But Is O'Toole Any Better?

The Canadian Federal election is taking place on September 20th, and it seems harder than usual to follow what is going on up there. Recent polling suggests that the Conservatives and Liberals are more or less neck-and-neck, with the NDP pulling in third as expected, but with a surprisingly strong 20 percent share of the projected vote. Why so close? Well, it's partly because of the nature of the contemporary Canadian electorate -- the 2019 election, at least by popular vote, was a nail-biter as well. But it is also likely because the basic positioning of the major parties are so similar that you'd need to be a scholastic philosopher to determine the difference between them.

This should come as no surprise as far as two of those parties are concerned. The brains behind current prime minister Justin Trudeau, knowing well that the resurgence of the NDP was key to Stephen Harper's electoral victories in the early aughts, have continued moving leftward to prevent Jagmeet Singh's iteration of the party from bringing about a similar result. And, anyway, two leftwing parties jockeying for position as the true party of the left is so commonplace as to be almost not worth commenting upon.

But a notionally right-of-center party doing so? That's the puzzler.

O'Toole: Maybe inject some principles while you're at it.

Erin O'Toole won last summer's race for Conservative leader running as "True Blue O'Toole," a patriotic military man who was going to take the fight to Justin Trudeau. But ever since, he's gone out of his way to remake the CPC in his own Red Tory image. According to Gary Mason, in a column entitled 'Erin O'Toole is changing Canadian conservatism as we know it,'

[B]ehind the scenes, there was always a plan to change the direction the party would head in during an election if [O'Toole] became leader – the direction many believed offered the only path to victory.

Mason continually praises O'Toole's sagacity in eschewing the positions of his base on issues like abortion, guns, conscience protections for healthcare workers, and environmentalism; and his overall willingness to adopt stances more acceptable in polite society. Says Mason, a "Conservative Party headed by Erin O’Toole would be in step with the times. Full stop." But it's striking that the supposedly up-to-date positions he describes, purportedly to appeal to the same type of alienated, working-class voters who made Brexit a reality, are in fact the characteristic views of the Laurentian Elite.

Peter MacKay famously blamed the party's loss in 2019 on the "stinking albatross" of social conservatism hanging about its neck, but for Erin O'Toole the albatross seems to be conservatism itself.

Environmentalism is our focus here at The Pipeline, and on that score O'Toole's drift has been particularly egregious. One of the Tory insiders that Mason quotes praising the party's lurch leftward is Ken Boessenkool, who has been arguing for years that the only way conservatives will ever again take power is if they sell out Canada's oil and gas producing provinces by embracing carbon taxation and other extreme (and pointless) regulations in order to win over voters in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). O'Toole has taken this advice, and the advice of other Tory insiders, like Mark Cameron, former head of the environmentalist pressure group Canadians for Clean Prosperity, now a deputy minister in the government of Alberta.

During his leadership campaign O'Toole signed a pledge saying,

I, Erin O’Toole, promise that, if elected Prime Minister of Canada, I will: Immediately repeal the Trudeau carbon tax; and, reject any future national carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme.

But after he'd won, O'Toole released a document entitled 'Secure the Environment: The Conservative Plan to Combat Climate Change,' which begins "Canada must not ignore the reality of climate change. It is already affecting our ecosystems, hurting our communities, and damaging our infrastructure."

To combat climate change, O'Toole promised that, should he form a government, he would 1) implement his own Carbon Tax, one that's less onerous than the Liberal version, but which could be increased if market conditions make doing so feasible. 2) "Finalize and improve" the Trudeau government's Clean Fuel Standard (also known as the second carbon tax), 3) enact an electric vehicle mandate and invest billions of tax-payer dollars in EV manufacture and infrastructure, which includes, 4) update the national building code such that all buildings will have "mandatory charging stations or wiring required for chargers", 5) reduce emissions in line with the Paris Climate Accords by 2030 and achieving Net-Zero emissions by 2050. And on and on.

That's not just a flip-flop, that's an atomic belly flop.

Coming your way, Canada.

