Lord Percy and the Green Climateers

Skint and owing £1000, Lord Blackadder faces the wrath of the perverted Bishop of Bath and Wells and the fate of being buggered by a red-hot poker. Valiantly trying to save him by making gold, his incredibly dim-witted friend Lord Percy instead makes ‘pure green’. Not gold! Blackadder points out.

Think of Percy’s quest as a metaphor for the quest of today’s climate activists. Instead of gold, they’re after carbonless energy. Alchemy rethought through a climate prism. And, to boot, with a religiously-convicted single mindedness. Pure "green."

Consider the attitude of those working for the myriad of agencies in each western country dedicated to completely greening the production and consumption of energy. I’m not a mind reader, but in Australia I can’t spot doubt. Just group-think. No evidence of robust internal debate. None escapes into public view in any event. Presumably no one is hired who doesn’t fit the mould.

Catastropharians all -- skeptics shunned -- they’ve fixed on their fanciful quest without at all questioning its feasibility. Percy’s problem. Fortunately, Blackadder found another way. If sense is not soon restored, we might be stuck with pure green and, figuratively speaking, with Blackadder’s blazing nemesis.

One way to appreciate the infeasibility of decarbonisation is to lay bare the fantastical plans for its achievement; by whichever climate agency, in whichever country. Incidentally, this is not necessarily straightforward. Common to all plans are grand visions and longwinded bafflegab. Thus, I was unsurprised to learn of the length of New York’s Draft Scoping Plan to radically reduce emissions. All 330 pages plus appendices were released on December 20.

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Everything’s bigger in New York. So, Australia’s reports tend to be shorter but remain competitive in the visions and bafflegab stakes. Which brings me to Australia’s equivalent of the DSP, the Integrated System Plan (ISP) to transform the production and consumption of energy. This plan, released also in December, was issued by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO); the agency responsible for keeping the lights on.

The ISP is just ninety-nine pages long. Even so, I admit to not reading it all. Too little fortitude. However, the eight-page executive summary suffices to reveal its innards. Net-zero by 2050 is the goal of course but, to ease concern, we are told that power will remain “affordable, reliable and secure.” Take it to the bank. Every pie-in-the-sky plan to do away with fossil fuels contains the same placating, empty assurance.

The plan calls for ‘delivered electricity’ to nearly double by 2050; from 180 terawatt hours (TWh), to 330 TWh. Bear in mind, we are told, this electricity is needed “to replace much of the gas and petrol currently consumed in transport, industry, office and domestic use.” And this, seriously folks, without coal and natural gas which presently account for about 75 percent of electricity generation.

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To stretch credulity even more, the forecast in the plan of how much electricity will be required by 2050 looks way too low. The economy will at least double in size over the next 28 years, under conservative assumptions about immigration and per-capita economic growth. But hold on. I'm assuming, naively perhaps, that people in 2050 are still enjoying unrationed heating and cooling, red meat, freedom of personal travel, and other dissolute pleasures.

And from unreality to beyond, the plan contemplates, without quantification, the need for even more additional electricity power to make hydrogen. Readers are referred to another AEMO report called 'Hydrogen Superpower'. Yep, Australia along with many other countries, intends to be a superpower in producing and exporting green hydrogen. Why the additional electricity? Well, to make green hydrogen, lots of electricity is lost in translation. How is all this extra electricity to be generated?

Note, excluding the hydrogen bit, by “a nine-fold increase in utility scale variable renewable capacity.” Meaning in common parlance, nine times the current number/size of wind and solar farms. Where will they be built?

Much of this resource will be built in renewable energy zones (REZs) that coordinate network and renewable investment, and foster a more holistic approach to regional employment, economic opportunity and community participation.

Blue-collar workers and their families can relax. Look forward to holistic experiences. Starry-eyed boys and girls with university degrees have the conn.

Also required, we’re told, is “a five-fold increase in distributed photovoltaics capacity [and] substantial growth in distributed storage.” To again interpret, this means many more solar panels on roofs, complemented with household battery storage. Are there enough bribable and/or willing roof owners?

I presume this hypothesised blanketing of land with turbines and solar panels has been fed into a computer model. Hence, I’ll gullibly take it as given that on a good day all of this wind and solar infrastructure, in the extremely improbable event it is ever built, together with existing hydro, would do the job. But then there’s night, and stormy days and nights, and windless days and nights.

According to the plan, three times the current amount of standby power, equal to 620GWh, will be required to underpin the system. Or to put it into plan-speak: “significant investment is required… to treble the firming capacity that can respond to a dispatch signal.”

Again, I have no informed view about the numbers being spat out. But just suppose the envisaged standby power is not enough. Modelling has been wrong before, I vaguely recall; and wind capricious. Result blackouts? Am I being vexatiously querulous?

And a little child shall lead them.

