Not Healing Nature But Controlling It

Political environmentalism frequently warns about the dangers of meddling with nature,  warning against the encroachment of human settlements on wilderness areas, mining, fishing or drilling for oil. However it neglects the impact on nature by scientists and environmentalists themselves.

Nicholson Baker's article in a recent issue of New York Magazine soberly examines the pros and cons of the proposition: did the coronavirus escape from a lab? The answer of experts? Maybe.

For decades, scientists have been hot-wiring viruses in hopes of preventing a pandemic, not causing one. But what if … there were laboratory accidents. By 1960, hundreds of American scientists and technicians had been hospitalized, victims of the diseases they were trying to weaponize.

In the U.S., “more than 1,100 laboratory incidents involving bacteria, viruses and toxins that pose significant or bioterror risks to people and agriculture were reported to federal regulators during 2008 through 2012,” reported USA Today...

And then consider the cautious words of Alina Chan, a scientist who works at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. “There is a reasonable chance that what we are dealing with is the result of a lab accident,” Chan told me in July of last year...

Not only that, but they’d figured out how to perform their assembly seamlessly, without any signs of human handiwork. Nobody would know if the virus had been fabricated in a laboratory or grown in nature. Baric called this the “no-see’m method...”

What began as a high-minded effort to heal humanity also became the deadliest endeavor on earth. Scientists wanted to anticipate nature by inventing the pathogens first enabling them to create a vaccine template that could deal with most if not all threats. That effort included American funding for bug hunting and amplification in Wuhan.

It wasn’t only AIDS that changed the way the NIH funded research. The War on Terror also influenced which diseases got the most attention.... Vaccine development had to progress much faster, Fauci believed; he wanted to set up “vaccine systems” and “vaccine platforms,” which could be quickly tailored to defend against a particular emergent strain some terrorist with an advanced biochemistry degree might have thrown together in a laboratory. “Our goal within the next 20 years is ‘bug to drug’ in 24 hours.”

In fact, WHO sent a fact-finding team into the origins of the virus to China is  because nobody knows for sure what the side effects of that effort have been. At least Fauci has his vaccine platform development. "You may be surprised to learn that of the trio of long-awaited coronavirus vaccines, the most promising, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5 percent efficacy rate... had been designed by January 13 [2020]."

The Moderna vaccine design took all of one weekend. It was completed before China had even acknowledged that the disease could be transmitted from human to human, more than a week before the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States. By the time the first American death was announced a month later, the vaccine had already been manufactured and shipped to the National Institutes of Health for the beginning of its Phase I clinical trial.

The bad news: reliance on the vaccine platforms is likely to become permanent.  Edward Holmes, one of the two scientists to first publish the genome sequence of SARS-Cov-2 said in an interview that vaccination will become a fixture of future life:

My guess is that as immunity [to Covid] rises in the population, hopefully by vaccination, you will start to see immune escape gradually. That will happen. That's an inevitable consequence of natural selection. It's been played out for millennia, and it's going to happen again. We will very likely need to update these vaccines at some point. That may take 2 years or 5 years or 1 year; I don't know.

Round and round we go.

Perhaps the most candid admission that modern environmentalism is about controlling nature rather than leaving it alone comes from discussions around the Paris climate agreement. It is becoming the foundation stone of climate engineering.

Under article 3 of the Paris Agreement, states are required to identify a range of contributions (NDCs) to address climate change. So long as these contributions are consistent with the underlying articles, there is no express restriction on including climate engineering measures as part of an NDC in order to achieve net emissions neutrality (a balance of emissions and removals) by 2050. The definition of “mitigation” includes sinks, which appears to include CDR [carbon dioxide removal] technologies as they are defined broadly under the UNFCCC to include “any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas.”

Two of the most prominent climate engineering proposals are now politically visible and therefore fundable. The Hill writes: "Climate change has been viewed as a national security threat multiplier. To offset its damage, scientists in the United States and other countries are working on technology to manipulate the climate. This is known as geoengineering that is divided into two types, which are carbon dioxide removal to take out carbon from the air and solar radiation management to reflect a small fraction of sunlight away from the earth."  These are gigantic engineering projects. The Oxford Geoengineering Programme has a more detailed description of what "healing nature" involves:

Solar Radiation Management (SRM)

  1. Albedo enhancement. Increasing the reflectiveness of clouds or the land surface so that more of the Sun’s heat is reflected back into space.
  2. Space reflectors. Blocking a small proportion of sunlight before it reaches the Earth.
  3. Stratospheric aerosols. Introducing small, reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect some sunlight before it reaches the surface of the Earth.

Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR)

  1. Afforestation. Engaging in a global-scale tree planting effort.
  2. Biochar. 'Charring' biomass and burying it so that its carbon is locked up in the soil.
  3. Bio-energy with carbon capture and sequestration. Growing biomass, burning it to create energy and capturing and sequestering the carbon dioxide created in the process.
    Ambient Air Capture. Building large machines that can remove carbon dioxide directly from ambient air and store it elsewhere.
  4. Ocean Fertilization. Adding nutrients to the ocean in selected locations to increase primary production which draws down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  5. Enhanced Weathering. Exposing large quantities of minerals that will react with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and storing the resulting compound in the ocean or soil.
  6. Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement. Grinding up, dispersing, and dissolving rocks such as limestone, silicates, or calcium hydroxide in the ocean to increase its ability to store carbon and directly ameliorate ocean acidification.