But are these moves necessary to win? Mason quotes Howard Anglin, former Chief of Staff to both Harper and Jason Kenney, as saying "[t]he first challenge that any Canadian conservative party must confront is that Canada is not a conservative country." Maybe. But I can't help hearing in that sentiment the predictions of impending "permanent Democratic majorities" we've been hearing about in the U.S. for the last 40 years. My own theory is that Canadians are rarely presented with a serious conservative alternative to the Trudeaupianism they've been force-fed since the '60s.

Here's just one example of how the Tories might have approached this election differently -- Dan McTeague of Canadians for Affordable Energy recently pointed out that the exploding price of housing has been a major issue in this election, but there has been little mention of the other factors making life in Canada increasingly expensive.

Once someone has a place to live, they are going to need to cool it in the summer and heat it in the winter. They will need electricity to cook and store their food... All of this, of course, takes energy... Every major Canadian political party is committed to at least Net Zero emissions by the year 2050. I have written extensively about how this leads to skyrocketing energy prices. Yet, amid all the talk about housing affordability no one in Canada seems to be saying much about energy affordability.

Policies like carbon taxation are always sold by the Liberals as affecting "Big Polluter" mega-corporations, but in fact they do real harm to ordinary people, both when they 're hit with the tax directly at the pump or paying their heating bill, or indirectly when the price for everything else goes up. Canadians are very sensitive to those pocketbook issues, probably even more so than Americans. Energy affordability could have been a winning issue for the CPC, with the winter months approaching and more than a year of accumulated pandemic-related economic anxiety weighing on people's minds. Instead they chose to go Liberal-lite, a move which rarely, if ever, works.

Still, I do appreciate arguments like those of former Conservative MP and minister Joe Oliver, whose recent endorsement of O'Toole for PM said:

[Trudeau] has exploited the pandemic to set the country on a path of unsustainable spending and intrusive government. Four more years galloping toward a dystopian Great Reset would make it exceptionally challenging for a new government to arrest, let alone reverse, that dire fate.

But I can't help but notice that Oliver's argument -- that Trudeau is awful and Canada just needs him gone -- is only for O'Toole by default.  Maybe that will be enough, and Trudeau fatigue will carry O'Toole over the finish line. But such a strategy just failed spectacularly in the California recall election, leaving Gov. Gavin Newsom in an even stronger position to torture the Golden State than he was before. Canada is likely to experience the same fate.

It Ain't Over 'til the Greens Win

Lawyers specializing in migration from both sides of the barricades have a wry capsule explanation of how the law works: It Ain’t Over 'til the Migrant wins. In this explanation “wins” means “stays.”

There are American laws galore that allow the government to deport people present in the United States illegally. Why don’t they work? Well, there are also laws that enable a competent lawyer to string out his client’s deportation indefinitely until he has a wife, children, a job, a home, and a lawyer here—which almost amounts to a squatter’s right to stay.

It seems downright unreasonable to send him back to where his home used to be—at least that’s the view of the immigration bar, NGOs specializing in migration and refugee policy, media that are overwhelmingly sympathetic to migrants of every kind, all Democrats and some Republicans in Washington, academic “experts” on immigration, and so eventually of the courts trying such cases.

As the late Judge Robert Bork pointed out in his short, brilliant book, Coercing Virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges (AEI, 2003), modern judges implement not the law as such but a blend of the law itself and of the opinion of the law held by legal members of the highly educated upper-middle class.

That’s why the opinions of judges matter and why legal verdicts in immigration cases increasingly follow the maxim of “It ain’t over 'til the migrant wins.” And, therefore, stays.

Case closed!

Is that maxim now being transferred to law determining court cases on the environment and climate change?  That question is raised by the proliferation of court challenges to projects to extract and transport fuels, especially fossil fuels, when those projects have survived regulatory challenges from the federal bureaucracy, and even when their cancelations are likely to provoke disputes between the U.S. and other countries.

The most recent case of such judicial intervention took place in Alaska—usually a state hospitable to the oil and natural gas industry (as well it might be)—when a federal judge canceled Willow, a massive energy investment by Conoco-Phillips on Alaska’s North Slope.