Apropos the wind- and sun-dependent state of South Australia over the Christmas to New Year week. Renewable energy hit a peak of 130 percent of demand, a trough of just 4 percent and everything in-between. Not unusual. Is that any basis for delivering dispatchable power, adults might once have asked? Ah, the old days, when common sense had a look in.

Where is the so-called firming to be sourced? Gas is in the mix but, as the plan says, “over time, its emissions will need to be offset, or natural gas will need to be replaced by net-zero carbon fuels such as green hydrogen or biogas.” These zealots are not for compromising.

What else is in the mix? Predominantly batteries and pumped hydro. Good luck in getting dams built to supply additional pumped hydro. Environmentalists detest new dams as much they detest coal and human fecundity. Finally, demand responses are brought into play to help manage peak loads. A euphemism for rationing supply.

Shambles ahead, from Sydney to New York. Indelicately speaking, I foresee the Bishop of Bath and Wells, poker in hand, ready to collect a debt.

The 'Climate Change' Casino—and the Risks Thereof

There's a lot of risk involved in "global warming." The first and most basic is whether it will occur at all according to the model put forward by the United Nations IPCC. The public can actually wager on whether it's unfolding as officially predicted. "Last week, MyBookie unveiled odds on global warming. Yes, you can bet on the Earth’s 2020 global land/ocean temperature index being greater than or less than 2019’s 0.99 degrees Celsius. Right now, the “no” is a surprising favorite at -700. A “yes” gets you +400."

A more sophisticated version of theory verification uses long-short equity funds.  "The concept is simple: Investment research turns up expected winners and losers, so why not bet on both? Take long positions in the winners as collateral to finance short positions in the losers." If climate change really exists then those who follow the model will do better than the deniers and one can make money wagering in contrasting pairs. According to an investor document seen by Bloomberg:

[Finance veteran] Carrasquillo and her former CPPIB colleague Savironi Chet have joined AllianceBernstein Holding to start a hedge fund called 1.5 Degrees, named after scientists’ warning that the Earth could warm by that much within the next two decades. The long/short equities fund is expected to start trading this quarter... '1.5 Degrees' aims to make high single digit returns by focusing on climate change opportunities and companies benefitting or losing out from events such as rising sea levels, shifting consumer preferences and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

You can't win if you don't play!

Still another approach is to utilize weather risk contracts of the sort traded at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) to hedge against definite outcomes. "The use of derivative markets for hedging climate-related risk has been around for over 25 years... By indexing CME Weather futures and options, it makes it possible to trade weather in a way comparable to trading other index products such as stock indexes." (A hedge is an investment that is made with the intention of reducing the risk of adverse price movements in an asset. Normally, a hedge consists of taking an offsetting or opposite position in a related security).

A more general measure of climate fear is the level of property and casualty insurance that people, not just activists, buy. Although McKinsey recommends buying insurance they can't even put a number on it. "McKinsey research shows that the value at stake from climate-induced hazards could, conservatively, increase from about 2 percent of global GDP to more than 4 percent of global GDP in 2050. And the risks associated with climate change are multiplying..."

This is disconcertingly vague. In the absence of definite projections so much insurance may be required to protect against the nebulous magnitudes of climate change that some observers fear the whole industry may collapse.

As companies and investors get to grips with the risks of rising global temperatures, climate stress testing is becoming more commonplace across many parts of the world — with eye-opening results for insurers. France’s central bank, for example, released the first results of its climate stress tests earlier in 2021: It found that natural disaster-related insurance claims could increase up to five-fold in the nation’s most affected regions. That would cause premiums to surge as much as 200 percent over 30 years.

In fact preparing against "global warming" creates other risks associated with wind and solar power under-production,  principally the higher likelihood of blackouts. To hedge against crippling outages, provision for keeping dirty fossil-fuel backup generator sets must be made. Moreover there are independent risks inherent to renewables themselves. They are often dependent on exotic material like rare earths (much of it controlled by China) without which green technology could rapidly grind to a halt. They can cause environmental damage by their operation. Solar panel arrays are toxic unless disposed of carefully and wind farms generate a continuous low-level hum that can cause multiple health problems including ruined sleep, headaches, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, depression, irritability, and panic episodes.

What risk? The science is settled!

Renewable energy devices are also prone to damage from weather events. Windmills are torn apart by high winds, acres of solar panels are toasted by brush fire.  The answer? Insure it. There is insurance against the sun not shining.  There is insurance against the wind not blowing. Would there were insurance against the public going broke. There is in a way: as Brits face a massive increase in energy bills, largely as a result of wind power shortfalls, Labour wants BP and Shell to pay for the no-show of renewables:

The UK government is coming under mounting pressure to increase taxes on oil and gas companies, including BP and Shell. The aim: to help British households cope with skyrocketing energy bills. The main opposition Labour Party this weekend called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose a windfall tax on companies pumping oil and gas from the North Sea, saying that the money raised could be used to cut roughly £200 ($272) from soaring household bills.

