their single lapse from scientific rigor and environmental fact. They are young and still have a lifetime of research and study ahead of them, enabling them to correct errors and incorporate ever more facts and discoveries into their world picture—and to find erudite and honorable teachers like Zubrin, Wrightstone and Bunker, among others. They represent the best hope for the future of climatology and environmental studies—and for the recovery and growth of Canada’s energy production. They are in their way a major part of the country’s energy sector—its mental energy sector—which augurs well for the morrow if they can preserve their integrity, pursue their adventure into truth and withstand the ideological inroads of a faux-environmentalist pathology. Their minds are in the right place, which is more than can be said for their politically-correct preceptors. 

Tides Canada Rebrands as 'MakeWay'

I actually LOL'd when I read this article announcing that the "progressive" environmentalist organization, Tides Canada, is "rebranding" as MakeWay.

The Vancouver-based non-profit group, which took its name from the American Tides Foundation 20 years ago, funds hundreds of charities across Canada in the area of environmental and social justice. But in recent years, its association with the Tides Foundation and its participation in the Tar Sands Campaign... placed it in Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s crosshairs....

“Smear campaigns about Tides Canada have repeatedly misconstrued the purpose of [our] international philanthropic funding and have also conflated it with the U.S.-based Tides Foundation,” the organizations states in a press release.

Wow, so Jason Kenney (boo! hiss!) unjustly roped Tides Canada into his inquiry into foreign funded anti-Albertan oil campaigns just because they borrowed the name of an American foundation which they totally have nothing to do with today?!?! Outrageous!

Or else, you know, extremely misleading.

It may be true that people reading Vivian Krause's indispensable reporting (which influenced Kenney's inquiry) on the millions of dollars both the Tides Foundation and Tides Canada have spent keeping Canadian oil in the ground might have trouble tracking which seven or eight figure donation came from which organization. But the suggestion that its inclusion is unjust is ludicrous, as Krause makes plain in her call for Tides Canada to be investigated, published back in 2011:

Since 2000, Tides Canada has gone through $200 million. That's a lot of cash and it raises a fair question: Where did all that money come from, and what has Tides Canada accomplished with it? .... U.S. tax returns and on-line records show that since 2000, Tides Canada has been paid nearly $60 Million by American foundations.

Perhaps its not so shocking that they've ended up in "Jason Kenney's crosshairs."

The truth is, organizations like Tides Canada prefer it when regular people have never heard of them. It allows them to operate with minimal scrutiny, make powerful contacts without triggering anyone's spidey sense, and serve as a launchpad into politics for activists, as when Tides Canada VP Sarah Goodman was tapped as Justin Trudeau's climate policy director. The inquiry makes it harder to do those things, hence the rebranding.

Here's hoping that, if they keep doing what they've been doing, Krause and Kenney can make "MakeWay" just as toxic.

When Science is the Servant of Politics

Last week I embarked on a piece about how some scientists were making science the servant of their political opinions. Servant is perhaps too kind and vague a term; a better one might be ventriloquist’s dummy. When I started writing it, my expectation was that I would be making this argument about a range of scientific topics. Only the first would be medical science.

But some doctors forced medical science into so many political contortions in that week’s news that I never really managed to get onto other scientific disciplines. The money quote from a statement of 1200 medical professionals connected with the University of Washington’s Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was as follows:

[W]e wanted to present a narrative that prioritizes opposition to racism as vital to the public health, including the epidemic response. We believe that the way forward is not to suppress protests in the name of public health but to respond to protesters demands in the name of public health, thereby addressing multiple public health crises.

And in the last seven days, this argument—that Black Lives Matter protests are uniquely aimed at improving public health, damaged as it is by racism-- has spread to Britain where large crowds turned out for BLM rallies accommodated by the police who were otherwise fining people for meeting in “crowds” of more than six—and to partisan politics in the U.S. where public health professionals were critical of the GOP for pushing ahead with plans for a Republican Convention while tamely hoping that BLM protesters will wear marks.

The public reaction to these medical self-contradictions has been stronger in Britain than in America, partly because the lockdown regulations have been more stringent and more toughly enforced (with police handing out thousands of fines) than in the U.S. Allowing some people to protest and (not incidentally) to indulge in violent rioting in a self-righteous frame of mind, but fining others for attending a parent’s funeral has created a lot of free-floating anger. And one side-effect is a rise in skepticism towards other claims of both medical scientists and their brethren in other disciplines.

Take the Covid-19 claims first.

