Whom to Believe: Big Brother or Your Lying Eyes?

Professor emeritus Ivan Kennedy, faculty of science at Sydney University, tells me he has been doing some work on the effect of turbulence engendered by wind turbines. Among other things, he hypothesizes that this may have a drying effect extending beyond the immediate area. The outcomes: a fall in the productivity of arable land and more water vapour in the atmosphere.

You’ll note, I said, he hypothesizes. Importantly, he also points out that his theory is testable using technology such as ground-based sensors and satellites. Being a scientist of the old school, he doesn’t rush to conclusions even provisional ones. Greenies are not nearly so constrained; operating comfortably in fact-free zones.

As an exercise, let me take each of the two hypothesized outcomes in turn and see where they lead. You will see that they lead realists (putting modesty aside) like us, and greenies in diametrically opposite directions.

Let us suppose there is a measurable fall in the moisture in agricultural land surrounding wind farms. Our take: build fewer wind turbines near agricultural land. (Build none at all actually but you get my drift.) Their take: climate change is causing droughts. Build more turbines.

Build fewer, senor. No, Sancho, build more.

Water vapour is by far the dominant greenhouse gas. Suppose it is found that the uplift of water vapour is greater, the nearer are turbines to bodies of water; those, particularly, in seas or close to irrigated areas. Our take: build fewer turbines close to water. Theirs, CO2 is causing the oceans to warm. Hence more water vapour. Build more turbines.

The bitter or delicious irony, depending where you stand, is that the more deleterious effects turbines have on the natural world, the more must be built to counter such effects. Wind turbines, and solar panels too, are bulletproof. They both make lots of money for powerful people and big businesses and, not least, for China. And they appeal to the gullible; who, at whatever cost to reason and the public purse, see them combatting the imminent imaginary climate Armageddon.

Even despoiling landscapes and seascapes hardly rates a mention now that Prince Phillip is not around to express his displeasure in his own blunt way. In case you've missed it, Prince Charles is not a chip of the old block. Mind you, that aside, alarms have been raised about the enormous quantity of materials and energy required for the manufacture of turbines and solar panels; for their use of rare earths; their relatively short life spans; and the problem of their disposal. Really? Among whom?

OK, only among those who deal in facts. In other words, not among the much vaster number of people, including government ministers and their apparatchiks throughout the Western world, who deal in fancies. Among the minority who deal in facts is Mark Mills, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. If you haven’t already, it is well worth while keying in to his presentation on February 9, 2021 to the U.S. House Energy Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. Here’s just a taste:

As Mills explains, while the minerals required are there, digging them up will be daunting and pricey. Count among the costs: environmental degradation; increased threats to the West’s national security in view of China’s dominance in many of the supply chains; the use of child labour in countries not so sensitive to human rights; the massive amounts of energy required to mine, transport and process these exotic minerals; and, the bottom line, the demise of reliable and affordable hydrocarbon power.

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On hearing all of this, the Democrat members of the subcommittee, including the chairman Paul Tonko (NY), recanted and became RE-skeptics overnight. I’m fabulising. Inconvenient facts don’t impact dullards or zealots.

Prof. Kennedy’s hypothesis might be true. So what? It would just sit atop of the existing enormous pile of inconvenient facts. Rafe Champion, another friend fond of facts, continually pesters Australian politicians, all 837 of them in this over-governed land, about the inconstancy of wind. No wind no power, he says. Follow up tricky question: if it takes 1,000 turbines to power a particular town when the wind is blowing, how many turbines does it take when the wind isn’t blowing? Alas, arithmetic isn’t the strong suit of the political class; except, that is, when counting prospective votes.

It took exquisite torture on the part of O’Brien to convince Winston Smith that two plus two equals five. Childs play for greenies. To wit, when the wind stops blowing a big battery can take over, they claim, with the conviction of megalomaniacs.

One of the biggest lithium battery installations in the world at Hornsdale in South Australia can reportedly deliver 194 MW for an hour. Though electricity usage has spiked above 4,000MW, South Australia (pop. 1.8 million) generally uses from 1,000MW to 2,500MW depending on the time of day and season. Ergo, the battery would generally run out in 12 to 5 minutes if required to take over.

Mind you, as deluded as they are, look at us. We persist in using logic, facts and figures. Might as well babble for all the influence we have. And then again, what else is there to do? We are condemned, Sisyphus-like, to make the same arguments over and over again. Captors, as we are, of reality.

The one saving: real life is our pal. As the paranoid delusions and lies increasingly hit the road they’ll be undone. For example, when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining that illustrative town I mentioned will last ten minutes or so on batteries before the lights go out. QED.

Godzilla vs. King Kong

Late last month during a multi-day interview with a Chinese virologist and researcher who is in hiding in the U.S, I had a revelation about how the largest institutional banks feign having principles, while they avoid actually being principled. While the country is being beaten about the head with a counter-factual accusation that the two greatest threats to America are systemic racism and climate change, there exist actual geo-political and economic threats that require real leadership and genuine principle.

I had driven to the secure location to meet the doctor and followed extensive protocols to ensure her safety. What Dr. Li-meng Yan reveals about the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese military’s malevolent misdeeds surrounding the release of the SARS CoV-2 virus left me pondering how reason has been replaced by such rhetoric.

COVID-19 is an "unrestricted bioweapon" that slipped from a Wuhan facility. This claim was according to a Chinese virologist who fled to the United States after claiming that China covered up the coronavirus epidemic. Dr. Li Meng-Yan, a whistleblower, claims that a trove of Dr. Anthony Fauci's emails backs up her assertions. In an interview with Newsmax, the Chinese whistleblower said she had emailed Dr. Anthony Fauci about her theory and "discovery."

The messages - obtained through the Freedom of Information Act - implied that the White House virus expert knows the possibility of the virus being manufactured. However, The Sun claimed Fauci downplayed it publicly. 

Dr. Li said that Fauci's emails revealed on Tuesday by Buzzfeed and the Washington Post show he knew about the Chinese tinkering with viruses to make them more lethal. "Frankly, there is a lot of useful information there [Fauci's emails]," she said in The Sun's report. "He knows all these things," she insisted of Fauci in a New York Post report.

Ground Zero.

So how has "climate change" superseded Covid-19 as an existential crisis, as Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, in his annual ‘letter to CEOs’, thinks it has? China’s continued cunning and sinister shenanigans, in all their variations, have been conspicuously overlooked; instead of identifying the Chinese Communist Party, and all its many tentacles, as the greatest existential threat of our time, Fink posits a counter-factual. China after all makes money for BlackRock  through investments. Having actual corporate values guided by principle does not.