Judge Sharon Gleason of the District of Alaska ruled that the environmental impact statement for Willow should have included a ”quantitative estimate of emissions resulting from oil consumption” (or explained why the estimate could not be produced) and provided better protection for wildlife including caribou.

These are interesting proposals, but they are not exactly legal judgments. They are  decisions for the political and regulatory authorities which had considered then and taken a different view to Judge Gleason. Willow had been approved by the Bureau of Land Management, supported by the Biden administration, and backed enthusiastically Alaska’s Governor, Mike Dunleavy, who is responsible to the voters for Alaska’s economic development. He responded sharply to Gleason:

We are giving America over to our enemies piece by piece. The Willow project would power America with 160,000 b/d, provide thousands of family-supporting jobs, and greatly benefit the people of Alaska.

Judge Gleason has no accountability for the economic consequences of her arbitrary judgments. She was exercising irresponsible power—or as the saying goes, legislating from the bench. Alaska voters damaged by her intervention have no way of sanctioning her for it.

Judge Gleason has spoken.

Of course, we should acknowledge that such judicial interventions sometimes favor the corporation against the regulatory bureaucracy or the decisions of lower courts. A recent example of that took place in Louisiana where a court forced the Biden administration to resume selling oil and gas leases to energy company which it had halted “temporarily” while the Interior Department reviewed them.

Higher courts may reverse that judgment on appeal—but that comes with a cost too. As the formidable columnist Mark Steyn has pointed out in the different context of libel law, “the process is the punishment.”

All these infrastructure projects are hugely expensive and take years to complete. If their approval is a constantly changing shuttlecock batted back and forth between the courts, the regulatory bureaucracy, the political world, and the industry, that will raise their costs massively, sometimes cause their cancelation, and hike the price of the final product in energy bills to the electricity consumer—who now include owners of electric cars and other electrical products. They buy such such products in order to switch from dirty fuels to greener power sources at a considerable increase in cost. That cost increase will get larger if infrastructure projects become as risky as roulette. And if you make the cost of switching heavier, fewer people will do it.

All those consequences—and more—were exemplified by President Biden’s cancelation of the nine-billion dollar Keystone Pipeline from Canada to Texas. He did this by executive order immediately upon coming into office after it had survived more than a decade of regulatory and legal challenges from the usual suspects—environmentalists, protesters claiming to represent indigenous interests, progressive billionaires: the Democratic party’s post-industrial urban base.

Par for the course, you may think. But this particular decision was unusual in two respects. In the first placed, it reversed the more common practice by which the courts override the national executive in Washington. On Keystone, Biden overrode the courts—which is usually seen by Democrats as a constitutional mortal sin. "Climate  change," however, is the excuse that sweeps all rational argument aside. Second, it provoked a serious foreign policy crisis with—of all energy-producing countries—Canada! Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is Biden’s ideological soulmate on energy, the environment, and much else, but he still had to take his constituents into account.

That international crisis shows no sign of abating—quite the contrary—because Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer canceled a much more important and more established pipeline between the U.S. and Canada, apparently without really grasping the extraordinary damage she was inflicting on our friendly neighbor to the north. Here's one local report:

While the Keystone project was halted in early construction, Line 5 has transported Canadian oil since 1953. More than half of Ontario’s supply passes through it, according to [the pipeline company] Enbridge. It exits Michigan at the border city of Sarnia, Ontario, and connects with another line that provides two-thirds of crude used in Quebec for gasoline, home heating oil and other products.

I would once have thought that a war with Canada was in the realm of the impossible. But Governor Whitmer may be proving me wrong. She is threatening to confiscate Enbridge’s profits and do many other terrible things if the company continues to defy her. The federal regulator seems not to agree with the governor’s arguments that the pipeline is a hazard to the environment. Enbridge points out that all the alternatives to the pipeline would be more hazardous. The Canadians seem to be united around the defense of their own oil and gas industry since it keeps Ontario and Quebec warm in winter (and Michigan's airports operating). Local Michigan businesses are largely on Enbridge's side too. The Biden administration, which is currently digging down into a lot of holes, must be wondering how on earth it got into this hole and how to get out of it.

