It's Not About the 'Climate,' Stupid

A series of interrelationships exists in the world of the Klimate Kult believers that needs to be understood to grasp what is going on and the impact it has on the future. These relationships aren’t about the climate. Look at Nordstream2. Germany, a country American taxpayers have been paying to defend from Russia (and its socialist (i.e. “failed”) predecessor, the USSR) for 76 years decided to buy natural gas from Russia instead of America. Why?

Why not?

As Bastiat notes in The Law (pp 9-10), “When they can, [people] wish to live and prosper at the expense of others.” Germans want stuff but want neither to make it nor make the energy necessary to make it, nor bear and raise and educate the children who would be required to make it (or create the energy) in a future they don’t believe in enough to populate, having among the lowest Total Fertility Rates on the planet: it’s just too much work.

Listen to Freddy.

But to pretend that Germans are making any of their decisions not to frack, not to nuke, but to support the fantasy of “climate change” is ignorant.

That any energy purchased from Russia will be dirtier under a regime bound by no environmental laws or regulations, than energy extracted in Germany or the U.S. under very strict regulations, belies any professed “concern” about the planet. Choosing Nordstream2 is choosing against the climate. Germans aren’t stupid; they know this.

Can Germany create any amount of energy they need for manufacturing, heating, transportation, etc., without adding to "greenhouse gases"? Sure. Build nuclear power plants; zero GHG. Can they frack their own natural gas? Sure. But that would be work, require having children to keep doing it, and that’s harder than just buying it. So they buy it. They’ve made a make-buy decision and bought from their preferred supplier.

America can pretend that Germany ought to buy from us because we defend them – as though Germans owe us for American taxpayers voluntarily paying for their welfare state for 75 years by funding their defense – but it’s just pretense. The first priority of any government is defense of its borders and people; money is fungible – we’re paying for their welfare state. Or Americans can think Germans buy from Russians for political reasons. It doesn’t matter. Buying dirty energy is buying dirty energy – and that’s the decision Germans have made.

Who loses in this exchange? American workers. Germans should care about American workers, because…? And, of course, the planet - at least that's what the Klimateers demand you believe.

Germans know American taxpayers will keep defending them and their barren future (why?), regardless of their Nordstream2 decision – so why pay more than they must? It’s not as though the American Military-Industrial Complex will give up their best gig to continue to have those same taxpayers funding the defense of all of Europe’s welfare states, and buy the haven’t-won-a-war-in-decades-military new toys, get promoted, and travel, right? What’s the downside for Germany? None.

Therefore it’s not about the climate. It’s about Bastiat. And lazy voters.

Sunset in California.

Look at California. By refusing to drill their own oil or frack their own natural gas or build their own nuclear plants, they are instead counting on oil from other countries (their voters doing their best to ensure no energy is extracted domestically… in any State), resulting in, as with the Germans and Nordstream2, dirtier energy.

California, too, has below-replacement fertility (all Blue States do), illiterate immigrants sweeping the streets and nannying their (few) children, and a desire to buy from others rather than make things themselves. California won’t even house its population let alone require it to work to buy stuff. It has the highest poverty rate in America and a third of the nation’s welfare recipients… buying stuff with other people’s money. Your money.

Which is why China. Americans would rather buy than make; it’s why our factories are all in China now, using dirtier energy for manufacturing, transporting workers, feeding workers, etc. It’s why we import illegal aliens. We’d rather buy stuff from illegals – street sweeping, gardening, babysitting – than do the work ourselves. If we left our jobs here (and foreigners there), stuff might cost more, but our own standard of living would rise making stuff affordable – and providing jobs and energy for our own future. The idea America can be a First World country and not pay First World wages is so crazy even a fifth-grader would get it. Our elites get it, but destroying the Middle Class is their goal, not maintaining a prosperous nation.

Our entire welfare state is built on Bastiat – large portions of the working-age population would rather buy stuff with your tax dollars than buy them with the output of their own work. Since these people also vote, our politicians compete for their votes by allowing them to work less and buy more.

By rejecting energy extraction and creation domestically, we dirty the world by buying energy from the Third World that we refuse to extract or make here. And by exporting our jobs to China, we enable China to build large numbers of coal-fired power plants, consuming millions of tons of coal (54 percent of global consumption), creating zillions of tons of GHG (27 percent of the entire planet’s; more than twice the USA’s 11 percent)… all to make what we refuse to make here with cleaner – far cleaner – energy via extraction industries regulated far more heavily, and under a government that has reduced greenhouse gases faster than required by a Paris climate treaty that China isn’t following.