That there are risks everywhere is not surprising, except to those who regard the climate future as exact, settled science. Risk is in fact another way of expressing our lack of knowledge about the exact probability of each outcome of or whether we have actually anticipated all possible outcomes. Indeed it would be impossible to create all the bookie bets and insurance policies associated with risk management cited here were it not for the presence of uncertainty. A market for bets requires something which isn't completely known, hence the odds as an incentive to bet.

Far from being a sure thing, there is much that is unsettled about the way the earth's climate works. Although these knowledge gaps may be denied by governments and many in the media, they are tacitly admitted by the risk management instruments contrived to deal with them. These force us to quantify climate prediction in specifics that show up the uncertainties lurking behind the bureaucratic façade of infallibility. The official global warming forecasts are neither as definite nor precise as they are made out to be, and though officials have gone to great lengths to conceal doubt, they have not been able to hide risk, which is the shadow of doubt.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Electrifying

Oh California what are you doing to me? I don’t like that I’m getting caught in what is obviously a war between Elon Musk and Governor Newsom, and in the meantime our planet suffers.

Truth be told, I’ve been away from my home in Los Angeles for a bit. Okay, pretty much since the beginning of the pandemic, but they’ve not made it easy for me. In early 2020 there was the confusion of different quarantine rules for different counties (some of them forced and scary), but mostly it was the very unpleasant phone call to Los Angeles County who said, ‘It will be up to the officer’ so I decided not to leave the airport terminal and hopped a plane to Hawaii.

But today I’m finding that owning (and neglecting) my Tesla is kind of a lot of work. In the first few months when I couldn’t get back to the States anyway I shut off notifications on my phone. Yes, I know that was dumb but who needs to be reminded that you are helpless and failing on a daily basis? And in two month’s time my car ran completely dry. So even when I got someone to go there, it was in ‘hibernation', and he couldn’t even open the door.

And optional accessory.

The second attempt to ‘wake up’ the vehicle required the combined efforts of my housekeeper, a neighbour’s ‘guy’, and the mobile Tesla person. This too was a flop because my housekeeper ditched me despite having cashed four months-worth of checks to look after things. It’s possible she was mad because I refused to pay her in cash ‘like the other ladies’ but I can’t afford to break the law, and I really do think $25/hour in cash is extortion for unskilled labour. Which reminds me to get the number of a housekeeper from one of my friends who moved to Florida.

Nonetheless, I texted my father for advice and he wrote back: ‘Sorry J, in a meeting, try Steven Henkes’.

Who is Steven Henkes? I called daddy’s secretary who assured me she had no such person in his contacts and promised to ask him the minute he was free. Five minutes later she sent an email titled ‘Steven Henkes’. With the note: ’Might this help?’ Attached was a BBC piece detailing Henkes’ dismissal from Tesla and his filed complaint that Tesla solar panels were known to catch fire, and that the company had failed to notify the public or shareholders. UGH.

The only reason I’m on this tack today is because a lot has happened separate from general electric-vehicle anxiety. Planet-friendly was always going to be my choice even if it meant a few hiccups, but I didn’t bargain on the war between Elon Musk and Herr Newsom. First, there was the issue of asking us not to charge our cars, which didn’t sit well with anyone. It was one thing to ask us to run laundry and dishwashing machines in the evening, well after our housekeepers had gone home, but then the request not to even charge our cars due to drain on California’s power grid, was seen a shot across the bow. 

I for one didn’t see this coming. Even with California’s commitment to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035 it became apparent to everyone that California didn’t value the business or personal tax revenues of the richest man in the world. And so Musk moved his Tesla headquarters out of California and into Texas, citing ‘overtaxation’. Musk even said California was no longer the land of opportunity that it once was. I would have wanted to work on his messaging but I didn’t need my father’s input to tell me he was telling the truth; suddenly, 2035 was looking further away than ever. 

Austin or bust.

I really didn’t think he'd do it because it meant so much upheaval, billions of dollars in taxes just to leave, and he risked upsetting his largest customer base, but customers get pretty testy when there’s no product to buy. And what was the man to do when on top of its draconian taxes, California was determined to win the Covid standoff? 

Then last week California proposed new net metering rules to include a ‘grid access’ fee, in addition to the fees we already pay, which will add $50-$80/month to the electric bill. If they go ahead with it, (and what do they have to lose at this point?) it will be the highest solar fee anywhere in the country, including states hostile to renewable energy. AND they propose to change the rules for customers who have already signed contracts and purchased a solar system.

My phone rang… it was my father calling me back—‘How may I be of service?’ he asked.

‘Well… I don’t want you to denigrate my choice to buy an electronic car, but…’

‘OK. Excellent choice then.’

UGH! ‘Daddy,’ I began, ‘I just need advice on keeping my car.’

‘I see. Well…excellent choice to purchase, bad choice to keep. Is that helpful?’

‘No. Not helpful! I just don’t know what to do because I will need a car when I return to California.’

‘Which you haven’t wanted to do for nearly two years now.’

