Re-Visiting the Climate Dump

In November 2009, the Hadley Climate Research Unit at the university of East Anglia in Britain* was hacked, releasing thousands of files suggesting a covert mega-operation to propagate an "anthropogenic global warming" myth. The evidence showed that data was tampered with to paint the wished-for canvas, that counter-evidence was deliberately suppressed, that character assassination against climate skeptics was an accepted tactic and that experimental results were falsely replicated. 

A new bundle of “hide the decline” email dumps, known as Climategate 2.0, confirmed that the “climate science” had been cooked and that, in the words of Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute, “the new cache offers ample confirmation of the rank politicization of climate science and rampant cronyism that ought to trouble even firm believers in catastrophic climate change… it’s another case of policy-driven science, and not science-driven policy.” Even some of the specialists involved in the enterprise had begun to question or object to the findings as, to quote from the emails, “not statistically significant,” as “truly pathetic,” and as “defending something that increasingly cannot be defended.” No wonder the lead researcher at the East Anglia CRU, Phil Jones, went so far as to recommend deleting all incriminating emails and/or changing the wording of others (Climate Audit, February 23, 2011).

The Hadley fable was thoroughly debunked by Rael Jean Isaac in Roosters of the Apocalypse, which showed in explicit detail that the ostensibly “scrupulous seekers of scientific fact” were really “hardcore zealots” mining “an ever richer vein of chicanery.” In the same year, James Delingpole put out his alphabetary The Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism, as devastating as it is amusing, exploding the Hadley as a coven of plotters. Certain figures in the movement had already made his point for him. In 1989 the late Stephen Schneider, Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University and a vociferous global warmist—who twenty years earlier had been warning the world of an advancing ice age—had already advised his droogs: “So we have to offer scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”  

And there is much that is doubtful. Michael Shellenberger, a longtime climate activist who has now seen the light, has just published Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, a balanced account of the subject that remains in the temperate zone of argument. It points to the many “scary scenarios” and exaggerations that the eco-activists have foisted on the public: wood fuel is preferable to fossil fuels, the Himalayan glaciers are melting, the oceans are dying, extreme weather events are on the rise, industrial agriculture is a disaster, massive crop failures are to be expected, and so on, all leading to the collapse of civilization and the looming extinction of human life. Actually, climate is doing fairly well, but you’d never know it attending to so alarmist an agenda.

What is going on here? The climate industry is brewing perhaps the greatest deception of our times. An integral part of this deception is the intent to redistribute First-World wealth to so-called developing countries. Ottmar Edenhofer, former co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group III, admitted in an interview with Germany’s NZZ Online on November 14, 2010 (reported in Global Warming Science, March 17, 2011), that “We redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.” 

But there is obviously more to it than that. The climate change scam is a cash cow for research scientists, universities and climate institutes on the receiving end of lucrative government grants, which they have no intention of relinquishing. The global warming scenario is also a gold mine for energy companies, crony capitalists and financial speculators, a multi-billion dollar boondoggle in which Big Oil has been replaced by Big Green, the major exploiter and benefactor of the pseudo-ecological scheme. Michael Moore’s new documentary Planet of the Humans, as Charles Battig points out in American Thinker, reveals how “energy corporations gained access to government funding/subsidies for wind turbine and commercial solar power installations,” despite the fact that the unreliability and intermittence of such energy substitutes ensures that “fossil fuel plants will remain the primary energy sources.” 

The plot thickens. Mark Levin’s chapter “On Enviro-Statism” in his book Liberty and Tyranny provides a compendious summary and critique of the various stages of the global warming hoax and how it functions as an instrument of statist control of civil society. Like single-payer medicare and auto-industry bailouts, the myth of global warming enables government to concentrate more and more of a nation’s economy into its own hands, leading eventually to a top-down socialist dispensation and a citizenry dependent on the whims and dictates of an autocratic managerial class. 

The totalitarian mindset is a monstrous thing, and Climatocracy is one of its most arresting contemporary manifestations. Global warming, said Philip Stott, Professor Emeritus of Biogeography at the University of London, “has become the grand political narrative of the age, replacing Marxism as a dominant force for controlling liberty and human choices." Similarly, Glenn Beck in Common Sense warns us about “what is really going on: leaders who want more government control over our businesses, economy and personal lives…need a vehicle to take them there…climate change is that vehicle.”

What it boils down to, according  to Delingpole in Watermelons, is the entwining of “the ideology of the modern environmental movement and the ideology of the liberal-left,” both of which are political cartels of a collectivist bent that “believe in a bigger state” and lobby for “more of our decisions to be made on our behalf by politicians [and] technocrats.” Thus the term “watermelons”: green on the outside, red (or pink) on the inside. 

Perhaps all is not lost. Michael Walsh writing on this site is gratified to note, if not a sea change, let’s say a river change among former climate activists and radical environmentalists who are “defect[ing] to the side of reason” and “joining the community of the sensible.” But it’s not an easy slog for so-called “climate skeptics,” who are regularly slandered as heretics, as paranoid, as clueless and so on. They must often feel like modern-day Quixotes tilting at wind turbines, risking their careers and livelihoods in the process. They know that the issue is not about science at all. Apart from the inevitable cohort of useful idiots who see themselves as world-saviors and Gaia lovers, it’s all about money and power founded on deceit, persuasion and threat.

And there we have it—what the global warming (aka “climate change”) movement, a fit candidate for the dump of history, actually comprises and intends. The evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible. We are being pummeled into believing that we are facing an existential menace. In 2009, then Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, warned that “We have just four months to secure the future of our planet.” Now, we’re informed that it’s 12 years or maybe, according to teenage wunderkind Greta Thunberg, a mere eight years. The experts at the IPCC give us a decade to change our errant ways—or else! It could be just 18 months, as that renowned climatologist Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh has admonished us. We are constantly on the brink of extinction, it seems. 