Britain’s media and opposition have been strongly critical of the handling of the Covid-19 crisis by the Boris Johnson government, suggesting that Ministers had ignored the advice of its SAGE committee of scientists and demanding that the minutes of SAGE now be published. Well, the minutes have now been published, and they show that Ministers followed the advice of SAGE more or less to the letter. If mistakes were made, they were scientists’ mistakes more than ministerial ones (though Ministers have to take responsibility for them on the proper constitutional grounds that “advisors advise, ministers decide.”) Well and good.

One example of this advice was particularly spicy, however. ICI’s Professor Neil Ferguson earlier in the week suggested that the lockdown had been imposed one week too late with the possible result that as many as 20,000 people had died needlessly. But when the SAGE records were released, they showed that the committee, including Ferguson, had voted unanimously for the previous policy because a lockdown would guarantee a second spike of the disease in the Fall.

When that policy changed, it did so in response to Ferguson’s own computer projections showing that Covid-19 was likely to spread very quickly and overwhelm the National Health Service. And as Dan Hodges in the Daily Mail points out, at the time he had pronounced the timing of the lockdown imposition to be about right. Ferguson’s computer projections, however, have since been subjected to savage criticism by information scientists who claim that it is worse than useless. Ferguson himself has changed his informal guesstimates of the course of the virus more than once. Other groups of scientists specializing in the field of infectious diseases have reached very different conclusions. And it’s in the nature of science that they can’t all be right.

We should all admit our own ignorance in these matters, of course. My own judgment—based on previous pandemics but shared apparently by many epidemiologists—is that we won’t know the full destructiveness of Covid-19 for another year at least. Today’s news from Beijing that a serious new outbreak of the disease has occurred and all the local food markets have been closed warn us that some of the early apparent treatments may prove temporary All the scientists’ projections are interesting, and some may prove accurate. But it is the progress of the actual virus in the world that will tell us which ones are right and which wrong.

That’s a highly significant conclusion because some areas of science are highly speculative and others over-reliant on computer projections. That’s true in particular for climate science where almost all of the claims of climate “emergencies” and the need for “urgency” to “combat” them come to us from computer projections that we must now treat skeptically.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation exists to test forecasts against reality on the ground. The IPCC is usually at the soft end of climate alarmism but it has been part of the skeptic camp on the question of weather extremes and if they are caused by global warming. This last week the GWPF published a study by the phyicist Ralph Alexander: which reached the following conclusion:

If there is any trend at all in extreme weather, it’s downward rather than upward. Our most extreme weather, be it heat wave, drought, flood, hurricane or tornado, occurred many years ago, long before the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere began to climb at its present rate. The recent atmospheric heat waves in western Europe pale in comparison with the soaring temperatures of the 1930s, a period when three of the seven continents and 32 of the 50 US states set all-time high temperature records, which still stand today.

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Professor Alexander lays out the evidence for the good news. We can examine it. It happened in the real world not in a virtual reality of guesstimates piled on guesstimates. Nor in a world of utopian politics and well-intentioned authoritarianism.

We have to get back to doing that more of the time.

'GOP Out of Touch on Climate Change'

Former Pennsylvania governor, Homeland Security secretary, and current enviro-lobbyist Tom Ridge has published an article at The Atlantic arguing that his fellow Republicans are behind the curve on environmentalism. After opening the piece with a maudlin reflection on the fact that we all should have been celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd, but that the COVID-19 pandemic kept us from doing so (for the first time I was able to connect with the Libs who've been rooting for the virus), Ridge states:

The Republican Party has largely abandoned environmental issues—to its great detriment politically. Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little for key aspects of the environment, such as protecting water and air quality and reducing the effects of climate change. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center finds that Democrats mostly agree that the U.S. government should do more on climate. Republicans are divided by ideology, age, and gender; moderates, Millennials, and women within the party are far more likely than conservatives, older Republicans, and men to favor more federal action. More and more, the GOP as a whole seems out of touch on this crucial issue.

This assertion is questionable. Gallup has actually just released a new poll attempting to document how Americans priorities the challenges facing our country, and the data for April, respondents put Climate Change at the bottom of the list, tied for dead last in importance. Now, of course, April is a bit of a skewed month, with the pandemic understandably taking first place and sucking up all the oxygen. Even so, it is worth noting that in the previous months surveyed, "climate change" only barely misses last place.

Heartland Institute president James Taylor, commenting on this data, rightly points out that "People have a vague, general desire for policymakers to pay attention to climate change," but when there's any question of the bill coming due -- he also mentions polling which suggests that support for Green initiatives collapses when respondents are asked if they'd be willing to pay an extra $100 per month for them -- they completely change their tune.

