Boondoggles on top of boondoggles. That's all I could think while reading this piece at The Daily Mail, with the following headline: "World’s biggest 'carbon-sucking' machine is switched on in Iceland: $15 million device will capture 4,000 tons of CO2 per year and could help 'reverse climate change.'"
The world's biggest carbon-sucking machine, billed as a tool to reduce climate change, has been switched on in Iceland. The $15 million (£10.8 million) 'direct air capture' (DAC) machine, created by Zurich-based company Climeworks, launched on Wednesday at the Hellisheiði Power Station, Iceland. Called Orca, it will capture 4,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year as part of efforts to reduce levels of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere – equivalent to the annual emissions from about 790 cars.
Seven hundred and ninety cars, eh? So we just need to build about 400,000 of these things to cover the roughly 300 million cars we have in the United States! And at $15 million a pop, we'd only have to double our national debt, more or less, to pay for them.
But how can we get bogged down with dollars and cents like this when the fate of the planet is on the line?! Just hand over the check book and let the experts go to work. It's an emergency, dammit! That's certainly the position of the guys who sell these things. "The cost per ton of Orca is perhaps less important than what we will learn," said Climeworks CEO, Jan Wurzbacher.
The company stressed the importance of climate capture following 'unprecedented extreme weather events' that have dominated the news headlines this year. It referred to the recent UN climate panel report – dubbed 'a code red for humanity' – which said global warming had caused an unparalleled melting of glaciers and was close to spiralling out of control. 'The report further confirms that it is crucial to reduce our emissions drastically and remove unavoidable and historic carbon dioxide emissions from the air permanently,' said Climeworks.
Of course, it doesn't take much effort to refute the claims Wurzbacher and others are making. For one thing, as we covered at the time, the IPCC report, despite some heated rhetoric (for which they're famous) was rather less dire than the frenzied headlines would have you believe. For another, the "unprecedented extreme weather events" aren't so unprecedented, and they only seem more frequent and extreme because of the twenty-four hour news cycle and the ubiquity of social media.
Some reporters are claiming that climate change is making hurricanes like Ida more frequent, but it isn’t.
In fact the best-available science finds that climate change will make Atlantic hurricanes 25% less frequent, and just 5% more intense https://t.co/ET8LHVSuPM
So, while I do sort of admire the chutzpah of Mr. Wurzbacher & Co., I think we'd all be better off if they moved on to new scam.
That IPCC Report: Much Ado About Nothing
On Monday the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its newest assessment report, the sixth in a series of comprehensive reviews of climate science. It was clever of them to release it during the dog days of August, when newsworthy events are few and far between and journalists, desperate for content, think nothing of submitting hysterical think pieces about multi-thousand page documents they haven't read.
The Wall Street Journal stands out among major publications, first, for admitting that they haven't yet had time to read the almost 4,000-page report, and second, for pointing out that, if the document's summary for policy makers is to be believed, then "the report doesn’t tell us much that’s new since its last report in 2013, and some of that is less dire."
The editors patiently walk through the claims causing the most combustibility among headline writers. For instance:
"It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land,” says the report in its lead conclusion. But no one denies that the climate has been warming, and no one serious argues that humans play no role. How could eight billion people not? Adding the adjective “unequivocal” adds emphasis but not context.
A good point, since "unequivocal" got a lot of attention:
It is “unequivocal” that human activities have warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land, finds a major new UN climate report signed by 195 countries https://t.co/cf5uwFYK24
The WSJ also breaks down the IPCC's actual projected temperature changes:
The report says the Earth has warmed by 1.1 degree Celsius since the last half of the 19th century, which is 0.1 degree warmer than its last estimate. This is not apocalyptic. The five-alarm headlines arise from the predictions of future temperature increases.... Yet the report’s estimate of “climate sensitivity”—its response to a doubling of CO2—has moderated at the top end. The likely sensitivity range, says the report, is 2.5 to 4 degrees Celsius higher than in the late 1800s. The likely range was 1.5 to 4.5 in the 2013 report.