These will potentially cost trillions. Twenty-first century environmentalism has already become the province of big pharma and gigantic engineering firms. Climate politics is not about leaving nature alone but subordinating it to the diktat of governments. The Hill glimpses the incipient danger.

If the moral and ethical frame of geoengineering should shift from one of global benevolence where all stakeholders have a voice and international law applies, to one of national security and international law is dismissed, a climate arms race becomes more likely.

At some point the idealists will be shoved aside and the power players will take over. Like the current biosecurity crisis the world is now living through,  a climate arms race is virtually certain.

WHO Done It?

To say that the World Health Organization badly mishandled the Covid-19 outbreak right from the outset might be the understatement of the century. In the early months of the crisis, as the virus was spreading throughout Wuhan and then China, the WHO consistently downplayed what was happening, praised China for its effective response, declined (at Beijing's behest) to declare a health emergency, and generally repeated CCP talking points about what was actually going on.

This while their inspectors were being denied access to Wuhan itself, to the wet market where the virus apparently first infected humans, and then to patients who were suffering from the virus.

The global response to the virus has been hysterical, but had the WHO not bent over backwards to minimize what was happening in China -- the New York Times reports that every word of the WHO's initial report on the crisis had to be approved by the CCP -- perhaps Covid could have been contained.

The WHO doesn't want this to become the commonly accepted narrative. If it is, taxpayers around the world might begin asking their governments why they contribute to the organization's $4.4 billion annual budget when it clearly only has the interests of one particular country at heart. So, they obfuscate and misdirect.

For the latest example of this, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus -- who is not a doctor -- has released a video statement for this past weekend's International Day of Epidemic Preparedness saying that the present pandemic should remind us how important it is to get ahead of the next public health emergency. He was referring, of course, to climate change.

Here's what the Director-General said:

The pandemic has highlighted the intimate links between the health of humans, animals, and planet... Any efforts to improve human health are doomed unless they address the critical interface between humans and animals, and the existential threat of climate change, that is making our earth less habitable.... [T]his will not be the last pandemic... but with investments in public health, supported by an all-of-government, all-of-society, One Health approach, we can ensure that our children and their children inherit a safer, more resilient, and more sustainable world.

His point in favor of a collectivist approach to such problems is strange since it was his globalist organization working in concert with a communist country with imperial pretentions which caused the crisis in the first place. But the reference to climate change and a "more sustainable world" is meant to distract from the incoherence. This is an appeal to virtue signalers worldwide. How can they stay mad at a man who is so clearly on their side?

Not that the country for which the WHO consistently carries water is known for its environmentalist friendly policies, but liberals pride themselves on embodying F. Scott Fitzgerald's maxim that the mark of "a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time." By that measure, they're off the charts.

Red Dragon, Green Agenda

The record continues to grow of China’s influence on Western institutions, which the Chinese deploy to advance China’s interests. Recent high-profile examples include ties to academic researchers who then lie about their relationship with Chinese underwriters, and agents for China serving as aides or fundraisers for, and, purportedly romantic interests of, elected officials. 

Author Rupert Darwall has specifically explored how China is using the “green” agenda to gain advantage over America, including through its influence with environmental pressure groups. Patricia Adams detailed this further in an early December 2020 report published by the United Kingdom’s Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). 

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Both conclude that Western green groups serve as “China’s propagandists” while turning blind eyes to China’s own environmental and human rights record which – according to the Greens’ expressed standards – would otherwise be subject to strident condemnation and pressure campaigns.

Instead, China is oddly praised by Western environmentalist groups. One wonders if this is related to the fact the groups require special approval from the state to operate within the communist country.

Darwall argues that, taking all of these machinations into account, the climate change issue has become “a national security threat – but not in the way the national security elite assumes.” That is to say, “For China, climate change offers a strategic opportunity. Decarbonizing the rest of the world makes China’s economy stronger – it weakens its rivals’ economies, reduces the cost of energy for its hydrocarbon-hungry economy, and sinks energy-poor India as a potential Indo-Pacific rival.”

For example, already, litigants in the United States have cited the Paris Climate Agreement as requiring judicial commandeering of energy and environmental policy from the political branches, leaving judges to decide what economic development may occur and how. This past summer, the U.K. Court of Appeal blocked major transportation infrastructure construction citing among the reasons that such projects are incompatible with the Paris commitments. 

As China cheers...

Expect more such mischief, via proxies for China, in the United Nations “Climate Conciliation Commissions” which await the U.S. if it “re-joins” the Paris climate agreement as Joe Biden vows to do.

This is one of many reasons President Trump should recognize Paris as the treaty it obviously is, by transmitting it to the Senate for the required “advice and consent” before the U.S. can be bound in any way.

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham Tweeted in favor of such a move, adding, “As currently drafted, the accord is a big win for China and India.” 

Graham had been silent on the issue even as President Obama showed “disturbing contempt for the Senate’s constitutional rights and responsibilities” by declaring an obvious treaty to be something he could commit the U.S. to on his own. Indeed, records obtained under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation show Graham – one of three original sponsors of “cap-and-trade” legislation in the Senate until it became obvious this was not in his political interests – was targeted by then-Secretary of State John Kerry as a possible supporter of the Paris deal, along with climate obsessive Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. 