‘But I will return.’

Something like this, more or less, but cheaper.

‘… As you keep saying. But may I remind you, that house… which your mother and I were happy to buy for you… is entirely set up for that very car. I believe you told us it was an investment, by which I assume you meant a good investment. But as I recall the powerwall was $10,000, the solar panels were $30,000 and I calculated seventeen years to recoup this investment, or more like twenty-five when you calculate the decline of energy from the panels over the years. But that was assuming you were allowed to charge your car, and that they didn’t renege on the original agreement that categorically violates basic principles of fairness.’

Of course I wanted to scream, but I decided to just keep quiet until he said something else.

‘So as I understand your question, you want to know what to do with a car, for which a house was designed, in a land you no longer wish to remain. Is that putting too fine a point on it?’

‘I expect to return.’ I insisted, calmly.

Now he was silent. It was a standoff. I didn’t want to talk and he knew it.

'Jennifer, I can’t advise you. You alone know what is going to work for you, and since you’ve been living everywhere but there for the last two years, I see no reason to rush to a decision.’

Wow. He really wasn’t going to help.

‘Sweetheart, take your time. Everyone has been finessed into this green push. Even your beloved California had to pay neighbouring states to take their excess solar lest they blow out their own power grid. Germany can’t afford to convert electricity to methane, France spent $33 billion on a solar farce, and even my own petroleum industry spent a billion on advertising and lobbying for climate-related ventures. And speaking of lobbying, think about whether or not you need to keep a base of operations there just to impress your tree-hugging clients’.

My industry is not a farce. And I wanted to say this to him but I was afraid I couldn’t make a good point just now. And why did he have to be so nice when he really did tell me so? As I’d decided against the train, I rented a car and will have plenty of time to think about it all as I drive to the Cotswolds.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Boris?

Boris Johnson, who has dominated British politics since the middle of 2019, is now facing a possible ejection from office and the end of his political career for the sin of attending parties at Number Ten Downing Street during the period that his government was enforcing anti-Covid regulations that forbade ordinary citizens from attending not only parties but also funerals, marriages, and the bedsides of dying family members. This scandal, inevitably named party-gate, has aroused extraordinary public anger against Johnson because it crystallizes the widespread public feeling after two years of Covid lockdowns that “there’s one law for Them [i.e., the political class] and another law for Us."

That’s an especially damaging charge against him because until recently Boris was seen by a large slice of the British public, especially blue-collar Tories and Brexit supporters, as their defender against a remote and corrupt establishment. Not to mention that the charge comes at a time when Boris is losing popularity more generally because several groups in the broad conservative coalition oppose his other policies.

I dealt with his plight which is a serious one—and how he might succeed in keeping his job—in a recent article in National Review Online:

The odd truth is that although he helped to put together an election-winning coalition, he is now alienating all the major Tory factions one after another by his various policies: Thatcherites by his reckless over spending and abandonment of tax cuts; patriotic Tories by failing to counter the deracinated ideas of Wokeness conquering so many British institutions; younger and less affluent Tories by not tackling the unavailability of affordable housing effectively; small savers and investors by allowing inflation to revive; cautious pragmatic Tories by “big government” projects on an almost Napoleonic scale such as Net-Zero; even Brexiteers by the long-drawn-out negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol; and much else. (My emphasis).

That’s a formidable list of disasters, but the one that will spring out at The Pipeline readers is the reference to Net-Zero and more broadly to Boris’s passionate embrace of a radical, expensive, and life-altering program of left-wing environmentalism and global redistribution. He was the impresario of the COP26 U.N. conference at Glasgow that was meant to entrench Net-Zero as a legally-binding international obligation on the West. It failed in that, but he probably hopes to revive that campaign as soon as he can. Should global “lukewarmers” (i.e., those who think, like The Pipeline, that the costs of climate alarmist policies are heavier than the costs of climate change) want therefore to see Boris brought down over party-gate on the grounds that Net-Zero would perish with him?

Shrinking in stature by the day.

That’s a serious question because the fall of Boris would be a major international sensation and some of the commentary on it would cite Net-Zero as a contributory factor in his demise. Having made two recent visits to London, however, I would argue the opposite case on four grounds:

  1. If Boris fell, Net-Zero wouldn’t be brought down with him. Serious skepticism towards the policy is growing as people realize the extraordinary costs of moving rapidly from fossil fuels to renewables in both taxes and energy prices; the risks of relying on renewables when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind blow; and the futility of making enormous sacrifices in order to reduce the U.K.’s 1-2 percent of global carbon emissions when China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and other fossil fuel users and producers will be pumping out carbon with little or no change. I’ve had several recent conversations with economists and politicians who make these and other points. But they all accept that the U.K. establishment and all party leaderships have committed themselves so completely to the climate orthodoxy that turning around the tanker will be a slow business.
  2. Indeed, if Boris were to be forced to resign in the near future, all of the potential candidates to succeed him as prime minister and Tory leaders would almost certainly pledge their support for Net-Zero, giving it a new lease of political and intellectual life. That’s not likely to happen while Boris is in Downing Street. The Tory Party consensus on climate policies has been breaking down as its dire consequences became clearer. A new Tory backbench group has just been formed to support Net-Zero in response to the rise of the skeptical lukewarmers. More significantly, Boris’s great ally on Brexit, Lord (David) Frost has been describing Net-Zero as a policy that lacks realism or any connection to conservatism as commonly understood. As with Brexit, once the leadership’s policy was exposed to criticism and debate, it turned out to have less support than everyone believed—and the rebellion spread.
  3. More time is needed to accomplish this, however, and to develop and promote an alternative set of policies that would compete with climate alarmism at every level of society. Those policies are beginning to emerge: reviving nuclear power, using clean natural gas as a “bridge” fuel to a lower emissions world, legalizing fracking which would incidentally foster a Trump-style energy boom in parts of Britain that are currently “left behind,” and encouraging the market to search out new innovations with tax incentives rather than have Whitehall “picking winners.”
  4. And, finally, if Boris survives party-gate, he is as likely as any of the other contenders for the Tory top job to reverse course on Net-Zero and adopt a more realistic and prudent policy. Maybe more likely. Boris is highly flexible intellectually, as he showed on Brexit, and his radical-left environmentalism is already beginning to fail and to damage him as it fails. He won’t drive his car into the ditch for the sake of consistency. He also knows that one of the largest contradictions in his overall political strategy is that between Net-Zero and his policy of “levelling up” the North of England to the output and living standards of Middle England by infrastructure and transport developments. Levelling up implies a slower transition to a world without the fossil fuels that currently supply eighty percent of its energy. Finally, when Boris looks at the Tory factions in the parliamentary party, he can see that those most sympathetic to his kind of politics are also those most skeptical towards Net-Zero and the socialist hairshirt economics that it requires. He needs them as allies.

Fun while it lasted.

To sum up, a world in which the Government is urging voters to travel by bus, cut down on foreign vacations, eat less meat, and accept colder homes in the winter while ministers and CEOs travel by official cars and private planes to pleasant climates where they discuss the sacrifices that must be made to realize Net-Zero looks awfully like a world in which “there’s one law for Them and another law for Us.” Boris is acutely vulnerable to—and so most anxious to avoid—that suspicion at present.

My conclusion therefore is that climate realists should not be too keen on seeing Boris ousted any time soon. The argument is moving in our direction and Boris is losing the authority and perhaps the desire to halt or reverse that.

From Secret Passages to Burning Bushes

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

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

What lies beneath?

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIP. Gotta be climate change.

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

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

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

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

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

Definitely climate change.

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

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

'Reggie,' We Hardly Knew Ye

Virginia’s incoming Republican governor is promising a big lump of coal for global warming alarmists this new year season as he plans to set fire to some of the financial infrastructure that is helping to keep irrational fear of the earth’s natural weather patterns alive. Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has said he will extract Virginia from the jaws of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an 11-state regional carbon emissions-trading scheme.

The RGGI is a “carbon tax” paid by energy consumers, Youngkin said in promising an executive order pulling the state out of the interstate compact that created it. “RGGI will cost ratepayers over the next four years an estimated $1 billion to $1.2 billion,” he said. “RGGI describes itself as a regional market for carbon, but it is really a carbon tax that is fully passed on to ratepayers. It’s a bad deal for Virginians. It’s a bad deal for Virginia businesses. And as governor I will withdraw us from RGGI by executive action.” His inauguration is January 15.

The RGGI –or “Reggie” to its friends— describes itself as “the first cap-and-invest regional initiative implemented in the United States,” and is based on the assumption that human beings are imbued with godlike powers to change the weather. Since we ourselves caused whatever perceived changes are taking place, we can undo them, these true believers say.

Or maybe it can.

In previous centuries some tried changing the weather using cheaper, equally effective means of climate control, such as rain dances and sacrificing animals to pagan gods. But heathen oblations don’t pay, so people involved in carbon-trading schemes steer clear of eminently more reasonable explanations for perceived changes in the world around us – such as that climate by its nature is always changing and that the sun is more culpable than human activity.

Youngkin’s remarks may have helped to torpedo –or at least slow down— leftist Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s efforts to get his energy-rich state to join RGGI. The state’s Republican-controlled House voted December 15 to block the state’s entry into RGGI. Party leadership correctly called the scheme an “ill-advised energy tax on Pennsylvanians.”

Those who don’t worship in the climate change cult say such a cap-and-trade system amounts to an energy tax in disguise, needlessly pushing up energy costs for American families and businesses alike. Such systems purport to reduce the quantity of carbon dioxide -- the gas we expel from our lungs every time we exhale and that in turn is released into the atmosphere and absorbed by trees -- and are premised on unscientific conjectures their adherents say prove that CO2 contributes to global warming.