If you want a dirty world, export jobs to China so that everything is built with coal-based energy. If you want a clean world, onshore jobs and close the border and build nuclear power plants.

None of this is about the climate.

Sure, the useful idiots in the streets think it is, the low-info voters think it is. It’s about Make vs Buy, and our elites would rather have us buy our bread and circuses – regardless of the cost to the climate and our living standards – than to make our own stuff and demand the liberty to do with the fruits of our labor as we see fit.

Every decision made by the KlimateKult establishment (and their low-info voters) creates a dirtier planet: Oil from Nigeria, Russia, Mexico, Iraq, Kuwait, no nukes, offshoring jobs to coal-based energy nations, encouraging illegal immigration and the welfare state voters who vote to support the establishment dirtying the planet … rather than encouraging work and higher wages – and the always-present greater environmental concerns of richer nations – by ending illegal immigration.

None of this is about the climate.

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

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

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

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

To infinity and beyond!

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

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

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

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

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

Um... hello?

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

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

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

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

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

Well, It Certainly Does Suck

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.

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.

From the Government and Here to Help

The U.K. government apparently plans to install 600,000 heat pumps per year into British homes to replace ‘polluting’ gas. No such plans have yet been announced in Australia. Gas heating is used less here than in colder climates. Nevertheless, natural gas is a popular enough form of heating. I have it in my flat. For how long, who knows? The Australian government is sidling its way into the net-zero-by-2050 club. Perforce, setting in train all manner of even more unnatural things than erecting monstrous wind farms.

But what things? There’s the rub. Choices to be made. And, ominously, in the keeping of government.

I viewed one of those Grand Designs TV programs from England. The guy building his innovative house was a green-minded engineer, intent on warming his heavily-insulated house via heat extracted from underground. When finished he pointed to the temperature on his hand-held thermometer with some pride. He had managed to warm his spacious living room to an ambient temperature of 16°C (61°F). His wife in the background looked unimpressed. But that’s his problem not ours.

Build your own igloo! It's easy if you try. Sort of.

Spent his own money. Got a cold house. His choice alone. It’s a whole different kettle of fish when government decides on a particular technical and engineering solution and goes about mandating and subsidising its wholesale implementation. So unfolds a process so fraught with risk that it defies belief that governments could be so foolhardy. Doesn’t it? Not really.

When the economic recession was raging in 2009, the Australian Labor government under Kevin Rudd decided to embark on a range of so-called stimulatory measures. All failed miserably but one stood out. This was the so-called “pink-batts” scheme. The government decide to provide free ceiling insulation batts to anyone who wanted them. This killed two birds with one stone you understand. First, the insulation industry would be stimulated. Second, global warming would be dealt a blow.

Sadly, the outcome did not go according to plan. An aging rocker Peter Garret, finding a second life as a politician, was the government minister in charge; satisfying the requirement (if you’ve ever seen the British TV series Yes Minister) of having no relevant expertise or experience. The existing insulation industry was ruined as main chancers became installers overnight. Imports of insulation batts from China soared; stimulating their manufacturing not ours.

Three untrained installers were electrocuted, another died of hypothermia, several others suffered third-degree burns and ninety-four houses caught fire. The scheme was abruptly closed down. Millions upon millions of insulation batts lay unwanted in warehouses.

Or, you could be warmer. Maybe.

Governments doing silly things with vast amounts of taxpayers’ money is not a rarity. However, hold onto your hats, we ain’t’ seen nothing yet. Unparalleled, climate-combatting catastrophes lie ahead. They’re inevitable. Conditions are ripe. Governments want action. Free markets won’t deliver. This means governments must make choices among alternatives, often mutually exclusive alternatives, armed with insufficient information and foresight; and without the guidance of market prices. What could possibly go wrong? Most everything.

Replacing gas heaters in millions of homes with heat pumps is a huge and irreversible exercise. Too bad if better technological and engineering solutions arise. Of course, when put together with the need to insulate the same number of homes, else rampant hypothermia among the aging, it will prove impossible to accomplish. Nevertheless, if you studiously don’t do the sums in advance, keep blinkered and myopic, there is no telling how far down the road you can get and how much damage you can do before everything falls apart. Look at the pink-batts scheme for a mere taste of the thrilling ride ahead.

