If you don't already keep tabs on Michael Shellenberger, you should. While you may not always agree with him -- Shellenberger is a self-described environmentalist and man of the left -- you will find him to be an honest, insightful, and even brave writer. Brave because he consistently uses facts to counter the hysterical narrative of the Green New Deal wing of the green movement, which as you might imagine doesn't win him a lot of friends.
In the piece, essentially a pitch for his book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Shellenberger reviews his environmentalist bona fides, working to save the California redwoods and lobbying the Obama administration to spend billions on so-called renewable energy, etc. Increasingly, however, he became disturbed by other environmentalists distorting the science to make a case for hysteria, and shutting down anyone who questioned their conclusions.
They've been so successful that children routinely report having nightmares about climate change and people around the world are convinced the end is near. Eventually Shellenberger came to feel he had a responsibility to speak out and counter their propaganda.
Here are some facts few people know:
• Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”
• The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
• Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
• Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
• The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declinedby an area nearly as large as Alaska • The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
• Air pollution and carbon emissions have been declining in rich nations for 50 years
• Adapting to life below sea level made the Netherlands rich not poor
• We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
• Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
• Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
• Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture
I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism.
Fitch Ratings, one of the big three global credit rating agencies, has announced it's downgrading Canada's credit rating from AAA to AA+. This is due to the tremendous debt -- roughly a quarter of a trillion dollars -- the Canadian government took on to prop up the economy during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Though the Trudeau government was quick to argue that Canada's economy remains strong and that the country in an ideal position to turn things around, this does have the potential to significantly increase the cost of government borrowing and of doing business. That danger, moreover, will be amplified if, as some think, there are further downgrades to come:
David Rosenberg... has been predicting a downgrade on Canada’s sovereign debt since late April and thinks this won’t be the last. “The real question is: What took so long?’ .... Canada’s excessively leveraged national balance sheet has looked a lot like China, Italy and Greece for quite a while.” While Ottawa may appear to be in “solid” financial shape to some, this has “masked bloated debt ratios” in households, business sectors, and most of the provinces, he said. “This won’t be the last ratings cut, I can assure you,” said Rosenberg.
Now, it is true that governments worldwide have responded to the pandemic by racking up what would normally be unthinkable amounts of debt. Consequently, it is likely that Canada won't be the only country to have its rating downgraded.
Rather than championing Canada's hydrocarbon industry and creating economic growth with our country’s wealth of natural resources, O’Toole’s policies seem most focused on maintaining the what-seems-to-be-required, green-is-god image of so many politicians.... Our natural resources are an asset to this country, not a liability. They keep energy affordable, and give us one of the highest standards of living. O’Toole and other political candidates seem determined to remain blind to that fact.
You would hope that this turn of events would cause Canada's governing class to thank its lucky stars for the energy sector, a potential launchpad for recovery. But unfortunately they'll probably keep just hoping for pats on the head from similarly green-obsessed organizations like the UN -- and how's that been working out for them?
Eventually someone is going to have to grow up and start taking things seriously.
A Drowned World? Bilge!
Bjorn Lomborg has an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Examining the Latest False Alarm on Climate," which contains a helpful illustration of the way the media uses studies to whip up anxiety around one of their pet projects.
In the piece, he discusses a spate of recent startling headlines all of which suggest that, in his words, "Rising sea levels from climate change could flood 187 million people out of their homes." This claim has its origin in a paper published all the way back in 2011, and when you actually read the paper, you see that it needed to make some pretty questionable assumptions in order to arrive at that figure. As Lomborg explains, the paper found that "187 million could be forced to move in the unlikely event that, in the next 80 years, no one does anything to adapt to dramatic rises in sea level."
In other words, in order for their projection to make sense, the paper's authors had to take worst-case climate scenarios (which are already questionable) projected out over a century and then disregard what we know about actual human behavior. If sea-levels rise as much as these authors are claiming (which is, once again, not certain), leading to significant coastal flooding, one hundred eighty-seven million people -- not to mention their governments -- aren't just going to sit there until they're neck-deep in water. What would actually happen, says Lomborg, is we would deal with those problems as they arise.
We have more know-how and technology than ever to build dikes, surge barriers and dams, expand beaches and construct dunes, make ecosystem-based barriers like mangrove buffers, improve building codes and construction techniques, and use land planning and hazard mapping to minimize flooding.
The one hundred eighty-seven million displaced people headline, then, is a canard, based on dubiously applied data, whose object it is to frighten you into signing onto a sprawling environmentalist program. While flooding will likely be a serious problem over the next 80 years, as it is in many parts of the world today, targeted policies and spending could go a long way towards reducing their human and financial costs.
They're also more likely to be successful than the beef-and-airplane bans our mainstream media overlords have in mind.
Erin O'Toole, Environmentalist
Back in March I drew your attention to an article by Canadian Tory insider Ken Boessenkool which argued, in the wake of an election which saw the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) pick up 26 seats, that the party needed to go all in on environmentalism.
Vote for us, the Conservatives said, and we’ll cut your taxes.
Vote for us, the Liberals said, and we will address climate change.
This worked wonders across western Canada, in rural Ontario, around Quebec City, and in a smattering of ridings in Atlantic Canada. But new polling for Clean Prosperity conducted by Conservative pollster Andrew Enns from Leger suggests climate change was a key reason why the Conservatives failed to gain ground in the 905.