Don’t fall for it. 

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(Wikimedia)

*On a personal note: Visiting the University of East Anglia as a conferee in 2005, I recall standing before a strange, bartizan-like structure, a kind of Martello tower fused to an enormous ingot of glass and concrete, and wondering what purpose so bizarre an edifice might possibly serve. It was only later that I learned I’d been standing before the CRU building, described by Ian Wishart in Air Con as “one of the temples of global warming belief,” sheltering a conclave of scientists whose analytic hijinks might have tempted one “to laugh out loud.”

Studded with machicolated windows from which to pour boiling oil and hurl rocks during a siege, it seemed an appropriate pile in the circumstances. Protecting their own, the university syndics, posing as an “International Panel,” released a report attempting to rehabilitate the high priests of climate change sheltering behind their oylets. The boiling oil of bureaucratic rhetoric seems to have been largely effective. Nonetheless, Phil Jones was forced to step down as head of the Unit. The fraud itself, however, gives no indication of abating. 

Leslyn the Green?

We are living in a time of unprecedented mediocrity in our governing class and consequently the voting public have lately been searching for leadership outside of the traditional channels. That is what happened in 2016, when a batch of Republicans presented themselves as the next Mitt Romney only to be steamrolled by Donald Trump, largely because he represented the concerns of actual voters rather than those of the consultant class. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders nearly did the same thing in the Democratic Party twice.

Even so, outsider candidates by their very nature tend to have thin political resumes, and that should put us on our guard. One need only consider the example of Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by George W. Bush after a mere two years as a judge and having apparently spent an entire life studiously avoiding taking hard positions on anything. Well it worked -- the Democrats had nothing to pin on him, and he got on the court, but neither did the Republicans have any real reason to trust him. The recent abundance of headlines beginning "Roberts Joins Liberals" should serve as a warning to all of us.

In that spirit, I want to call your attention to a recent piece by Dan McTeague at Canadians for Affordable Energy examining the environmental policies of current Conservative darling Leslyn Lewis. Like a lot of conservatives who pay attention to Canadian politics, I have found Lewis to be a breath of fresh air because of her unwillingness to apologize for her beliefs. As J. J. McCullough put it in a recent WaPo write up,

Lewis... is black, female, unapologetically Christian and unafraid to embrace sharply ideological causes. She has taken explicit aim at progressive tropes such as “identity politics” and speaks openly of wanting to impose moderate — though still dramatic — “pro-life policies” to rein in Canada’s regime of broadly unregulated abortion.

Even so, McTeague has zeroed in on some of Lewis's energy priors which had escaped my notice:

As part of the environmental policy section of her leadership platform, Lewis commits to reducing regulation around energy projects (good!), but she also insists on supporting green technology and tax credits for businesses with green plans. Indeed, subsidies for green energy companies are central to her environmental strategy.

She has thought this through, and in a very significant way: prior to running for office, Lewis practiced as a lawyer, specializing in environmental and energy law. Just last year, in 2019, she completed her PHD in law at Osgoode Hall in Toronto. In her PhD thesis, titled, Attracting Foreign Investments for Green Energy Projects in Sub Saharan Africa, Lewis focuses on third world countries that are at a disadvantage when it comes to green energy, as they often cannot afford the patents to build the green infrastructure, and thus have to rely on oil and gas. Lewis laments the “dependency” on oil and gas in ways we have been hearing for years from the Canadian left. With her PhD in hand, it is unlikely that any candidate in Canadian history has been more intellectually prepared to dish out massive subsidies to the green lobby.

Surprising and concerning. Read the whole thing -- there's a lot more in there -- and then maybe spend some time looking over Derek Sloan's leadership campaign site before you make your final ballot ranking decisions.

'Deniers' of the World, Unite!

Much is made of the fact that former "climate change" advocates have now defected to the side of reason. But much more needs to be done to defeat climate change propaganda. The latest defection, as we’ve noted here, is Michael Shellenberger, author of Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. His arguments are well-documented but he’s been denied a voice in the major media.

The major media shut-outs are not the only way climate change skeptics are made non-persons and their arguments, studies and critiques of the prevailing view silenced. The most important search engine, Google does it, too. David Wojick   tested it by searching his own works and those of other climate change skeptics on Google.

The pattern is obvious — attack the skeptics of climate change alarmism. The ever present use of the wacko DeSmogBlog attacks, usually in the top 5 items and often first or second, is actually pretty funny. But it is also telling, as is the going back many years to pick up attack pieces, while the informational pieces are far more recent. This pattern cannot be accidental; the algorithm is clearly tuned to discredit skeptics of climate change alarmism.

The interesting question: is this illegal? After all Google boasts that it has billions of dollars invested in renewable energy. Skepticism of alarmism probably threatens those investments. Deliberately discrediting people in order to protect or enhance your business interests sounds illegal to me. Maybe there is even a class action suit in this.

This censoring of contrary opinion on climate change is not merely a matter of free speech and inquiry. It’s critical, because it’s likely to be the next woke campaign—overturning western civilization by piling on the moral panic which has already led to such absurdities as denouncing terms like “master bedroom” and “blacklisting,” and demolishing statues of abolitionists because of some fancied connotations of slavery and racism. (I did Google Michael Shellenberger and see Google’s algorithms have not yet made him a non-person. His most recent works and statements are at the top.)

The censoring of climate skeptics is or should be of interest to more than those of us interested in this issue. It’s likely to be the next “woke” campaign theme. And the censoring is likely to be even more extreme. Using the Forbes deletion of Shellenberger’s article as a warning, the author, Ross Clark, concludes:

A US journalist who tried to find out why was issued only with the following statement: ‘Forbes requires its contributors to adhere to strict editorial guidelines. This story did not follow those guidelines, and was removed.’ It is not hard to decode: a bunch of climate alarmists decided that Shellenberger is inconvenient to their cause and have tried to cancel him by complaining to the website – and the website caved in...