Of course, heat pumps are a very small part of governments’ efforts to cure global warming by undoing prosperity. Take electric vehicles.  Figures from the International Energy Agency show transport, almost completely fueled by refined petroleum, accounting for 35 percent of total energy usage in 'selected economies' in 2018.  Passenger cars make up two-thirds of that.  Residential space heating came in at only 11 percent in comparison.

Leave aside the feasibility, practicability, and affordability of extracting and processing the materials required to manufacture sufficient numbers of batteries; never mind their later disposal. It’s the charging of them that’s so much the bigger challenge.

Unfortunately, electric vehicles cannot work their way gradually to a position of dominance and then universality. Not without ubiquitous charging infrastructure. And ‘gradually’, in any event, is not the right word for the wet dreams of woke politicians.

Joe Biden wants half of all cars sold in the United States to be electric, fuel cell, or plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2030. Justin Trudeau has set a date of 2035 for new cars and light-duty trucks to be zero-emission. Boris Johnson wants to ban the sale of new conventionally fueled cars by 2030 and hybrids by 2035. And, think, Glasgow’s on the horizon to steel their reveries.

So easy even Joe Biden can do it. Almost.

Imagine what will be required to support electric vehicles in a zero-emission world. Where is the power to come from? I have seen estimates which suggest that up to 50 percent more electric power will be required. My rough calculation, based on figures published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, suggest that it might be quite a bit more than that. And this, when dispatchable power (sourced from coal and natural gas) is gone and largely replaced with unreliable and intermittent power from wind and solar. Literally incredible.

Then there’s the charging infrastructure. Untold numbers of charging stations and the upgraded substations and cabling required to support them. For comparison purposes, there are around 150,000 gas stations in the United States.

To fill up now takes about five minutes. Currently the fastest charger takes 30 minutes to give your car about 200 miles. Presumably that is so inconvenient that charging technology will drive the time down to something bearable, if batteries can handle it.

Let’s realise what’s happening here. Intensive-energy petroleum (what a boon to human progress) gives out its power incrementally over the whole journey. Whereas, all of that same power and more must be delivered into batteries inside some minutes; multiplied by millions of vehicles. Has anyone in any western government done the sums?

Governments are making an irreversible choice. Spending billions upon billions of dollars and committing untold resources to bring about their currently favoured means of propelling vehicles. They didn’t choose petroleum back near the turn of the 20th century; the market did. And the difference that makes, we’ll discover painfully.

Gaia Akbar?

"Know thy enemy," said Sun Tzu, and this is a lesson the Taliban have apparently taken to heart. And they've had ample time to get to know us during their twenty years interregnum as rulers of Afghanistan, as we milled about in their country for no apparent reason. In that time the key thing they've learned seems to be that we are a nation of suckers.

What else are we to think when, for instance, Taliban spokesmen are out there assuring the world that they've learned the error of their ways, and now that they're back, they are planning on building a more inclusive society and will make it a point to respect women's rights. Of course, they did add the notable qualifier “in accordance with Islamic law,” which might explain the reports we're already seeing of women being killed for not wearing the burqa. You've got to assume the country's only all-girl boarding school made the right decision when it closed up shop and moved to Rwanda. The Taliban's understanding of Islamic law has never been particularly open-minded about women learning things.

Spokesmen also said they would not infringe upon freedom of speech and promised to issue an amnesty for all Afghans who worked for Western governments in Afghanistan over the past two decades. Suffice it to say, I have my doubts that these promises will be kept.

Still, I couldn't help but laugh at the chutzpah of this pledge, reported by The Daily Mail, "The Taliban has vowed to tackle climate change... as part of the terror group's attempt to rebrand itself and modernise." Said Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a member of the Taliban's Cultural Commission (yes, it is startling that such a thing exists):

We believe the world has a unique opportunity of rapprochement and coming together to tackle the challenges not only facing us but the entire humanity. These challenges ranging from world security and climate change need the collective efforts of all, and cannot be achieved if we exclude or ignore an entire people who have been devastated by imposed wars for the past four decades.