I pointed out at the time that this was specious reasoning, since the Conservatives are less likely than ever to win in the Greater Toronto area because of the collapse of the New Democratic Party as a viable electoral (and vote-splitting) force, not to mention the fact that the polling he cited was done by the carbon-tax activist group Canadians for Clean Prosperity. It isn't that surprising that their conclusion was Canadians Love Carbon Taxes!
Shockingly, Erin O'Toole, purported co-front runner in the CPC Leadership race, seems not to have read my post. (He must have skipped his press clippings that morning). That is, he sounds like he's going all in on the Boessenkool theory. At last week's leadership debate, his opponents hammered O'Toole's plan to introduce a "national industrial regulatory and pricing regime" as being a carbon tax-like scheme that would harm consumers and the oil and gas industry alike.
O'Toole [replied that] the party needs a serious environmental platform for the next election. "I'm the only one who has a detailed plan. It's disappointing to see Mr. MacKay attack that. If we're not clear on the environment in the next election ... we're not going to be able to get pipelines built," O'Toole said.
It's a surprising tack for True Blue O'Toole to take. His whole campaign is built upon contrasting himself with the Mr. Progressive Conservative, Peter MacKay, but here he is going all in on alienating the west. Maybe he figures he can get away with it because they have no where else to go -- what are they going to do, vote Liberal?
But O'Toole is counting his chickens before they're hatched. He isn't leader yet, and western Canadian party members can still give that title to someone else, perhaps Derek Sloan or Leslyn Lewis.
Hopefully they do something to make it clear to O'Toole or MacKay or whoever wins that the party's base can't be ignored.
When 'Social Justice' Comes to Investing
Trillions of dollars sit in private trusts, pension and retirement accounts, and charitable endowments, and they are targets of those who wish to reshape domestic investments, corporate governance and means of energy production. I recall years earlier when people and outfits who wished to accomplish such things bought stock and made pests of themselves at shareholders meetings, or ran well-funded public relations campaigns against investment in South African companies or nuclear energy, to take two historical examples of “active shareholding.” In recent years they’ve devised another means: pressuring trustees of these funds and fiduciary investment managers to consider Environmental, Social and corporate Governance (ESG) analyses in their investment buys. A quick Google search shows a number of providers vying to assist (for fees ) trustees in making such investments.
The most detailed explanation of the history and pitfalls of this strategy—economic and legal—is in this Stanford Law Review article: The authors, Max M. Schanzenbach and Robert H. Sitkoff, are writing for a very specific audience and you are encouraged to read it all if you want a more complete analysis, but here’s a short take on it as it involved institutional investors, index funds , endowments and trust companies. Such investing may well place trustees at risk of violating their fiduciary duty of loyalty under which they must consider only the interests of the beneficiary.
Fiduciaries motivated, even in part, by any other thing—sense of ethics, benefit to third parties, for example -- violate their duty of loyalty. While trustees of a charitable endowment whose settlor or beneficiaries okay such considerations, might do this without violating the rule of loyalty, trustees of institutional investors, trust companies and even index funds run a risk if they do. In the first place, the very concept ESG investing lacks precise definition.
All told, the fluidity of the ESG rubric means that assessment and application of ESG factors will be highly subjective. Like any form of active investing, risk-return ESG investing necessarily involves subjective judgments in the identification of relevant factors, assessing whether they are good or bad from an investor’s perspective, and how much weight to give each factor. However, this subjectivity makes both application and empirical evaluation of ESG investing challenging and highly contextual. As some astute commentators recently noted, “the breadth and vagueness of the factors as a whole, and the likelihood that different factors bear on different investments, present barriers to their widespread use as investment guides.
What are the social and environmental impacts of a firm’s products or practices? Is a gas pipeline better for the wildlife in the area it runs through than a solar or wind farm? (No one’s surveying the views of the caribou in Alaska who seem to love the pipeline, or the avian communities fried or turned to pate by solar and wind farms.)What are the environmental costs to producing the glass and aluminum to create solar panels or the cost of disposing of no longer useful wind turbines ?
The favorable empirical results regarding environmental and social factors, however, are not uniform. A significant concern is that managers may invoke ESG factors to enact their own policy preferences at the expense of shareholders—an agency problem for which there is also some empirical evidence. Another concern is that the extent of a firm’s regulatory and political risks may not be reflected in its ESG scoring. For example, companies pursuing alternative energy sources may score high on ESG factors but still face significant political and regulatory risk owing to heavy reliance on current government policy. Indeed, one of the Commissioners on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has suggested that the SEC has not yet taken a position on ESG disclosure in part because defining ESG factors is value laden and would involve confronting contentious political issues.
And then there’s corporate governance. Some corporate governance issues are obvious—lack of a sound auditing and accounting operation or frequent litigation losses for bad labor practices or unhealthy products. The social factors are even more subjective and not well validated by empirical evidence. The effect of sex and race diversity on the corporate board doesn’t seem measurable or even relevant to how prudent an investment might be in a company. The number of factors one might consider under this category seems inexhaustible.