The attempt to classify climate change ‘denialism’ as a hate crime has been coming for quite a while. The very use of the word ‘denial’ is an attempt to put anyone skeptical of climate alarmism in the same pigeonhole as holocaust deniers.

There are so many fine blogs on the subject, including The Pipeline, Wattsupwiththat, and Climate Audit, for example, the question no longer is who can refute the silliness of the doomsday movement, but how can we make our voices heard in the face of the media-attempted blackout and the education establishments’ embrace of  climate alarmism?

Battling phantoms since 1212.

School children are especially vulnerable to the climate-change movement, which is the genius of using Greta Thunberg to appeal to the public on this issue. She’s a modern Stephen of Cloyes who’d lead frenetic children on a disastrous endeavor—in this case abolishing the fossil fuels that keeps us living well.  Her backers use her to inspire a repeat of the ill-fated Children’s’ Crusade, because children are so lacking in knowledge and experience an emotional appeal is most effective on them.

So, how do we reach the young formative minds? I went to the National Education Association’s website for its statement: “Climate Change Education: Essential Information for Educators.”  It directs teachers to a series of reports by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, PBS, and the KQED Education network. Picking one such study at random, the NOAA study, teachers will learn things like this:

Impacts from climate change are happening now. These impacts extend well beyond an increase in temperature, affecting ecosystems and communities in the United States and around the world. Things that we depend upon and value — water, energy, transportation, wildlife, agriculture, ecosystems, and human health — are experiencing the effects of a changing climate.

Or, to take a second example, the KQED Education Network:

Scientists around the globe have noticed that over the last 40 years Earth, as a whole, has been warming. This phenomenon, known as global warming, is affecting regional climates differently. For example, some regions may experience warmer summers, while other regions may see winters with heavier snowstorms.

A rise in Earth's average temperature isn't always immediately apparent. For example, some places still get snowy winters, which might appear to contradict the idea of global warming. (Check out Andy Warner's comic to learn how global warming can actually lead to heavier snowfall). So, how do scientists know Earth is warming?

The NEA lists its “Green Partners,” among them:

I stopped at the first, Earth Day Network, where I learned, “Our food system accounts for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, making animal agriculture one of the largest contributors to climate change. Food production and consumption are rapidly deteriorating the planet. And what we’re eating is pushing the planet to the breaking point on climate change and deforestation.”

My point is as far as I can tell, the NEA guides for teachers rely on sources in which no countervailing opinions seem readily to appear, and often make assertions of fact which are simply untrue. This underscores what Paul Driessen wrote last year.

From kindergarten onward, our young people are repeatedly told that they, our wildlife and our planet face unprecedented cataclysms from manmade climate change, resulting from our fossil fuel use. The science is settled, they are constantly hoodwinked, and little or no discussion is allowed in classrooms.

They thus hear virtually nothing about the growing gap between computer model predictions and satellite temperature measurements; questions about data manipulation by scientists advocating the dangerous manmade climate change narrative; the hundreds of scientists who do not agree with the supposed “consensus” on manmade climate chaos; or the absence of any real-world evidence to support claims of carbon dioxide-driven coral bleaching, species extinctions, or the seemingly endless litany of ever more absurd assertions that fossil fuel emissions are making sharks right-handed, arctic plants too tall, pigs skinnier and salmon unable to detect danger, to cite just a few crazy examples.

It all seems hopeless.

I haven’t any brilliant notions of how to combat this propagandizing and enlisting half-formed student minds to the cause, but it should start with pressuring our federal agencies to stop producing, promoting on its own fact-free propagandizing, and funding outside groups to do the same. The agencies producing the pap the NEA recommends need to be monitored and forced to provide in its place more objective, documented material for the public. The NEA needs to be challenged regarding the sites and material it is endorsing. If you encourage teachers to teach nonsense, you’re paying them to mis-educate their students.

There is a multi-state effort to create new education standards that are “rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education.” A glance at the standards, arranged by grades, seem far more objective than the NEA site. States that have not signed on to this should be encouraged to do so.

Perhaps all of the climate-change-skeptical sites should consider a feature occasionally explaining the truth of "man-made climate change" in terms children (and their parents) can understand, a sort of Scholastic Science feature now and then.

In the meantime, the climate cult is turning out students like those at Milwaukee’s North Division High School, which holds regular school-sanctioned walkouts on topics like Climate Activism. (Only one student out of 105 there are proficient in English and only two  are proficient in math.) Its most recent teacher-approved Red Guard-like march of the Milwaukee Public Schools was organized by “The People’s Climate Coalition" and specifically targeted Wells Fargo and Chase banks. Apparently they were singled out because they supposedly provided funding for fossil fuel companies. Parents and citizens should challenge the manipulation of students who certainly do not need time away from school to serve as leftist foot soldiers.

We skeptics can’t just talk to ourselves if we mean to bring greater support for rational energy and environmental policies, and we can’t persuade others they are being duped and misinformed if we don’t do more.

No Nukes? Then Stop 'Thinking Green'

A report issued last month by the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley asserts that the United States can achieve environmental utopia in a mere 15 years. Entitled 2035: Plummeting Solar, Wind and Battery Costs Can Accelerate Our Clean Energy Future, the study is sure to be referenced ad nauseum by progressive candidates and journalists during this election season. On its surface, the report appears to address the two biggest public perception problems that renewable energy faces: cost and reliability. The authors claim that we can make changes to our electrical infrastructure to ensure that 90 percent of all energy generated by 2035 is derived from “clean” sources, that we will actually save money by so doing, and that executing this plan will not have any significant detrimental impact on power availability or reliability.