Game over, man.

The answer is that, as in Biden’s cancelation of the Keystone pipeline, there are far too many “authorities”—executive, regulatory, state, federal, legal—which believe that their virtuous Green ideologies give them a right to intervene arbitrarily in environmental and energy issues to reach the right outcome. Which one of them prevails is now an almost random matter. For companies contemplating multi-billion dollar projects, both negotiating with regulatory authorities and going to law in these circumstances are a little like shaking a kaleidoscope or consulting an astrological chart.

The main villain in all this is the authority that should and normally would determine fairly which of all the other authorities has the right and obligation to make which decisions on what and on what legal basis. That authority is the courts. Law should offer a reasonable certainty to companies and individuals contemplating major expenses from mortgages to investment in renewables. But it can only play this role well if it reduces to the minimum its own opinionatedness on green issues.

Unfortunately, the courts are no longer impartial umpires interpreting laws passed by Congress and state legislatures. They are moving in the direction of becoming more “green” rather than more judicial as the examples quoted above demonstrate. They have their fingers on the scales of Lady Justice. It threatens both America's prosperity and its democracy if it ain't over till the Greens win. But that's the trend.

Of Coin Flips and 'Climate Change'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science!

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

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

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

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

Norwegians Love Oil & Gas

Among the best television programs of the past decade or two is the Norwegian geopolitical thriller Occupied. It tells the story of a near future, where an extremist Green party is swept into power in Norway on a pledge to ban oil and gas extraction. Fulfilling this promise provokes an energy crisis throughout Europe, leading the E.U. to deputize Russia to enter Norway, under not-so-subtle threats of violence, to get production started again. Once that has been accomplished, however, the Russians aren't too keen on leaving, and the Norwegian government soon becomes a Quisling regime whose prevailing preoccupation is keeping Russia happy, while patriots (and eventually the military) begin an I.R.A.-like campaign against it and, especially, against the Russkies.

Don't let the climate stuff put you off (it quickly falls by the wayside) -- Occupied is a brilliant show which explores questions of sovereignty and nationalism, and with more nuance than any other popular production I've yet encountered. But even with environmentalism being a comparatively minor aspect of the show, I was interested to read that the environmentalist fervor which put the greens into power in the first place is not particularly realistic.

Sure, Norwegians have an affinity for electric cars -- they own more E.V.s per capita than any other nationality -- but they are also quite fond of their resource industry. This is likely due to the fact that their oil and natural gas has made them the richest nation in Scandinavia, with the second highest GDP per capita in all of Europe. Oil and gas comprise more than 40 percent of Norway's exports and almost 20 percent of GDP. One thing that Scandinavia-loving American lefties will never tell you is that Norway's generous welfare system is utterly dependent upon its resource wealth -- almost a third of all government revenue comes from oil and gas. And this has given the nation a strong sense of economic independence -- it's not for nothing that Norway has twice voted down proposals to join the E.U. They can't have Brussels attempting to regulate their most important industry out of existence.

Which is to say that, even though the Conservative coalition which has been governing Norway since 2014 looks likely to fall in next month's general election, popular sentiment is such that the nominally environmentalist Labor Party will likely find it extremely difficult to turn off the taps.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Waiting

Just when you thought you’d seen it all… 2021 brings fuel shortages in the most developed nation in the world. I wouldn’t have believed it myself but my new client has me hopping to various locales, and today that has me absolutely stopped on the runway at Reagan National Airport. What would dear Ronnie have to say on the subject? 

One assumes he’d find someone to sack. But these days no one is to blame, and the airlines in particular have the insidious practice of pretending that things just happen upon them. They never have any idea that an aircraft that leaves very late is also going to arrive late. Of course they could simply look up into the sky and see if the bloody plane is not en route…then there should be no surprise when it doesn’t pull into the gate as scheduled. But surprised they are. Every. Single. Time.