The fluidity of the ESG parameters and the obvious subjectivity involved in weighing them should concern trustees. Aside from subjecting them to litigation for losses due to erroneous assessments on ESG investments, trustees can be removed, enjoined, forced to repay the trust for losses and so forth for breaching their duty of loyalty to the trust. To defend against such claims, the trustee who picks and chooses among investments on the basis of ESG strategies, must have documented analyses showing he’s made a realistic risk-loss return estimate and must also reevaluate these analyses regularly, a costly undertaking. So, to take an example near at hand, if President Obama made the cost of fracking higher through regulatory constraints on it and the trustee eschewed investing in such companies under his analysis of risk-reward, President Trump’s support for fracking certainly changes the equation. So does the I hope temporary dislocation of that market due to the Wuhan virus shutdowns. The trustee has to reconsider original action and readjust the portfolio. The risk-reward equation has shifted.
If independent analysis shows the ESG models the trustee relied upon resulted in statistically significant under-performance, the fiduciaries who relied upon those models may well have breached their duty of loyalty and be subject to litigation by the beneficiaries of the trust. And any claims that ESG investment strategies provide superior returns are far from certain. Even more troublesome in the authors’ view is this: if corporations draw a lot of ESG investment on the grounds that they are undervalued from a risk-reward standard by their lights, they may soon become overvalued. Contrarian strategies seem then to be attractive.
Going belly-up for climate change.
A few months ago, concerns were highlighted in a dispute involving the trustees of the California State Pension Fund (Calpers) and other major pension funds.
In the last two years, its directors have opposed proposals to sell stocks in private prisons, gun retailers and companies tied to Turkey because of the potential for lost revenue and skepticism about whether divestment forces social change. One of these directors is now urging the system, also known as Calpers, to end its ban on stocks tied to tobacco, a policy in place since 2000. “I do see a change,” said that director, California police sergeant Jason Perez, in an interview. “I think our default is to not divest.”
Calpers isn’t the only system wrestling with these new doubts. Rising funding deficits are prompting public officials and unions across the U.S. to reconsider the financial implications of investment decisions that reflect certain social concerns.
The total shortfall for public-pension funds across the U.S. is $4.2 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. New York state’s Democratic comptroller and unions representing civil service workers oppose a bill in the Legislature to ban fossil fuel investments by the state pension fund. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, vetoed legislation last year that would have forced divestment of state pension dollars from companies that avoid cleaning up Superfund sites by declaring bankruptcy...
The board now plans a comprehensive review, scheduled for 2021, of all of Calpers’ existing divestment policies, which include bans on investments in companies that mine thermal coal, manufacturers that make guns illegal in California and businesses operating in Sudan and Iran.
And then there are outfits like Black Rock which seemingly to court millennial investors are weighing such factors. Is it, in danger of violating its duty of loyalty? Bernard Scharfman thinks they may be. He hints that this virtue-signaling may be an effort to draw in Millennial investors, and discusses the practical limitations of Black Rock’s stated plan to weigh companies’ stakeholder relationships in weighing investments. He says this sort of shareholder activism may breach the duty it owes to its own investors:
So while Black Rock’s shareholder activism may be a good marketing strategy, helping it to differentiate itself from its competitors, as well as a means to stave off the disruptive effects of shareholder activism at its own annual meetings, it seriously puts into doubt Black Rock’s sincerity and ability to look out only for its beneficial investors and therefore may violate the duty of loyalty that it owes to its current, and still very much alive, baby-boomer and Gen-X investors. In sum, if I were running the Department of Labor or the Securities and Exchange Commission, I would seriously consider reviewing Black Rock’s strategy for potential breaches of its fiduciary duties.
If people really want to put their money into virtue-signaling instead of reasonable returns, why doesn’t someone just create a Virtue Fund? Investors would agree not to hold the managers of it accountable for losses as long as the investments tickle their fancy. That would leave those of us such as the Calpers beneficiaries who rely on secure returns to use more traditional measures of risk and reward (like debt-equity, dividends and price-earnings ratio) which have an historical measure of efficacy.
The impeccably politically correct president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, was probably a little taken aback to find her institution targeted on Twitter last week by the ferocious teenage activist Miss Thunberg.... [Her] complaint? According to an analysis by Greenpeace, from mid-March to mid-May the ECB bought more than €30bn (£27bn) of corporate bonds, of which €7.6bn were issued by oil and energy companies" ....
The Bank of England is in just as much trouble. It turns out that its Covid Corporate Financing Facility, has – surprise, surprise – been accessed by companies that climate change activists don’t exactly approve of. According to Greenpeace UK “airlines have been given … billions in cheap and easy loans to keep them polluting, without any commitments to reduce emissions or even keep workers on the payroll”. Even worse, “cruise lines, pesticides and car companies have received similar largesse”. The Bank is “bailing out climate wreckers,” according to the Green MP Caroline Lucas.
As Lynn points out, these criticisms are just dumb. "The ECB is not giving money to fossil fuel companies. It launched an emergency blast of quantitative easing as the eurozone went into lockdown." Which is to say, it injected cash into a teetering economy by (indiscriminately) purchasing corporate bonds. What's more, those bonds were purchased on the secondary market, so they weren't even bought from oil companies directly. They were attempting to bail out the economy, not particular companies. The same goes for the Bank of England. There are worthwhile criticisms of quantitative easing, but the Greta/Greenpeace suggestion here, that in a time of emergency, these banks should have stopped everything to make sure they weren't buying bonds with the names of oil companies on them, that is nuts.
Honestly, we'd all be much better off if this girl had stayed in school. Maybe she would have learned something.
