The Coming Covid Curveball

It seems like every morning we wake up to the news that some entity, public or private, is unveiling a "bold new initiative" in response to "the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic," which everyone who has been paying attention knows they've wanted to do already.

Take baseball. I'm a big baseball fan, but not of current MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, a man who doesn't seem particularly fond of the game he presides over. Others have noticed this -- here's an article from a few months back entitled Does Rob Manfred Hate Baseball? and another called Rob Manfred Is Ruining Baseball. The gist of them is that Manfred, worried that baseball is less exciting than the other major sports, has spent his five years as commissioner whittling away at the things that make the game unique. For the most part his rule changes have been aimed at making the games shorter, but his efforts have been for naught -- the average game is now three minutes longer than it was when he took over, and viewership is down.

This, of course, hasn't deterred Manfred. He's pushed ahead with plans to, for instance, institute a new, Reality TV informed playoff format whereby,

The team with the best record in each league would get a first-round bye, and then the other two division winners and the wild-card club with the best record could end up picking their opponents in a televised seeding showdown.

This is, to put it mildly, gimmicky as hell.

For the most part Manfred's tinkering has been confined to the edges of the game, and he would probably tell you that that's why it hasn't had the desired effect. That, unfortunately, he has been cursed with conservative, history obsessed fans who are resistant to alterations which make today's game less like the one played by Joe DiMaggio and Hank Aaron. Which is to say, he'd probably dislike me as much as I dislike him.

But a man can dream, and for years we've heard whispers that Manfred's great aspirations included increasing offense by imposing the Designated Hitter on the National League, which has resisted this innovation since the 1970s; starting extra-innings with a runner on second base to speed things up (or, a fan might say, limit the amount of baseball fans were getting for free); and contracting the Minor Leagues, so that MLB resources could be directed away from entertaining yokels in, say, Dayton, OH or Montgomery, AL, and towards virtue signalling social justice initiatives which get lots of applause from the great and the good.

And then came the miracle Rob Manfred had been been praying for: the Wuhan novel coronavirus, which, thanks to the incompetence of politicians like Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio, spread like "a fire through dry grass” throughout the nursing homes of the northeastern United States (as healthcare analyst Avik Roy has pointed out, 42 percent of U.S. deaths from Covid-19 have occurred in the 0.6 percent of the population who reside in nursing homes and assisted living facilities).

But, more to the point, it gave him an excuse to make big changes to the game purportedly for the sake of player safety. And what changes did he implement? Imposing the DH on the National League; beginning extra innings with a runner on second; and the elimination of up to forty-two minor league teams.

I think that this is a pretty good (and comparatively innocent) illustration of what is going on across America right now.

California, for instance, raised its gasoline tax again this month, so that it now sits at 50.5 cents per gallon. Why would California's politicians be so foolish as go ahead with this hike during an economy-destroying pandemic (what you might call Pulling a Trudeau)? Well,

“Driving is way down, so in theory this is a great time to catch up on highway investment,” observed Ronald Fisher, an economics professor at Michigan State University. While less driving temporarily means less revenue from a gas tax, it also means less disruption from road work. Fisher also pointed out that the state typically contracts with private companies to perform such infrastructure repairs, which means proceeds from the higher gas tax could actually serve as a stimulus for the California economy in the form of job creation.

Right...

In another example from the Golden State, Gov. Gavin Newsom has formed a Recovery Task Force to address California's dire financial situation in the wake of the pandemic. It is co-chaired by uber-environmentalist and failed Democratic Presidential candidate Tom Steyer (a bad sign), and, shockingly, it has concluded that green energy has the potential to be a “huge job creator," according to Steyer. As if this were something which had just occurred to him. Environmentalist Hal Harvey concurs,

[Steyer's] right. Clean energy can be the economic engine for California.... The path is clear: Decarbonize the electric grid, then electrify everything—creating good jobs and thriving clean tech industries along the way.

Which is to say that the powers that be are using this moment of disruption to enact their preexisting agendas. They're taking advantage of your exhaustion, your inclination to give in, in the hope that sometime soon everything will go back to normal. And that's why we need to be especially vigilant right now.

At the center of baseball is a psychological game between pitchers and batters, where the former works to make the latter think that one pitch is coming his way, and then throws him another. Fastball inside, fastball outside, fastball inside, fastball outside. And then comes the curve, and the batter who isn't looking out for it finds himself walking slowly back to the dugout.