It must be said that 2035 is a step or two above AOC’s “Green New Deal” fantasy in the sense that it at least acknowledges there are challenges involved in repowering the largest economy on planet earth we should probably consider. That is not to say that 2035 is entirely realistic about how to address those challenges. It’s not. But we may take some slight comfort knowing that there at least a couple of people obsessed with the green energy fantasy who have a vague awareness that electrical generation, transmission and distribution are rather complex topics. Baby steps people – baby steps.

Before we get into the weeds, you should understand that despite what politicians and PR types have said, and will continue to say, the 2035 plan does not claim that the delivered cost of renewable sources of energy will be cheaper than that of conventional sources in fifteen years, nor should one confuse the term “clean energy” as used in the plan with the term “renewable energy” as it has been traditionally used by environmental activists.

The 2035 plan claims that net renewable energy costs will be lower if its recommendation are followed, but only if one ignores tax credits and factors in nebulous economic benefits associated with fractional reductions in conventional air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions. The report also places nuclear energy and hydro-power on the “clean” side of the energy-generation balance sheet. While this author and many a like-minded scientist have long agreed that both sources of energy are indeed quite clean, as well as being cheap and reliable, few environmental groups have agreed, particularly in the case of nukes.

To be perfectly clear: any candidate or environmental group that signs off on 2035 is, de facto, a nuclear power advocate. And most welcome they shall be! Jump on in guys, the water’s fine and radiation free, but feel free to grab a banana at the snack bar if you need some rads.

If we’re going to fairly assess the 2035 plan, we need to understand three key concepts that are central to managing a power generation and distribution system: load, dispatchability and capacity factor.

Load, in the power generation sense, is a measure of electrical demand. In general, a given distribution system on the grid will require a minimum amount of power on the lines at all times, day or night. This is called “base load” and is typically filled by generation assets that run steadily at all times. At the other extreme there is power that is only briefly needed because of intermittent increased demand, like during the hottest part of a summer day when air conditioners are working their hardest. This condition may last for a few hours, depending on season and location, and is called “peak load.” In between, we have intermediate load.

Dispatch refers to how the folks managing a portion of the grid ensure there is enough power to meet load demand. These are assets with which the grid operator (often, but not always, referred to as an Independent System Operator, or ISO – the acronym we’ll use to refer to the grid manager for the balance of this piece) has to work. “Dispatchable” assets are those that the ISO knows will be available over a given time period and whose maximum power output is a fixed, known quantity. The ISO uses dispatchable assets to develop a plan, including dispatch order, to ensure that each day’s demand forecast can be reliably filled, plus a reserve amount of generation in case the forecast is off a bit. Non-dispatchable assets are those generation assets whose availability and generation capacity cannot be reliably and consistently known due to the nature of the asset.

Lights on, everybody's home.

Finally, capacity factor is a measure of how much power a generation asset can produce compared to how much it actually produces. A power plant that runs at 100 percent capacity-factor is generating the maximum amount of power possible, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Another plant that generates 50 percent of the power it's capable of generating and runs only half the time available earns a 25 percent capacity factor (0.5 x 0.5 = 0.25).

In order to manage the grid reliably, ISOs want to fill in load requirements using dispatchable sources of energy as much as possible. The best, most reliable, sources of dispatchable power are those that typically run at high-capacity factors. According to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, coal-fired power plants, combined-cycle natural gas-fired plants, and nuclear power plants typically run at capacity factors between 80–90 percent each.

Both wind and utility-scale solar plants are classified as “non-dispatchable” by the Department of Energy. To understand why, let’s compare capacity factors. Capacity factors for wind and solar vary by region, but EIA has developed historical data that defines the boundaries. Wind farms rarely exceed 40 percent in the best cases and 20–30 percent are more typical. Utility-scale solar plants, which generate far less power than wind in most places, typically operate in the 20–30 percent range and sometimes closer to 10 percent.

Anyone claiming that they can run the nation’s power grid solely on "renewables" inevitably runs into this basic problem: neither wind nor solar is sufficiently reliable to do anything but “gap fill,” while dispatchable sources are running to provide most of the load, along with sufficient excess dispatchable capacity available to pick up the slack when/if wind and solar sources drop off.

The solution to this problem proposed in 2035 is fourfold: 1) include nuclear and hydro in the mix, both of which are dispatchable and can provide reliable base load, 2) grudgingly allow some natural-gas generation to remain in place, 3) buy a crap-load of battery storage capacity, and 4) build every bit of wind and solar capacity one possibly can and run it as hard and as often possible whenever conditions allow.

Technically, there is much about this scheme that is laughable and some aspects that are downright dangerous. Unfortunately, space considerations preclude discussing these issues in detail in this particular article. Economically, both EIA and the folks at the Goldman School acknowledge that the Levelized Costs of Power generated by wind is typically more expensive than power generated by nukes or fossil fuel-fired sources. It is only by including tax credits and – in Goldman’s case – the fanciful economic benefits supposedly accompanying further coal plant retirements that one can begin to claim that the 2035 plan is economically sound.

It’s not. It’s another fanciful exercise designed to solve an equally fanciful problem in the fanciful presumption that even if climate change represented a clear and present danger to the globe any unilateral action taken by the United States could have the slightest effect. However, we should look on the bright side and be thankful that at least a tiny bit of reality has somehow made it’s way into this particular plan.

Baby steps.

'Climate Change' Hysterics Seeing the Lights

One by one, prominent members of the Doomsday Cult of Climate Annihilation are beginning to defect to the side of reason and rationality. First came filmmaker Michael Moore and his heretical movie, Planet of the Humans, which castigated the "environmental movement" for selling out to corporate America. Next up was Michael Shellenberger, whose new book,  Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, is currently setting the kat among the klimate konformist pigeons by daring to argue that -- hold on to your Greta baseball caps! -- in fact, we're not all going to die and that there is a sane alternative to Thunbergianism. Among his findings:

I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism. In reality, the above facts come from the best-available scientific studies, including those conducted by or accepted by the IPCC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other leading scientific bodies.