Gov. Blackface and the Greening of Virginia
You're forgiven for still thinking of Virginia as a conservative state. If you went to school before the Leftists leveled our educational system, you'll know that securing the buy-in of steady, aristocratic Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson helped convince the colonists that the dispute those rowdy New Englanders were having with Britain wasn't just a regional affair. But as a matter of more recent history, between the elections of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Barrack Obama in 2008, Virginia was only won by one Democrat in a presidential contest. This isn't to say that the Old Dominion has been governed exclusively by the GOP -- when Linwood Holton was elected governor in 1970 he was the first Republican to hold that position in a century -- but no matter the party power in Richmond, they had to conform to the small 'c' conservative culture of the state.
In a relatively short time, however, that Virginia has been fundamentally transformed. After the most recent gubernatorial contest, which saw the election of the fourth Democrat in the last five cycles, journalist Matthew Continetti wrote a piece about his home state entitled 'How States Like Virginia Go Blue.' In it he paints a picture of modern day Virginia as "a hub of highly educated professionals, immigrants, and liberals," with an exploding population comprised of both the wealthy and educated and the comparatively poor, both key Democratic constituents:
Over the last 29 years, Virginia has become wealthier, more diverse, and more crowded. The population has grown by 42 percent, from 6 million in 1990 to 8.5 million. Population density has increased by 38 percent, from 156 people per square mile to 215. Mean travel time to work has increased from 24 minutes to 28 minutes. The median home price (in 2018 dollars) has gone from $169,000 to $256,000. Density equals Democrats.
The number of Virginians born overseas has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 12 percent. The Hispanic population has gone from 3 percent to 10 percent. The Asian community has grown from 2 percent to 7 percent. In 1990, 7 percent of people 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home. In 2018 the number was 16 percent.
If educational attainment is a proxy for class, Virginia has undergone bourgeoisification. The number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has shot up from 25 percent of the state to 38 percent. As baccalaureates multiplied, they swapped partisan affiliation. Many of the Yuppies of the ’80s, Bobos of the ’90s, and Security Moms of the ’00s now march in the Resistance.
Which is to say that, in that time, Virginia has been culturally and demographically tugged away from the rural, southern states and towards the urban, mid-Atlantic states. As one might expect, these trends are significantly more pronounced in the DC suburbs of Northern Va., especially Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The populations of these counties have exploded in that time. Fairfax gets more press, but Continetti points out that the population of Loudoun has more than quadrupled since the early '90s. Immigration is an important factor, but the expansion of the federal government during the Bush and Obama administrations might be more significant. Bureaucrats and defense contractors have to live somewhere, and they vote according to their interests.
Transformations like the one Continetti describes have consequences. In 2017, Virginians elected Democrat Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, as its governor. A lot of ink has been spilt on Northam's expanding abortion access in Virginia (including his controversial comments related to post-birth abortion) and his war on guns (as well as the extremely civil protests against his anti-2nd Amendment initiatives, which were nevertheless vilified by the mainstream media), as these have particularly enraged the Old Virginians. And who could forget his racist yearbook photo, which he originally claimed did not depict him until he eventually apologized, though without clarifying whether he's the Klansman or the guy in black face. Somehow Democrats are always able to survive these things, while Republicans have their careers ended over more ambiguous incidents.
In a bid to salvage his job, the Democratic governor of Virginia denied he was one of the men dressed up as a Klansman or in blackface in a picture on his medical school yearbook page — after admitting the night before he was, in fact, in the photo.
In a different yearbook at Virginia Military Institute, Northam was nicknamed “Coonman.” Why? He wasn’t quite sure, he said. “My main nickname in high school and in college was ‘Goose’ because when my voice was changing, I would change an octave. There were two individuals, as best as I can recollect, at VMI — they were a year ahead of me. They called me ‘Coonman’. I don’t know their motives or intent. I know who they are. That was the extent of that. And it ended up in the yearbook. And I regret that.”
A less publicized aspect of Northam's agenda has been his environmental extremism. Last September he signed an executive order setting a goal that the state produce 100 percent of its energy via "carbon-free" sources by 2050, and 30% within the next 10 years.
Chris Bast... of the [Department of Environmental Quality] told The Center Square that he did not have an estimate on how much the executive order will cost consumers or taxpayers, but said that investments to fight climate change are necessary. “The cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action,” Bast said.
After the state elections in November flipped both legislative houses to the Democrats, they set about turning that goal into a mandate, and this spring -- in the midst of the pandemic and Virginia's lengthy and onerous lockdowns -- Northam signed the Green New Deal-inspired Virginia Clean Economy Act, which did exactly that. He also approved the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act which puts Virginia on the path to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This multi-state compact imposes new regulatory burdens on Virginia's oil, natural gas, and coal power plants, and introduces a cap-and-trade scheme on the 30 largest of them.
As Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Daily Signal, “Virginia could hardly have picked a worse time to join RGGI,”
Everywhere RGGI has gone, higher electricity prices have followed. In Virginia’s case, however, membership will coincide with trying to recover from the self-imposed economic collapse of the statewide lockdown. At a time when millions have lost their jobs, many of them from small businesses that may never reopen, Gov. Northam and his supporters in the General Assembly are knowingly adding to the burdens of families trying to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown. It is a direct assault on the disposable incomes of the state’s most vulnerable residents by an out-of-touch political elite. Absurdly, with natural gas abundant, reliable, and cheap, the governor chooses this moment to hitch Virginia’s fortunes to taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar power, which are intermittent, unreliable, and expensive.
Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, adds that this push will ultimately be harmful to the environment and ignores the fact that the fracking revolution has led to a significant decrease in America's carbon emissions.
“If you’re going to require all of the state’s power to come from 100% carbon-free sources by 2050, this will require a lot of [the] state’s land, which probably means impacting the state’s agricultural lands or cutting down some forests and probably both... So much for the environment.”
“It’s also completely unnecessary,” he said. “If the goal is to stop climate change, the U.S. is already the global leader in carbon dioxide emission reductions. Between 2005 and 2018, CO2 declined 12%. The free market is already taking care of the environment.”
Unfortunately these trends seem unlikely to turn around any time soon. The Virginia Republican party is made up of factions which seem to despise each other more than they hate the Democrats, but it just might be the case that the numbers to change course just aren't there. Northam's opponent in 2017 was the GOP establishmentarian Ed Gillespie, a two-time loser in state elections, who attempted to appeal to nationalists by focusing on issues like crime and immigration. He received only 45% of the vote.
Perhaps the only solution might be a proposal which started gaining steam during the Second Amendment battles earlier this year -- secession. Specifically secession for those counties in western and southern Virginia disturbed by the direction of their state and interested in joining the more conservatively inclined West Virginia. And the free state of West Virginia, which itself seceded from the slave state of Virginia in 1863, seems ready to welcome their separated brethren with open arms. Should that transpire, and the size and relative importance of Virginia decrease on Northam's watch, his face will no longer be black or even green. It will be red.
Canada: Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste
Last week I wrote about the fear among Democrats that the U.S. might be heading for a significant economic recovery before the election in November, such that the Trump campaign would be able to point to "the most explosive monthly employment numbers and gross domestic product growth ever" (in the words of Obama Administration senior advisor Jason Furman), and ride that good news to reelection. Well, yesterday morning we all woke up to news which suggests that that upward trajectory might be beginning. After months of catastrophe, with Great Depression-like unemployment figures, the May jobs report showed that the economy added 2.5 million jobs in that period, the most ever in a single month.
The news was so surprising that left-wing rags like the Washington Post had to frantically delete their pre-written tweets about how terrible the report was:
Of course, we aren't out of the woods yet. An unemployment rate of 13 percent is still pretty bad, even if things are heading in the right direction. And, as I argued last week, Joe Biden's willingness to squander our gains on his ideological program (or that of his advisors while he naps in the Lincoln Bedroom), including his announcement that he would definitively kill Keystone XL pipeline upon entering the White House, should make us all wary about trusting him to save the economy.
This is the path Trudeau has committed his nation to, and it doesn't seem like it is going to slow down anytime soon. Dan McTeague, president of the indispensable Canadians for Affordable Energy, has been writingrecently about the return of Justin Trudeau's college drinking buddy, Gerald Butts, who grew up to be an environmental activist, director of policy for then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, and eventually Trudeau's chief adviser. Butts, you may recall, was forced to resign in the run up to the 2019 election for his role in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
Now that that election is over, McTeague reports that Butts is back in Ottawa serving on a new task force called Resilient Recovery. "The task force," explains McTeague, is "made up of green industry and environmental leaders [and] says its goal is to help seize a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to build things in a “better” way post the COVID-19 pandemic." If you guessed that that means taking advantage of a crisis to get Canada even more entangled in the Green Energy industry than it already is and make it harder for oil and gas companies to operate, you win.
Butts: I'm ba-ack.
In the course of two articles, McTeague argues that Canadians should be aware of, and concerned by, this "green energy at any and all costs" task force, and especially by Butts' inclusion in it. Butts has the ear of the prime minister and a history of making life harder for Canadians. McTeague has taken the time to remind us of that history. In his first piece, he examines Butts' work in the McGuinty government in Ontario:
Gerry Butts is known as one of the architects of Dalton McGuinty’s disastrous Green Energy Act. The GEA hurt Ontarians (and is still hurting them), resulting in energy bills increasing by 70% from 2008 to 2016. Ontario’s claim to fame became its high energy rates - the highest in all of North America. Big manufacturers across the province began to flee for friendlier economic climates. Even former premier Kathleen Wynne said in her 2018 campaign that because of the Green Energy Act many families were having to choose between paying their energy bills and feeding their families.
The GEA originally promised the creation of 50,000 green energy jobs. The government later admitted that that number was not based on any formal analysis, that many of the jobs would be temporary, and that it did not account for the lost manufacturing jobs due to the increased energy prices. Wind and solar were incredibly expensive to produce... and the consumer was the one who had to make up the difference. How? Through a hidden tax euphemistically called the Global Adjustment Fee which suddenly started to appear on Ontario energy bills. A Global News article from 2016 stated that for every $100 in usage that appeared on your bill, $23 was actual electricity cost, while the other $77 was from the “Global Adjustment Fee”.
After a few years out of government, Butts jumped onboard the Trudeau train after the Liberals won their majority in 2015, and brought his wealth of experience making everyday life more expensive for Ontarians to Canadians more generally. That part of his career is covered in McTeague's second piece:
The costs of Butts’ climate agenda are apparent in the policies that the Trudeau government put in place during its first term, the most important (and destructive) of these being the carbon tax. It is no surprise that the mastermind behind the Ontario green energy debacle would help create expensive and ineffective policies at the federal level. The carbon tax adds at least 7 cents per litre of gas at the pump for Canadians. Because it applies to all energy sources, the hidden costs – on food and services and our competitiveness – will be even greater, and the carbon tax will increase annually by large increments.