To Ridge's credit, he makes a few points which might make his new friends at The Atlantic uncomfortable, saying "I continue to support policies that embrace all sources of energy, including natural gas, which has lowered our dependence on coal. I also support nuclear power, the largest around-the-clock provider of carbon-free energy." But he follows that up with a lament that his "conservative friends have been reluctant to join me in supporting renewable technologies such as wind and solar." Perhaps because his conservative friends are aware that wind and solar are boondoggles which might help gullible Liberals sleep better at night, but they certainly don't benefit the environment. Then again, maybe his friends would come around if they were paid lobbyists for the renewable energy industry, like Ridge.

All of which is to say, if anyone is out of touch with American voters, its Tom Ridge.

'Net-Zero' -- a Leap of Faith

Increasingly, the climate-change cult resembles nothing so much as a religion, with Mother Earth substituting for the God of Abraham. Which means that its barely disguised nature worship is nothing new, but merely a reiteration of the most primitive kind of thinking known to man. But who would have thought the increasingly nutty Economist, a once rational British publication, would have fallen so hard for it, or gotten it so right in the very first paragraph of a recent story, only to then spin wildly out of control. So let the fisking begin!

When companies that depend on emissions, such as easyJet, an airline, use offsets sold on private “over the counter” markets to claim carbon neutrality it is hard not to be reminded of the indulgences sold by the medieval Catholic church that helped sinners to go on sinning guilt-free.

Now that you mention it, that's exactly what it reminds most sentient being of. But believing that would be wrong.

But the recent emphasis on “net zero” economies has made offsets central to climate-change plans. In a net-zero economy adding carbon dioxide, or another greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere is only allowed if an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas is removed from it. Offsets already play a role in some international agreements and government-backed programmes.

But wait! There's another "but"!

But the idea of including them in emissions-trading schemes triggers bad memories in Europe. Credits for dodgy offsets helped to undermine the credibility of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in its early years. International offsets are in the process of being expunged from the ETS, though they are still traded on the Californian emissions market.

In other words, the offset scheme has been "dodgy" thus far, correct?

Despite this rocky start, offset-trading could still work. Indeed, the 2015 Paris agreement already includes rules for how to account properly for offsets, according to Kelley Kizzier of the Environmental Defence Fund, a campaign group. Many of the issues with monitoring offsets come from the fact that offsetting takes place in remote places where the rule of law is weaker, because planting trees and plants requires a lot of cheap land.

Excuses, excuses. Like Communism, which has never really been tried yet, carbon indulgences have been sabotaged by Third World ineptitude, and so haven't really been tried yet. Okay, then.  Just don't tell me there's another --

But it is likely to become easier. Ben Caldecott of Oxford University points out that technology used to monitor offsets has improved. The use of high-resolution satellite imagery means that it is possible to know exactly when a tree is cut down. In theory offset contracts could also be auctioned on mobile phones with payments sent via mobile banking. “We can create smart contracts between a smallholder farmer and a funder where the payment is unlocked if the tree is still there,” he says.

Sounds legit. What do we have to do?

If the world is to achieve net-zero emissions, the only permissible offsets will need to be genuine negative emissions (rather than schemes that simply reduce emissions). This may mean sucking carbon out of the air using machines. A nascent industry aims to do this, but the costs are big. An estimate in 2018 by researchers at Carbon Engineering, a Canadian firm, put the cost of direct air capture between $94 and $232, many times the carbon price in most places.

It is possible that with sufficient investment those costs could fall as carbon prices rise, allowing a “direct air capture” industry to make money by selling credits into emissions-trading schemes. Direct-capture machines are much more efficient in terms of land. Mr Caledcott hopes that Britain, which has said it will leave the ETS now it is no longer in the EU, will pioneer the first net-zero emissions trading system including such offsets.

Remind us again: how much money does it take to determine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Is the Air Cleaner?

Earlier this week I had a post about the ridiculous 'The Earth is Healing Itself' meme going around, which is an outgrowth of the idea that we are currently living through an environmentalist fever dream. Americans are losing their jobs, people are driving less, even fewer people are boarding airplanes, and, as a consequence of those things, less energy is being used and fewer fossil fuels are being burned. Can't you just feel how much cleaner the air is? And after only two months of lockdown! The Earth is healing itself! All it took was a little economic devastation, a huge death toll at our mismanaged nursing homes, and the empowering of a bunch of sanctimonious scolds named 'Karen.'