Dr. Yan, a medical doctor and published researcher who specializes in immunology and vaccine development, and is an independent coronavirus expert, was forced to flee Hong Kong last year because she declared that the SARS CoV-2 virus had been engineered in a lab and that it indeed had gain-of-function characteristics -- in other words, it was weaponized expressly to increase virulence in humans. While  more will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead about Dr. Yan’s knowledge of these events, it is clear that Larry Fink may need to spend a bit more time using the BlackRock’s annual RAND Corporation subscription. In his letter to CEO’s he writes,

I believe that the pandemic has presented such an existential crisis – such a stark reminder of our fragility – that it has driven us to confront the global threat of climate change more forcefully and to consider how, like the pandemic, it will alter our lives. It has reminded us how the biggest crises, whether medical or environmental, demand a global and ambitious response.

In the past year, people have seen the mounting physical toll of climate change in fires, droughts, flooding and hurricanes. They have begun to see the direct financial impact as energy companies take billions in climate-related write-downs on stranded assets and regulators focus on climate risk in the global financial system. They are also increasingly focused on the significant economic opportunity that the transition will create, as well as how to execute it in a just and fair manner. No issue ranks higher than climate change on our clients’ lists of priorities. They ask us about it nearly every day.

How Fink jumped from a pandemic to climate change being a global threat while overlooking China as the global threat that demands a global and ambitious response, requires the flexibility of a Shabari submissive.

Enter the oil and gas industry. Under the false narrative of "climate change" representing an existential threat, oil and gas is described as the industry most responsible for said climate change. Neuter the industry and climate change disappears is the contrived narrative espoused by the politicians and their corporate collaborators.

To date, the oil and gas industry has been slow to counter punch. Instead of its  being the cause of climate change, the oil and gas industry has single-handedly led the reduction of American emissions to levels lower than defined in the Paris Climate Accord. By producing inexpensive, reliable, and abundant energy safely and without political objectives, the oil and gas industry has fueled global economic activity and improved lives of people throughout the world.

By contrast, in the skinny jean-wearing world Fink envisions, the economic vitality fueled by the oil and gas industry is blunted, and only a few are permitted to economically benefit. Every aspect of life in this brave new "Great Reset" world becomes more expensive, more confiscatory, and more Socialist if the climate change narrative is left unrebutted. Enter China.

China’s record of environmental degradation and abuse is well known and well documented. With 1.4 billion people, many living in utter poverty, a manufacturing sector whose carbon emissions are suffocating, and largely unregulated, and a Party that controls society via a digital surveillance state the Chinese people refer to as the "Great Wall," China is the actual existential global threat, not the climate change bogey man.

Tomorrow belongs to us.

Since 2012 when Xi Jinping began his tenure as party General Secretary (he became President the following year), more than 2 million Uyghurs have been sent to Mao-style "re-education" camps. At these camps, estimated to number more than thousand, Muslim Uyghurs have been abused, tortured, sexually assaulted, forcibly sterilized, and even killed. But climate change is the real threat?

Beyond environmental degradation, human rights abuses and corruption, the Chinese practice censorship with the help of tech companies, manipulate currency markets, steal intellectual property, have militarized artificial islands in the South China Sea, and most recently, according to Dr. Yan, have used unrestricted novel bioweapons, intended to harm people and to arrest economic activity around the world in their stated pursuit of world dominance by 2035. But institutional racism and climate change are the problem?

The Fake News of 'Beyond Coal'

When one happens to be a scientist with an expertise in environmental issues like yours truly, one has the opportunity to digest a disturbing number of misleading, eye-rolling headlines in the mainstream media as heavily-biased journalists vainly attempt to present accurate information about environmental issues.

Even by that ridiculously low bar, the headline that appeared in the May 5 edition of the Chicago Tribune rates as the most misleading, unscientific and mindlessly hysterical that I have ever seen. A major metropolitan newspaper in the United States actually printed the following:

Burning natural gas is now more dangerous than coal.

Pollution from natural gas is now responsible for more deaths and greater health costs than coal in Illinois, according to a new study highlighting another hazard of burning fossil fuels that are scrambling the planet's climate.

Researchers at Harvard University found that a shift away from coal during the past decade saved thousands of lives and dramatically reduced  from breathing particulate matter, commonly known as soot. But the numbers declined only slightly for gas, another fossil fuel that by 2017 accounted for the greatest  risks.

About half the deaths from soot exposure that year can be attributed to the state's reliance on gas to heat homes and businesses, the study found. Coal is more deadly only when used to generate electricity.

The alarming findings raise questions about whether Gov. J.B. Pritzker's proposed transition to a zero-carbon economy would move fast enough in phasing out the use of gas—not only to blunt the impacts of climate change but also to ensure Illinoisans breathe clean air.

The term “fake news” hardly covers it. This is “farcical news,” “fanciful news,” “delusional news,” etc. Yeah, journalists are not scientists. I get it. But, how sad it is to consider there is not one editor at the Trib who might have enough passing knowledge to think something like “that really doesn’t sound right, maybe we should take a second look.”

The essence of the Trib’s story, written by staff enviro-propagandist Michael Hawthorne, may be summarized thus:

Hawthorne does not actually use the accepted environmental terms “fine particulate” and “PM-2.5” in his story. Instead, he calls fine particulate “soot.” Certainly, that’s a much more appealing term to someone attempting to create a narrative, but it has little to do with reality. When you call in a chimney sweep to remove actual soot from your fireplace, almost none of the black gunk he or she will brush off is anything close to 2.5 microns in aerodynamic diameter.

Anyway, the problem with this particular narrative is the same one that always occurs when people with an agenda attempt to dragoon science into supporting their political agenda: they use that portion of the science that helps them and ignore (willingly or ignorantly) any of the science that disproves their premise.

I can accept that the amount of PM-2.5 generated though the combustion of natural gas now exceeds the amount of PM-2.5 generated by through the combustion of coal. At least theoretically. The amount of PM-2.5 generated by the combustion of natural gas is relatively so tiny that it is very, very difficult to accurately measure using accepted EPA test methods. In the enviro-biz, one errs on the side of caution, meaning that PM-2.5 emission rates attributed to natural gas are likely inflated.