The system caps CO2 emissions in each state, and when industry actors exceed the caps, they buy a license for a fee to produce that excess gas. These emission coupons, or credits, have a dollar value and can be traded; companies pass on the extra costs to their customers. In RGGI’s setup, utilities in the member states purchase credits to "offset" emissions that go beyond prescribed limits. Those revenues fund energy assistance handouts for poor people.

Republican state lawmakers in Richmond, who regained control of the House of Delegates from Democrats in the November election, promise to nix expensive green legislation passed by  Democrats. Let's see if Youngkin and the GOP come through for Virginia.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Cancelling

I took an extra long shower, after a very hard workout and two glasses of champagne, to keep me from calling my client and screaming like a crazy person. Truth be told he deserves to be yelled at.  We have a planet to save and we act like it can just wait.  For the third time in two years, Davos is being cancelled as if we have no resource or ability to get it managed. Produced by the WEF, it is the pet project of the world’s most facile and capable billionaires turned eco-warriors, and yet here we are—crouching behind a closed door as if scheduling a conference is a Sisyphean task.

Trust me I could do it.  Singlehandedly.  Not to mention the people who are sitting in air-conditioned cubicles for this express purpose.  I understand Switzerland wants no part of us, having locked down tighter than a drum, but surely there are dedicated folks who arrange software conferences and wedding fairs. Where might they be? Las Vegas? Orlando? I just can’t sit idly by while our planet heats up and our oceans fill with covid masks and PCR tests.  

Don’t think me callous for turning on lovely Davos so readily. Some of the best parties and fondest memories have happened there over the years. But THE POINT was to save the planet, and it just can’t wait for zero-Covid. But oh how I’m going to miss seeing the jets from every conceivable country lined up—like united soldiers in service of winning the war on climate change. Last year only a literal handful of us went… those of us with meetings that couldn’t be rescheduled or ski holidays that had already been booked. The promise was, that we would do the work in Singapore eight months later, but that got cancelled too. 

Do you have any idea how expensive this is?

But first things first. Calm down sufficient to have a sane conversation with my client, and then propose other options. Probably not a good idea to sound like mean mommy even if he could use a spanking now and again.  If only St Barts or Lyford could accommodate us all, half of us are already there.

After ordering sandwiches and a large pot of tea to clear my head, I came up with the conclusion that I needed some new blood—someone else to help me poke a stick at the bottoms of these eco-snorers. Enter the swashbuckling young eco-warrior currently embracing vivariums and eco-conscious social media whom I had hoped to connect with in Davos anyway.  I decided to reach out to him and propose a partnership to produce a sophisticated, and effective eco-summit. This could work. I’d have him—the debonair young CFO— to help with scope, but the overseeing would require someone like me, with the vast connections, maturity, and experience to chart the course.  Wiping some butter from my fingers I rang…

‘Yes, Jennifer.’ Daddy answered.  

‘I need your help with a brilliant endeavour I’ve in mind—and alternative to Davos.’ I said.

‘An alternative? Would that be one in which you don’t blame mankind for the natural course of things?’

‘No, not that.  One in which we don’t reschedule. One that actually happens.’

‘So you’re talking virtual?’ 

‘NO! I’m talking the States.’

‘… where you haven’t wanted to live since Covid began.’

‘Well…yes’. I said. ‘But that’s—California. I was thinking more like… Florida.’ 

‘I see. So you propose to ring up Klaus Schwab and suggest…The Magic Kingdom.’

Wilkommen, Klaus!

‘NO, Daddy. Forget him! What has he done? Preside over three cancellations while both the planet and my blood boil? No! I was thinking of the young man you were talking to at Balnagown—he was planning a biosphere II.’

‘Ah yes. Because the first one was such a success.’

‘Daddy! Forget that!’

‘I can’t possibly forget.  The first attempt was an unmitigated disaster and he now plans to re-stage this debacle—in outer space.’

‘What’s wrong with that? The idea is to build a fully recycling ecological system.’

‘Which we couldn’t even manage on earth. Sweetheart, you may not remember that cock-up that dominated every news programme, in painstaking and sanctimonious detail, but scientists had to open the thing up and go in—several times.  Early on they ran out of food.  Then it was the air, and then the water, and two of the scientists, I mean brave heroes, had a near meltdown. Eventually they had to let the poor folks out and scrap the whole lot. It was an unqualified disaster. No— a manmade disaster. Which just proved that our planet is indeed the place to be.’

‘Fair enough, but he’s done other things.’ I huffed.

‘Like drop out of school at sixteen.’

‘Like start a whole company that sold electronics and phone chargers.’

‘…That were manufactured in China, sweetheart, I’m not sure he’s your poster boy. And he was particularly proud of an LSD trip that he said retooled his mind, of which I have no doubt.’

‘Right.’ I said, taking a breath. 

I was thinking something along these lines.