Of course, they also point out how reliant all of these projections are on climate models, and suggest reading former Obama administration science advisor Steven Koonin for an illuminating take on the flaws of such models. The gist of it is that there are so many unknowns being factored into these models as if they were facts that their conclusions are questionable at best. As Ross McKitrick explains in a review of Koonin's book,
All the shortcuts would not be a problem if in the end they could accurately predict the climate. But... the models on average do poorly at reproducing the 20th century warming pattern, even though modelers can look at the answer and tune the models to try and reproduce it. They don’t warm enough from 1910 to 1940 and they warm too much after 1980. Both errors point to the likelihood that they depend too much on sensitivity to carbon dioxide and don’t account for long-term natural variations.
If they can't accurately account for the temperatures of the past hundred years, why on earth should we bet our lives and livelihoods on their ability to project the next hundred?
Which is really to say that blame for all of the hysteria rests with the IPCC itself. It's long been famous for issuing lengthy bad-to-worst-case-scenario reports which are then distilled into hyperbolic summaries in the hope of getting picked up by journalists. Mission accomplished. But that doesn't mean we need to pay attention.
In Canada, Nowhere to Run from Carbon Tax
In a 6-3 split decision issued this week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Trudeau government's carbon tax constitutional. The majority decision, written by Chief Justice Richard Wagner, held that Ottawa could legally impose the tax on all provinces because of the Peace, Order and Good Government clause of Canada's constitution, which allows the federal government to legislate on matters of national concern on which provincial governments are unable to act. Justice Wagner assumes that "unable" can also mean "unwilling," and then leans heavily on the "concern." He writes,
This matter is critical to our response to an existential threat to human life in Canada and around the world.... [Climate change] is a threat of the highest order to the country, and indeed to the world... The undisputed existence of a threat to the future of humanity cannot be ignored.
Faced with this histrionic language, it is worth noting that Wagner was first appointed to the court by Conservative PM Stephen Harper, before he was made chief by Justin Trudeau. Just another example of Harper's failure to tilt the Canadian judiciary in a broadly conservative direction during his nine years in office. Trudeau's government isn't making the same mistake.
The National Post tries to put the majority's thinking in context, explaining that, for the carbon tax to achieve its declared goal of rescuing humanity from anthropogenic climate change, no province may be able to opt out, because of the danger "of carbon leakage, where an industry in a province with carbon pricing might just locate to a neighbouring province without it."
That is, if the tax is imposed only on provinces which support the Liberal government in Ottawa, then businesses hoping to avoid the tax might just move to places like Alberta and Saskatchewan, which don't. But couldn't that reasoning be extended further? Why wouldn't businesses look to relocate out of Canada altogether?
CPC leader Erin O'Toole made just this point, warning of the "same risk of leakage of jobs and investment” to the United States, the great boogie man of Canadian political discourse. But I am thinking of countries like China, which will happily accept the jobs that western virtue signalers no longer want in their own country. Of course, China doesn't have the same concerns about carbon emissions that are so common in the west, but for our environmentalists, "out of sight, out of mind" is a key principle.
In any event, it seems that the only hope that foes of the carbon tax have going forward is for the Conservatives to win an election and repeal the law. And they might soon get their shot. Hopefully they don't screw it up.
Modern Monetary Theory Meets the Great Reset
Between 1930 when his two-volume magnus opus A Treatise on Money was published and his preparation of what became The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, published in 1936, John Maynard Keynes had a very bad idea. His very bad idea formed the core of this latter, and much more famous book. Simply put, Keynes’s bad idea was that spending drove an economy. This idea had been eruditely pilloried by John Stuart Mill in the nineteenth century and -- kaput! It was gone.
But, hold your horses, bad ideas are not so easy to be rid of when they appeal to specious reasoning.
After all, who doesn’t like spending money? Of course, we know that if we spend too much ourselves, we will get into terrible trouble and end up in Queer Street. But suppose it’s the government spending money and, to boot, giving some to us. And, at same time, so-called economic experts are explaining that this spending will cure unemployment. Now that’s a bad idea whose currency persists. I expect it to be around in perpetuity.