Doesn’t really matter though, since the amount of PM-2.5 emissions that can be tied to electrical generation of any kind is trivial. Based on the last verified National Emissions Inventory (NEI) of 2017, the total amount of PM-2.5 emissions generated across America was 5,706,842 tons/year. Of that, EPA attributed 107,270 tons/year of fine-particulate emissions to fossil fuel combustion used to generate electricity. That’s less than 2 percent of all national PM-2.5 emissions.

Wondering about the biggest source of PM-2.5 emissions? Glad you asked. The 2017 NEI attributes 4,188,615 tons/year of PM-2.5 emissions to “Miscellaneous Sources.” That’s a shade over 73 percent of the total. Miscellaneous sources are non-industrial, non-transportation related sources of all kinds. In this case, the vast majority of miscellaneous sources consist of wildfires – many of which are the result of pitifully irresponsible forest management in blue states like California – and natural erosion.

Back in the nineties and early 2000s, environmental NGOs like the Sierra Club were all-in supporting natural gas. They recognized that natural gas combustion was inherently cleaner than coal combustion and that the amount of greenhouse gas produced using natural gas was far lower than that amount of greenhouse gas produced using coal on a per megawatt generated basis. They gleefully accepted donations from natural gas producers in order fund initiatives like the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign.

Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s second largest natural gas producer, was a big Sierra Club supporter back then, presumably because Chesapeake executives hoped that going “beyond coal” would help their bottom line. They didn’t have the foresight to see that once the enviros actually went beyond coal, natural gas would be the next target of opportunity. I’ve been told by people I trust that several Chesapeake shareholders were something less than pleased when the Sierra Club pivoted from being a natural gas supporter to a natural gas opponent, which is where they and most of their fellow environmental NGOs remain today. In the business of environmental advocacy, as is the case with any other big business, one has to follow the money.

It’s a disappointing story, but I fear that Chesapeake will be far from the last company to jump at the bait when an environmental NGO offers them absolution in return for thirty pieces of silver.

Colonial Pipeline Hack May Be Just the Beginning

This week, hackers believed to be the DarkSide ransom gang operating out of Eastern Europe, possibly Russia,  targeted Colonial Pipeline, infecting its  information-technology systems though not its operational control systems. It seems to me the hack is a national security issue, as the pipeline which runs some 5,500 miles from the Gulf State refineries in Houston to customers in the southern and eastern part of the country all the way to New Jersey. It supplies 45 percent of the fuel in this swath and serves 50 million Americans and several major airports. 

The White House apparently takes a different view  announcing it’s a “private sector decision” as to whether Colonial should pay a ransom to get its pipeline back on  line. Anne Neuberger is deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology:

Ms. Neuberger declined to comment on whether Colonial has paid a ransom, and the company hasn’t said so publicly either. She also said the administration hadn’t made a recommendation to Colonial on whether it should pay.

Normally the FBI encourages victims to not pay the ransoms to avoid fueling a booming criminal industry, but Ms. Neuberger said the administration recognized that is often not a feasible option for some companies, especially those that don’t have backup files or other means of recovering data.

Of course, paying the ransom will only make DarkSide’s tools more valuable to both them and to those they sell the programs to, meaning we’ll see more of this and with ever-increasing deleterious economic and energy consequences.

The shape of things to come?

It’s not as if we are in the dark about the need to safeguard cyberspace in critical infrastructure. We have in the Department of Homeland security and  a National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC),  with this mission:

DHS coordinates with sector specific agencies, other federal agencies, and private sector partners to share information on and analysis of cyber threats and vulnerabilities and to understand more fully the interdependency of infrastructure systems nationwide. This collective approach to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, investigate, and recover from cyber incidents prioritizes understanding and meeting the needs of our partners, and is consistent with the growing recognition among corporate leaders that cyber and physical security are interdependent and must be core aspects of their risk management strategies.

In an email communication to me Eric Goldstein, executive assistant director for cybersecurity of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, states they are on the case of the Colonial Pipeline hack. “We are engaged with the company and our interagency partners regarding the situation," he said. "This underscores the threat that ransomware poses to organizations regardless of size or sector. We encourage every organization to take action to strengthen their cybersecurity posture to reduce their exposure to these types of threats.”

Colonial is in the meantime manually operating a segment of the North Carolina to Maryland stream. Gas-station lines have formed in several of the southern states, and truckers are warning of a variety of supply chain problems. The company indicated they may be fully operational in a few days  but Mark Ayala, director of industrial-control system security 1898 & Co., suggests it may take longer:

Given the breadth of the unknowns, the discovery, containment decontamination and remediation effort will be lengthy and likely to result in a gradual return to operations.

 The immediate impact may be less on the immediate availability of gas in the affected corridor than on the rising cost of gas as people prepare their getaways after over a year of Covid-19 lockdowns. The issue that most concerns me, however, is the need to update cybersecurity on energy infrastructure.

Here we go again.

There are political and technical problems with doing this, even if we make the assumption that government cybersecurity operations are doing their job and private firms are working hard to protect it. Mandiant (part of FireEye) did just that in successfully limiting the Colonial damage by persuading a hosting provider to shut down a server that contained the stolen data, thus isolating it from the hackers.

 Last year CISA warned pipeline operators about the threat of ransomware. It doesn’t seem Colonial  adequately responded to the warning. Why not? There are several practical problems with hardening cybersecurity on pipelines. Indeed, such risks seem to exist throughout the energy grid:

  1.  “Legacy assets,” decades old systems to which more recent digital technology has been added on, making them more vulnerable, not less.
  2.  The technology is difficult to update because there’s no down time for the operations, and with no downtime it’s difficult to update software. You cannot shut down a pipeline regularly to update your technology.
  3. The reluctance of rate regulators to allow expansion of cybersecurity budgets.
  4. The recent practice of industrial companies to converge their operational technology and information technology, which  makes it harder to contain infections.

And then there's overconfidence:

More than two-thirds of executives at companies that transport or store oil and gas said their organizations are ready to respond to a breach, according to a 2020 survey by the law firm Jones Walker LLP. But many don’t take basic precautions, such as encrypting data or conducting dry runs of attacks, said Andy Lee, who chairs the firm’s privacy and security team. “The overconfidence issue is a serious phenomenon,” Mr. Lee said.

These are the practical constraints on limiting malware and ransomware attacks on critical energy sectors, like pipelines. And then there’s the political handicap. Despite sending our warnings and calling together task forces of bureaucrats to discuss the issue, the focus of the Biden Administration is not on shoring up cyber liabilities. To it, “infrastructure” means doing away with fossil fuels and making the grid even more vulnerable. In fact, as the editors of the Wall Street Journal argue:

The U.S. government could help companies harden their information systems, but the risks to infrastructure will grow unless the U.S. makes the energy system more resilient and redundant. That won’t happen with Mr. Biden’s 500,000 new EV charging stations and rooftop solar panels on every home.