No longer. China’s scheming has become too aggressive to further ignore.

Still other FOIA’d emails revealed dealings among Western greens and the Obama-Biden State Department, an apparent business as usual that is likely to soon resume. For example, one April 15, 2015 email, sent by the then-Global Director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) Climate Program to State Department officials, candidly stated the role the WRI played in assisting China to develop the post-Obama “climate” world in Washington, D.C.

Other emails show the Obama State Department leapt at the invitation to help the WRI help China, arranging team-wide conference calls and other follow-up.

In light of this and other revelations, in 2018 the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources sent two oversight letters to WRI and other groups including NRDC, from which Biden has chosen his domestic "climate czar" Gina McCarthy (letters since scrubbed from the website by the new Democratic Chairman). Investigators pressed for clarity on apparent contradictions involving the group’s claims about its relationship with the Chinese government, and how that impacts its political activities within the United States.

The Committee specifically referenced the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires anyone acting as an agent of foreign principals “in a political or quasi-political capacity” to formally report that relationship and all “activities, receipts, and disbursements in support of those activities."

Somebody's watching.

The green groups lawyered up with white-collar defense teams, the 2018 elections brought a new House majority, and the inquiries died. Still, one commentator observed that special counsel Robert Mueller “opened the door to more intense scrutiny of some U.S. environmental groups” by invoking FRA to pursue prosecution of former Trump campaign officials.

Given the influence these groups have in Washington generally, and particularly with Democrats, the precedent of invoking FARA to pursue all things Trump does not translate to pursuit of environmentalist pressure groups, as well, despite a clear record of involvement with, and even boasting of their ties to, China on matters of U.S. policy.  

The foreign-agents act, like other statutes, appears to be merely a political weapon, intended only for those who threaten “the way things work” in Washington. And among the lessons of 2020 is that the way things work in Washington, as in academia and other institutions, is under substantial Chinese influence.

A Second, Unaccountable EPA for Biden?

Liberals continue to fret about how the Biden Administration will enact Joe's climate agenda without complete Democratic control of Congress. For the latest example of this genre, here's Derek Brower writing in the Financial Times:

More than 81 million Americans and a majority of electors backed a candidate who said he hoped to “transition from the oil industry” and put clean energy at the centre of a US$2 trillion green plan to decarbonize American electricity in 15 years and create a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050....

Yet as the dust settles on Biden’s victory, the political realities are starting to set in too. Despite retaining a majority, Democrats lost seats in the House of Representatives and at best can hope to split the Senate 50:50 by winning two run-off elections in Georgia in January. For all the enthusiasm of his supporters — and despite the mandate from the popular vote — the full gamut of Biden’s transformative US$2 trillion energy plan has little chance of progressing through such a divided chamber.

Brower goes on to lament "an increasingly conservative judiciary will be an obstacle to federal bodies acting expansively" (translation: Trump-appointed judges will make it difficult for Biden's White House to work around the Constitution), and consequently it will likely take a few years to fully undo Trump's efforts at rolling back onerous regulations on the resource sector.

He is hopeful, however, that a few key administrative actions will have big impact nationwide. These include toughening up fuel economy standards and granting California a new Clean Air Act waiver (Trump revoked the previous one) which will allow the state to impose significantly stricter emissions standards than the federal government, an act which (because of the Golden State's size) could have a ripple effect on the entire auto industry.

Brower is also encouraged by Biden’s announced appointments of "several heavyweights to key energy positions" which he feels denote a "bold climate agenda," the lack of Congressional support notwithstanding. He mentions a few of these appointments, including new international climate envoy John Kerry and domestic "climate czar" Gina McCarthy. These names are, in fact, pretty striking, especially considering the roles they've accepted. Kerry, former Democratic presidential nominee and former secretary of state, and McCarthy, a former EPA chief, have both been cabinet members and now they're content with newly created positions which sound pretty meaningless. What gives?

The Daily Caller's Larry Behrens thinks he's figured it out. His contention is that Biden's object is to create what is effectively a second EPA within the White House, one whose officials aren't confirmed by the Senate and whose actions won't require congressional oversight.

Kerry and McCarthy are perfect choices for that type of role. They're big names who will get the liberal media excited, but who might be shy of Senate confirmation hearings. According to Behrens, McCarthy would be especially reluctant to answer questions about her most recent job as head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, "an environmental organization that faced scrutiny for their relationship to Chinese entities." Of course, as Behrens points out, this is an appropriate background for her new job, which is to undermine America's resource industry while pushing solar panels that are manufactured in China.

Framed that way -- a president creating powerful executive branch positions for people who are unlikely to get through a senate confirmation to enact a policy agenda that he didn't campaign on for the benefit of a foreign power -- this all is a perfect encapsulation of modern American governance.

Green Pen, Green Phone

On Wednesday I mentioned that Democrats were disappointed by the failure of their projected blue wave to materialize. Their congressional majority has been whittled down to almost nothing, the best they can hope for in the Senate is a draw, and in the presidential race, the decisive rejection of Donald Trump they were hoping for didn't happen.

What's more, less radical (or more pragmatic) office holders, like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), have been arguing that the Green New Deal, along with other extremist proposals like Medicare for All and Defunding the Police, are the reason they fared so poorly.