So dumb only an egghead could love it.
Human history is replete with bad ideas. Slavery, bloodletting, Operation Barbarossa to name just three of very many. If we are lucky only one or two bad ideas hold sway at any one time. We are not so lucky. I will canvass four contemporary bad ideas plaguing our lives; or, at least, the lives of those susceptible to reason. And show how they have coalesced to form one grandiose idea hatched in a remote part of Switzerland.
First, to make a bad idea worse, Keynesianism has morphed, through an academic ginger group, into Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). This is Keynesian economics without restraint, allied with an unworkable employment-buffer scheme which looks for all the world like socialism. It appeals to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That might give you a clue.
Second, we have climate alarmism. That’s not the bad idea in itself. The bad idea is the wind and solar farms and electric cars which are being foisted on us to solve ‘the problem’. It is not just the awful despoilation of the environment and the expense. It’s that it won’t work. The planet will not cool, except in its own good time. Of course, the renewable energy crowd know that. But that is another story.
Third, we have Covid. Again, that is simply the germ of the bad idea, if you will forgive the pun. The bad idea is to lockdown healthy people to defeat a virus that only attacks unhealthy people. Hmm. There must be sense to that if you look hard enough? No, in fact, there isn’t.
Fourth, we have critical race theory, which so far as I can tell is racism in another guise. Though in this case it is justified on account of white privilege. Sell that, why dontcha, to the millions of disadvantaged white people in the world?
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the promotion of abortion on demand, gender dysphoria and men in frocks playing sport against women, or iconoclasm, or national self-loathing, or trigger warnings and ‘hate-speech’ on university campuses. All of these, and more, are redolent of contemporary bad ideas too. But one runs out of puff covering them all. In any event, it is the four I’ve canvassed which lead to Switzerland.
Follow the logic below. It is a stretch. But since when has that been an unjumpable hurdle for the leftist mindset.
Green New Deals whether of the AOC variety or of the slightly watered-down Biden/Sanders variety or even of the Boris Johnson variety are, shall we say, on the expensive side. Lots of things to be done and so little time with the planet we know and love on the brink of extinction:
Undermining reliable sources of energy (to wit, coal, oil and gas) while subsidising unreliable sources of energy (to wit, wind and solar).
Chasing internal combustion engines off the road while building a whole new infrastructure to power electric cars.
Refitting many thousands of buildings to increase their energy efficiency.
And, lest we forget, somehow reducing the belching proclivity of farm animals; or, alternatively, mandating mass switching to veganism.
None of this will come cheap. This is where MMT comes to the rescue; whether it is called that or not. Required, à la MMT, is a carefree approach to government spending and borrowing; all underwritten by central banks keeping their money-printing presses (figuratively speaking) at the ready.
MMT -- it's fun and better yet, it's free!
And, in case you don’t see the next connection, lockdowns have already provided a trial run. Governments have borrowed and spent big to keep the ship of state afloat after crippling their economies and throwing millions out of work. Financial restraint has been defenestrated. It will be a much more sellable proposition than it ever would have been to spend and borrow still more to underpin economies (MMT / Keynesian-style) and, at the same time, save the planet. And that isn’t all.
The emergence from lockdowns to a greener future provides yet another opportunity. And this is to lift those whose underprivilege has cruelly held them back. To be fair, innately overprivileged though they are, poor white guys and gals are not specifically excluded.
If you haven’t already guessed, the coalescence of four bad ideas have ineluctably led me to The Great Reset – and to its goal of producing a greener, more inclusive, more equitable world. This latest manifestation of the utopian-pipedream genre was unveiled in May 2020 by the World Economic Forum, which is made up of rich people and notables, passionate about saving the planet from fossil fuels, who fly into Davos Switzerland from their mansions or yachts each year in their private jets. You sense they know that they could run things much better than the hoi polloi ever could.