Tackle climate change?! Mail columnist Jack Newman speculates that they might be intending to accomplish this "by taking Afghanistan back to the Middle Ages," which, to be fair, is more or less the long-term vision of hardcore western environmentalists as well.

You might be saying to yourself that no one in the west is dumb enough to believe this, but I'm not so sure. After all, we're constantly being told how responsible and forward thinking Chairman Xi is whenever he says anything about climate change, even while China's new coal power plant capacity alone outstripped the rest of the world by 300 percent in 2020.

The Taliban are betting that if they say the right things, eventually we will just let them do whatever they like. Maybe they know us a lot better than we're willing to admit.

The Left’s Latest 'Climate Change' Trojan Horse

A few weeks ago, I alerted readers to the top priority on the SEC’s new agenda: “ESG.”  For those who don’t know, “ESG” is the latest Orwellian doublespeak for “Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance.”  It’s the latest in Marxist trends going back to the 1950s, which you might previously know as “socially responsible investing” or “conscious capitalism.”

What is “ESG,” exactly?+

“E” stands for climate change, or course.  That includes things like pollution mitigation, waste management water usage, carbon footprints, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, energy efficiencies, and biodiversity (because diversity apparently must extend beyond humans).

“S” (Social) stands for all things labor, although one wonders why it isn’t “L.”  This includes some important things like privacy and data protection, health and safety, supply-chain management and human rights.  But it also includes labor standards, wages and benefits, and the dreaded workplace and board diversity, racial justice, pay equity, human rights, talent management, and social justice issues.  Maybe we should just substitute “W” for “woke.”

“G” refers back to how the “E” and “S” are governed within an organization.

All in favor of diversity clap your hands.

Up until recently, all of this nonsense was relegated to choices within the business and investing communities.  If your company or board of directors decided to make these issues relevant, they could vote to do so.   If you chose to invest in such companies, or do business with them, that was your business.

Now, however, the Leftist-Marxist crowd is planning to crack down in unspecified ways around public companies that make “ESG Disclosures.”  Like all things Marxist, this will begin with an apparently harmless enforcement agenda that just wants to make sure that companies are being honest when they claim to be sufficiently woke.

What we can expect is that the SEC will bring enforcement actions not merely with the intent to create such “honest” disclosure, but become the de-facto scarlet letter should a company fail to meet its un-exact and non-specific standards.

And to be sure, the SEC’s standards will be made up as it goes.  That’s because the less information there is regarding ESG disclosures, the more enforcement actions the SEC can bring, and the more money the agency can rake in from its one-sided enforcement procedures.

What few Americans realize is that federal agencies all operate the same way.  Congress passes laws, and agencies take years to develop “rules” that more specifically interpret the law.  There is a long public comment period, during which the agencies consider the input, then finalize the rules in the Federal Register.  This is a lengthy process, during which everyone who is regulated by the given agency operate in the dark.

This assumes the agencies even bother to make rules.  When something isn’t congressionally mandated, an agency doesn’t even have to formulate the rules.  They’ll take requests for rulemaking, but you can imagine how often those requests are fulfilled and when they are fulfilled, how long it takes.

Meanwhile, agencies like the SEC are free to engage in “rulemaking by enforcement.”  If the SEC sees something it doesn’t like, it can open an investigation and bring an enforcement action if it so chooses.  The terrifying thing about the SEC and other agencies is they can do whatever they want in this regard.  They can subpoena records of just about anything from any entity.  They can demand testimony.   If someone refuses and invokes their Fifth Amendment privilege, such an invocation is considered an “adverse inference” in any administrative or judicial process. In other words, judges and juries can assume that since the Respondent refused to talk, they are guilty or liable.

Verdict first, then trial -- maybe.

Because the process is so one-sided and expensive, individuals are often forced to settle and endure onerous fines because they cannot afford to go to trial.  Most companies will choose to settle so they can just get back to business, although some opt to litigate.

Oh, and should one choose to settle, standard SEC settlement language requires them to “neither admit nor deny” the charges, but they cannot ever make a public statement asserting innocence, or even make a statement that is tantamount to such!  Yes, the CATO Institute tried to litigate this matter, but lost in the D.C. Circuit for lack of standing.

Despite all the scams being perpetrated on investors on a regular basis, the Biden Administration wants the SEC to begin enforcement of… ESG?  It makes no sense in terms of fulfilling the SEC’s mission, which is allegedly to protect investors.