But, of course, backing off on such proposals, which might make the party more attractive to actual voters, would alienate the leftist donor class. So what is the solution? Executive orders of course! Faced with a similarly divided government, Barack Obama proudly proclaimed that his administration was

[N]ot just going to be waiting for legislation.... I've got a pen and I've got a phone… and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions.

In various liberal publications right now, the details of a Biden administration's own climate-related "pen and phone" strategy are being hammered out.

To take just one example, in the Los Angeles Times, Anna M. Phillips has a list of five climate actions Biden can take immediately, "without Congress’ help." These include imposing California's onerous auto emissions standards nationwide; halting the issuance of new permits for fracking and oil drilling on federal land (a position Biden stumbled his way onto over the course of his campaign), as well as imposing new regulations on oil and gas companies operating on existing federal permits (decidedly not something he campaigned on); declaring a climate national emergency; and creating a "climate club" of countries who mutually agree to reduce carbon emission through carbon taxation.

On this last point, a club would have two uses. First, if all nations involved impose carbon taxes on themselves, none can reap the economic rewards of being a cheaper and easier place to live or do business. And second, each one can mutually agree to punish any other country that attempts to get a leg up on the others, "through trade measures such as tariffs" in Phillips' words. It is worth noting that leftists have already started making lists of countries they want to see punished in this way -- see this Vox article entitled "How Joe Biden could make Brazil his first “climate outlaw.”

By the way, if you're surprised to see Brazil as the highest climate priority, rather than mega-polluter China -- the world's second largest economy -- you'll be doubly so to read through article and see China mentioned as a potential ally against Brazil. This is as good a detail as any to demonstrate that this isn't really about the climate, it's about power.

So, while AOC's legislative Green New Deal might be D.O.A. in Congress, the Executive Green New Deal is rarin' to go. We will all suffer the consequences.

Biden Vows to Kill Keystone XL if Elected

Back before he went into hiding, Joe Biden was notorious for making confusing statements which his spokesmen had to "clarify" later, while pretending that they'd been distorted by conservative media. Not that he's actually stopped doing this since the DNC began using the lockdowns as a pretense for hiding him in his basement in Delaware (a tactic which seems to be working for them at the moment, but which they can't keep up through November). While criticizing Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden told ABC News a few weeks ago, "We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse, no matter what. No matter what. We know what has to be done." Uh, sure Grandpa.

But there was nothing confusing about the statement put out by the Biden campaign (of course not delivered by the candidate himself) vowing to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline project should he be elected president next November.

“Biden strongly opposed the Keystone pipeline in the last administration, stood alongside President Obama and Secretary Kerry to reject it in 2015, and will proudly stand in the Roosevelt Room again as President and stop it for good by rescinding the Keystone XL pipeline permit,” Biden campaign policy director Stef Feldman said in a written statement to POLITICO.

In case you've forgotten, Keystone XL is a project of the Canadian oil firm TC Energy, the object of which is to safely transport Canadian crude from Alberta down to refineries in the U.S. It is, in fact, the fourth Keystone pipeline, and when completed it will be able to transport more oil (because it is larger) more quickly (because it travels a less circuitous route) than the already operational other three. Unfortunately for TC Energy, stopping Keystone XL became a cause célèbre for the Left during Barack Obama's presidency, and so the Obama Administration slow-walked the permit process for years until officially rejecting it after six years of review. Donald Trump breathed new life into the project after his election, but it has remained in legal limbo throughout the course of his first term.

Just a few thoughts on his announcement:

  1. Part of Biden's appeal is that he's supposedly this scrappy, working class, down-to-earth, Irish Catholic guy from Scranton, Pa., son of a used car salesman, yadda yadda yadda. But here he is, during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, promising to kill steady, hardworking jobs (in two countries!) because it'll make well-connected environmentalists happy?
  2. Even Democrats are starting to acknowledge that the former Vice President isn't all there. Even if it were true that his instincts are more geared towards the working man than the wine-and-caviar set that Hillary Clinton appealed to, this kind of announcement should give you a sense of who will actually be doing the governing while President Biden retreats further into his dotage.
  3. Keystone XL is popular in Canada, so much so that the then-newly elected prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, felt compelled to object when Obama originally killed the project. Canada is our second largest trading partner, and our largest -- China -- is increasingly unpopular in the U.S., for obvious reasons, so much so that calls for our relationship with that nation to be drastically reevaluated are coming in hot and heavy. Would it really be wise for Biden -- whose foreign policy experience supposedly got him the nod as Obama's veep -- to antagonize an ally in such an environment?

Then again, former Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates famously said that Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." As his Keystone XL announcement demonstrates, his domestic and trade policy instincts are just as reliable.

The Coming Struggle for Power with China

In the 1930s John Strachey, later a sober moderate cabinet minister in Clem Attlee’s postwar U.K. Labour government, wrote a book with the ominous title, The Coming Struggle for Power. As anyone familiar either with the politics of the day or with Orwell’s writings about that time could have guessed, Strachey called himself a Marxist but was in fact a comfortable bourgeois journalist, the son of the then-editor of the Spectator, who had never come closer to a genuine struggle than when he disputed with a friend over who should pay the bill for lunch.

But his book was one of many in those times which weakened the moral self-confidence of the Western democracies in their own free societies with the result that they would enter the Second World War and later the Cold War hesitant, badly-prepared, and uncertain of purpose. If a book named The Coming Struggle for Power were to be published today, its title would carry an ominous double entendre because the West today is locked in a struggle with China over both geopolitics and world energy resources.