Shellenberger made these points in a piece he wrote the other day for Forbes... which of course yanked it from its website within hours, thus proving Moore's point about corporate hijacking of climate alarmism. So he reposted it on the Australian-based website, Quillette; have a look for yourself:

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.

In the final three chapters of Apocalypse Never I expose the financial, political, and ideological motivations. Environmental groups have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests. Groups motivated by anti-humanist beliefs forced the World Bank to stop trying to end poverty and instead make poverty “sustainable.” And status anxiety, depression, and hostility to modern civilization are behind much of the alarmism.

Shellenberger calls out the impractical Ludditism of the "Green Movement" Neanderthals, and offers policy recommendation that will turn the Greenies purple with rage, including a defense of clean nuclear energy:

Once you realize just how badly misinformed we have been, often by people with plainly unsavory or unhealthy motivations, it is hard not to feel duped.

Clean energy or Green energy? Your choice.

Well, as Barnum said, there's a sucker born every minute, including some very famous ones, among them chimp conservationist Jane Goodall, 86, who's moved on from general monkeyshines to weighty issue of climate, diet, the coronavirus and -- of course -- Why Everything Now Must Change:

With a background in primatology, Jane Goodall became well known in the 1960s through films about her work studying chimpanzees in Tanzania. She famously gave the animals human names. Her discovery that chimps in Tanzania and elsewhere were threatened by habitat destruction due to human activity informed her view about the interdependency of the natural world. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977, and it's now a leading voice for nature conservation.

Dr Goodall’s analysis of COVID-19 stays true to her beliefs. Speaking at an online event held by the group Compassion in World Farming, Goodall said our global food production system is in need of urgent reform. “Our disrespect for wild animals and our disrespect for farmed animals has created this situation where disease can spill over to infect human beings. We have come to a turning point in our relationship with the natural world.”

Talk about hostility to modern civilization: here we are: after more than half a century of the relentless battering of Western civilization by the likes of the Frankfurt School and their bastard children in academe, there are suckers aplenty in the West, who will go to their graves convinced that everything modern man has done to improve his life is wrong and bad, and that a prelapsarian state of nature is the way forward. Such is the suicide cult of Leftism as articulated by Rousseau and then passed down by Marx and Marcuse.

And yet, some common sense is beginning to reassert itself. In addition to Shellenberger, the Danish author and climate-hysteria skeptic, Bjorn Lomborg, the "skeptical environmentalist," has a new book out as well, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet. As Richard Trzupek, an environmental consultant and analyst at the Heartland Institute, notes in his review:

Lomborg addresses his core mission statement early on: “[W]e’re scaring kids and adults witless, which is not just factually wrong but morally reprehensible. If we don’t say stop, the current, false climate alarm, despite its good intentions, is likely to leave the world much worse off than it could be.”

Everyone knows the meme: “Catastrophic global warming is real and it’s manmade.” It’s a simple statement of the perceived problem, one that would surely earn an “A” in Marketing 101. Whatever else it is, that simple statement is not science. The issue of climate change cannot be explained by any one statement, but must be addressed by answering a series of questions. This is what Lomborg bravely attempts to do in “False Alarm.”

And now along comes a lady with the felecitious sobriquet of Zion Lights, a spokewoman for Britain's lunatic Extinction Rebellion movement. When last seen, she was being memorably eviscerated by the BBC's Andrew Neil in October:

Today, however, she's singing a different tune.

Extinction Rebellion's spokeswoman has quit the protest group to become a nuclear power campaigner. Zion Lights, 36, has left the climate change cause, which brought London to a standstill last year, to join pro-nuke outfit Environmental Progress. The former XR communications head said she had felt ‘duped’ after being surrounded by anti-nuclear campaigners until she read more into the radioactive fuel.

Mother-of-two Zion said: ‘The facts didn't really change, but once I understood them I did change my mind.’ The switch took non-campaigners by surprise given her new role seems entirely at odds with her old position. Zion, who was born in the West Midlands and given her unusual name as a baby, said: ‘I have a long history of campaigning on environmental issues, most recently as a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion UK.

‘Surrounded by anti-nuclear activists, I had allowed fear of radiation, nuclear waste and weapons of mass destruction to creep into my subconscious. I realised I had been duped into anti-science sentiment all this time. Now, I have quit the organisation to take up a position as a campaigner for nuclear power.’

It's easy to laugh, but pay attention to the statement above: I had allowed fear... to creep into my subconscious. Fear is a hallmark of all zealous crackpotism, along with an urgent insistence that the world change right now in order to accommodate what is manifestly a form of mental illness akin to aliens sending you messages through the fillings in your teeth.

The environmentalist Left needs more people like Moore, Shellenberger, and Lights, struggling out the darkness of their former irrational anxieties and obsessions and joining the community of the sensible, and fewer deluded children like poor exploited Greta, shamelessly manipulated by the "movement" for malicious ends.

After all, who doesn't want the best for Mother Earth? There are many paths to conservation and civilization. We need not let fear prevent us from seeing the solution, and the light.

Who's Afraid of 'Climate Change'?

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.

One example of this: Forbes, where he is a regular contributor, pulled down his most recent piece, 'On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,' within a few hours of publication.

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.

Shellenberger

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 declined by 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.

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Oil and Gas: Students Educate their Teachers

In a letter well worth reading, students at various universities across the country, members of a group called Students for Canada (SEC), addressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, encouraging him to rescue and promote Canada’s ailing energy sector. The letter is a powerful, meticulously documented and near-irrefutable report meant to counter an earlier petition by 265 academics—which I have referenced in a previous article for The Pipeline—urging Trudeau to shut down the oil and gas industry entirely. 