But that’s the point.  Protecting investors has nothing to do with the ideological Marxism behind ESG enforcement.  The point is to push climate change requirements into the public markets.  It begins with the new SEC chair Gary Gensler’s mandate that SEC develop a rule proposal on climate change specifically, which includes:

Funny how nothing else in the ESG agenda is up for rulemaking except climate change.

Gensler had long been eyed to take over the SEC, having been a Democratic operative for years.  He was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, as well as an adviser to Obama, served as  party treasurer in Maryland, was on the staffs of Maryland’s top politicians, and was part of Biden’s transition team.

Gensler will do the Leftist’s bidding and establish onerous rules that will begin with “proper” disclosure.  There will be big fines for “misrepresenting” ESG (climate change) activity in the disclosures of many big companies.  There will then come requirements to either change disclosure or “remediate” climate change policies within the companies, with emphasis on the latter. Wouldn’t a company rather be given the “opportunity” for “remediation” than pay a fine?

This is the first step.   Soon, ESG – and climate change specifically – will become requirements.

Of Coin Flips and 'Climate Change'

Heads I win, tails you lose. That might as well be the motto of the left these days, and not least of its Green flank.

For instance, it has become a commonplace that whenever anyone anywhere jokes during winter that global warming sounds nice right about now, for leftist condemnation to come in hot and heavy. As Eric Felton reminds us, when Donald Trump tossed off a one-liner to that effect during a speech on a frigid day in 2019, he was bitterly mocked by environmentalists. Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale's project on climate change communication (yes, such a thing does exist) said that the then-president's comment was "scientifically ridiculous and demonstrably false," adding,

There is a fundamental difference in scale between what weather is and what climate is. What's going on in one small corner of the world at a given moment does not reflect what's going on with the planet.

Good to know. But its hard not to notice that whenever it suits their purposes Greens will unreflectively sling bowls of hot, steamy, anecdata with the best of them. Have you noticed that you hear more about hurricanes during hurricane season these days? Climate change! Still wearing shortsleeves on Halloween? Climate change! Catch the news about that big tornado down south? Climate change!

As noted college drop-out and rich guy Derek Jeter said at Davos a few years ago, "[W]e’re seeing more and more natural disasters each year... Something has to be causing it.” Something other than the 24 hour news cycle and the rise of social media, I think he means.

Felton has a helpful evaluation of this summer's hottest example of this observation bias, the heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest which saw temperatures consistently exceeding 100ºF. In a piece for RealClear Investigations, he discusses an organization called World Weather Attribution, "a group organized not just to attribute extreme weather events to climate change, but to do so quickly." While the heatwave was still ongoing, WWA put out a statement claiming that they'd analyzed the data and that the extreme weather would have been “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.”

Considering their mission statement, it's hard to label this conclusion a shocker. But their claim of scientific objectivity gave cover to virtually every mainstream media outlet to confidently report that the heat was attributable to climate change. So saith the science!

Science!

Or saidth -- until a climatologist named Cliff Mass took the time to actually look through the data himself and came to an entirely different conclusion. Mass happens to be an expert in the weather of the Pacific Northwest -- he has actually written a book entitled 'The Weather of the Pacific Northwest' -- and his own weather models accurately predicted the heatwave.

According to Felton, Mass's modeling suggested that "global warming might have been responsible for two degrees of the near 40-degree anomaly. With or without climate change, Mass wrote, the region 'still would have experienced the most severe heat wave of the past century'." In short, the true culprit was the environmentalist movement's least favorite -- “natural variability.”

Mass made it a point to call out the shoddiness of World Weather Attribution's analysis, and they responded to his critique, saying that his report was "misleading and incorrect." But Felton notes that, after the release of Mass's study, WWA's statements on the topic were much more cautious and equivocating.

Let us all be inspired by their belated humility. Caution is king, at least where climate science is concerned. Better to be cautious than embarrassed when someone comes along and checks your work.

This Just in, From Acronymia

Recently, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued one of its working group reports contributing to the Sixth Assessment Report on the current state of the world’s climate. Or in keeping with the fashion for acronyms in global governance, the UN’s IPCC issued the AR6-WG1 of its AR6, but an SFP or Summary for Policy-Makers is also available.

Enjoy!