We have been understandably reluctant to acknowledge this conflict (which like an iceberg is only one-eighth visible above the surface) because no one wants to repeat the failure of Franco-British policy in dealing with the rise of the Kaiser’s Germany prior to 1914. The horrors of the Great War explain our fears well enough. But that war also undermined the illusion cultivated by some of the best minds of that time that trade and economic cooperation between the great powers—aka the “power of facts”—had made war between them illogical, pointless, almost impossible.

In August 1914, however, as one historian wrote, the power of facts took a terrible hammering from the facts of power.

One relevant fact is that industrial development, prosperity, and mutually beneficial trade do not automatically convert a country to political liberalism at home and commercial pacifism abroad. Wilhelmine Germany had enjoyed its own great economic rise in the 19th century, but it saw the rapid industrialization of Czarist Russia as a reason to wage war before its emerging rival became too powerful and a threat. The Kaiser’s Machtpolitik demonstrated that a nation’s interests and intentions, evidenced in its political culture, may dictate war on the grounds that security is more important than prosperity. And every now and then an event occurs that, whether large or small, inadvertently throws a spotlight on what is really driving a country’s overall “grand strategy.”

The Wuhan virus, as we’re not supposed to call it, has just thrown such a spotlight on Beijing’s drive for a more powerful role in world politics. Such a drive is itself legitimate. And if it’s accompanied by a willingness to work cooperatively with other countries and to abide by agreed international rules, other nations should strive to accommodate the rising power in collective global arrangements.

But the Chinese government’s handling of the Wuhan virus combined brutality in its suppression of ordinary citizens in its attempt to suppress the virus, an obsession with secrecy as it sought to protect its own image, a failure to inform other governments that a dangerous epidemic was spreading in and over its borders, pressure on the World Health Organization to delay warning the world of what was coming its way, outrageously dishonest propaganda blaming the virus on  the US, and forbidding air flights from Wuhan to other Chinese cities while allowing them to other countries as the epidemic was still raging there. All of this represented irresponsible national egoism on a global scale.

Big Trouble in Big China.

It also reminded other countries of how China under its present regime has behaved on other matters in recent years: its imprisonment of vast numbers of its Uighur minority in a new gulag; its creation of a virtual panopticon that keeps watch on dissidents via the internet, even to the point of being able to instruct airlines not to allow them to board flights; its widespread theft of intellectual property; its purchase of political influence in other countries by hiring senior political and civil service figures for Chinese companies, as well as by outright bribery; its attempt to control Chinese minorities abroad; and at home the restoration of a quasi-Maoism by Xi Jimping who also proclaimed himself President for Life (an absurd but revealing title.) As a result of Wuhan all these factors now seem to demonstrate the naivete of the idea that bringing communist China into the structure of global governance, in particular the World Trade Organization, would make the country a liberal democracy over time.

Or, as I quoted Rupert Darwall as writing last week: “Xi’s historic accomplishment is falsifying the globalists’ liberalization thesis.” That means not that we are heading for a war between the world’s two major nuclear powers, which would be a disaster for all mankind, but that the West, above all the United States, should be sufficiently strong to deter China from any foolish military provocations and, more broadly, to contain China as we contained the Soviet Union until its political system evolves or its political leadership changes course.

Right on cue, the same important story appeared last week in the London Times, the Daily Mail, and The Australian. Here is the Mail’s opening salvo:

The US would lose a war with China fought in the Pacific, is unable to defend Taiwan from an invasion and fears the Guam military base is at risk now, US defense sources have warned. ‘Eye-opening' Pentagon war games have revealed growing fears the US is vulnerable to threats from China and that any attack would lead to the US 'suffering capital losses', the sources said. The worrying analysis is expected to come to light in the Pentagon's 2020 China military power report this summer.

This is alarming, of course, but far from despair-inducing. Most of the studies of a US-China military clash are based on what the military balance between the two nations will be like in 2030. The Pentagon is now planning a larger military commitment to East Asia; the U.S. economy is still more technologically advanced than the Chinese (and will now be more watchful towards technical espionage); and though both economies are likely to suffer some damage from the Covid-19 and lockdown crises, historians will recall that the prospect of war was what pulled the U.S. economy out of its New Deal doldrums and into a massive expansion both industrially and militarily.

For the one requires the other. It’s not possible to build up strong modern military forces except on the basis of a strong modern advanced economy which in turn must rest on the most efficient energy-producing industries. China recognizes that fact and acts upon it. Despite his brief flirtation with President Obama when they  shook hands and agreed to pursue the carbon reduction targets under the Paris accords, President Xi Jimping has adopted a very different practical agenda. As Darwall points out:

Despite being feted as a climate saviour, China’s drive for coal continued unabated. A 2018 plant-by-plant survey by CoalSwarm found that 259 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity are under development in China, comparable to the entire US coal fleet (266 GW). If completed, the new plants 29 will increase China’s current coal fleet of 993 GW by 25%. Abroad, China is involved in 240 coalfired power projects in 25 countries as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s military strength thus rests upon cheap abundant reliable energy. And its rivals?