Just the opposite. The grid and other infrastructure will become more vulnerable as more systems get electrified and connected. The Government Accountability Office warned in March that home solar panels, EV chargers and “smart” appliances that companies control remotely are creating new entry points for cyber criminals to take over the grid.

Defending the U.S. against cyber attacks is the Biden Administration’s most important infrastructure job, but that’s not what its $2.3 trillion proposal would do.

Buckle up for a bumpy ride.

The Fossil Fuels Must Go Through

There is something surrealistically ironic about Joe Biden's Emergency Order to mobilize tanker trucks -- anything -- to keep the fossil fuels going. On the one hand it is a backhanded admission of how vital the products transported by the Colonial Pipeline are. On the other it is a reminder of how policy errors can progressively cascade through the system, one mistake compounding the others.

The federal government issued a rare emergency declaration on Sunday after a cyberattack on a major U.S. pipeline choked the transportation of oil to the eastern U.S. The Colonial Pipeline, responsible for the country’s largest fuel pipeline, shut down all its operations Friday after hackers broke into some of its networks. All four of its main lines remain offline.

The emergency declaration from the Department of Transportation aims to ramp up alternative transportation routes for oil and gas. It lifts regulations on drivers carrying fuel in 17 states across the South and eastern United States, as well as the District of Columbia, allowing them to drive between fuel distributors and local gas stations on more overtime hours and less sleep than federal restrictions normally allow. The U.S. is already dealing with a shortage of tanker truck drivers.

Why is there a shortage of tanker truck drivers? One reason is the Covid-19 lockdown. "We've been dealing with a driver shortage for a while, but the pandemic took that issue and metastasized it," said Ryan Streblow, the executive vice president of the National Tank Truck Carriers. "It certainly has grown exponentially."

Warning: driver shortages ahead.

More fundamentally truck driving has become an unattractive lifestyle choice for young people. "The trucking industry relies heavily on male employees, 45 years of age or older... With an alarming amount of these drivers retiring within the next 10-20 years, we are quickly approaching a dangerous cliff." Given the 18-20-year-old group has the highest rate of unemployment of any age bracket that may sound surprising, but it less so when the strict regulatory requirements for commercial driver's licenses are taken into account.

It is telling that one of the first things Biden did to increase fuel-trucking capacity was to relax federal restrictions. For too long public policy has taken the availability of labor and energy for granted. "There are now more jobs available than before the pandemic. So why aren't people signing up?" asks NBC.

Economic impact payments, or stimulus checks, have also played a factor for some who are sitting out the labor market, some employers say. Factory owners and employers lament that the generosity of unemployment benefits and stimulus payments have some workers avoiding returning to work because they make more money not working.

“I had one guy quit who said I can make more on unemployment. I’ll take the summer off,” said Robert Stevenson, CEO of Eastman Machine Company, a producer of machines that cut specialty fabrics for industry. “I told him I can’t guarantee you’ll have your job back. He said, ‘I’ll take my chances.’”

It's easy to throw away capacity when you've got enough. Activist Kendall Mackey was willing to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline to make a statement. “The Keystone XL pipeline was never about any single pipeline. It’s about establishing a litmus test rooted in climate science and climate justice for government projects and infrastructure.” Gail Collins wrote in the New York Times that “my instinct is to always side with the folks who don’t want to drill for more oil.”

Oil -- who needs it?

Only a few had the wit to realize the years of fat don't last forever.  As Robert McNally wrote on CNN the years of lean eventually come. "When oil prices next boom (and trust me, they will), investors will resume interest in pipeline projects and whoever is in the White House may regret Keystone XL's cancellation because the United States will have to rely more on less stable trading partners for oil."

The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline by the Russians no less is a reminder that old fashioned national security, fuel stockpiles and working class labor still matter in the real world. When you need them you really need them. Well might Joe Biden mimic Augustine's famous prayer: "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet."

Abolish fossil fuels and rednecks, but not yet.

Stepping Up, or Stepping Back?

Of all the environmental topics I write about, the one I almost never write about is "climate change." The topic has beaten to death over thirty years and frankly it bores me. Like Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway, the one thing I cannot abide is boredom.

However, President Biden, or possibly his puppeteers, recently felt obliged to say it was time for America to “step up” to fight climate change. Folks of my persuasion would have preferred that the president asked his audience to “step back” instead. Specifically, he could have asked them to step back and consider all the things the United States has done to tilt at this particular windmill.

We’ve made massive reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions over the last twenty years. We’ve shut down scores of coal-fired power plants. We destabilized the grid in many parts of the country by relying on inherently unreliable sources of power to a degree that makes sane electrical engineers weep. Oh, by the way, we have not only allowed unreliable sources of power to threaten grid reliability, we subsidized the people who built them!

Apocalypse now!

What's more, we got rid of the incandescent light bulb, which of course resulted in a massive drop in electrical demand all across the country. (If you’re a liberal and you happen to read this, that last sentence is what we on the right call “sarcasm” – it’s part of something known as a “sense of humor”).

We drive electric cars, we have greenhouse gas trading programs, we’ve got state mandates, we’ve got municipal mandates, we’ve got corporate initiatives and we’ve got half the population spending 98 percent of their waking day worrying about a problem that the other half doesn’t believe exists and that we can’t possibly solve even if it did. Can we get some credit? Just a little, maybe?

There is one thing of which a writer who chooses to write about climate change can be absolutely certain: nothing he or she says is going to change anyone’s mind. The last person to change his mind about "climate change" was a small town shopkeeper in rural Kentucky back in 2007.

With that in mind, let me just make a couple of general observations about climate change that the reader may find interesting.

First, I don’t believe it is any coincidence that global warming fears began to “heat up” about the time the Cold War ended. Up through 1991 everyone was worried, more or less, about the possibility of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. But while everyone was worried, nobody does worry like the left. They’re in love with it. And, no surprise, the problem that caused them to wring their hands about nuclear weapons was – wait for it – America! But for our evil, war-mongering, imperialistic selves, the world would not have to suffer under this shadow of doom. The hysteria reached its peak when Reagan was elected, with liberals and journalists wailing that the Gipper would hit the "nukem" button immediately after taking the oath of office.