And they pretend not to know they are short an entire crew until… oh gosh, did they really not turn up? Passengers have to check-in, but crew? Apparently there is no system in place until— like the thief that skips bail -- they don’t turn up. And today the excuse was that they did not have sufficient fuel to fly the thirty-five-minute flight from Washington D.C. to New York. Honestly…

Up, up, and away... maybe.

I can tell you this never happens to me—this confusion about how gas is expended or how to get more. I never go to my garage to then be utterly surprised that there is no fuel in my car. And when I hire staff, I have them arrive well before the guests. A shocking practice I know. But oh the reveal… as first time fliers gasp, and the eyes of seasoned passengers glaze over.

Is it any wonder so many would-be actors end up as cabin crew? It must take years of Meisner acting technique to convincingly utter the sentence that begins with "unfortunately." Perhaps I should try this…  just say unfortunately as an excuse for absolutely anything. Unfortunately I was applying lipstick while driving and… were you very fond of that child? 

And just now…unfortunately… (although we are already on board and strapped in) we just found out we haven’t any fuel. This is unfortunate? Like a surprise? Even as a teen I would never have the nerve to call Daddy and say… unfortunately I ran out of petrol -- your car is in Chelsea.

But today, (despite having a dreaded window seat) I am calm—knowing I have a whole eight hours to get where I need to be. No worries on my end, I will wait in silence and pen mean letters in my head that I will never send as they refuel—and off we will be. But, unfortunately, that is not what happened. Minutes turned into hours and we began to feel it indeed unfortunate that they had closed the door to the aircraft and no one was allowed to get off. At two hours and eleven minutes (eleven minutes past the legal allowable detainment) Captain Unfortunate told us that ‘by law’ they have to let us off and he would be opening the door… however, he added, if you get off the aircraft you will not be going to New York with us. What cheek.

This must be what hell feels like.

For the lucky few who were missing their flights—the choice was obvious, and an exit made sense. But (unfortunately) I had to show up for work. And Captain Unfortunate now became Captain Storyteller saying ‘Gosh folks…’ (a phrase that makes me immediately suspicious) ‘I’ve read about this happening but apparently (apparently??) there are not enough employees to fuel the aircraft and we have to wait our turn.’ Of course no explanation as to why said employee wasn’t summoned during the last two unfortunate hours, but the captain assured us that we were fourth in line for refuelling. And at which point I just had to call daddy.

‘Yes, Jennifer,’ he answered. But I had to make him wait because the captain was now telling us that weather would lead to a further delay even once we were fuelled. I opened my radar app… nothing going on in New York. Nothing at all.

‘Are you on an airplane?’

‘Yes, I am, and…’

‘Increasing your carbon footprint in service of your green client?’

‘It’s commercial and I’m paying a carbon offset.'

‘And your client?’

‘He’s uh… on his plane,’ I conceded, and crunched on the last of the ice from my G&T. ‘Thing is, Daddy, I was wondering is there a fuel shortage sufficient to delay a major airline at a major airport? Everything I found online says it is due to the Colonial Pipeline hack, which was already three months ago… and nothing mentioning the shutdown of the Keystone Pipeline… So is that the real reason?’

‘Ah, yes, the Keystone… To be clear, you know who shut that down don’t you? [of course I knew] It was your green president.’ He gloated.

‘Yes, daddy, my green president," I offered, (as if all environmentalists knew one another) ‘But is that the reason?’ I asked.

Now they tell me.

‘It is not.’ He said. ‘Stopping Keystone XL doesn’t keep Canadian crude from getting to market it just means that it is transported by less safe, and far less green methods—like rail and truck.’

‘So it really is a labour shortage?’ I asked, perhaps too loud for the other seven passengers in first class.

‘I couldn’t say. But we both know refuelling is not a highly skilled profession. I’ve done it, Patrick has done it. It’s even likely that in wartime Queen Elizabeth has done it. No… I’d say follow the money. It’s that thing you green-niks are forever going on about…profits and greed. Only here it likely applies."