Prince Charles together with Klaus Schwab, the chair of WEF, presided over the great unveiling of The Great Reset:
There are reasons to believe that a better economic system is possible—and that it could be just around the corner. As the initial shock of the COVID crisis receded, we saw a glimpse of what is possible, when stakeholders act for the public good and the well-being of all, instead of just a few... Rather than chasing short-term profits or narrow self-interest, companies could pursue the well-being of all people and the entire planet. This does not require a 180-degree turn: corporations don’t have to stop pursuing profits for their shareholders. They only need to shift to a longer-term perspective on their organization and its mission, looking beyond the next quarter or fiscal year to the next decade and generation.
Building such a virtuous economic system is not a utopian ideal.
Can a cacophony of four bad ideas produce a harmonious good idea? Maybe for those living in the Davos bubble. Not for those living in struggle street; white, black or brown.
When Satire and Science Speak Inconvenient Truths
Just lately two very different people—one a German satirist, the other an American Nobel Prize-winning scientist—have fallen afoul of those concerned citizens who have taken on the unpaid role of “Censors to Prevent the Apocalypse.” And without your having any more information than that, gentle reader, you know that they have done so on the topic of climate change.
Let’s look at the satirist first. Dieter Nuhr is a well-known comedian who, presumably because of his public profile as a scourge of left and right impartially, was invited to contribute a statement to a public information campaign of the German Research Foundation about its work. That statement ran as follows on the website No Tricks Zone:
Knowledge does not mean you are 100% sure, but that you have enough facts to have a reasoned opinion. But many people are offended when scientists change their mind: That is normal! Science is just THAT the opinion changes when the facts change. This is because science is not a doctrine of salvation, not a religion that proclaims absolute truths. And those who constantly shout, “Follow science!” have obviously not understood this. Science does not know everything, but it is the only reasonable knowledge base we have. That is why it is so important.
If we want to classify it, that’s a defense of truth, science, and freedom all in one. It’s not the most eloquent of such defenses, but it covers a lot of ground in few words and it’s admirably clear. Score one for the satirists here. Almost inevitably therefore it provoked an outpouring of hostile criticism from the organized twitter mobs which don’t usually know a great deal but which do seem to have a reliable instinct when one of their idols or shibboleths is being impermissibly doubted. In response to these attacks the German Research Foundation, fearing damage to its reputation, did the usual thing and took Nuhr’s statement down.
The Research Foundation obviously didn’t know its man. Nuhr responded to his defenestration with a very powerful defense of freedom of thought and inquiry in society and of diversity of opinion in science in particular. In it he was unsparing in his criticism of the Foundation for its surrender.
That strong response evoked an even larger volume of external criticism of the Foundation for its loss of nerve, together with an internal serious reconsideration of all the issues raised by the banning of Nuhr. Within a week it issued an apology of the handsomest sort to Nuhr and reinstated his original statement on its site, saying “The DFG expressly regrets that the statement by Dieter Nuhr was taken hastily from the website of the online campaign #forknowledge.” (Not my Boldness.)
And—you can’t fault the Germans for not being thorough—it went on to connect that error with a growing culture of groupthink and particular orthodoxies in the universities, scientific institutions, and other centers of intellectual discussion, and to pledge to lead a campaign of resistance to this culture in the interests of genuine science and free inquiry.
That strong promise of leadership is both welcome and necessary in today’s world. It should be chastening to us, however, that only a few decades ago such a statement would have seemed a string of nice platitudes because no one, except perhaps a few cranks, would have considered advancing the opposite opinion. Some distinguished Marxist historians in Cambridge, for instance, submitted their academic work to communist party committees for pre-publication approval.
What happened to change the intellectual climate not only in Germany but throughout the entire West in this authoritarian direction?
Mr. Nuhr in his response suggested that a Science that outlawed the competition of ideas was turning—or had already turned—into a religion. If religion is a body of beliefs that denies the possibility of its own falsification, then his criticism is acute and correct.
My own tentative sense of the matter, however, is that this is a late stage in climate alarmism. Before it developed religious certitudes, the dogmas of global warming and climate change had morphed into a branch of politics. That is to say, that they were seen as “convenient truths” (h/t to former Vice-President Gore) because they seemed to justify, indeed require, the extension of state power and regulation on a world scale in order—to employ the cant phrase—to deal with global problems.
