Wanted: a Modern Martin Luther

When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the Castle Church door at Wittenberg in 1517, he was committing an act of resistance against the Deep State of the day. The Holy Roman Empire (“neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire” snarked the atheist Voltaire, inaccurately), was broke and selling Get Out Of Jail Early cards, “indulgences,” which, for a fee, reduced the buyer's time in Purgatory.

Which is exactly what today’s Deep State is doing with their Green Energy Bull.

Call it the New World Order, the UniParty, the U.N., the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party, or the global political establishment, it is so morally and spiritually bankrupt that it's selling Green Agenda indulgences and convincing people conditioned by 50 years of the Democrats’ “believe[ing] truth over facts” to buy them.

The intent of the buyers and sellers is the same as in the sixteenth century: preservation of the ruling establishment.

The Deep State in Luther’s day was trying to hold on to the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church rather than allowing the individual to read his Bible and reach God in his own way -- the foundation of northern European Protestantism.

Take that!

The Deep State today is trying to usurp global political power from independent, individual nation-states, and its pronouncements against that liberty created in large part by Luther’s Reformation. No one would have sailed -- or needed to sail, for religious reasons -- to Plymouth absent the Reformation.

Both States were and are using ignorance and lack of access to information to prop-up religious and political  establishments concerned only with self-preservation, and not with their charges: the Christian man or woman in the 16th Century, individual liberty under dispassionate law today.

The consequence of indulgences in Luther’s time was the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization.

The consequences of today’s indulgences are different.

Even if we assume all promises of those signing on to the Paris Agreement are fulfilled by 2030, and continue to fulfill them until the end of the century, and there is no ‘CO2 leakage’ to non-committed nations, the entirety of the Paris promises will reduce temperature rise by just 0.7 degree C (0.306 degrees F) by 2100.

How did today’s individual learn of the unholy, rising New World Order -- most recently articulated by George H.W. Bush? How did the individual come to be able to read his Bible, heretofore available only in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and accessible by the Church clergy? The printing press, mass literacy and vernacular access to the Bible, including Luther's own translation (from the original ancient Greek and Hebrew), which remains to this day the cornerstone of the modern German language language.

Luther was asking people to read, learn and decide; the Deep State is demanding people NOT read, NOT learn and NOT decide… just buy the indulgence. Let the forests burn. Turn out the lights. Close the factory.

Except it's all a lie. Massively increasing extraction industries – with the concomitant environmental damage -- is just one consequence of buying Green Indulgences:

… a rough conclusion is that getting all of our electricity from wind, solar and batteries would consume around 70% of all of the copper currently mined in the world, 337% of global nickel production, 3,053% of the world’s total cobalt production, 355% of the U.S.’s iron output, and 284% of U.S. steel production. Along with unfathomable quantities of concrete–which, by the way, off-gases CO2.

Destroying a nation’s economic outlook, strip-mining the planet, and bulldozing the suburbs for a corrupt faith lacking any factual proof or support is just not going to happen. The world is not going to return to pre-Reformation, pre-Science, pre-Liberty days in order to pay obeisance to the new self-anointed rulers.

Frederick III, Elector of Saxony – “Frederick the Wise” -- saved Luther for a while, protecting him from the Holy Roman Emperor (Charles V, of the house of Habsburg) and Pope Leo X by sheltering him in the Wartburg near Eisenach, and thus fostering the creation of the modern world. Without Frederick's temporal power, the Lutheran Church would likely not exist, nor would the entire chain reaction of Reformation and Counter-Reformation (in which the Roman church adopted long-needed reforms).

But where is our secular Luther today? If we are going to continue the modern world, today’s eco-indulgences must be stopped. We do have Trump, Brexit, and a growing Western understanding of the corruption of the Globalist State, and that the Green Indulgences are nothing more than tributes taxpayers pay to vice, to paraphrase La Rochefoucauld.

If we are going to reduce the corruption of the Deep State, if we are going to preserve liberty, if we are going to keep the lights on… the Green Indulgences must be rejected.

Because the Deep State is neither Holy, nor Western, nor (yet) an Empire. And must not be allowed to become so.

Of Encyclicals and Papal Bull

Some years ago I read a book review by the late Kingsley Amis, who was an acerbic critic as well as a distinguished novelist, that set a very high standard for negative notices. He opened the review with a list of the “schoolboy howlers,” mistakes of fact, and infelicities of style that rendered the book a tragicomedy of errors. On and on the list went, each stupidity seeming worse than the previous one, piling Pelion of ignorance upon Ossa of illogic, until it reached the following climax:

“That brings us down to the bottom of the first page.”

Not more need be said perhaps, but I was struck by Amis’s method. Great writers can wield the hatchet brilliantly—Lord Macaulay on Robert Southey’s Colloquies on Society is the beau ideal—but I don’t think anyone has wielded it more economically than Amis in that review. In one paragraph that dealt with a single page he dismissed any possibility that we might want to read the book except from motives of sadism.

I would have thought no one could match that technique until I came across Indur M. Goklany’s 2015 essay, The Pontifical Academies’ Broken Moral Compass, in which he analyses a joint statement by the ten Pontifical Academies titled: Climate Change and the Common Good: A Statement of The Problem and the Demand for Transformative Solutions.