Keep yours eyes open. Don't let them sneak the curve past you.

Gov. Blackface and the Greening of Virginia

You're forgiven for still thinking of Virginia as a conservative state. If you went to school before the Leftists leveled our educational system, you'll know that securing the buy-in of steady, aristocratic Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson helped convince the colonists that the dispute those rowdy New Englanders were having with Britain wasn't just a regional affair. But as a matter of more recent history, between the elections of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Barrack Obama in 2008, Virginia was only won by one Democrat in a presidential contest. This isn't to say that the Old Dominion has been governed exclusively by the GOP -- when Linwood Holton was elected governor in 1970 he was the first Republican to hold that position in a century -- but no matter the party power in Richmond, they had to conform to the small 'c' conservative culture of the state.

In a relatively short time, however, that Virginia has been fundamentally transformed. After the most recent gubernatorial contest, which saw the election of the fourth Democrat in the last five cycles, journalist Matthew Continetti wrote a piece about his home state entitled 'How States Like Virginia Go Blue.' In it he paints a picture of modern day Virginia as "a hub of highly educated professionals, immigrants, and liberals," with an exploding population comprised of both the wealthy and educated and the comparatively poor, both key Democratic constituents:

Over the last 29 years, Virginia has become wealthier, more diverse, and more crowded. The population has grown by 42 percent, from 6 million in 1990 to 8.5 million. Population density has increased by 38 percent, from 156 people per square mile to 215. Mean travel time to work has increased from 24 minutes to 28 minutes. The median home price (in 2018 dollars) has gone from $169,000 to $256,000. Density equals Democrats.

The number of Virginians born overseas has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 12 percent. The Hispanic population has gone from 3 percent to 10 percent. The Asian community has grown from 2 percent to 7 percent. In 1990, 7 percent of people 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home. In 2018 the number was 16 percent.

If educational attainment is a proxy for class, Virginia has undergone bourgeoisification. The number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has shot up from 25 percent of the state to 38 percent. As baccalaureates multiplied, they swapped partisan affiliation. Many of the Yuppies of the ’80s, Bobos of the ’90s, and Security Moms of the ’00s now march in the Resistance.

Which is to say that, in that time, Virginia has been culturally and demographically tugged away from the rural, southern states and towards the urban, mid-Atlantic states. As one might expect, these trends are significantly more pronounced in the DC suburbs of Northern Va., especially Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The populations of these counties have exploded in that time. Fairfax gets more press, but Continetti points out that the population of Loudoun has more than quadrupled since the early '90s. Immigration is an important factor, but the expansion of the federal government during the Bush and Obama administrations might be more significant. Bureaucrats and defense contractors have to live somewhere, and they vote according to their interests.

Transformations like the one Continetti describes have consequences. In 2017, Virginians elected Democrat Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, as its governor. A lot of ink has been spilt on Northam's expanding abortion access in Virginia (including his controversial comments related to post-birth abortion) and his war on guns (as well as the extremely civil protests against his anti-2nd Amendment initiatives, which were nevertheless vilified by the mainstream media), as these have particularly enraged the Old Virginians. And who could forget his racist yearbook photo, which he originally claimed did not depict him until he eventually apologized, though without clarifying whether he's the Klansman or the guy in black face. Somehow Democrats are always able to survive these things, while Republicans have their careers ended over more ambiguous incidents.

As Politico noted at the time:

In a bid to salvage his job, the Democratic governor of Virginia denied he was one of the men dressed up as a Klansman or in blackface in a picture on his medical school yearbook page — after admitting the night before he was, in fact, in the photo.

In a different yearbook at Virginia Military Institute, Northam was nicknamed “Coonman.” Why? He wasn’t quite sure, he said. “My main nickname in high school and in college was ‘Goose’ because when my voice was changing, I would change an octave. There were two individuals, as best as I can recollect, at VMI — they were a year ahead of me. They called me ‘Coonman’. I don’t know their motives or intent. I know who they are. That was the extent of that. And it ended up in the yearbook. And I regret that.”

Right.

A less publicized aspect of Northam's agenda has been his environmental extremism. Last September he signed an executive order setting a goal that the state produce 100 percent of its energy via "carbon-free" sources by 2050, and 30% within the next 10 years.

Chris Bast... of the [Department of Environmental Quality] told The Center Square that he did not have an estimate on how much the executive order will cost consumers or taxpayers, but said that investments to fight climate change are necessary. “The cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action,” Bast said.