How does he always manage to hand me my own hat? We were now at the four-hour mark and having finished my entire bottle of water and a second G&T, I was feeling woozy without any food and went into my carry-on to fish out a protein bar. When the pilot announced they would ‘in fact’ be allowing us off the aircraft but to stay close to the gate. Why couldn’t we have stayed close to the gate four hours ago?

I went straightaway to the burger bar I’d passed prior to boarding. I was first off, and fourth in line, and luckily the manager was railing on his staff to move things along. With order in hand, I deftly made my way to the club lounge to sit out the rest of the wait and book a hotel just in case, and YES I KNOW—no outside food allowed in the lounge, but I had a crafted a very curt answer if they had any intention of stopping me because truth be told, they had long stopped serving any real food in the clubs… ‘because of Covid’. Which, fortunately, is the other universal excuse when ‘unfortunately’ just won’t do.

Boris Hits the Ground, Not Running

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

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

Oh, shut up.

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

That is now looking less likely.

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

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

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

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

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

Scylla, meet Charybdis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Climate Change' Charlatanism Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

Professor Ole Humlum is a former Professor of Physical Geography at the University Centre in Svalbard, Norway, and Emeritus Professor of Physical Geography, University of Oslo, Norway. He specializes in reporting and analyzing annual changes in the climate. I wrote about the professor’s work just over a year ago on this site. His report, published annually by the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London, was moderately optimistic on climate changes in 2019, pointing out that some of them were for the better, some worse, but that overall there was no justification for the alarmist rhetoric of climate emergency. For instance, as I then wrote,

He points out  that new data on rising ocean temperatures raise interesting questions about the source of the heat. We can detect a great deal of heat rising from the bottom of the oceans. This obviously cannot be anything to do with human activity.

Since annual reports come out every year, his latest report on the world’s climate in 2020 has just been published. It covers the waterfront from Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation to Zonal Air Temperatures, and though most of it is addressed to technical specialists, it reaches some broad general conclusions that can be grasped by the layman. By and large these are a mix of moderate changes, long-term stability in main trends, and some trends getting worse but falling short of a climate emergency. Here, for instance, is his summing-up of changes in snow cover:

Variations in global snow-cover extent are driven by changes in the Northern Hemisphere, where most of the major land masses are located. Southern Hemisphere snow-cover extent is essentially controlled by the Antarctic ice sheet, and is therefore relatively stable. Northern Hemisphere average snow cover has also been stable since the advent of satellite observations, although local and regional inter-annual variations may be large. Considering seasonal changes in the Northern Hemisphere since 1979, autumn extent has been slightly increasing, mid-winter extent has been largely stable, and spring extent has been slightly decreasing. In 2020, Northern Hemisphere seasonal snow cover was somewhat below that of the preceding years.

And here is his account of storms and hurricanes in 2020:

The most recent data on numbers of global tropical storms and hurricane accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) are well within the range seen since 1970. In fact, the ACE data series displays a variable pattern over time, with a significant 3.6-year variation, but without any clear trend towards higher or lower values. A longer ACE series for the Atlantic Basin (since 1850), however, suggests a natural cycle of about 60 years' duration for tropical-storm and hurricane ACE. The number of hurricane landfalls in the continental United States remains within the normal range for the entire record since 1851. (My italics.)

Not easy reading, as you can see, but worthwhile because it records what actually happened to the climate in the last year. And that picture contrasts strongly with two things: the general impression of what happened to the climate given by the mainstream media, and the forecasts drawn from computer modelling in previous years of what would happen to the climate. Those two things generally reinforce each other almost as if the media reports those real climate events that reflect the media “narrative” and ignore or gloss over those that don’t. The truth rarely, if ever, catches up with the predictions in mainstream news reporting.

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Time and again the dates for which catastrophe was confidently predicted have passed without grave occurrences, as I wrote a year ago. No apologies are offered, and no signs given that the forecasters will be reconsidering the theories on which their forecasts either were based or by which they will in future be supported.