‘You see Jenny, it’s not just the absurdity of building a biosphere on another planet, his actual plan was space as a teaching tool—that if we could engineer a way to live in space, we could use those same systems to navigate more responsibly on this planet. Surely you must see the idiocy of trying to engineer a way to live in a place where we don’t know how to live, in order to live where we already know how to live.’

Of course he had me with that. I took a gulp of water, and steadied myself.  ‘Daddy, listen, I am determined not to let another year go by where we don’t actually DO something about this planet.’

‘OK, I’m sorry, baby. Let’s figure this out. He had some success with locally sourced food, am I right?’

‘No. Total failure. ,You’re thinking of my friend, Sheherazade. Hers was a success. But then she quit it, and married Zac Goldsmith. And then they divorced, and he ran for mayor, and then she dated that Mexican movie director who won all the awards, and then she dumped him and he lost every nomination the next year doing that film you called the dog poop movie.’

‘Right. So, what about a totally green conference? One where you do it virtually and no one increases his carbon footprint.’ 

‘That’s the worst idea you have ever had.’

‘I’m glad you think so. I just never know how far you green-niks are willing to take things. Listen, why don’t you finish up there, come home, get dressed and we can all go to the New Year’s party together.  We could share a cab… it’s very green.’ 

‘Daddy, he’s an OIL BILLIONAIRE! I’m not saying I don’t want to go… I’m just saying it’s silly to be talking about green.’

"I’m so glad you think so.’

Ringing in the Climate Changes

It’s been an eventful year, and there are many candidates for the title of 2021’s most momentous event. But the winner has to be the failure of the U.N.’s Climate Change conference in Glasgow in November. That is in part because COP26—its formal title—was billed as the event that would save the world from an existential emergency crisis of global warming that would otherwise consume civilization in a massive conflagration. Or something like that.

If you bothered to read the fine print in the reports of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, you would find that the situation was really not as dire as that. As is the way with such things, however, the press handouts (which are written by government and U.N. officials rather than by scientists) went straight to the “worst case” scenarios and proceeded to exaggerate them—as The Pipeline has demonstrated on numerous occasions. Then the media devoted its famous skepticism to suggesting that these doom-laden forecasts might well be rosy scenarios.

On top of this the British government—which was the main host of COP26—had arranged a massive propaganda barrage extolling the world-historical importance of the Conference and of Boris Johnson’s role in it. Its theme was that COP26 could not be allowed to fail, and the BBC told us this repeatedly.

Who are these masked men?

Alas, fail it did, not only in the predictable sense that it could not possibly reach its promised target of reducing the world’s carbon emissions to Net-Zero (compared to late 19th century levels) by 2050—that’s always been obvious—but in the much more embarrassing political sense that some of the most important countries at Glasgow more or less said so.

Admittedly, this was done with a kind of bureaucratic hocus-pocus: every pledge came with a get-out clause. Countries will meet next year to agree on more cuts to carbon emissions, but previous pledges haven’t been met, and these pledges won’t be legally binding. One such pledge was that coal was to be “phased out,” but when China and India objected, that became “phased down.” There was talk of a trillion-dollar-a-year fund to finance a switch by developing countries from fossil fuels to cleaner ones, but earlier pledges of a fund one-tenth of that amount have not been fulfilled. Richer countries will phase out subsidies to fossil fuels domestically but, ahem, no dates have been set for this.

Or as the BBC analysis observed wearily, most such pledges will have to be “self-policed.”

A heavy sense of déjà vu clings to these proceedings. It wasn’t the first failure of the U.N. “Kyoto process”—the 2009 Copenhagen conference had a similar outcome—but it was the most disappointing because it was meant to be the moment when the world not merely endorsed Net-Zero but also made it legally enforceable on nation-states. Its failure was therefore the collapse of a passionate delusion.

The Clown Prince of Net-Zero.

Or perhaps several delusions. There is the recurring belief among climate alarmists that developing countries like India and China will be prepared to give up the cheap energy that is the only way their populations will emerge from grinding poverty. That’s remarkably similar to the delusion that oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia will give up selling energy and so force their populations back into the grinding poverty from which they have only recently emerged. Neither group of countries (whatever they say at COP conferences) will plunge their countries into poverty merely to please Europe’s Green parties. And indeed they disappoint the climate alarmists at every COP.

Another delusion of climate alarmism is the following logic: if global warming is an existential emergency crisis for the world, then any solution to it must be a good one. But a solution that imposes heavier costs on the world than the costs of living with global warming is no solution at all. That’s what Net-Zero does. But attempting to replace fossil fuels—which now provide the world with about eighty-five per cent of its energy—with more expensive and less reliable energy sources is the opposite of a solution. It’s choosing to create a problem voluntarily. And as Net-Zero moves from the realm of rhetoric into that of real life, more and more people are realizing that.

That’s why the failure of COP26 has led to public lamentations by climate activists but also, more quietly, to governments looking for alternative energy policies that reduce emissions without crashing the economy and living standards. These usually turn out to be some mix of nuclear power, natural gas, and encouragement of technical innovation.