Other expensive and anti-industry policies that were launched during Butts’ time in Ottawa include Bill C-69 (an overhaul of Canada's regulatory and resource project approval system) and C-48 (the oil tanker moratorium act). These have meant significant new and unnecessary regulatory burdens that restrict resource development, drive away investment, and have the effect of making energy more expensive.
Though Canada's May jobs numbers crept up somewhat, just like America's, Canada is still experiencing record unemployment. Bombardier just announced that they'ree laying off 2,500 workers. This is still a time of crisis, and for any recovery to be really resilient, it needs a laser focus on getting people back to work and getting the economy back on track. Gerald Butts' resumé speaks to the fact that he is more than willing to prioritize environmentalist virtue signalling over the benefit of ordinary Canadians.
David Suzuki and the Great Climate Carnival
Radical environmentalism and "climate science" have become highly profitable for those who have taken upon themselves the role of the conscience of mankind. The hucksterism of our new-age evangelists has been preserved in amber in Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry, as pertinent today as it was in 1927. It’s a good read (and a great movie), exposing the confidence game of those who prey on the public’s gullibility, whether, like Gantry, they are selling farm equipment or flogging a seminarian’s version of probity—or in its current manifestation, appealing to the global conscience of the uninformed. As lucrative scams go, climate-and environment—or Big Green, for short—is hard to beat.
Readers will be familiar with some of the more notable Gantrys in the climate trade. Al Gore is probably the most prominent of the climate camarilla, with a carbon footprint of Sasquatch proportions and highly dubious credibility. A UK court ruled that his global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, contained at least nine salient falsehoods, in particular with respect to his claim that Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming. The court found that the film was scientifically unsound and little more than a form of “political indoctrination.” In his book, Media Madness: The Corruption of our Political Culture, James Bowman cites Gore and “other self-appointed trustees of the alleged Global Warming crisis in the pressure group, the Alliance for Climate Protection, [who] make money which they can then use to influence real political events, such as elections.” I have provided a close reading complete with sources about the shenanigans of Gore, et al. in my 2012 monograph Global Warning.
Canada does not lack for its share of green-celebrity hypocrites. One remembers the late Maurice Strong, with a net worth of $100 million, a leader in the international environmental movement, president of the council of the University for Peace and executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme—activities which one would expect to militate against acquiring his fortune as an unrepentant capitalist and investor in the oil and mineral industry and as CEO of Petro-Canada and Ontario Hydro. Apparently, Strong never experienced a moment of cognitive dissonance or a single pang of conscience as he marched along the royal road to prestige, acclaim and wealth, investing handsomely in what he publicly condemned.
Strong’s practice and example pale before the exploits and influence of David Suzuki. A fruit fly geneticist by training who once compared human beings to maggots, Suzuki repurposed himself as Canada’s reigning environmentalist and climate guru, a beloved TV personality, and a counselor to humankind. With a personal fortune of $25 million, this mini-Al Gore, is one of the more conspicuous barkers in the Canadian media and environmental carnival who preached some 20 years ago that we had only ten years before environmental collapse. Yet his vaticinal authority remains intact among the naïve and impressionable since he offers a signal example of theocracy at work in the presumably scientific domain. After all, we must believe in something, however fraudulent.
A contemporary Savonarola, Suzuki expressed his inner totalitarian for all to see, stating on February 28, 2008 at a conference held at McGill University in Montreal that politicians should be jailed for denying “climate consensus.” Eight years later he was still on the moral rampage, declaring that then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper should serve prison time for “willful blindness” to global warming. True to form, Suzuki is a sworn enemy of Canada’s energy sector, comparing the oil sands industry in the province of Alberta to slavery, dismissing the devastating economic impact of its closure, and working to block every new pipeline proposal—for which the University of Alberta, an institution that stands most to lose from the assault against oil, has awarded him an honorary science degree. Go figure.
Suzuki has hosted The Nature of Things, a popular CBC television series, since 1979 and has gone on to almost every conceivable award and citation the world has to offer. Suzuki does look a bit like God in His Sistine incarnation, a resemblance which no doubt facilitates his attempt to remake the world in his own image. But journalist and author Ezra Levant claims with considerable credibility that Suzuki is profiting from multi-national American organizations that finance his campaigns against Canada’s oil sands production, as Vivian Krause shows in a damning exposé in the Financial Post from April 19, 2012.
According to Krause’s research, Suzuki has built his foundation with millions of U.S. dollars. The total value of the top 30 U.S. grants alone was US $9-million, equivalent to $13-million Canadian, including:
US$1.8-million from the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation (“Hewlett”), US$1.5-million from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation (“Packard”), US$1.7-million from the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation (“Moore”), US$1-million from the Wilburforce Foundation, US$955,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, US$930,000 from the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation and at least US$181,000 from the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts.
As far as I can tell, Suzuki’s largest Canadian donor is the Claudine & Stephen Bronfman Foundation, which has granted at least $6-million (2000-10). Since 2008, Power Corp., the Lefebvre Foundation and the Trottier Family Foundation have given annual donations of at least $1-million. Anonymous donors are also reported for $1-million or more. For 2010, the Sitka Foundation, run by Ross Beaty and his family, gave $407,000 and the Jim Pattison Foundation gave $200,000.