Of course.

After the state elections in November flipped both legislative houses to the Democrats, they set about turning that goal into a mandate, and this spring -- in the midst of the pandemic and Virginia's lengthy and onerous lockdowns -- Northam signed the Green New Deal-inspired Virginia Clean Economy Act, which did exactly that. He also approved the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act which puts Virginia on the path to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This multi-state compact imposes new regulatory burdens on Virginia's oil, natural gas, and coal power plants, and introduces a cap-and-trade scheme on the 30 largest of them.

As Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Daily Signal, “Virginia could hardly have picked a worse time to join RGGI,”

Everywhere RGGI has gone, higher electricity prices have followed. In Virginia’s case, however, membership will coincide with trying to recover from the self-imposed economic collapse of the statewide lockdown. At a time when millions have lost their jobs, many of them from small businesses that may never reopen, Gov. Northam and his supporters in the General Assembly are knowingly adding to the burdens of families trying to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown. It is a direct assault on the disposable incomes of the state’s most vulnerable residents by an out-of-touch political elite. Absurdly, with natural gas abundant, reliable, and cheap, the governor chooses this moment to hitch Virginia’s fortunes to taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar power, which are intermittent, unreliable, and expensive.

Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, adds that this push will ultimately be harmful to the environment and ignores the fact that the fracking revolution has led to a significant decrease in America's carbon emissions.

“If you’re going to require all of the state’s power to come from 100% carbon-free sources by 2050, this will require a lot of [the] state’s land, which probably means impacting the state’s agricultural lands or cutting down some forests and probably both... So much for the environment.”

“It’s also completely unnecessary,” he said. “If the goal is to stop climate change, the U.S. is already the global leader in carbon dioxide emission reductions. Between 2005 and 2018, CO2 declined 12%. The free market is already taking care of the environment.”

Unfortunately these trends seem unlikely to turn around any time soon. The Virginia Republican party is made up of factions which seem to despise each other more than they hate the Democrats, but it just might be the case that the numbers to change course just aren't there. Northam's opponent in 2017 was the GOP establishmentarian Ed Gillespie, a two-time loser in state elections, who attempted to appeal to nationalists by focusing on issues like crime and immigration. He received only 45% of the vote.

Perhaps the only solution might be a proposal which started gaining steam during the Second Amendment battles earlier this year -- secession. Specifically secession for those counties in western and southern Virginia disturbed by the direction of their state and interested in joining the more conservatively inclined West Virginia. And the free state of West Virginia, which itself seceded from the slave state of Virginia in 1863, seems ready to welcome their separated brethren with open arms. Should that transpire, and the size and relative importance of Virginia decrease on Northam's watch, his face will no longer be black or even green. It will be red.

Canada: Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

Last week I wrote about the fear among Democrats that the U.S. might be heading for a significant economic recovery before the election in November, such that the Trump campaign would be able to point to "the most explosive monthly employment numbers and gross domestic product growth ever" (in the words of Obama Administration senior advisor Jason Furman), and ride that good news to reelection. Well, yesterday morning we all woke up to news which suggests that that upward trajectory might be beginning. After months of catastrophe, with Great Depression-like unemployment figures, the May jobs report showed that the economy added 2.5 million jobs in that period, the most ever in a single month.

The news was so surprising that left-wing rags like the Washington Post had to frantically delete their pre-written tweets about how terrible the report was:

Of course, we aren't out of the woods yet. An unemployment rate of 13 percent is still pretty bad, even if things are heading in the right direction. And, as I argued last week, Joe Biden's willingness to squander our gains on his ideological program (or that of his advisors while he naps in the Lincoln Bedroom), including his announcement that he would definitively kill Keystone XL  pipeline upon entering the White House, should make us all wary about trusting him to save the economy.

Well, up in Canada we can see what it looks like to have people already in power whose instincts are invariably ordered toward ideology over job creation or the cost of living. We've already covered Trudeau's doubling the nation's carbon tax during the pandemic, a decision which ran counter to what basically every other nation in the world was doing. We also discussed his oil and gas aid package, which seemed ordered towards the end of an industry which accounts for roughly 10 percent of Canada's GDP.