Once adopted by the statist side of the political spectrum (which was running out of good reasons for increasing its power over people), this convenient "truth" gave funds and prestige to those scientists, economists, and politicians who embraced and propagated it. And because there are some—more in science than in politics—who doubted its doctrines and disputed them, the science of climate change became a political issue everywhere.
That analysis doesn’t mean that its doctrines are false. But it does mean that like every other scientific proposition, they should be treated with a proper skepticism, and if seemingly well-founded on the evidence so far, treated as provisionally true unless and until falsified by subsequent events. After all, they may prove to be convenient falsehoods or timely errors. When the Blair government ordered Gore’s movie on climate change to be shown in schools, a judge ruled that it would have to be accompanied by a corrective point of view since some of its inconvenient truths weren’t actually true.
Something to watch for, then, is when the tone of commentary on some aspect of climate policy changes from the dry, detached, scientific kind to the passionate committed political sort. And that’s where the Nobel Prize-winning American economist comes in.
William D. Nordhaus is an American economist, educated at Cambridge, MIT, and Yale, who at present holds the Stirling Professorship of Economics at Yale, and who for some years has devoted himself to work on climate change and economic modelling. He won his Nobel Prize for his work developing the so-called Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy model (NICE) which is essentially a cost-benefit analysis designed to tell us what are the costs of particular changes in the climate, the benefits of policies designed to mitigate or adapt to them, and the trade-offs between the two.
It’s a great deal more complex than that, of course, but the usefulness and reliability of DICE are demonstrated by the fact that Nordhaus’s work is repeatedly cited by scientists and other economists of all opinions in their work. That’s made easier because Nordhaus himself holds moderate opinions on climate policy, endorsing such policies as a carbon tax and tariffs on countries that refuse to follow the Paris Agreement. And though his work can be disputed, no one has yet found serious technical errors in it.
All of a sudden, however, he’s coming under attack from those in science and economics on the alarmist end of the climate spectrum. As is pointed out by Benjamin Zycher, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, in a recent monograph, these attacks are quite severe without being based on anything like a discovery of economic errors by Nordhaus. In fact, they seem to arise from annoyance that Nordhaus’s cost-benefit analysis, if accurately applied to their favored climate policies such as ending the use of fossil fuels by the end of this century, would show many heavy costs and incommensurately low benefits.
That irritation is glaringly evident in the judgment of Marlow Hoode that “leading scientists and economists, however, say there is [in addition to corrupt leaders, the rich, etc.] another impediment to climate action that merits closer scrutiny: the profoundly influential work of 2018 Nobel economics laureate William J. Nordhaus.” (His middle initial is in fact D.) Among other leading scientists and economists, for instance, Gernot Wagner of New York University is quoted as arguing: “If [Nordhaus] had won the Nobel Prize 20 years ago, it would have helped climate policy. But the fact that he won it two years ago is, in many ways, a step back.” Similarly, Joseph Stiglitz, another Nobel Prize-winner, asserts that DICE is “dangerous because we don’t have another planet we can go to if we mess this up. The message [that Nordhaus has] been conveying is foolhardy.”
Nordhaus might be wrong, of course, and Zycher has his own criticisms of him. He has responded to some criticisms, conceding they’re “half right,” but he defends the main body of the work that won him the Nobel Prize. His modest concession can’t satisfy critics because it implies that a careful cost-benefit analysis is still heavily negative towards extreme climate alarmism (“we don’t have another planet”) that mandates net-zero carbon emissions or banning fossil fuels. And since they have failed to show that DICE is flawed, the logic of their criticisms is that Nordhaus is an obstacle to their climate alarmism because he’s shown that it’s either wrong or greatly exaggerated.