As the Toronto Sun reported in October 2013, “Green sage David Suzuki has some expensive tastes for someone who wants to shut down the carbon economy within a generation…. Suzuki, who’s made a name for himself fighting for the environment and against development, owns four homes, [including] a sprawling mansion in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver, worth approximately $8.2 million.” According to the Sun, he also owns property on two Gulf Islands, Quadra and Nelson, sharing the latter with a fossil fuels company, Kootenay Oil Distributors.
In a defensive response a week later, the David Suzuki Foundation, whose corporate motto is "One Nature," retorted:
For starters, please note: David Suzuki is not the head of a corporation. The David Suzuki Foundation is a registered Canadian charity and David Suzuki has never been a paid staff member. In fact, he is one of our most generous donors and volunteers. He has lived in the same house for decades, a home he has shared with his in-laws and in which he has raised his daughters.
As for the claim that David owns land with an “oil company”, we did what journalists are supposed to do before running a story. We checked with the company’s owners, a couple living on the Sunshine Coast. They told us the husband’s father ran the company in the 1950s and ’60s to distribute oil to households and small businesses, mostly for furnaces. When the company folded, they used the assets to buy into co-owned land on remote Nelson Island, and it has not operated as anything other than a holding company since the late 1960s. David and a friend, who knew nothing about the company, bought into the property many years ago with the express purpose of protecting it from development. He has made other investments in real estate to provide for his retirement and family.
We would also like to take a moment to set the record straight: Although Sun Media consistently refers to David Suzuki as a saint, he isn’t. He has received many awards and honours, including being named a Companion of the Order of Canada, but he has not been sainted or knighted, and he’s human, not infallible. He’s a 77-year-old grandfather who has devoted his life to communicating the wonders of science and finding solutions for our shared environmental problems. But mostly he’s a human doing what he can to make a positive difference.
We find it strange that anyone would be opposed to protecting the air, water, land and biodiversity that we need for our health and survival, but recent attempts to tarnish the reputation of David Suzuki, as well as the Foundation and other environmental groups, show that some people view short-term profit for the fossil fuel industry as more important than protecting the planet.
It seems he can do no wrong and remains a revered icon to most Canadians, true believers who have drunk the climate Kool-Aid liberally served up by our do-gooder educators, social justice missionaries and the hallowed saviors of mankind who proliferate among us. Those for whom climate and environment have assumed the force of an ersatz religion have undertaken no sustained inquiry into the subject, dismissing contrary evidence as purely heretical and not worth consulting. They have followed neither the data nor the money trail. North America's Elmer Gantrys are home free.
Authoritative volumes like Elaine Dewar’s Cloak of Green(now rendered unaffordable), John Casey’s Dark Winter, Norman Rogers’ Dumb Energy and Bruce Bunker’s The Mythology of Global Warming: Climate Change Fiction vs. Scientific Facts, among many other excellent studies, have been placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum of the Church of Environmentalism. When the environmental acolytes and climate votaries rise to a position of authority, like our current prime minister, who is determined to phase out the oil and gas industry that is a central pillar of the economy, the damage they can do is incalculable.
And obviously, their efforts are abetted and empowered by the celebrity Greenies who have made their fortunes and reputations exploiting the rage for utopia that inspires the ignorant and deluded, those who seek perfection at the expense of reality. Suzuki is the poster boy for these enablers, the “go-to guy” for the country’s major political parties, in particular the Greens and the NDP. Suzuki famously feuded with Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year over the pipeline issue:
It just shows what a joke the whole declaration of a climate emergency is. I mean, if it’s a climate emergency, first of all, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, I don’t think the Republicans said, “Oh, that damn Democratic president wants to take us to war and is going to destroy the economy.” Everybody joins together in that emergency. It’s got one purpose, which is to win the battle.
The battle here is in terms of the amount of carbon that’s accumulating in the atmosphere. We’re way beyond and heading to a total by the end of this century that really puts into question whether human beings, as a species, will be able to survive. It is a climate crisis, but we’ve been saying that for over 30 years. And all of the posturing that’s going on, from Mr. Trudeau being elected, and Mr. Harper, who was prime minister for 9 and a half years, who never once said climate is an issue that we’ve got to take seriously. He said reducing greenhouse gas emissions is “crazy economics.”
It’s all about politics. It’s not a serious commitment to meet the climate challenge. And approving the pipeline is only–you know, what do we expect?
I was looking up at the sky today, and it was filled with geese … we’ve had pods of killer whales coming through, and I have the sense that Mother Earth is saying, ‘Phew, thank God, these busy people are giving me a break,’” Suzuki said. “And I hope that people who live in places like Shanghai and Beijing, in Delhi or Bombay, are looking up and seeing what it can be like when air is the way it should be, invisible and odourless.
Such a childish fantasy should be enough to put the ancient oracle out to pasture, and the entire climate-and-environment boondoggle along with him. But, of course, it won't.