Then this terrible thing happened to the Left: the Cold War ended. Worse, from their perspective, we won! You’ve got millions of Americans who pretty much hate America, who have spent literally decades engaged in self-loathing and fear-mongering, sure that crazy conservatives were going to wipe out all life on earth unless they somehow could be made to see the light. So if it wasn't "climate change" now, it would be  something else. The issue really doesn’t matter, so long as the modern liberal can demonstrate his or her moral superiority whilst showing how all of us on the right are knuckle-dragging cretins who can’t be trusted to cross the street, much less run a country.

It's unbear-able!

Observation two: there are three sets of people involved in what should be a climate-change debate, but is in fact an environmental shoe-throwing contest. Set one is actual, accredited climatologists who understand the myriad of factors that influence climate – which, if I have to say it, include a whole lot of things beyond carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. This group includes accredited climatologists like Gavin Schmidt on what I call “the alarmist” side, and accredited climatologists like Roy Spencer on what the other side calls “the denier” side.

Alarmists like Schmidt know that folks like Spencer are every bit as qualified as they are to opine on climate change. I doubt if any serious alarmist climatologist buys what the left’s PR professionals routinely pumps out to smear “denier” climatologists: that they have sinister motives! They lie and know they lie! They are religious fanatics! They’re beholden to Big Energy!

Rather, I believe that the alarmists have fallen victim to that classic failing of academia: hubris. They have fallen in love with their hypothesis. They are so invested in it that they can’t imagine possibly turning back, much less actually doing so. They’ve chosen their hill to die on and if doing so means turning a blind eye to professional colleagues getting crapped on by media-relations types, congressional staffers, and ignorant journalists, well that’s just the price one has to pay. The end justifies the means.

Set two is slightly larger: it involves two subsets. The first is the group of people who are not expert climatologists, but who are good enough scientists to digest most – not all – of the arguments about actual science that we can find and make reasonable judgments on the worth of those arguments. That includes many chemists (including me and my two chemist brothers), physicists, statisticians, meteorologists, etc.  We’re not fluent in the climatologist’s language, but we understand enough of it to offer an educated opinion.

Unfortunately, this group also includes wanna-be second-level “experts," of whom Al Gore is the ultimate example. These are folks who pretend that they are qualified to decipher and comment on expert opinions, but who are actually about pushing the liberal agenda by using "climate change" as an excuse. When we on the right talk about liberals using "climate change" to promote socialism, this is who we mean.  They are the type of "scientists" who've been a bane on science since "consensus" demanded that ground-breaking pioneers like Archimedes, Copernicus, Galileo and Lemaître who dared to question orthodoxy be demonized. Consensus defenders are and have always been scientists so sure of their own infallibility that they can justify scorn in order to dismiss any idea that might possibly undermine their own theories.

Don't confuse me with facts.

Set three? Everybody else. The ultimate decision makers, unfortunately. When young, every generation believes that it’s discovered the mistakes their parents made. I know I did. In some cases one actually does, but in many others one finds later in life that the old-timers actually got a lot of things right. The trend right now, as I see it, is that more and more of the younger generation will chose to lock onto the fraudulent snake-oil salesmen and will tip public policy in their favor. They may eventually figure out they've been had, but by then it will be too late.

What Price 'Infrastructure'?

It seems like just yesterday then-President Obama put Joe Biden in charge of that “three-letter word: J.O.B.S.,” and while he failed in that mission, as president he’s back at it, this time with incoherent strategies and massive graft opportunities for all his Democrat constituencies.

The proposed $2 trillion giveaway, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, only thinly disguises the graft-enabling nature of the proposal. And the means to pay for this giveaway -- higher taxes on persons, investments and businesses -- are more likely to destroy the economy, most particularly regarding small businesses, long the generator of jobs in this country, than the expenditures proposed for actual infrastructure are to increase job opportunities and prime the economy already reeling from the Covid lockdowns.

But let me begin with the most ludicrous of Biden’s ideas, supersonic jets and a national high speed railroad, something not specified in the Plan, but Buck Rogers-ish notions he keeps talking about nevertheless, perhaps under the misguided notion that these are in the Plan. Perhaps even to deflect from what is in it.

Biden claims, “If we decide to do it, be able to traverse the world in an hour, travel at 21,000 miles an hours.” Earth’s circumference is slightly short of 25,000 miles. To circumnavigate it these imaginary planes would have to fly 25,000 miles per hour, coincidentally the escape velocity of the earth. The last supersonic jets were the Concorde fleet which took 3 1/2 hours to fly from New York to Paris to London, so noisy and at an operating cost so high that these factors  caused its demise in little over two decades.

Of course, it would be interesting to see how supersonic jets could, in any event, function without Biden’s hated fossil fuels. Maybe some sharp engineers can rig up solar panels and windmills on them without jeopardizing reliability or reducing air speed.

All aboard the Shanghai maglev express!

Equally unrealistic is his advocacy for a cross-continental high speed railway, something once bandied about, then scrapped for decades. To my knowledge, the fastest trains operating today still move at less than conventional air speed: “ Shanghai Maglev has the highest run speed of 431 kph for an operational train covering a 30.5 km distance in 7 mins 20 secs.” Japan’s L0 Series Maglev due to be operational in 2027 will travel at 310 miles per hour, slightly less than half the speed (about 570 mph)of a Boeing 747.

It’s almost 3,000 miles from New York City to Los Angeles. To be of any value, any cross-national high-speed train will have to connect major urban areas, and the difficulty of obtaining the right of ways through already well-developed tracts in a country with so many litigation opportunities available to opponents seems as difficult as getting high-speed trains operating on such varied topography and wind speeds as a national railway would encounter.

Even without the delays and legal costs to obtain rights of way, the last estimate I saw for construction of high-speed rails was $60 million per mile. The Chinese have fewer property rights they can defend in court, and Shanghai’s 30 km Maglev line cost 1.2 billion to build. This, of course, doesn’t cover recurring capital costs --Shanghai’s train is losing about $33 million per year on those. Given the way Amtrak is run (it manages to lose money even on $9.50 cheeseburgers, we can expect to lose far more on our national railroad.

But the final kicker, it seems to me, is that like the push for all-electric vehicles, Maglev high speed trains require a great deal of electricity (between 1 and 3 kilowatts per ton ), but nothing in any of the administration’s grand plans includes increasing electric-power generation. If it did, fossil fuels would still be needed to create the electricity unless the administration has some super-secret plan to create much more nuclear energy generation. Do you see that on the horizon? I don’t. And there's not a whisper of it.