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You may need a little background information on this. A pontifical academy is an academic honorary society established by the Holy See and working under its direction. There are ten pontifical academies, the first founded in 1542 on literature and the fine arts, and the most recent in 2012 on, surprisingly, the promotion of Latin studies (which probably reflected the concerns of John Paul II and Benedict XVI more than those of the Vatican’s present occupant.) Though the academies operate under the Holy See’s direction, they enjoy intellectual independence and some of the 20th century’s most distinguished scientists and intellectuals, including Ernest Rutherford, Max Planck, and Nils Bohr, have been members of the Pontifical Academy for the Sciences.

Catholic belief is not a requirement. But the academies make an interesting contribution to Catholic belief in one respect. A papal encyclical is the application of Catholic moral truths to the problems of the modern world in the light of the best secular knowledge. And the academies provide the Papacy with that advice on secular knowledge.

There’s a problem, however. Papal authority on moral truths is binding on Catholic consciences (and should be heeded respectfully by non-Catholics because it emerges from a serious and sophisticated tradition of moral reflection); but secular knowledge on science or economics is constantly developing and under constant disputation among several authorities, all legitimate, and so it cannot be binding, except provisionally, on anyone with or without a religion. So which is which?

Whenever an encyclical appears, there are heated disputes between Catholics of different kinds and other moral-cum-religious traditions about whether this condemnation or that mark of approval is a moral truth binding on Catholics or merely a secular recommendation that we might try or discard according to taste. (Non-Catholics and progressive Catholics usually insist that a papal idea borrowed from some revolutionary Marxist Jesuit in Latin America is a Thomistic necessity binding on conservatives on pain of mortal sin.)

Pope Leo meets Attila, 452 A.D.: not just for Catholics.

So the statement by the pontifical academies, which was in effect the secular knowledge provided to the Pope before he wrote his encyclical on climate change, Laudatio Si, was a very big deal indeed. Even those who expected not to like its contents could disagree with it without committing a mortal sin. And Indur M. Goklany did disagree with it somewhat on the lines of Martin Luther at Wittenberg.

Not that I have any idea if Mr. Goklany adheres to a conventional religion. But since he has worked with the Cato Foundation and Reason magazine in the United States, as well as serving as a senior official of the federal Department of the Interior, my guess is that he is a kirk member in good standing of the Church of the Scottish Enlightenment with a particular devotion to Saint Adam Smith. That would give him a deal of arrows with which to attack the Pontifical academies in all their scarlet splendour.

He needed only a few, however, because he confined his attack on the statement to its first paragraph (though unlike Amis his reply stretched over 23 pages.) Thus, close but no cigar. Still, here is the paragraph Goklany analyses:

Unsustainable consumption coupled with a record human population and the uses of inappropriate technologies are causally linked with the destruction of the world’s sustainability and resilience. Widening inequalities of wealth and income, the world-wide disruption of the physical climate system and the loss of millions of species that sustain life are the grossest manifestations of unsustainability. The continued extraction of coal, oil and gas following the ‘business-as-usual mode’ will soon create grave existential risks for the poorest three billion, and for generations yet unborn. Climate change resulting largely from unsustainable consumption by about 15% of the world’s population has become a dominant moral and ethical issue for society.

Goklany then takes each of the four sentences in the paragraph immediately above and subjects it to a merciless comparison with what we know about the actual world we’re living in. Each of his corrections is supported by strong evidence in the form of scientific findings, official reports, and national and international statistics. Indeed, there is a wealth of relevant scientific and economic information in each of the replies. And little or nothing is left standing of the four original assertions when he has finished.

It’s not possible to reproduce his entire argument in the limited space here. Nor could I improve on it anyway. For the moment, however, I’ll take each sentence in turn and add an quote from Mr. Goklany’s response, excluding the second sentence to which Mr. Goklany’s argument is too logically complex to allow a useful quotation:,

First Sentence: Unsustainable consumption coupled with a record human population and the uses of inappropriate technologies are causally linked with the destruction of the world’s sustainability and resilience.

If that were the case, the world’s population would either be smaller today, worse off than in the past, or both. But by the academies’ own admission the world’s population is at a record level. Equally important, human wellbeing is at or near its peak by virtually every objective broad measure. Consider this: between 1990–92 and 2014–16, despite a global population increase of 35 percent (or 1.9 billion), the population suffering from chronic hunger declined by 216 million. Consequently malnutrition also declined. Since reductions in hunger and malnutrition are the first steps to better public health, age-adjusted mortality rates have declined and life expectancy has increased. Even in low-income countries, life expectancy, probably the single best indicator of human wellbeing, increased from 25–30 years in 1900 to 42 years in 1960 and 62 years today.

Third Sentence: The continued extraction of coal, oil and gas following the ‘business-as-usual mode’ will soon create grave existential risks for the poorest three billion, and for generations yet unborn.