The letter brilliantly reverses the relation of authority. These students know infinitely more than the profs, technological and economic illiterates who proceed from purely ideological motives, whereas their student adversaries base their thesis on actual realities. The two lead authors of the student letter are candidates in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; the competencies of the two lead authors of the academic letter are in Political Science and Sociology. This should tell us something about relevant expertise. (Ironically, the University of Alberta is home to both the students and the pedagogues.)

Offering a vista of unexpected hope for the return of intellectual sanity to an ideological wasteland, these students have largely managed to resist the left-wing and “social justice” curriculum of the indoctrination factories our universities have become. In four pages of resource-rich material and dispositive evidence, they have exhibited not only an informed concern for the country’s welfare, but a thorough familiarity with the complexities and minutiae of energy production, industry safety standards, employment issues, technological innovation and bread-and-butter outcomes, all benefiting the country’s future political stability and economic prospects.

They advocate fumigating the language around the Canadian energy sector. “The use of the terms ‘tar sands’, ‘war’, ‘dead’ and ‘bail out’ tend to… trigger… anger and divisiveness.” Loaded language is a sure-fire way to preempt debate. Reputable contributors to a contentious issue need to invoke clarity of expression and neutral terminology. “Members of Geothermics understand that carefully chosen words can encourage people to listen and critically think about the issue to promote integrated solutions, especially if the issue involves oil and gas.” After all, “how can the Canadian oil and gas industry be ‘dead’ when Canadian Energy companies provide social benefits and are continuously developing clean innovations?”

They argue that “Canada has founded one of the most sustainable hydrocarbon development strategies in the world,” from which other countries with similar oil reserves could learn. They explain that “global energy demands will continue to increase in the future and that renewable energies are not in a position to replace [fossil fuels] for decades to come.” Indeed, “the totality of renewables supply only 7% of global demand (International Energy Agency, 2019)…illustrat[ing] that oil and gas are valuable natural resources, just like lithium, copper, uranium and iron ore, etc., needed to manufacture goods, medical supplies, electronics, outdoor gear, renewables etc.” They point out that Canada was “ranked number one for Sustainable Development in 2019 relative to the world's top oil exporters (sdgindex.org).” The concern often cited by opponents of energy extraction and delivery regarding methane leaks “is being continually mitigated with the decades of improvement created by companies subject to Canada’s oil and gas sector regulations.”  

Further, the construction of Liquefied Natural Gas facilities is projected to add billions in new government revenue as well as “provide for additional health care, schools, infrastructure and many other services to be filled by future graduating students.” In addition, “the geological and engineering knowledge from the oil industry is directly transferable towards geothermal energy exploration, which is based on exploiting moving fluids within the earth to capture/harness a different source of energy.” Another technological breakthrough “requiring advanced geoscience and engineering is the use of compressed air stored within sealed underground caverns,” which can be recuperated to operate turbines generating electricity. These are only some of the energy sector positives listed by the students. 

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The writers make only one mistake in regarding carbon as a destructive element and promoting the technology of carbon capture and storage in order to stimulate the production of clean energy, thus misunderstanding the relation of carbon to fertility and verdant life. Research and development in oil and gas, they maintain, entails “consequences for all energy sources, such as the societal, ecological and geological impact of dams, the utility of land dedicated to solar farms, [and] the societal and ecological impacts of mining rare earth minerals for solar panels, batteries and wind turbines.” 

I'm renewable!

The argument is ingenious, detailing how oil and gas will lead to solar and wind. This may or may not be so, but if intended as a tactical gesture, a sop to the Greenies, it’s clearly bound to fail. Radical environmentalists are concession-proof. Moreover, wind farms, solar installations and SpongeBob-looking photovoltaic panels disfiguring the landscape do not seem a reasonable innovation in countries already burdened by six months of dark winter and unreliable weather patterns. One way or another, there is no immediate foreseeable replacement for oil and gas, as the students themselves admit. By the same token, the anti-carbon brief is wholly misguided. It is the staple delusion of the global warming/climate change/extreme weather industry and its hundreds of millions of gullible adherents.

Robert Zubrin has shown in a profoundly researched book, Merchants of Despair, that there exists robust scientific proof derived from ice core data and isotopic ratios in marine organism remains that Earth’s climate is a stable system, that CO2 emissions create surplus plant growth that in turn absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide—the proper form of carbon storage—thus restoring climate equilibrium over the long haul, and that under conditions of cyclical global warming agricultural productivity naturally increases and human life immensely improves.

Gregory Wrightstone’s Inconvenient Facts, which puts paid to the anti-carbon crusade, is equally essential reading. Wrightstone, a geoscientist of 35 years experience, shows that the real threat to humankind is not carbon or Thermageddon but “a group of men (and women) intent on imposing an agenda based on seriously flawed science.” Bruce Bunker’s more recent The Mythology of Global Warming is as close to a clincher as one could hope to find. Relying on reams of proven scientific data from the geologic record, Bunker concludes: “The premise that CO2 emissions are causing catastrophic global warming is a total myth.” His pages need to be studied. I should also mention Alan Fensin, an electronic engineer and NASA design consultant, who in Global Warming, The Carbon Dioxide Hoax, a very accessible account, demolishes the fable that a “small trace gas called carbon dioxide [is] responsible for controlling our climate.”

Writing in the Wall Street  Journal back in 2007, Princeton physicist William Happer also highlighted the fact that “Life on earth flourished for hundreds of million years at much higher CO2 levels than we see today.” CO2 levels during the Ordovician Age of 440 million years ago were ten times higher than they are at present, yet the earth prospered. As Science Daily reports, “The Ordovician geologic period included a climate characterized by high atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, warm average temperatures and flourishing life.” (These finding are disputed by left-wing sites like Skeptical Science; physicist John Droz Jr., writing in MasterResource: A Free-Market Energy Blog, demolishes its falsifications definitively.)