Look out, therefore, for still more criticisms of the distinguished Yale professor, especially if he continues to defend himself and DICE with the determination of a German satirist. For such courage will certainly be required of those who doubt either general or particular aspects of climate alarmism. Out there in the obscurity of the academic jungle, the drums are beating out the message that there can be no exceptions to observance of the tribal lays. As picked up and transmitted by the vigilant website WattsUpWithThat?, here are two Edge Hill University academics, Psychology Professor Geoff Beattie and Education Research Fellow Laura McGuire, advising us on how to ensure that the people are inspired to love climate alarmism:
[T]o prevent optimism bias, we also need to avoid presenting “both sides of the argument” in the messaging – the science tells us that there’s only one side. There also needs to be a clear argument as to why recommended, sustainable behaviours will work (establishing a different sort of confirmation bias).
We also need everyone to get the message, not just some groups – that’s an important lesson from COVID-19. There can be no (apparent) exceptions when it comes to climate change.
Let me concede that our two Edge Hill academics are being refreshingly candid. They’re telling us: we know what’s right; we’re going to ensure that you accept our view on climate change and policy; and we won’t do so by rational persuasion either, but by limiting your knowledge on the matter in question and getting under your psychological guard to smuggle our view into your mind.
I hope a good many people get to read about their strategy—which strikes me as neither liberal or democratic—but I’m not as alarmed as I might be by it. I don’t believe that human beings can be “conditioned” like Pavlov’s dogs or Orwell’s Outer Party members because we are self-conscious animals who reflect on ourselves and our own thinking. That’s why people can change religions, political parties, and even scientific views.
That said, our Edge Hill scientists are clearly hard cases. So I ask them to reflect on this passage from Dieter Nuhr’s first response to the German Research Foundation cited above:
I find the phrase “Follow science” questionable because it suggests that there is one, untouchable opinion and solution strategy for climate change, because this way science is declared a narrative of redemption. That is the opposite of science.
There are different scenarios and different solution strategies not only among the population but also among climate scientists. It is even a basic condition of free research that different theses are allowed and discussed. This is what happens in science. In the public, however, diversity of opinion is increasingly actively suppressed by denunciation. Individual groups proclaim inviolable truths, claim that science is on their side and accordingly treat critical thinkers as heretics, then lump them together with madmen and conspiracy theorists and try to discredit them. That is Dark Ages and frightening.
To Nuhr, I can only regret that neither Dryden nor Pope is still around to celebrate his admirable and perhaps historically significant defeat of modern obscurantism in appropriate terms. So here’s a contribution from my own Imatitive Muse:
Thus, Science, Reason, Freedom leave the Stage/ Owning their Debt to Satire’s witty Rage.
'The Hidden Costs of Net Zero'
In last week’s column I argued that in dealing with the threats of climate change, our best approach would be to forget labels like "climate denialism” and “climate alarmism,” make a fair accounting of the problems, and set about tackling them practically. When I advocated this approach of “climate practicality,” I was thinking in Big Picture terms: How best should we allocate scarce resources between adapting to climate change and seeking to mitigate it, for instance? Or between generating energy mainly from fossil fuels, as now, or from “renewables,” or from going nuclear? Where will our money get the best results?
Answering those Big Picture questions is obviously necessary, indeed unavoidable, but it’s also very difficult to answer them well, i.e, convincingly, because they contain so many variables. It’s somewhat easier (though still hard) to examine the practicality of specific policies from the standpoint not only of governments which propose and implement them but also of the ordinary citizens who have to live with their impact.
That’s done with deep practical expertise and occasional dry wit in a new monograph from the Global Warming Policy Foundation titled ReWiring the UK: the Hidden Costs of Net Zero by Mike Travers, a distinguished engineer with wide experience in that most practical of disciplines.
I am sure every one of us in the UK supports cutting waste, not polluting the oceans with plastic, collecting our rubbish (though people are still throwing tons of waste out of car windows), reducing discharges of all types into our fragile atmosphere and still maintaining a reasonable lifestyle. To do this we need to plan, engineer and build in a sensible way. What we cannot afford to do is inflate electricity prices and other costs: this will simply result in manufacturing industry leaving the country and the export of our carbon dioxide emissions.