Before the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. had a successful and expanding economy based in part upon the fracking revolution that gave it low-cost, high-productivity, reliable energy without subsidies. That was a solid foundation for a stronger American military. Europe was a sadly different proposition: continental Europe has embarked on a quixotic crusade to reduce the rise in world temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius since the advent of industrialization by reducing its use of fossil fuels to net zero-carbon emissions by 2050. Not surprisingly its economies are stalled. Britain has adopted the same self-destructive target and, in doing so, has abandoned the fair prospect of its own fracking revolution. And almost all predictions of the effects of this net-zero ambition, if it is seriously attempted and sustained, are that the countries concerned—all Western countries—would suffer a prolonged depression.

And all that was before the virus and the lockdowns.

Now, it is becoming the conventional wisdom in Western Europe, Britain, and Canada that the hoped-for post-Convid-19 economic recovery will be rooted in a Green New Deal that will direct resources not to recovery as such but to ensuring that any recovery will favour “Green” industries and deny investment to industries dependent on fossil fuels. And if Joe Biden were to win the November election, this same policy approach would be adopted in the United States too.

In his new study of the likely effects of such a policy, John Constable of the Global Warming Policy Foundation points out these results would be extremely damaging.:

[I]t is the adoption of high-productivity energy sources that is responsible for modern growth. Turning our backs on those energy sources would have been unwise even in a state of continuing global growth fundamentally driven by Asian use of coal and oil, as well as a resurgent North American use of gas. To do so in time of suppressed global trade and growth has the potential to be genuinely dangerous in the longer term, and perhaps even in the short term.

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Dr. Constable thinks this would be a “counterproductive disaster,” and he does not take account of the West’s military competition with China in his calculation. Nonetheless, he thinks that the civil service [in Britain] will press the policy, and that the politicians will not resist. One might add that in the U.S. and throughout the West the media, academia, most cultural institutions, and large numbers of the voters will be eager partisans of the same counterproductive disaster. And if the Chinese communists win the battle for power as energy, they will be hard to beat in the struggle for power as geopolitical hegemony.

John Strachey abandoned Marxism in 1940, left the Communist Party, joined the Labour party, and volunteered for the Royal Air Force in which he served until 1945 when he was elected as a Labour MP and appointed Minister of Food in the Attlee government. For the remainder of his career, he was a forceful voice for moderate social democracy and common sense in British politics.

Almost certainly, there will be decent people who similarly realize the terrible consequences of this New Green Disaster when they see the poverty it visits upon their fellow-citizens, and who make the same political U-turn as Strachey did. But will that realization dawn before the Chinese Communist Party has achieved an economic and military world hegemony?

Rebuilding on Sand

Lately I've been tempted to think that we will see a noticeable decline in the power of the environmentalist movement once this coronavirus concern is past. Indeed, I've written as much more than once. My reasoning (as I've articulated in a few pieces) is as follows: hardcore environmentalism is an ideology which has grown out of the boredom and ennui which so often accompanies prosperity. Once that prosperity has been seriously challenged, or even comes to an end, people will have much less time for these frivolities, as they will be putting increased effort into more basic necessities, like putting food on the table. Perhaps young people will even be less inclined to spend tens of thousands of dollars per year on the indoctrination mills that we refer to as modern universities, which supply the foot soldiers of these movements.

Well, some of those predictions might still turn out to be spot on, but I believe I was forgetting Michael Walsh's oft repeated dictum concerning our liberal friends, which is: "they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit." Which is to say, Big Envira (with the help of their deep pocketed backers) are every bit as resourceful and focused on the future as any other big business right now, and just like those other businesses they're out there thinking of how they can use this crisis to further their own ends. They know that, while normal people will likely be less inclined to hear what Greta Thunberg has to say as they come to terms with a greater share of hardship than that to which they're accustomed, their movement is so deeply embedded in the inner workings of business and politics in the West that that won't matter much, at least in the short term. Their image might change, but their influence will remain.

These thoughts are occasioned, in part, by this Wall Street Journal article, which begins rather oddly:

One hopeful development arising from the coronavirus pandemic: Global air quality is improving dramatically as the outbreak sends many countries into lockdown, climate scientists say....

The coronavirus outbreak, which began in China late last year, led to a roughly 25% decline in carbon emissions during the four weeks beginning Feb. 3, compared with the post-lunar new year period in 2019, said Lauri Myllyvirta, analyst at the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

Air pollution in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of China’s outbreak, almost halved between Jan. 23 and March 25 compared with the same year-earlier period, according to data from air-quality technology company IQAir.

Now, I am certainly no great fan of pollution, and I suppose I'm glad that the climate crowd is even acknowledging China's carbon emissions when this is a topic they've tended to ignore while condemning nations which have much better records on environmental stewardship (not to mention human rights). But I'm just not able to identify with this 'Look on the Bright Side of the Virus' attitude. Perhaps that is a later stage of grief. In any event, the article goes on:

The improvement [in carbon emissions] comes as demand for fossil fuels plummeted with flights grounded, factories and offices closed and people confined to their homes. Many researchers, intergovernmental organizations and activists hope the world can learn lessons from the insights the pandemic offers regarding human impact on the environment, and groups including Greenpeace, the International Energy Agency and the World Resources Institute are seizing the crisis as an opportunity to press governments to make industrial stimulus packages contingent on modernizing energy systems....

“We are asked by many governments around the world to give them advice on how they can shape the energy component of these stimulus packages in order to boost the energy resilience and accelerate the energy transition,” said Fatih Birol, executive director at the IEA.