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Though full of scientific findings, these U.N. reports are a bastard child of science and politics rather than a strictly scientific document. The wording of almost every paragraph in them has to be approved by the 190 signatory governments. In the past governments have insisted on significant changes in the treaty so that it justified the climate change policies they had already adopted.

Such political pressures will be especially intense this year since in less than two months the U.K. and the city of Glasgow will be hosting the world’s governments for COP26 which stands for the 26th U.N. Conference of the Parties that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (Or UNFCCC.) Governments need a report that makes a strong case for the admittedly extreme policies of Net-Zero they have already adopted.

Have they got it? That’s not quite clear.

We're still doomed, maybe, kind of.

The report itself is a hefty 4,000-page document, and even its SFP is heavy going at 41 pages, which means that the major news analyses that came out on publication day are a tribute to the intellectual powers and speed-reading of the world’s journalists. Or maybe not. As my colleague Tom Finnerty suggested when he listed the various attempts of blue-chip media to match the tabloids in generating fear and anxiety, they wrung more horror from its pages than was really there:

"The Latest IPCC Report Is a Catastrophe" says The Atlantic. "IPCC report’s verdict on climate crimes of humanity: guilty as hell" is The Guardian's headline. Here's USA Today: "Code red for humanity."

As is often the case, however, the tabloids were more accurate in conveying the report’s overall thrust. Writing in the New York Post, Bjorn Lomborg, the moderate Danish climate realist, pointed out that the report was more even-handed than in previous years. It leveled no charges of crimes against humanity, and it balanced the damages caused by climate change with its less-known advantages:

Since the heat dome in June, there has been a lot of writing about more heat deaths. And the IPCC confirms that climate change indeed has increased heatwaves. However, the report equally firmly, if virtually unacknowledged, tells us that global warming means “the frequency and intensity of cold extremes have decreased.”

This matters because globally, many more people die from cold than from heat. A new study in the highly respected journal Lancet shows that about half a million people die from heat per year, but 4.5 million people die from cold.

As temperatures have increased over the past two decades, that has caused an extra 116,000 heat deaths each year. This, of course, fits the narrative and is what we have heard over and over again. But it turns out that because global warming has also reduced cold waves, we now see 283,000 fewer cold deaths.

You don’t hear this, but so far climate change saves 166,000 lives each year.

That’s an important point with a wider application. We know from Lomborg’s own writings (among other sources) that the number of deaths and injuries from all extreme weather events, involving both heat and cold, have fallen dramatically over a long period even when the extreme weather events themselves have risen in number.

Promises, promises.

The reason is that people build defenses against such weather and adapt to the risk of it or their insurance companies charge higher premiums if they insist on ignoring the risk. If global warming is now helping to reduce deaths from cold—in effect it’s assisting people to adapt—then the cost-benefit analysis of policies to combat climate change becomes much more complicated.

Of course, the headline conclusion of the IPCC report that provides the governments at COP26 with justification for Net-Zero is that global temperatures are continuing to rise—indeed, rising even faster than we previously thought. But as the science editor of the Global Warming Policy Forum, Dr. David Whitehouse, points out, there seems to be a conflict between that conclusion and the U.K. Meteorological Office’s global temperature data base.

His review of the Met’s data for this century shows that global temperatures have barely changed since the last IPCC report in 2014. What we see instead in Dr. Whitehouse’s words is “a long hiatus (2002 – 2014) that was acknowledged by the IPCC (but later denied by some scientists), an intense multi-phased El Nino event and its aftermath (2015 -2020) and now a recent decline to levels where they were when the IPCC published its last report.”

That conflict shouldn’t happen since the actual data on global temperatures should be the bedrock of any theory of global warming. He concludes:

So when you read the new IPCC report and take in the alarmist headlines it will undoubtedly generate, bear in mind that since its previous report in 2014 global temperatures have barely changed, and have declined from their El Nino-inspired peak of a few years ago.

If global warming is not rising as much as the IPCC forecasts suggest, then its consequences, including costs, are presumably not rising as much either. More complexity there for any cost-benefit analysis to handle, and therefore more reason to look at the costs of combatting climate change. After all, if the costs of climate change and the costs of halting or reversing climate change are both high, we need to know how close they are to each other, since that knowledge is vital to choosing the right mix of policies.

We just need to gaze at the data some more.