Travers starts with the problem, which is that electricity prices have been rising sharply in the U.K.: “[B]usinesses and consumers have been facing steadily increasing electricity bills for the last 12 years. Average domestic prices have risen from 6p to 16p per unit. That is more than 150 percent in twelve years, faster than any other commodity. This is partly the result of poor planning of the system.”
And why is that? Travers first gives vent to an understandable professional pique that “[e]ngineers have long since lost control of the electrical supply, and the regulators, accountants, and lawyers who now hold sway have conspired to prevent sensible improvements to the system.”
His second explanation, however, goes to the nub of the problem, which is that rising electricity prices stem mainly from government policies to “decarbonize the economy’” (i.e. the hidden costs of the monograph’s title), as the country switches from gas turbines to the much more expensive wind turbines to generate electcicity and move towards net zero carbon emissions.
As we head towards a fully decarbonised grid, the expense will become truly astronomical. We even have to pay windfarms to switch off. These so-called ‘constraint payments’ reached £140 million in 2019.
Rising electricity prices from decarbonization are a major problem, especially so when consumers are facing harder times as the cumulative impact of Covid-19 and the lockdowns kicks in, but they are far from the only negative results. For the U.K. government, though headed by an easy-going optimististic prime minister in Boris Johnson, is committed to requiring ordinary Brits to make major changes in their life-styles that will mean imposing heavier costs on them as both consumers, electricity users, and taxpayers. For instance, the government has already announced that it is making a transition to electric cars compulsory by 2035—and that regulation will include hybrid cars. Nor is it likely to be only such regulation. Brits will also be required to install in their homes such other devices as heat pumps and electric vehicle charging points.
The cost of installing EV charging points alone will be a considerable one. Travers estimates that it will be of the order of 31 billion pounds. But that’s small beer compared to the overall losses from the installation and use of all the additional electric devices needed for decarbonization (italics mine):
The extra demand for electricity will overwhelm most domestic fuses, thus requiring homeowners to install new ones, as well as circuit-breakers and new distribution boards. Most will also have to rewire between their main fuse and the distribution network. In urban areas, where most electrical cabling is underground, this will involve paying for a trench to be dug between the home and the feeder circuits in the street. In addition, increased demand along a street will mean that the distribution network will need to be upgraded too. This will involve installing larger cables and replacing distribution transformers with larger ones. Most urban streets will need to be dug up. The cost to the country of rewiring alone will probably exceed £200 billion, or over £7,000 per household. This figure excludes the cost of new equipment, such as EV chargers, heat pumps and electric showers.
That’s the total impact on householders. It’s alarming. But the details of how many of these centrally-imposed regulations will impact the individual householder is where Travers shines. Here he is, for instance, on heat pumps:
The best alternative is a ground-source heat pump (GSHP), which extracts heat from the earth, using a network of buried pipes. However, that requires a lot of space, so they are really only an option for people who own significant plots of land or can afford the alternative of drilling a borehole. The total cost in a new house for installing a GSHP is likely to be £18,000, or four times the present cost of an oil or gas heating system. The alternative is an air-source heat pump (ASHP), which might cost £10,000, gives energy gains rather less than GSHPs, and suffers from major reductions in efficiency in cold weather.
Even an attentive reader of the serious press would not guess one tenth of the upheavals and cost additions that electric vehicles and heat pumps alone by themselves are likely to cause the Brits—and thus to government ministers when voters realize that what these high-sounding moral principles will mean in practice.
If Ministers pay heed to Travers on the costs and practicality of their policies, they will reconsider de-carbonization and look instead at going nuclear or choosing adaptation over mitigation. But practicality and government live increasingly separate lives—the former in this world, the latter in Utopia. And a reconciliation between them is probably a catastrophe away.
Climate Litigation: a Government Grab for Cash
Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is a clumsy bully, particularly when it comes to those who disagree with his obsession with redesigning society in response to climate alarmism. Whitehouse is also a promiscuous filer of often angryamicus curiae or “friend of the court,” briefs; his pet peeve is that parties who disagree with him have the same access to the judiciary that he does. His most recent fulmination, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, has proved a particular embarrassment.