Greenpeace U.K. signaled that it plans to press the U.K. government to be tough on companies that receive stimulus funds. “Any loans must come with strings attached to reduce emissions so that in the months to come the government can steer high-carbon industries toward the cleaner, healthier and more resilient future we all need,” said Fiona Nicholls, a climate campaigner for the group.

Which is to say, first of all, that we are being given a taste of the world of their dreams, with everyday life upended, people not driving or flying, businesses shut down, etc. They are quick to add, of course, that this is "not something to celebrate" because people's lives are at stake (as if they wouldn't be in their preferred circumstances, if less immediately) and that they would prefer that this were the result of governmental climate action.

But second, that as our collapsed economy is being rebuilt, environmental lobbyists will be working overtime to make sure that they have several seats at the table where decisions about what our future looks like are being made. Meanwhile, the blue collar guy in Pennsylvania or Alberta who depends on his job in the oil and gas industry to take care of his wife and kids, he decidedly will not.

Over at Forbes, Daniel Markind reminds us of some "basic truths" concerning why we should be grateful for the fact that the fossil fuel industry has persevered despite the war which has been waged against it over the past few decades by the organizations mentioned above and their comrades:

First among these truths is the production of surgical masks and other protective gear. Many of the best masks are made of polypropylene, clearly a fossil fuel product. With COVID-19 raging, there has been little to no discussion of going to less effective paper masks. The paper might have less climatic impact – although fewer trees also has a carbon footprint – but almost without exception, our medical personnel have determined that their health is more important to them than the abstract potential to affect climate change. Who can blame them?

Another example is the return of plastic bags at the local supermarket. Prior to the virus hitting, many markets announced they were stopping the use of plastics bags for their groceries. That didn’t last long. It turns out, of course, that single use plastic bags are far cleaner than other bags people keep in their house, then bring to the market - carrying all the germs and viruses they’ve collected along the way with them. Now, not only are stores returning to fossil fuel based plastic bags, they are banning reusable ones from being brought in.

A third use of fossil fuels is the medicines we take. While little known outside the pharmaceutical industry, fossil fuels are the foundation for between 80% to 90% of the pharmaceuticals we use. As with surgical masks, when facing the stark reality of protecting a loved one through drugs that are carbon based or letting that loved one fend for him/herself in order to fight climate change, few choose the latter.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the use of fossil fuels, however, has been the fact that we have the consistent energy supply that we need during this time to work remotely and to take care of our sick in the hospitals. As marvelous as solar, wind, and other similar technologies are, they remain intermittent. We have yet to determine how to store and transmit power when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. Without that consistent, reliable power supply - the overwhelming majority of which remains powered by fossil fuels - we in the west would have no chance to fight the virus.

There's been a lot of discussion about our failures of readiness in the months and years before the present crisis, from our neglecting to replenish the strategic PPE stockpile since 2005, to cities like New York belatedly closing schools and restaurants. I can't help but think that putting the Greenies in a position to strangle oil and gas as we lay the foundation of our economic future would be a Bill de Blasio level screw up.

It would be to rebuild our houses on sand at a time when, to extend the metaphor a little, the sea levels are rising.

Thanks, Wuhan Virus: 'Earth is Healing Herself'

The Catholic Church has long been in the business of caring for the sick. This is a fact which you might not have picked up in school, as most history teachers, more interested in ideology than truth, don't often mention it. But the plain fact is the Church, which is ostensibly concerned with the good of the soul, has concurrently devoted tremendous amounts of energy and resources to the care of the body. The very word "hospital" comes from the Knights Hospitaller, who came into existence in 1070 to care for pilgrims to the Holy Land. For centuries the hospitals of Europe were run by religious orders, and the saints whose reputations were built on the care of the sick -- from John of God ministering to the mentally ill in 16th Century Spain to Damien De Veuster living among the lepers in 19th century Hawaii to Rose Hawthorne Lathrop serving terminal cancer patients in early 20th century New York -- are too numerous to list.

Just recently the generally anti-Catholic New York Times published an article about the nuns who staffed sick wards during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918:

They tended to stricken men, crammed 30 to a ward, with the dirt from their factory jobs still smeared on their faces and hands. Hallucinating patients tried to climb out of windows, tore at the bedsheets, threw glass tumblers at their nurses and begged God for mercy. In private homes, the sisters found parents dead in their beds while their hungry children cried in the next room. “The windows were closed tightly, and we felt we could taste the fever,” one nun recalled later.

They washed linens, served hot soup and mixed medicine. They brought water, ice, blankets and comfort. “The call ‘Sister’ could be heard every minute during the night,” one remembered of her hectic shifts. Another spoke about her initial trepidation on her first day: “I was struck, at first, with a fearful dread, for I never came in close contact with death but once in my life. But realizing what must be done, I quickly put on my gown and mask, and being assigned to the women’s ward, I began my duties.”

One would imagine that our present pandemic might be another opportunity for modern Catholic religious to display the heroism of their forebears. And perhaps we will eventually find out that that is the case, that they are out there helping the sick beat back this virus. Unfortunately we live in a time when people -- even priests -- are increasingly catechized in the religion of environmentalism. And the religion of environmentalism seems to be rooting for the virus.

Per example, on Monday the official news service of the Vatican published a short piece by a Jesuit priest named Benedict Mayaki entitled "Coronavirus: Earth's Unlikely Ally."