What then are the costs of Net-Zero? They're high, we know, and they’re getting higher. Just how high we're about to find out.

Two days before the IPCC report was published, London’s official Information Tribunal instructed the parliamentary Committee on Climate Change to publish the calculations behind its advice to Parliament that the U.K. economy could be decarbonized at modest cost. That’s a big deal because it was the CCC’s advice that was the basis of the decision by MPs to adopt the U.K.’s Net-Zero target in 2019.

Two paragraphs from the Tribunal's report will establish the high importance of this decision:

  • 247. We find that there is an extremely strong public interest in enabling scrutiny of the data, models and calculations which underpin the CCC’s conclusion that the a net-zero target could be met at an annual resource cost of up to 1-2 percent of GDP to 2050 (see p 12 of the NZR).
  • 248. This is a very significant sum of public money. It has an impact on everyone in the country. Further the NZR recommendations led to almost immediate legislative change to enact the net zero target which will have significant impact on almost every area of the lives of everyone in the United Kingdom over the next 30 years.

The case to compel this disclosure, was brought by Andrew Montford, deputy director of the GWPF, which issued the following statement after the court’s decision:

The ruling, which dismisses almost all of the CCC’s arguments, comes after a two-year battle to obtain the cost calculations. Extraordinarily, the CCC’s case centred around a claim that it had erased and overwritten the relevant information by the time of the FOI request, just six weeks after the publication of the Net Zero report, and indeed changed and lost it further subsequent to the request.

If that is so, MPs acted on information that understated the costs of one of the most important policy decisions they will ever make. That said, it’s fair to add that no one really believed the Committee’s estimates. What might force a reconsideration of policy, however, is if the Committee’s underestimate of Net-Zero’s costs turns out to be outlandishly low.

The Information Tribunal has given the CCC thirty-five days to produce the calculations. The COP26 Glasgow conference takes place eighty-five days later on the November the 1st. Fasten your seat belt, Jimmy, it’s gonna to be a bumpy night.

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.

And that's exactly what's happened -- a quick look around the internet will bring you face to face with the trashiest clickbait headlines, even from supposedly sober and respectable outlets: "The Latest IPCC Report Is a Catastrophe" says The Atlantic. "IPCC report’s verdict on climate crimes of humanity: guilty as hell" is The Guardian's headline. Here's USA Today: "Code red for humanity"

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:

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.

Boris Hits the Ground, Not Running

Between now and October 31,  connoisseurs of political embarrassment will be licking their lips and looking forward to a veritable feast as the British government prepares to host the 2021 U.N. Climate Change conference in Glasgow (or COP26 in bureaucratese.) Their enjoyment may be even more thrilling in the twelve days following the end of October when the conference wends its slow way through a vast program of policy pledges to keep the global mean temperature to within a 1.5 degree increase above its pre-industrial level—and, more enticingly, another vaster program of how to make the pledges reality

You might say: “So what’s new?” These pledges have been made time and again in the years since the climate change game was launched in Rio de Janeiro in the early 1990s. After all, this is the 26th U.N. climate change conference, and the other 25 were about exactly the same topic. Even though one or two of them were pronounced failures—for instance, the Copenhagen Summit conference in 2009—most ended with mutual congratulations and “doubles all round.” But these pledges have not been redeemed by actions. As the latest report of the U.N.’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to argue, the effects of climate change have continued to worsen.

Oh, shut up.

Boris Johnson’s “Conservative” government, in addition to hosting the conference, governs the nation that has made the boldest promises to cut emissions. To be fair, it has so far lived up to these promises better than most (though some U.K. emissions have been “exported” to other countries which now emit on behalf of U.K. corporations that make carbon-heavy investments abroad and sell the products back in the U.K. And Boris had hoped to bask in a green spotlight on a U.N. stage in Glasgow as the man leading Britain and the world into the broad carbon-free sunlit uplands of which legend speaks.

That is now looking less likely.

There’s always been a logical gap in the green case for a full-scale policy of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. Policy-makers simplistically assumed that if too many carbon emissions were the problem, then the solution must be requiring fewer carbon emissions—an approach known as mitigation. Simple, neat, an obvious solution.