The students can be pardoned for their single lapse from scientific rigor and environmental fact. They are young and still have a lifetime of research and study ahead of them, enabling them to correct errors and incorporate ever more facts and discoveries into their world picture—and to find erudite and honorable teachers like Zubrin, Wrightstone and Bunker, among others. They represent the best hope for the future of climatology and environmental studies—and for the recovery and growth of Canada’s energy production. They are in their way a major part of the country’s energy sector—its mental energy sector—which augurs well for the morrow if they can preserve their integrity, pursue their adventure into truth and withstand the ideological inroads of a faux-environmentalist pathology. Their minds are in the right place, which is more than can be said for their politically-correct preceptors. 

Les Miserables

In George Bernard Shaw’s Play, Misalliance, a young socialist bursts into a upper-class weekend party  waving a gun, and after a good deal of Shavian talk he’s persuaded to postpone revolution for a square meal in the kitchen by the kindly matriarch of the household. Before he is diverted, however, he challenges a retired colonial governor to say how he would deal with the New Socialist Man of the future, like himself, who rejects all the conventional rules of the political game. The governor explains matter-of-factly that he would tip off an ambitious policeman that he was a bit of a troublemaker who should be watched and then wait patiently for the policeman to provoke him into a fight and an arrest.

“Why, that’s disgraceful,” responds the anarchist indignantly. The governor replies that in the game of anarchism the police can always beat the anarchist.

Almost invariably, that is true. Revolutions are the exception, and even they conform to the governor’s cynical insight when they succeed, because the police reappear soon after the new order is established, are given greater powers by the new post-anarchist authorities, and arrest the few remaining anarchists. See the history of the early Soviet Union passim.

What we’re at present witnessing is the spread of anarchism in the United States and, less violently so far, in the United Kingdom: mobs rushing around, pulling down statues, attacking people they believe to be “racists” (maybe because they’re wearing a baseball cap), demanding conformity to their  revolutionary slogans, and visibly flouting the authority of governments and local authority. The pulling down of statues—historically known as iconoclasm—is a traditional accompaniment to religious or political revolution that symbolizes the defenestration of one set of rulers and their replacement by a new set.

The role of the police in these events is especially significant. As the guardians of order, supposedly politically impartial, they are expected to restrain and suppress riots and destruction of lives and property. Against these disorders they seem pulled in three different directions Those in Seattle have been instructed by local authorities that are politically sympathetic to the rioters to allow them to establish “no-go” areas outside the law; those in Atlanta may be resigning or simply looking the other way when crimes are committed because they feel the local authorities are making them scapegoats for incidents of law enforcement that went wrong; and those in London seem to have decided on their own initiatives that policing by consent means the consent of the rioters and have accordingly tried to appease them. In all these cases the citizens can no longer rely with confidence on the normal assumption that the police will protect them and their property. Anarchy reigns.

At some point if the anarchy does not lead to an actual revolution, it will either fizzle out or be stopped by police or military force. The 1968 manifestations in Paris were stopped when the Army made it plain it would intervene if necessary, the bourgeois supporters of de Gaulle mounted their own massive manifestations in Paris, and the Gaullists won a landslide in the subsequent elections.

But the spirit of anarchy cannot be confined in a box marked public order. It seeps out into all aspects of our lives—I’ve mentioned iconoclasm as its symbolic representation in the arts. Jihadists have destroyed “pagan idols,” i.e., Buddhist images, in Asia. Feminists in recent years have been imitating the Victorians in putting bras on Greek statues and stockings on piano legs in official settings. And the removal of statues of national heroes such as George Washington, as well as leading abolitionists, on the grounds of “slavery,” shows that the real motive force of this particular anarchistic drive is to replace the United States, founded circa 1776, with a new American state.

More important than iconoclasm, however, is antinomianism which is the rejection of all laws, customs, and informal rules in all fields of human behaviour including, significantly, science, law, and morality. Their removal gives the anarchist a thrill of liberation when first antinomianism breaks forth. But since it’s in the nature of man that, as Burke said, he must have rules to govern him, and if they don’t come from within in the form of customs and practices, they will come from without in the form of politically-imposed new “truths” on the arts and sciences.

Seattle, 2020

It’s a two-stage process: first, we liberate ourselves from the old laws that confine our imaginations to what science and experience tell us is true and practicable; second, we replace them with rules that reflect the wishes and interests of the powerful—who are not always politicians and ministers but sometimes in periods of decaying political authority, the mob or its allies. The political mob made its first appearance in Paris during the French revolution, but it has come and gone many times since then, and it’s presently most powerful in Seattle and Portland.

Taken together these two stages produce the replacement of professional rules and ethics by political values and authority in all fields. It can be a slow process, especially in science, and it begins modestly, but the final stages often have seasoned professionals accepting new rules they would once have denounced or regarded as simply too absurd to bother denouncing. The old professional rules of American journalism that you followed the truth where it led by examining fairly the claims of all sides in a dispute have collapsed entirely—and that collapse began long before Donald Trump was elected President. It has reached its apogee in the recent decision of the New York Times to publish the deceptive and false 1619 Project not as one account of many historical accounts of the birth of America but as the sole acceptable truth (though it comes to us less from history than from critical race theory which is constructed so as to negate any criticism of its own criteria.) Its principal author has just welcomed the spreading anarchy as a vindication of the Times project, which is now to be taught in American high schools.