The Censorious Left Strikes Again
Believe it or not, there are a few honest Lefties -- Van Jones and Bill Maher (language warning) immediately come to mind-- and journalist Matt Taibbi is one of them. So, perhaps, is Michael Moore, whose refreshingly honest documentary about the "environmentalist" grifters just got yanked on YouTube for political wrongthink. Here's Taibbi's decidedly non-tribal look at what's going on on the censorious Left:
On April 21st, 2020, just before the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, Oscar-winning director/producer Michael Moore released a new movie called Planet of the Humans. Directed by Jeff Gibbs, the film is a searing look at the ostensible failures of the environmentalist movement, to which Moore and Gibbs both belonged. “Jeff and I were at the first Earth Day celebrations,” Moore laughs. “That’s how old we are.”
Distributed for free on YouTube, the film’s central argument is that the environmentalist movement, fattened by corporate donations, has become seduced by an industrialist delusion. “The whole idea of the film was to ask a question – after fifty years of the environmentalist movement, how are we doing?” recounts Moore. “It looks like, not very well.”
That's an understatement. "No enemies to the Left," has long been a "progressive" rallying cry; one of the reasons the Left is constantly on the attack is that it rarely if ever has to protect its left flank, or worry about the enemy getting to its rear. Moore's movie changed that. Which is why, after a manufactured outcry from the usual suspects whose gravy-trained oxes just got gored, YouTube took the film down for a "copyright infringement" over four seconds of fair-use footage.
The significance of the Moore incident is that it shows that a long-developing pattern of deletions and removals is expanding. The early purges were mainly of small/fringe voices on either the far right or far left, or infamously fact-challenged personalities like Alex Jones. The removal of a film by Moore – a heavily-credentialed figure long revered by the liberal mainstream – takes place amid a dramatic acceleration of such speech-suppression incidents, many connected to the coronavirus disaster.
A pair of California doctors were taken off YouTube for declaring stay-at-home measures unnecessary; right-wing British broadcaster and trumpeter of shape-shifting reptile theories David Icke was taken off YouTube; a video by Rockefeller University epidemiologist Knut Wittknowski was taken down, apparently for advocating a “herd immunity” approach to combating the virus. These moves all came after the popular libertarian site Zero Hedge was banned from Twitter, ostensibly for suggesting a Chinese scientist in Wuhan was responsible for coronavirus.
These and many other incidents came in addition to a slew of moves aimed at right-wing speakers accused of varying degrees of conspiratorial misinformation and/or hate speech, from a decision by Twitter to begin “fact-checks” of Donald Trump to wholesale removals from Facebook of “anti-immigrant” sites like VDare and the Unz Review.
One problem is the so-called “reputable” fact-checking authorities many platforms are relying upon have terrible factual histories themselves. There’s an implication that “misinformation” by foreign or independent actors is somehow more dangerous than broadly-disseminated official deceptions about U.S. misbehavior abroad, or manufactured scandals like Russiagate. We now expect libertarian or socialist pages to be zapped at any minute, but none of the outlets which amplified the bogus Steele dossier have been put in Internet timeout.
Taibbi notes correctly that the partisan "regulation" and "fact-checking" of speech on social media platforms is simply censorship. Sheep on the Right will bleat that it's not the government taking down speech it doesn't agree with it (that would be forbidden under the First Amendment) -- but the Bill of Rights has now been thoroughly shredded by the absurd Wuhan panic, so what difference, at this point, does it make?
Censorship -- especially the arbitrary takedown of a film by a mainstream leftist like Moore -- is still censorship.
The drive to step up “content control” isn’t all driven from the top down. A major additional factor has been the growth of a new intellectual movement geared toward delegitimizing speech and rationalizing censorship. The Moore incident provided a clear demonstration of how this new social reflex works. “Maybe we’re wrong,” Moore says. “We’d have liked to have that discussion. That was a big reason we made the movie.”
Instead, critics rolled out a now-familiar playbook to depict the movie as too villainous to exist.
"Too villainous to exist." This is the Leftist argument against everything it hates. Tax it! Criminalize it! Ban it! Everything from fossil fuels to free speech has come under their baleful gaze, and all of it must go. That way lies totalitarianism; on the Left everything that has outlived its usefulness, such as the First Amendment, is Nikolai Yezhov (pictured, and non-pictured, above), a secret policeman known as the "Bloody Dwarf," who helped run Stalin's purge, until the purges finally got him too, and he had to be "disappeared" -- not just physically, but from the pages of history as well. Having long hidden behind the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech, the Left no longer finds it useful, and wishes to criminalize it under the rubric of "hate speech."
Section1. Policy.Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy. Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution. The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people.
In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet. This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power. They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.
Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms. As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.
That's how they were sold, of course -- free and open to everybody. That, however, turned out to be the drug-dealer approach to marketing his wares: a free trial, then the hook, then a lifetime of misery and penury. As Moore correctly notes, no one is safe in this latest version of the Great Terror:
In the past, a copyright dispute would have been a matter for courts. So, too, would questions of defamation that might have been raised by the likes of McKibben. Now critics can just run to Mommy and Daddy tech companies to settle disputes, and there’s no clear process for those removed to argue their cases. This is a situation that carries serious ramifications, especially for people who have less reach and financial clout than Moore. “If they can do it to me, they can do it to anybody,” is how Moore puts it.
Maybe Moore is wrong about the environmental movement, but these new suppression tactics are infinitely more dangerous than one movie ever could be, and progressives seem to have lost the ability to care.
This is the world the Left is preparing, not only for its ovine followers but for free-thinking men and women everywhere. Who's in? Who's out? Just ask Nikolai Yezhov, if you can find him.