Just as fantastical as Biden’s wish list for things not in the Plan, are the items in it. This is how the Democrats who like this infrastructure bonanza define “infrastructure":

Translation: It’s everything they want to use tax revenues to pay for. Like Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, the Democrats seem to think ,”when I choose a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.”

In the real world, however, infrastructure is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.”

In real infrastructure terms only 5 percent of the  $2.7 trillion  would go for roads and bridges. More than half the plan is designed to eliminate fossil fuels. $213 billion would go to build and retrofit energy-efficient homes and buildings. Elsewhere, retrofit investment costs came to almost twice the actual energy savings with an average return of minus-7.8% annually. The plan calls for $85 billion for regional mass transit, just as mass transit ridership is collapsing because Covid-19 has warned people of the dangers of it.

Of course there is no mention of continuing high capital costs, safety concerns and the demonstrably poor management of such systems. In Washington, D.C., we had a multi-billion dollar federally financed mass transit system which has been so poorly managed it has become unreliable and dangerous to passengers. People in ever larger numbers are refusing to ride it. To lure riders back, the management is now offering lower fares, further increasing the operating deficits which were already high. It’s estimated that by 2025 the revenue shortfall over expenses for this single system is expected to be some $2 billion. Taxpayers, of course, will be making up the difference.

Moral: you can build these things at great expense but you can’t make us ride them. And you can’t ignore the fiscally painful experience that huge continuing capital outlays will be needed to keep them afloat.

The D.C. Metro: if only it worked like it looks.

As the Administration works to banish fossil fuels, which presently make up more than half of American electric generation, Biden works to boost the wind and solar industries and is making the power grid less reliable in the process. His idea of providing tax credits for battery storage and high-voltage transmission lines to places now reliant on fossil fuels, is equally unrealistic.

I've already discussed here the plans to pay states, cities and schools to buy electric vehicles and build 500,000 charging stations, and how ludicrous this is without a plan to increase electric generation. Biden plans to shell out $178 billion in grants to create these charging stations along the 50,000 miles of interstate highways and thousands of other major highways. How to decide who gets those grants and where the charging stations will be built? If you live in a Democrat-run city you can figure this out. If not, ask a savvy friend who lives in one.

Less remarked upon are the tranches of cash for things no one would actually consider infrastructure:   building and upgrading schools and child-care facilities and extending broadband service to all Americans.

The plan to spend $100 billion on K-12 facilities includes $50 billion in direct grants for facilities and $50 billion in construction bonds. Another $45 billion in Environmental Protection Agency funds would be used to reduce lead exposure in schools and early-childhood facilities. In addition to expanding broadband, Biden’s plan would seek to lower the cost of internet service.

Also not well-publicized is the plan to kill the suburbs, a refuge for middle class Americans from crime, bad schools and high taxes -- this would be done not only by making transportation by cars more expensive, but also by “diversifying” neighborhoods through forced changes to local zoning laws that would end single-family-home neighborhoods. Placing low-income, multiple-unit rental housing in single-family suburbs, something that overturns the long established right of municipalities to create their own zoning preferences, will likely face a mountain of legal challenges.

Meanwhile, zoning is now racist.

The Plan, is manifestly unrealistic and expensive. Will it create the 19 million new jobs the administration claims? No way. Moody’s chief economist estimates that the plan will net only 2.7 million new jobs, 600 percent smaller than Biden's claim. To however many jobs are created by building charging stations and upgrading nursery schools to be more energy efficient, subtract the large number of jobs lost in the fossil fuel and carbon-intensive industries.

But they even have a plan for that: some $40 billion is to be allocated for a "dislocated workers" program and $10 billion for a Civilian Climate Corps. How wonderful will it be for oil rig workers and coal miners to learn to code from Democratic functionaries or to have your homes and schools retrofitted by people who've never done this work before and are unlikely to have the skills to do it properly?

In sum, the plan is built on fantastical notions respecting transportation choices, is littered with graft opportunities and means to pay off supporters without doing much to improve actual infrastructure, transportation, energy use or that “three-letter word, J.O.B.S." -- which in Biden's mouth now really does seem like a four-letter word.

The Democrats are attempting to ram through an expensive, job killing, neighborhood destroying, pelf-increasing, waste of money. In Congress, they have the slimmest of majorities. At the moment they hold the House by only six votes (218-212) and the Senate is 50-50. One can only hope the Republicans will stand firm and that enough Democrats will see that their political survival depends on their joining the opposition to kill this monstrosity.

The Electric-Vehicle Booglaoo

Lawrence M Friedman, an expert in legal history and property law, was one of my favorite law professors. As a student at the University of Chicago and its law school, he had been part of the Second City cast with Elaine May and Mike Nichols, and it you think there’s no way someone can make the subject of property law engaging, you haven’t had a class with Professor Friedman. An author of a number of books (including fiction) he said something in his work, “The Horizontal Society,” which strikes me as particular appropriate as the Biden administration rolls out its fantasy energy and infrastructure plans:

The average citizen, who has no idea how... a refrigerator works. still feels that scientists, if they worked hard enough, could cure AIDS or the common cold, or get electric power out of turnip juice, or send a satellite zooming off to Pluto.

No better example of this sort of fantasy thinking can be found in the plan to transform the auto industry. And no better example can be found of the way lunatic ideas and the greedy grab by myriad interests for federal funds for ridiculous projects can be found than this one.

Like plugging in a toaster!

On March 29 something called the Alliance for Automotive Innovation , an alliance of auto manufacturers, supplies and the United Auto Workers wrote to the President  supporting the shift to electric-drive vehicles. Like courtiers praising the emperor’s new clothes, the Alliance dubs the Biden plan a “bold, comprehensive vision and innovation that will place the U.S. at the forefront of creating a cleaner future for motor vehicle transformation.” 

Then it goes on to the cost (certainly just a down payment  for something that will cost even more). It turns the notion of supply and demand on its head, seeking funds to first create demand and then to supply the products for the demand they just created. It is slathered with blather like “we need a comprehensive plan that takes present market realties [only about 2 percent of 14.5 million worth of new vehicle sales were for electric vehicles] as well as the on-going investment and innovation in internal combustion engine (ICE) technologies."