An analysis of the performance of 117 simulations using 37 models indicates that the average global temperature would increase 0.30±0.02◦C per decade for 1993–2012 but empirical data from HadCRUT4 surface temperature data set show that global temperature increased at half that rate (0.14±0.06◦C per decade). For the more recent 15-year period of 1998–2012, the average modeled trend was quadruple the observed trend (0.21±0.03◦C per decade vs 0.05±0.08◦C). However, the academies omitted any mention of how model results compare with reality.

Experience shows that failure to account for increases in adaptive capacity can lead to overestimating negative impacts by an order of magnitude or more. For example, if one assumed no improvement in adaptive capacity from the year 1900 onward, the global mortality rate for malaria would have been frozen at 194 per 100,000. In fact, it dropped by 95.4% to 9 per 100,000 in 2012. This improvement can be attributed to an increase in adaptive capacity. Similarly, long-term increases in adaptive capacity have reduced the global mortality rate from all extreme weather events by more than 98 percent since the 1920s. The poorest segments of society have been the overwhelming beneficiaries of these advances in adaptive capacity, many of which were facilitated by fossil fuels.

Fourth Sentence: Climate change resulting largely from unsustainable consumption by about 15% of the world’s population has become a dominant moral and ethical issue for society.

As noted above, for the last quarter of a millennium the global increase in carbon-dioxide emissions has been accompanied by economic development and improvements in virtually every indicator of human wellbeing, including those affected by climatic factors (see, for example, Figure 1). The increases in income and reductions in poverty have also enabled households and societies in the more developed parts of the world to shift from biomass and coal for cooking and heating to cleaner fuels, and to gain access to electricity. Despite these improvements, poverty, hunger and their associated problems still persist, mainly in populations that lack access to affordable and reliable energy. The academies’ solution – a shift away from fossil fuels – could, by limiting access to cheaper energy, impede economic development worldwide and hinder this progress. In particular it would perpetuate poverty for the three billion the academies claim to champion, and slow their transition from biomass and coal to cleaner fuels.

In the light of these exchanges, we have to ask the pontifical academies a simple question suggested to us by the title of their statement: How on earth do we advance the common good by imposing a multitude of evils on people individually and collectively?

'Net-Zero' -- a Leap of Faith

Increasingly, the climate-change cult resembles nothing so much as a religion, with Mother Earth substituting for the God of Abraham. Which means that its barely disguised nature worship is nothing new, but merely a reiteration of the most primitive kind of thinking known to man. But who would have thought the increasingly nutty Economist, a once rational British publication, would have fallen so hard for it, or gotten it so right in the very first paragraph of a recent story, only to then spin wildly out of control. So let the fisking begin!

When companies that depend on emissions, such as easyJet, an airline, use offsets sold on private “over the counter” markets to claim carbon neutrality it is hard not to be reminded of the indulgences sold by the medieval Catholic church that helped sinners to go on sinning guilt-free.

Now that you mention it, that's exactly what it reminds most sentient being of. But believing that would be wrong.

But the recent emphasis on “net zero” economies has made offsets central to climate-change plans. In a net-zero economy adding carbon dioxide, or another greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere is only allowed if an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas is removed from it. Offsets already play a role in some international agreements and government-backed programmes.

But wait! There's another "but"!

But the idea of including them in emissions-trading schemes triggers bad memories in Europe. Credits for dodgy offsets helped to undermine the credibility of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in its early years. International offsets are in the process of being expunged from the ETS, though they are still traded on the Californian emissions market.

In other words, the offset scheme has been "dodgy" thus far, correct?

Despite this rocky start, offset-trading could still work. Indeed, the 2015 Paris agreement already includes rules for how to account properly for offsets, according to Kelley Kizzier of the Environmental Defence Fund, a campaign group. Many of the issues with monitoring offsets come from the fact that offsetting takes place in remote places where the rule of law is weaker, because planting trees and plants requires a lot of cheap land.

Excuses, excuses. Like Communism, which has never really been tried yet, carbon indulgences have been sabotaged by Third World ineptitude, and so haven't really been tried yet. Okay, then.  Just don't tell me there's another --

But it is likely to become easier. Ben Caldecott of Oxford University points out that technology used to monitor offsets has improved. The use of high-resolution satellite imagery means that it is possible to know exactly when a tree is cut down. In theory offset contracts could also be auctioned on mobile phones with payments sent via mobile banking. “We can create smart contracts between a smallholder farmer and a funder where the payment is unlocked if the tree is still there,” he says.

Sounds legit. What do we have to do?

If the world is to achieve net-zero emissions, the only permissible offsets will need to be genuine negative emissions (rather than schemes that simply reduce emissions). This may mean sucking carbon out of the air using machines. A nascent industry aims to do this, but the costs are big. An estimate in 2018 by researchers at Carbon Engineering, a Canadian firm, put the cost of direct air capture between $94 and $232, many times the carbon price in most places.

It is possible that with sufficient investment those costs could fall as carbon prices rise, allowing a “direct air capture” industry to make money by selling credits into emissions-trading schemes. Direct-capture machines are much more efficient in terms of land. Mr Caledcott hopes that Britain, which has said it will leave the ETS now it is no longer in the EU, will pioneer the first net-zero emissions trading system including such offsets.

Remind us again: how much money does it take to determine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?