To be sure, that's a problem not confined to climate science. There’s a general crisis of “replication” or “reproducibility” in science as scientists themselves have been debating in the last decade. As Wikipedia sums it up:

A 2016 poll of 1,500 scientists conducted by Nature reported that 70 percent of them had failed to reproduce at least one other scientist's experiment (including 87 percent of chemists, 77 percent of biologists, 69 percent of physicists and engineers, 67 percent of medical researchers, 64 percent of earth and environmental scientists, and 62 percent of all others), while 50 percent had failed to reproduce one of their own experiments, and less than 20 percent had ever been contacted by another researcher unable to reproduce their work. Only a minority had ever attempted to publish a replication, and while 24 percent had been able to publish a successful replication, only 13 percent had published a failed replication, and several respondents that had published failed replications noted that editors and reviewers demanded that they play down comparisons with the original studies.

That’s bad enough. Worse, common sense suggests that the rate of failed replications will be higher in forecasting than in already performed physical experiments. To replication failure and prediction failure, however, we should probably add a third crisis—namely, impartiality failure on the part of the mainstream media—if we are to understand how bad things are.

The latest example of this is the media treatment of a new book, Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn't, and Why It Matters, by Steven Koonin, a physicist specializing in energy policy who served as an Under-Secretary for Energy for Science in the Obama administration. He doubts some of the claims allegedly accepted as valid by a “consensus" of scientists. Koonin has since come under fierce attack from those scientific reviewers who in turn doubt his own claims. That’s well and good—it’s how science is supposed to operate until experiments settle the argument conclusively--for the moment. In the meantime Koonin must fight his corner as best he can—as apparently he intends to do.

There ought to be a law!

What is objectionable is that social media should tilt an already tilted playing field so that its “fact-checkers” preface information about “Unsettled” with a kind of health warning that its statistics are unreliable and that the book itself “denialist” when in fact Koonin denies not climate warming but some arguments about its speed, extent, and whether we’re pursuing the right mix of mitigation and adaptation in dealing with it.  That’s a debate we need—and which we’re bound to have anyway because of the looming costs of Net-Zero.

Suppressing debate simply won’t work. And that’s likely to be demonstrated soon. Koonin has agreed to give the GWPF’s annual lecture in November in London. My guess is that the Foundation will have to hire a larger-than-usual hall to accommodate an audience drawn there by today’s equivalent of “Banned in Boston”—namely, “Not Available on Social Media.”

Mother Gaia Likes it Hot

If you've noticed that the greens are in an especially reverent mood of late, it is because the holiest months of their neo-pagan religion are now upon us. What we call summer is referred to semi-officially in their calendar as "Air Conditioning Antipathy Season," and it is traditionally celebrated with the proliferation of various and sundry bits of anti-A/C propaganda whose object is to berate the unenlightened among us for preferring not to be roasted alive from June through August.

Time Magazine recently released a perfect example of this pious genre. Written by Eric Dean Wilson, author of the unpleasant sounding "After Cooling: On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort," the piece begins by mentioning the heatwave that hit the Pacific Northwest last month, with temperatures far exceeding 100ºF and department stores predictably running out of A/C units.

"Unfortunately," Wilson asserts, dutifully, "air-conditioning is part of what’s causing the unusual heatwave in the first place." He then walks us through the supposedly disreputable history of air conditioning, which he says contributed to socio-economic divides (because it was initially prohibitively expensive), was a marker of structural racism (because southern whites got it first), and, more recently, contributed to a near environmental calamity, namely the depletion of the ozone layer which was related to the use of chlorofluorocarbons as refrigerants.

One of the reasons folks used to go to the movies. (YouTube)

The article is strange reading for outsiders, as is often the case with religious texts. The race and class references seem awkwardly inserted, perhaps to appease other factions within their broad church. But there are some difficult-to-comprehend passages even within the purely environmental sections.

For instance, you'd think the fact that CFCs were banned in 1987 and have been largely replaced by the much more environmentally friendly hydrofluorocarbons (or HFCs) would be a relief for Wilson, but you'd be wrong. While HFCs don't deplete the ozone layer they still contribute to global warming, he says, as does air conditioning generally, simply because it uses energy.