Ignoring the spin we see a bottom line that stretches out endlessly and pays off all the Democrat interest groups it can possibly grease. Here's what they want on the demand side: 

Increasing demand, however, will not increase the supply without yet more federal largesse. So here’s what they want to do to increase the supply:

  1. Expand tax credits to allow manufacturers  to “retool, expand, or build new facilities for the manufacturing, recycling, of these vehicles, batteries, fuel cells, components and infrastructure."
  2. Expand the domestic manufacturing conversion grant program to accelerate  the needed technologies.
  3. Develop (presumably through more federal money or tax credits)   extraction, processing and recycling of the critical minerals needed for these vehicles (now mostly imported from China).
  4. Research and development grants  for new innovation “that will make the zero-emission future a reality."
  5. Grants and loans  for advanced technology.
  6. Training and development programs to “upskill” the work force.
  7. New investment tax credits for hydrogen production and storage.
  8. Grants to “reequip, expand, and establish facilities for the manufacturing of clean energy technologies and components."

The cost of these ambitious efforts is predicted at the very end of this wish list: $4-12 billion in the tax-credit expansion alone and another $12-25 billion for manufacturing conversion. I don’t think this covers more than a fraction of what this proposal suggests. Do you?

No fumes, no worries, no explosions!

On the other hand, I've reread it several times, and besides scratching my head at the new economics in which we are asked to create and greatly fund a non-existent demand to deal with a non-existent problem ("climate change") and then to create a fount of new funds to meet this confected demand. Puzzling.

More puzzling in this paean to electric vehicles is the absence of the need for more electric power production. Not one word of it. Toyota’s president  is one auto manufacturing leader skeptical of the entire notion of massively increasing electric vehicles:

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said Japan would run out of electricity in the summer if all cars were running on electric power. The infrastructure needed to support a fleet consisting entirely of EVs would cost Japan between ¥14 trillion and ¥37 trillion, the equivalent of $135 billion to $358 billion, he said.

“When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?” Mr. Toyoda said Thursday at a year-end news conference in his capacity as chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Toyota is a leader in hybrid autos and has no small experience to back up their president’s concerns.

In what was undoubtedly a rare moment of reality, the Washington Post  acknowledged the increased amount of electric energy these “clean cars” need is energy produced almost entirely by fossil fuels now that in this country atomic energy has been so reduced.

How much more electricity will be needed for electric cars? About 150,000 electric vehicles were sold in California in 2018 — 8 percent of all state car sales. The state projects that electric vehicles will consume 5.4 percent of the state's electricity, or 17,000 gigawatt hours, by 2030.

California, for one, doesn’t have sufficient capacity to meet existing demand, and there are no plans I know of in the works to increase it. 

There’s one more thing radically wrong with this blinkered notion that substituting more expensive transportation and servicing it when conventional transportation and the means to fuel it is cheaper, more readily available, and requires no enormous outlays to continue.

Unless someone comes up fast with a way to create electric power for electric vehicles from turnip juice, a transportation policy that has at its core an enormous switch to electric vehicles without a substantial increase in electric power production is, on its face, insane.

Fighting the Climate War, One Fad at a Time

Behind my desk is a framed picture of an article in Newsweek dated April 28, 1975. The cooling world, it is titled. “Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects,” it is reported. Fortunately, nothing was done, e.g., “covering arctic sea ice with soot,” otherwise what a pickle we’d now be in, what with global warming and all.

Global cooling was forecast to cause “an increase in extremes of weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases.” There it is. Whatever the climate does we should expect the worst.

Oops.

Australian palaeontologist and climate alarmist, Tim Flannery expected the worst in 2007. Droughts were in his crystal ball. “Even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems,” he said. Late March 2021 in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, rain galore, floods, dams overflowing. Of course, things will change, droughts will recur in the land “of droughts and flooding plains;” as the Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar put it, way back in a wiser age before Flannery was born. And they’ll be met with water restrictions and, among Christians, prayers for rain.

It would help if there were more and bigger dams, but these are hard to build. They are hard to build, in case you don’t know, because the habitats of rare species would be lost or Aboriginal cave drawings or other sights of significance submerged. As it turns out, these barriers to dam building apply more or less everywhere it makes sense to build large-scale dams. Sometimes I think we might as well designate the whole of Australia as a national park-cum-untouchable Aboriginal sacred site and be done with it.

Warragamba Dam is the primary water source for Sydney. It was finished in 1960 when Sydney’s population was not much over two million. Sydney’s population is now over five million and, surprise-surprise, during droughts water storage runs seriously low. A plan to increase the capacity of the dam by increasing its height is stalled. No surprise there either.

As an aside, isn’t it somewhat churlish to keep on praying for rain during droughts when we’re persistently recalcitrant in harvesting water? My Anglican minister points out that those suffering during droughts still need our prayers, whatever the circumstances. I take his point, yet I suspect most Anglican churchgoers are green-hued and therefore to some extent complicit in the suffering. It’s a conundrum, but enough of that.

Don’t for a minute think that the “record-breaking” rains (they are not by the way) in NSW and Queensland will dent Flannery’s (hysterical) conviction. It would take momentous contradictory events to disturb any part of the conviction among alarmists that we face imminent catastrophic climate change. It comes down to the philosophy of science.

To be honest, I don’t find the philosophy of science to be a riveting subject. But it seems to me that the history of science in the past half century has shown that Thomas Kuhn’s insights rather than Karl Popper’s best encompass the scientific method in practice. Scientists clearly move in crowds; albeit with the odd, shunned, ‘eccentric’ voices on the periphery. The prevailing scientific paradigm, as Kuhn describes it, bounds inquiry. That is, until whatever is the stubbornly-held paradigm is completely overwhelmed by contradictory events.

Incidentally, J K Galbraith (in The Affluent Society) used the term “conventional wisdom” to describe, more or less, the same phenomenon in the social sciences and in all walks of life.

We only have to be right this week.

I dare say many climate scientists were investigating global cooling when it was fashionable, as they are now almost all investigating global warming. I doubt many are subjecting the hypothesis of CO2-caused warming to stress testing. They are not Popperians, busying away trying to falsify the paradigm which guides their research. No, I suggest, they simply accept it as true and work within its bounds. And maybe that is the way science has generally proceeded.

Climate sceptics often charge that a scientific consensus is a contradiction in terms. But is that true? On reflection, I don’t think it is. I have read that a consensus has developed within quantum theory which leaves those on the outside at risk of being shunned. I understand that Galileo had less trouble with Urban VIII, the Pope at the time, than he had with the scientists of the day who had the ear of the Pope. At question is how to break through a consensus?

I will take my lead from Sun Tzu in The Art of War. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles” (3,18). Many of those who believe climate alarmists to be wrong don’t seem to know their enemy. They tend to think that logical counter-arguments will carry weight. They won’t. All such counter arguments strike at the paradigm (a walled city). That simply won’t work. It’s akin to infidels questioning the likelihood that the Archangel Gabriel spoke to Muhammed in a cave. It will carry no weight among Islamists.