The article has since been taken down (though you can still read it in multiple languages here; scroll down for English) but if you've been following some of the nutty anti-human narrative the environmentalist movement has been doubling down on lately, you won't be surprised by what it says:

The reduction in human activity is having an unintended benefit: Earth is healing herself. It Italy, fish have returned to the canals in Venice. Less tourism and water transport have allowed the murky waters to settle... China, the world's largest carbon emitter, now has a significant decrease in the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the air. NASA attributes this to the decline of economic and industrial activities during the coronavirus outbreak....

The global reduction in air, land and sea travel is yielding benefits for the planet as carbon emission sees a projected decline. Air travel alone contributes more than two percent of global carbon emissions.

Imagine an Italian-based website publishing an article like that at a time when Italy is being ravaged, when almost 100,000 Italians are infected and over 10,000 have died. And as far as China is concerned, while we don't have any idea what their numbers actually are. They do seem to be stockpiling urns, even as they claim that they've gotten the virus under control. Maybe Father Benedict should be a little more sensitive to the human cost of this crisis.

Strictly speaking, this is what the Church used to call paganism. Mother Gaia has been suffering from the human virus for too long, so she made us a bowl of bat soup and now she's "healing herself." Lots of hip publications are making a similar case. It's just a little disturbing to see the Vatican so "on trend." Then again, this is what Pope Francis had to say in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato si: "Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years."

 

After Prosperity, Whither Environmentalism?

The Climate Crowd have long argued that a society as rich as ours can easily afford to pay more for things like gas, groceries, plane tickets, electricity. What's an extra 25 cents per gallon or 50 bucks per flight to visit your Mom in Sheboygan when you live in the wealthiest society that has ever existed?

Stated that way, the activists' case sounds convincing to a lot of regular people. They consider the new 75" TV in the den and remember the one with the coat-hanger antenna they had as kids, or think back to that rusted out El Camino their dad drove at their age while they look at the new BMW they just picked up, and they say 'You know, I can stand to have things a little harder.' Conservatives joke a lot about limousine liberals and champagne socialists -- not least because they often don't consider the fact that *not everyone* can stand to have things a little harder - but for a lot of people this is where their attitude comes from: the acknowledgement that they're a lot better off than they imagined they would be when they were young, a certain pride that they haven't always lived in the lap of luxury, and even a sense of shame that they have so much stuff.

Of course, the activists relentlessly exploit that shame, while also obscuring what Having Things a Little Harder actually looks like. Once you start spelling out the details to regular people, they start pumping the breaks pretty quickly: "You want to replace our entire energy infrastructure with..... enormous bird killing windmills? Any plans for when there is no wind? Not really? How about all of the people who rely on jobs in the industries you want to destroy to feed their families? 'Learn to Code', huh?' And I'm not allowed to use plastic.... ever?" So in order for the ploy to work, they need us all to be thinking about the money in our pockets and not the size of the tab they're racking up on our behalf.

But what happens when things change? When even the people who have, until recently, had it pretty good, start having it a little harder? Or at lot harder? Well it seems that, thanks to the Wuhan coronavirus, we are about to find out. The other day we got the news that American jobless claims jumped by 3.28 million in a single week. Economists are debating whether we are looking down the barrel of a depression or just a terrible recession. Experts are asking us to put nearly all economic activity on hold for the foreseeable future. In short, to some extent or another, the prosperity which we've all come to take for granted is under serious assault.  How, one wonders, will the climate zealots respond to that?

Well, in a lot of places they'll respond by saying, "Sorry, but you've already signed the paperwork":

A European Union deadline of April 30 for firms to surrender emissions trading system (ETS) carbon allowances will stand, despite calls for extensions from some industry groups due to the coronavirus pandemic. Industry, utilities and airlines running flights in Europe must report their ETS emissions for the previous calendar year by 31 March, and surrender enough carbon permits to cover these emissions by 30 April under the bloc’s ETS rules.

The European Commission said on Thursday it recognised that the coronavirus crisis might make it difficult for companies to submit verified emissions reports by the end of March, but the existing rules provide flexibility around this deadline. National authorities can make a “conservative estimate” of emissions for firms that miss the March deadline, so long as this is done in time for the April compliance deadline, it said. “The Commission underlines the importance of the timely surrender of allowances by the mandatory deadline of 30 April 2020,” it added.

Which is to say, business as usual. At least officially. I was encouraged by this quote from someone identified as a senior EU diplomat, in a story about Poland's backing away from net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a key component of the European Green Deal:

Maybe [the EU's environmental summit in June] will be less on Green Deal but more on trying to restart the economies.... We cannot just continue with the plans and programmes we had so far. They were developed for a world without coronavirus.

It sounds like some of them are realizing that we might be witnessing a serious paradigm shift, and that the priorities of the world of six months ago -- when we were contemplating giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a class cutting teenager -- might no longer be in effect.

It's early days yet, and no one really knows what is going to happen or what the world six months from now is going to look like. But however this virus situation plays out (not to mention the game of oil chicken between Russia and the Saudis) we're going to be extremely grateful for the jobs and the energy independence that the oil and gas industry provides.

And, what's more, having come out on the other side of all of this, we're going to have a lot less time for those who talk lightly about throwing our prosperity away on an illusion when a real crisis is right here, right now.