But there’s more to solving problems than simply reversing their cause. Here are two alternatives to mitigation:

  1. In order to put out a fire, the fire brigade doesn’t search for its causes. It pours water on it. Can we find some technology, logically unrelated to rising emissions, that blocks their ill effects in much the same way? Such technical “fixes” exist, but they’re unpopular with environmentalists and the U.N. which prefer solutions that regulate capitalism and re-distribute income.
  2. Another approach would be to adapt to rising emissions. People will do that anyway. If they think that floods threaten them, they will devise better methods of flood protection as the Dutch have done for centuries. Or they may simply move elsewhere.

People adapt to risks and dangers as follows. They try to establish which solution is the least costly and most effective one, and having done that, they then ask if that solution is less costly and more habitable than living with the problem, here rising emissions.

And that’s the big problem. The costs of mitigation—Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050—are enormous both financially and in terms of reduced lifestyles (eating less meat, no flying, higher electricity prices, switching to costlier and less efficient home heating, etc., etc.) They are certain to be deeply and unavoidably unpopular; voters rarely vote to make themselves poorer in democratic elections. It’s the classical problem of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. How did it happen?

Scylla, meet Charybdis.

Policy-makers committed themselves to arranging a clash between the voters and international treaties, and they did so quite deliberately. They calculated they would get rewards for green virtue at the time, but that later when the clash came, they could plead that their hands were tied by “legally-binding” obligations. No worries. The voters would swallow it.

But now the witching hour has arrived, and at a most inconvenient moment. With less than two months to go before the Greenbeanfeast in Glasgow, governments are beginning to reject the obligations they had imposed upon themselves and the voters when they saw the price tag electorally.

Two such inevitable betrayals of the global “consensus” on Net Zero occurred in the last ten days. Internationally, a meeting of G20 energy and environmental ministers failed to agree a date on which they would phase out the use of coal—not surprisingly, since coal is the original source of most of the electricity that is supposed to replace it. Without such a universal pledge, however, the COP26 conference will not be able to achieve the promised agreement on limiting global warming to 1.5C as even the U.K. minister responsible for the policy conceded. Such an agreement, said Alok Sharma, would now be “extremely difficult.”

Nor will Boris Johnson be able to shuffle the responsibility for this ecological backsliding onto the G20. In the same two-week period, Whitehall leaked the story that the government would probably push back the regulation banning the sale of gas boilers and heaters from 2035 to 2040. Hydrogen boilers and air-source heat pumps cost £14,000 and £11,000 more than the gas boilers they will be mandated to replace. Which means that some gas boilers would still be in use in 2050. That would itself a serious setback for Britain’s Net-Zero promises and for Boris personally on the eve of COP26.

And it is unlikely to be the last retreat. As the U.K. media speculated:

It comes amid a mounting backlash over the spiralling cost of Mr Johnson's so-called green revolution, with Government insiders fearful that the proposals could add another £400billion on top of the enormous sums accrued during the Covid pandemic.

As Hamlet points out, moreover, when troubles come, they come not in single spies but in battalions. To add to the government’s troubles in this matter, Mr Johnson’s Downing Street press spokesman, Allegra Stratton, upon being asked by The Independent what ordinary citizens could do to prevent global warming, she suggested first that they might put their dirty dishes into the dishwasher without rinsing them first, and then upon more mature consideration, she added:

'What can they do?', they can do many things. They can join Greenpeace, they can join the Green Party, they can join the Tory Party.

Understandably, that was too tempting for a Green party leader, Jonathan Bartley, to ignore. He welcomed Stratton's comments and told The Independent:

After decades of inaction from both the Conservatives and Labour, we would absolutely agree with the government that joining the Green Party is the best thing people can do to help tackle climate change. As we witness the Conservatives waste time talking about loading dishwashers and fantasy projects such as Jet Zero [Mr. Johnson’s prediction of carbon-free airlines], it is reassuring to see that they do understand it is only the Greens who can bring about the real change that is needed if we are to prevent climate catastrophe.

And the sad point is that Mr Bartley is quite right. Anyone who wants to pursue the unachievable target of Net-Zero by 2050, destroying the U.K. economy after it has finally recovered from Covid-19, would be well advised to vote for an amiable fanatic like Mr Bartley rather than for an impulsive risk-taker like Boris Johnson who ultimately has the commonsense and self-interest to pull out of crash dive before it hits the environment. Because if he doesn’t yet know it, Boris hasn’t got an ejector seat on this particular voyage.