Except, well, it turns out that by any scientific measurement, the air doesn't appear to be noticeably cleaner than a few months ago:

According to the EPA’s air-quality monitors, levels of particulate matter — known as PM 2.5 — are not lower now and have, in fact, been higher recently than the median level of the last five years. Consisting of particles smaller than 2.5 microns, PM 2.5 includes natural sources such as smoke or sea salt, as well as human-caused pollution from combustion.

In Philadelphia, a city health commissioner said, “I would expect our air pollution levels will probably go down because the number of vehicles in the streets are less.” Recent particulate-matter levels, however, have been close to the five-year average. In Dallas, the levels of PM 2.5 are higher than average. In Boston, they are slightly lower.

Todd Myers, environmental director of the Washington Policy Center, wrote the above in an NRO piece examining a claim that  is backed up by very little scientific evidence, but a lot of environmentalist hope and hot air. Why is that?

Opposition to cars is a major theme in left-wing environmental politics, and it is simply assumed, without looking at the data, that less driving equals cleaner air. The large gap between the political rhetoric and scientific reality is a reminder that costly environmental regulations should be based in real-world data, not ideologically driven assumptions.

What that data tells us is that the vast majority of air pollution is naturally occurring, such that "[e]ven a significant reduction in the human contribution makes only a small difference." There are exceptions to this, including cities like Delhi, which actually have seen noticeable improvement in air quality. This, Myers says, highlights the fact that "that pollution often goes hand in hand with poverty." It doesn't, however, tell us very much about which environmental policies the United States should pursue.

Myers closes with the observation that various pollution-related regulations over the past half century have improved America's air quality quite a lot, and we should be grateful for that. It doesn't follow from this, however, that more regulations -- particularly ones that try to prevent people from driving or flying -- will reduce pollution even more, as our present experience is demonstrating. At some point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

It'd be nice if the Greenies would give the data a nice long look and just accept this fact. But I'm not gonna hold my breath.

 

Alberta's Petrochemicals Protecting Canada

The collapse in oil prices combined with the virus and the lockdowns are hitting the Canadian province of Alberta extremely hard. Some are even predicting the worst economic contraction in its history. But I was glad to read in the Financial Post about one bright spot in the province's economy at the moment, its petrochemical sector which produces a variety of plastic products that are in high demand at the moment:

In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government would move to ban single-use plastics such as shopping bags, cutlery and straws to curb the proliferation of plastic waste in landfills and oceans. Now, in the middle of a public health crisis, the demand for plastic packaging has exploded. In Alberta’s oilpatch, ethane crackers used to make polyethylene film are among the only facilities that are busier today than before the pandemic knocked out global oil demand and led to hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil being shut in.

“The demand for plastic packaging has never been higher than it is right now,” said Bob Masterson, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, noting that the evidence of the huge demand for the industry’s products is plain at any grocery store in the country. Some grocery stores that had previously banned or started charging for plastic bags have eased those policies as workers are concerned about handling re-usable grocery bags. Acrylic plastic shields have been installed at tills to separate cashiers from shoppers, both of whom are wearing plastic gloves and masks in increasing numbers.... Masterson said the current crisis has led to “an absolute boom in the demand for packaging,” as grocery stores and consumers are wrapping food in plastic to prevent surface contamination of foods from the coronavirus.

Plastics, of course, aren't the only timely products produced by petrochemicals. Another is isopropyl alcohol:

I think it has shown some vulnerabilities in Canada’s supply chain,” Masterson said, noting that Shell Canada Ltd.’s Sarnia plant is the only producer of isopropyl alcohol in Canada, used to make alcohol-based cleaning products such as hand sanitizers. Shell president and CEO Michael Crothers said in a March 31 release the company would donate 125,000 litres of isopropyl alcohol, which is “approximately enough to create nearly one million 12-oz bottles of hand sanitizer for use in hospitals and medical facilities....

In Alberta, successive governments have implemented incentives designed to attract more petrochemical investment in an effort to diversify the province’s economy and build out the supply chain for hydrocarbon production. An incentive program introduced by former NDP premier Rachel Notley resulted in both Inter Pipeline Corp. and Pembina Pipeline Corp. spending $8.5 billion combined on under-construction polypropylene facilities, which will turn the province’s abundance of propane into plastic pellets used in a range of consumer goods.

The article notes that there is some question as to whether the industry will continue to boom once the pandemic and the lockdowns are over, and that is a real concern should the Greens return to form. The environmentalists are working hard to keep the "climate emergency" front and center, and even to link the two. But from where I sit, this pandemic definitively demonstrates the necessity of this industry, and the people talking about managing its decline are nuts.