Michael Shellenberger  recently reported that Britain, France, and the Netherlands are reviving plans for nuclear power to be a larger part of the mix. Even in Germany, with powerful Green parties in its new left-wing government, “resistance is growing . . .  to closing nuclear plants, and a new YouGov poll finds that over half of Germans say nuclear should remain part of their nation’s climate policy.”

The way forward, again.

Not everyone is taking the failure of COP26 so sensibly, however. I am grateful to the newsletter of the Science and Environmental Policy Project SEPP for drawing my attention to one particular academic program at the University of Bern in Switzerland designed to make us take climate sustainability more seriously than we apparently want to do. It’s worth quoting at some length: Published in the journal Cortex, the abstract reads:

While many people acknowledge the urgency to drastically change our consumption patterns to mitigate climate change, most people fail to live sustainably. We hypothesized that a lack of sustainability stems from insufficient intergenerational mentalizing (i.e., taking the perspective of people in the future). To causally test our hypothesis, we applied high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) to the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ). We tested participants twice (receiving stimulation at the TPJ or the vertex as control), while they engaged in a behavioral economic paradigm measuring sustainable decision-making, even if sustainability was costly. Indeed, excitatory anodal HD-tDCS increased sustainable decision-making, while inhibitory cathodal HD-tDCS had no effect . . . Shedding light on the neural basis of sustainability, our results could inspire targeted interventions tackling the TPJ and give neuroscientific support to theories on how to construct public campaigns addressing sustainability issues.

In short: we have ways of making you think sustainably.

Coal is King, Again

To save the world from carbon dioxide emissions that they claim will heat us to a crisp, the environmentalists have targeted “fossil fuels” -- coal, petroleum (oil), natural gas, oil shales, bitumens, and tar sands and heavy oils. This was after they and their political puppets pretty much killed nuclear-powered electrical production, the  cleanest source of energy production, by  making new construction impossible and reducing existing capacity.

Of all the fossil fuels, natural gas releases the least amount of CO2, but it remains a target here and in Europe. Its major source is Russia, and thanks to rising demand, the cost has risen precipitously this winter just when Europe has it greatest need for it.

European power climbed to a fresh record as France faces a winter crunch, spurring the region’s top aluminum smelter to curb output. Electricity for delivery next year surged as much as 6.4 percent to an all-time high in Germany, Europe’s biggest power market. France, which usually exports power, will need to suck up supplies from neighboring countries to keep the lights on as severe nuclear outages curb generation in the coldest months of the year. The crunch is so severe that it’s forcing factories to curb output or shut down altogether.

The consequence for the world of Western governments’ fanciful energy views and absurd policy proscriptions is that coal, almost pure carbon, which when utilized emits not only carbon but also “sulfur dioxides, particulates, and nitrogen oxides” is being used in record amounts. While new technology can reduce these emissions somewhat, coal remains the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. One cannot escape laughing at the irony—according to the International Energy agency (IEA) after all the government mucking about on greening energy production, coal production is set to hit an all-time high. Large Asian nations (mostly China and India) need it and gas shortages in Europe are revving up coal demand.

 Germany has had to rely on coal and nuclear power for electricity generation throughout 2021. This meant the contribution of coal and nuclear power for energy production reached 40 percent this year, compared to 35 percent in 2020, with renewables accounting for 41 percent compared to 44 percent last year. At present, Germany is planning to end nuclear power production by the end of 2022 and phase out coal by 2030. Even the U.K., which pledged to end coal production a year earlier than anticipated by 2024, had to fire up coal plants in September to meet electricity demand in the face of gas shortages and surging prices. During this time, coal contributed 3 percent of national power, rather than the average 2.2 percent. This was following a landmark period of time in which the U.K. run coal-free for three days in August.

It seems that private investment will be needed to get industry to convert more rapidly to non-coal sources in the absence of substantial government financial incentives to do so. I’d consider that a crap shoot for any investor. Who knows what bright ideas governments will dream up next to muck up energy  production and supplies? And why should anyone assume that this time with even more private money down that rathole, "renewables" will fill the void of burgeoning energy demand?

On the contrary, the only bright spot on the energy horizon I’ve seen this week is a report that fifteen states are rebelling against banks which are refusing financing to fossil fuel producers. Together these states have $600 billion in assets they pledge to take elsewhere unless the banks relent.  It’s a nice  counter-play to the Biden administration’s pressuring Wall Street to refuse financial backing for fossil fuel producers.

Merry Christmas from the World Economic Forum!

From high atop the Swiss Alps, neo-Gauleiter Klaus Schwab, his buddies at the WEF (which has just called off its annual meeting in Davos from fear of the Dreaded Covid), Joe Biden and the Democrats, plus tech Karens and Big Brothers everywhere will soon know whether you've been naughty or nice. And so will the rest of the world. Smile!

What's in your wallet?