Examine now this sinister drift from the rules of scientific truth to the imperatives of political anti-science which we might call the Lysenko Imperative, or “What the Party says is Science is Science”:

  1. There is a replication crisis in science. For the last decade it has become an open or grumbling scandal that a very high number of scientific experiments cannot be replicated, which means that the original findings are invalid. Since a great number of findings are not tested for replication in this way, that implies much more uncertainty about scientific findings than we tend to assume. Replications are far lower in psychology (50 per cent) especially social psychology (25 per cent), and in medicine than in other fields. In the last few days, for instance, a study by Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford found that they could not replicate the results in 13 of the 15 studies purporting to support the two-metre distancing rule in SARs and Covid-19 cases and concluded that “poor quality research is being used to justify a policy with enormous consequences for us all.”
  2. Much of the writing on both pollution and global warming emphasizes that these problems constitute a crisis or an emergency requiring urgent action to reduce carbon emissions and other “pollutants.” Time and again the dates for which catastrophe was confidently predicted have passed without grave occurrences. No apologies have been offered, and no signs given that the forecasters were reconsidering the theories on which their forecasts were based. Like the replication crisis, the prediction crisis is a scientific scandal unless it is seriously addressed. The latest warning of this erosion of scientific standard comes from Professor Ole Humlum, who looks at the empirical observations of climate science (as distinct from computer modelling) and finds that in most respects, including some surprising ones, things are getting better. 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. So although people say the oceans are warming, in reality there is still much to learn.” But that will depend on the willingness of scientists committed to the conventional view of global warming as something driven by human activity to question or moderate their outlook in the light of this disturbingly optimistic evidence.
  3. Where will these trends end up? As is already the case with the social sciences, the future of science could be its transformation into the political hopes of activist groups within the profession committed to views that reject traditional scientific rules as obstructions to their visions. "Feminist science" and "transgender science" both confront traditional biology as a hostile “essentialism” and treat those who disagree more as political enemies than as fellow-scientists. A more radical critique is mounted by those who want to decolonize "white science" (i.e., science)  by granting at least equal scientific authority to indigeneous religious world views. A journey around this set of ideas—or “new ways of knowing”-- is conducted by Lenny Pier Ramos in the current Quillette. It is a journey into the past and into pre-modern mind-set. “ I pushed this point and asked Dr. Tajmel [a leading proponent of this decolonization] if her project did not, ultimately, amount to the reintroduction of religion in science. She responded, without missing a beat, that science itself was a form of a religion."

Mr. Ramos reflects that given these trends it seems only a matter of time before Science and Nature get on board with that idea. It sounds alarmist but absurd. Yet we would once have thought the same of the "1619 Project" and the New York Times. And that's before the arrival of, first, the mob, and then the new policeman.

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.

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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.

Welcome to 476 A.D.

The world's most obnoxious teen girl is at it again. With the grownups having abdicated all responsibility across the western world, and the barbarians at the gates, think of Greta Thunberg as, well... Romulus Augustulus, empress of all she surveys. For now:

Greta Thunberg says the world needs to learn the lessons of coronavirus and treat climate change with similar urgency. That means the world acting "with necessary force", the Swedish climate activist says in an exclusive interview with BBC News.

She doesn't think any "green recovery plan" will solve the crisis alone. And she says the world is now passing a "social tipping point" on climate and issues such as Black Lives Matter. "People are starting to realise that we cannot keep looking away from these things", says Ms Thunberg, "we cannot keep sweeping these injustices under the carpet".

She says lockdown has given her time to relax and reflect away from the public gaze.

So who is Romulus Augustulus, you ask?

Ms Thunberg has shared with the BBC the text of a deeply personal programme she has made for Swedish Radio. In the radio programme, which goes online this morning, Greta looks back on the year in which she became one of the world's most high-profile celebrities.

The then 16-year-old took a sabbatical from school to spend a tumultuous year campaigning on the climate. She sailed across the Atlantic on a racing yacht to address a special UN Climate Action summit in New York in September. She describes world leaders queuing to get pictures with her, with Angela Merkel asking whether it was okay to post her photo on social media.

The climate campaigner is sceptical of their motives. "Perhaps it makes them forget the shame of their generation letting all future generations down", she says. "I guess maybe it helps them to sleep at night."

Her Majesty is upset. She came into this world expecting perfection, and the adults have let her down. In fact, they have deliberately destroyed her slim chance of happiness by their willful inaction on the "climate emergency" that's visible all around us. Why, just look out the window!

End of the line.

It was in the UN that she delivered her famous "how dare you" speech. "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words", she told the world leaders gathered in the UN Assembly. She appeared on the verge of tears as she continued. "People are dying," she said, "and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?"

She knew it was a "lifetime moment" and decided not to hold anything back, she says now. "I am going to let my emotions take control and to really make something big out of this because I won't be able to do this again".

Still, the Empress is disappointed in her subjects, who have not lived up to her ideals, and that the glory that was once Rome -- er, Sweden.

She describes travelling back from the UN to her hotel on the subway and seeing people watching the speech on their phones, but says she felt no urge to celebrate. "All that is left are empty words", she says. The phrase reflects her deep cynicism about the motives of most world leaders.

"The level of knowledge and understanding even among people in power is very, very low, much lower than you would think," she told the BBC. She says the only way to reduce emissions on the scale that is necessary is to make fundamental changes to our lifestyles, starting in developing countries. But she doesn't believe any leaders have the nerve to do that. Instead, she says, they "simply refrain from reporting the emissions, or move them somewhere else".

The teenager believes the only way to avoid a climate crisis is to tear up contracts and abandon existing deals and agreements that companies and countries have signed up to. "The climate and ecological crisis cannot be solved within today's political and economic systems", the Swedish climate activist argues. "That isn't an opinion. That's a fact."

Indeed, Her Serene Highness has much, much more to say to her subjects -- but hold! There's someone knocking at the gates. A fellow by the name of Odoacer.