But if "thou shalt avoid excess energy" is just part of their decalogue, air conditioning is an odd target. As Megan McArdle explained in Bloomberg a while back," Americans still expend much more energy heating their homes than cooling them." This might seem surprising, but it makes sense upon reflection:

The difference between the average temperature outside and the temperature that is comfortable inside is generally only 10 to 20 degrees in most of America, for most of the summer. On the other hand, in January, the residents of Rochester, New York... need to get the temperature up from an average low of 18 degrees (-8 Celsius) to at least 60 or 65. That takes a lot of energy.

Heating homes often seems natural in a way cooling them does not, but this is illogical. Both extremes can (and do) kill people every year. Moreover, McArdle points out that one of the environmental benefits of air conditioning is that it has enabled Americans to progressively move in the direction of the sunbelt, where heating needs in winter are minimal, meaning that less energy overall is used in regulating temperature.

In any event, Wilson's own solution to the  "problem" suggested in his piece is not for his co-religionists to move south, but rather to drastically reduce the amount of A/C used by both elect and reprobate alike. This he would apparently accomplish by banning home air conditioners and having us all become "more comfortable with discomfort." If A/C is allowed to remain legal, it should be available only at "public cooling centers" where, presumably, rich and poor alike can gather joyfully together to gather together to avoid the scorching heat.

If you can't take the heat...

This seems about as realistic to me as the idea that there was a soul-saving spaceship following the comet Hale–Bopp -- how well would those public cooling centers have worked in, for instance, Portland, Ore., when the mercury hit 112º? More than likely people would have rioted to get in and to stay in.

But I guess that (apocryphal) St. Thomas Aquinas line holds true here -- "For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible." Happy A/C Antipathy season to our devout readers.

'Climate Change' vs. the Uyghurs

Pretty shocking -- Politico reports on growing tensions within the Democratic coalition, with the environmental activist faction of the party objecting to even the mildest attempts by the Biden administration to confront China over its human rights violations and international aggression.

As a new Cold War takes shape between the U.S. and China, progressives fear the result will be a dramatically warming planet. Over 40 progressive groups sent a letter to President Joe Biden and lawmakers on Wednesday urging them to prioritize cooperation with China on climate change and curb its confrontational approach over issues like Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong and forced detention of Uyghur Muslims.

The problem for the Biden administration is that American public opinion has shifted significantly against China in recent years, such that according to a recent Pew survey, 89 percent of Americans "consider China a competitor or enemy, rather than a partner." This move began with Donald Trump calling out China's predatory trade policy and intellectual property violations before he was even president and continued through then-President Trump and Chairman Xi's trade war. It was cemented, however, by the CCP's handling of the Covid-19 outbreak last year, which, if the no-longer-a-conspiracy-theory lab leak hypothesis turns out to be true, would mean that China is responsible for the most significant man-made disaster in human history.

Which is to say Americans' anger with China is real and entirely justified such that Biden can't simply ignore it. Consequently, when the G-7's leaders met last month, the president urged them to condemn China's human rights abuses, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made a point of addressing the “ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing” of China's Uyghur minority during a recent phone call with his Chinese counterparts.

But for the environmentalists, none of this really matters. They've convinced themselves that climate is the preeminent political issue, and no other consideration comes close. Many of them would even argue that American capitalism and climate change are inseparable -- even indistinguishable -- political problems, never mind the fact that, while the U.S. has led the world in total carbon emissions decline since 2000, China's new coal-fired energy capacity alone outstripped the rest of the world by 300 percent in 2020.

Like the tankies of old, who invariably defended the Soviet Union's various atrocities, the modern variety can't imagine any bad actor on the world stage aside from the United States. For them, China's signing emissions reductions pledges which they don't intend to honor is evidence that they're the good guys, while America's banning the import of a single Chinese company's solar panels over some pesky forced labor allegations suggests that we aren't taking climate change seriously enough.

Thus far in his presidency, Biden has felt it necessary to appease his environmentalist flank at every turn. But considering the burgeoning anti-CCP sentiment, will that trend come to an end? Perhaps. But the activist class is very persistent and has friends and fellow travelers in high places. My money's on their winning out and us backing down against China. Again.

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.