Sen. Whitehouse’s brief, joined by fellow climate extremists Sens. Ed Markey and Jack Reed (D-RI), assailed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for having dared to voice their opposition to Rhode Island v. Chevron Corp. et al., which seeks billions of dollars from energy companies for supposedly having caused climate change. The Chamber broke ranks, as the sole dissenting voice among a mob of fifty others weighing in in support of using the courts this way.
That was too much for Whitehouse, Rhode Island’s junior senator, who declared “The Chamber would clearly love to neuter the judicial branch of government on these questions to the benefit of its fossil fuel donors.” This is pretty salty stuff even considering it’s Whitehouse, who once asked former attorney general Loretta Lynch if she would investigate opponents of the “climate” agenda for racketeering.
This bad look could get worse, and soon did in the form of newly obtained public records suggesting someone is indeed misusing the courts for money here, but it’s not who Sen. Whitehouse would have you believe. A devastating set of handwritten notes has come to light thanks to a state open-records law request by the transparency group Energy Policy Advocates (“EPA”). These notes, and a second, corroborating set of typed notes, reveal who is using the judiciary for what. These records offer two independent transcriptions of a shocking confession about Rhode Island’s lawsuit and, implicitly, all the rest of its ilk pouring into state courts around the country.
As Energy Policy Advocates recently informed the court earlier this month in its own amicusoffering, the notes were taken during a two-day July 2019 meeting hosted by the philanthropic Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) at the Rockefeller family country estate in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.
The event was titled “Accelerating State Action on Climate Change.” Various gubernatorial chiefs of staff, department secretaries, or cabinet equivalents attending this meeting came from both Republican and Democratic state administrations. Two environmentalist activist groups financed by the RBF, along with Tom Steyer’s Energy Foundation, were also in attendance.
The watchdog group obtained numerous emails, agendas and other materials, including typed notes of Katie McCormack of the Energy Foundation, and handwritten notes taken by the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Carla Frisch. One striking passage, replicated in both sets of notes, opens a troubling window onto this “climate nuisance” litigation. Frisch recorded the comments of Janet Coit, the director of Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management, as follows:
RI - Gen Assembly D but doesn’t care on env/climate
looking for sustainable funding stream
suing big oil for RI damages in state court
On its face this entry seems to be a confession that the Rhode Island legislature is not persuaded of the claims set forth by the State in this matter. It appears to also reflect a senior appointee of the governor explaining why the legislature has thereby declined to obtain from the taxpayer, and then appropriate to the State, the “sustainable funding stream” that the plaintiff Rhode Island desires. And so it is “suing big oil”.
Fortunately, we can be confident that Frisch did not mishear director Coit. McCormack provided the Rockefeller Brothers Fund with a typewritten set of her own notes transcribing the proceedings. McCormack’s typewritten transcription of Coit’s commentary reads almost verbatim:
These notes on their face both affirm two realities that have become inescapable in recent years about this epidemic of “climate nuisance” litigation, all channeled into state courts after the first generation of suits floundered in federal court. These suits seek to use the courts to stand in for elected officials not willing to pay the political price for taxing their voters for the extra hundreds of billions of dollars they wish to spend.
Defendants in the Rhode Island “climate nuisance” case might be interested in obtaining further insight into what Coit meant by this and, if she claims as she no doubt will that it’s not what it seems, why two contemporaneous transcribers heard her the same, damning way.
Otheremails obtained by Energy Policy Advocates reveal concern that the records would find their way to the public, and possible machinations to avoid that. The confession by Rhode Island’s Director of Environmental Management surely is one very big reason why.
It's time the courts formally confront that the “climate nuisance” litigation campaign generally, and we now know this lawsuit, specifically, is a grab for revenue and other desired policies that have eluded parties via the legislative process. Politicians are seeking the most favorable local court to stand in for that political process. Were they to succeed, the consumer and economy still would pay, but the politicians would escape responsibility for having charged them.