What to do against a strong enemy? “The worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities,” says Sun Tzu (3,3). “Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots” (6,23). In this case, the vulnerable spot is the practical means of countering CO2 emissions.  Clearly today’s renewable energy doesn’t and won’t ever work. Not even Michael Moore (Planet of the Humans) defends it. So, what will work? Right now, only nuclear can deliver sufficient dispatchable power, whenever and wherever it is required, without producing CO2 emissions. That is the turf on which the battle can be fought and won.

If indeed man-made CO2 is on the brink of causing catastrophic warming, then we need to move speedily. There is no time for endless research on renewables or hydrogen. Only nuclear is available in the limited time we have left. Might even be able to get David Attenborough to buy into this, in view of his current angst.

Of course, battles will remain. Electric vehicles, farm animal emissions etc. But at least we might be rid of ugly wind and solar farms and the costly, intermittent and unreliable power they bring. True we lose cheap and dependable fossil-fuel power. However, consolingly, it will not be lost to the world. We can depend upon China and India to keep on burning the black stuff.

When 'Inclusive' Capitalism Becomes Socialism

Capitalism is not the answer to human suffering. At the same time, it is the only economic system which allows individual freedom to flourish; it produces unrivalled prosperity; and, as Michael Novak perceptively says in the 1991 edition of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, “it is the most practical hope of the world’s poor: no magic wand, but the best hope.”

Not content, some very rich people, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope, among others, want capitalism to do more. Enter “inclusive capitalism” and its more recent stablemate “stakeholder capitalism.”

It was May 2014. A conference called “Making Capitalism More Inclusive” was held in London. Inclusive capitalism is a concept developed in 2012 by the Henry Jackson Society - a British think tank of classical-liberal persuasion. It started well enough with the principal objective being to engender more ethical behaviour in business practices. The excesses surrounding the recession of 2009/10 were fresh in mind. Unfortunately, it has gone rapidly downhill since.

The aforementioned conference was opened by Prince Charles and featured Bill Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Mark Carney and Lawrence Summers. Hardly a conservative or classical liberal in sight. Three conferences have followed: in London in June 2015, in New York in October 2016 and back in London in March 2018. Presumably, Covid has prevented holding a more recent conference. No matter. Those behind inclusive capitalism co-opted the Pope to keep the pot simmering.

Money makes the world go 'round.

As the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) puts it, Pope Francis has become the “moral guide to inclusive capitalism.” ‘The Council for Inclusive Capitalism (the Council), with the Vatican onboard, was launched on December 8 last year. Earlier in the year, in May, The Great Reset was unveiled at Davos. “Stakeholder capitalism” became the watchword; encompassing the same grand idea as inclusive capitalism.

So, to my theme: What’s it all about or, in other words, what do ‘they’ want; and why is the whole thing a crock or, more politely, misconceived?

This is Mark Carney, the then Governor of the Bank of England, at the 2014 conference to which I referred: “Inclusive capitalism is fundamentally about delivering a basic social contract comprised of relative equality of outcomes, equality of opportunity, and fairness across generations.” Hard to believe coming from a central banker? He’s Canadian.

This is easier to believe. Justin Welby, participating in the 2015 conference, outlining his aspirations for capitalism: “A generosity of spirit that doesn’t always seek the greatest return…that meets the needs of the poor and the excluded and the suffering.”

To add waffle to waffle, the Council’s mission is to “harness the private sector to create a more inclusive, sustainable and trusted economic system.” Understandably, sustainability is featured. After all, the Pope urges us to listen to “the cry of the earth.” Hmm? Smacking too much of paganism? Perish the thought.

Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, expanded on the term stakeholder capitalism in February this year. He identified two primary stakeholders. One is the planet (no, not kidding); the other is everyone, wherever they live. The respective wellbeing of both stakeholders is the objective. Though, Schwab notes, “people are social animals and their absolute well-being is less important than their relative well-being.” Got that. You and your neighbour each having ten dollars is better than him having fifteen and you only twelve.

How the idea of levelling down translates to those participating at Davos and at inclusive capitalism forums is beyond me. Note this description in UCA News of those calling the shots at inclusive capitalism: “a group of individuals and institutions with more than $10.5 trillion in assets and companies with a combined market capitalization of more than $2 trillion.” They are the woke big end of town. A race apart from the small and medium-sized businesses which make up the bulk of market economies. Their self-appointed mission: to rescue the world by reimagining capitalism.

They are discomforted by the prevailing state of affairs. They want a world within which all existing species survive and thrive, the oceans cease rising, the earth cools and each and every person everywhere enjoys a liveable income and state of the art medical attention.

Leaving aside a slight qualm I have about the earth cooling; the aims are fine. I sometimes daydream about winning a lottery. That fantasy is fine too. To take saving the poor and saving planet earth in turn.

Capitalism makes much of the world prosperous. Part of that is entrepreneurs and businesses striving to earn profits by vigorously competing with each other. Part is prices guiding resources into their best commercial use while informing and rationing demand. Part is not ensuring fair outcomes. Capitalism cannot be moulded into a generous outreach to the poor and disadvantaged. It simply won’t work. It is an idea contradictory at its core.

It's easy if you try. Scary, too.

As for lifting those in poor countries out of poverty, how about advising them to adopt Judeo-Christian institutions and values; the institutions and values that have underpinned economic progress in western countries and in other countries which have tried them. Call them what you like, of course, to make them universally palatable.

I will guess. That advice will never come out of Davos or the Council. Yet, when all is said and done, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, property rights, free speech and freedom from fear, the absence of systematic nepotism, cronyism and corruption and, vitally, mutual trust, tell the tale of progress; not pie-in-the-sky reimagining of capitalism.

From the unattainable to the unachievable describes the segue from saving the poor to saving the planet. Here’s a thought. What is the ideal state of the planet? Roaming ruminants, sans people, perhaps. Short of that green-dream nirvana wouldn’t it be nice, for example, to get CO2 down to pre-industrial levels? Or would it?

A friend of mine, Ivan Kennedy, emeritus professor of agriculture at Sydney University, tells me that we are now effectively addicted to higher levels of CO2. He estimates that if CO2 were to return to pre-industrial levels it would reduce the photosynthesis of cereal crops by more than 20 percent. This would likely cause famine, malnutrition and death, particularly among the world’s poorest. Something on which the Pope and Archbishop might cogitate.