This is the path Trudeau has committed his nation to, and it doesn't seem like it is going to slow down anytime soon. Dan McTeague, president of the indispensable Canadians for Affordable Energy, has been writing recently about the return of Justin Trudeau's college drinking buddy, Gerald Butts, who grew up to be an environmental activist, director of policy for then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, and eventually Trudeau's chief adviser. Butts, you may recall, was forced to resign in the run up to the 2019 election for his role in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Now that that election is over, McTeague reports that Butts is back in Ottawa serving on a new task force called Resilient Recovery. "The task force," explains McTeague, is "made up of green industry and environmental leaders [and] says its goal is to help seize a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to build things in a “better” way post the COVID-19 pandemic." If you guessed that that means taking advantage of a crisis to get Canada even more entangled in the Green Energy industry than it already is and make it harder for oil and gas companies to operate, you win.

Butts: I'm ba-ack.

In the course of two articles, McTeague argues that Canadians should be aware of, and concerned by, this "green energy at any and all costs" task force, and especially by Butts' inclusion in it. Butts has the ear of the prime minister and a history of making life harder for Canadians. McTeague has taken the time to remind us of that history. In his first piece, he examines Butts' work in the McGuinty government in Ontario:

Gerry Butts is known as one of the architects of Dalton McGuinty’s disastrous Green Energy Act. The GEA hurt Ontarians (and is still hurting them), resulting in energy bills increasing by 70% from 2008 to 2016. Ontario’s claim to fame became its high energy rates - the highest in all of North America. Big manufacturers across the province began to flee for friendlier economic climates. Even former premier Kathleen Wynne said in her 2018 campaign that because of the Green Energy Act many families were having to choose between paying their energy bills and feeding their families.

The GEA originally promised the creation of 50,000 green energy jobs. The government later admitted that that number was not based on any formal analysis, that many of the jobs would be temporary, and that it did not account for the lost manufacturing jobs due to the increased energy prices. Wind and solar were incredibly expensive to produce... and the consumer was the one who had to make up the difference. How? Through a hidden tax euphemistically called the Global Adjustment Fee which suddenly started to appear on Ontario energy bills. A Global News article from 2016 stated that for every $100 in usage that appeared on your bill, $23 was actual electricity cost, while the other $77 was from the “Global Adjustment Fee”.

After a few years out of government, Butts jumped onboard the Trudeau train after the Liberals won their majority in 2015, and brought his wealth of experience making everyday life more expensive for Ontarians to Canadians more generally. That part of his career is covered in McTeague's second piece:

The costs of Butts’ climate agenda are apparent in the policies that the Trudeau government put in place during its first term, the most important (and destructive) of these being the carbon tax. It is no surprise that the mastermind behind the Ontario green energy debacle would help create expensive and ineffective policies at the federal level. The carbon tax adds at least 7 cents per litre of gas at the pump for Canadians. Because it applies to all energy sources, the hidden costs – on food and services and our competitiveness – will be even greater, and the carbon tax will increase annually by large increments.

Other expensive and anti-industry policies that were launched during Butts’ time in Ottawa include Bill C-69 (an overhaul of Canada's regulatory and resource project approval system) and C-48 (the oil tanker moratorium act). These have meant significant new and unnecessary regulatory burdens that restrict resource development, drive away investment, and have the effect of making energy more expensive.

Though Canada's May jobs numbers crept up somewhat, just like America's, Canada is still experiencing record unemployment. Bombardier just announced that they'ree laying off 2,500 workers. This is still a time of crisis, and for any recovery to be really resilient, it needs a laser focus on getting people back to work and getting the economy back on track. Gerald Butts' resumé speaks to the fact that he is more than willing to prioritize environmentalist virtue signalling over the benefit of ordinary Canadians.

Rioting and Destroying for Planetary and Social Justice

Everything is a metaphor for something else in today’s higher journalism, which means that the rioting and violent anarchy now spreading across the United States faster than Covid-19 (and perhaps with deadlier results in time) must be a metaphor for something very important. Every fellow-hack with a deadline will have his own target; but let me suggest that the most obvious metaphorical application is that of climate policy. 

Consider the video footage pouring out onto our laptops (but not always onto our news programs, thanks to the vigilance of mainstream broadcasters who don’t want to tarnish the “protests” against police brutality.) It shows repeated episodes of people breaking into shops, rushing into them, rushing out with stolen goods, physically attacking those who defend their property or other people under attack or anyone they intuitively dislike, and completing the protest by burning down the property, the building next door and, in many cases, the neighborhood.  

Police and other guardians of public order seem reluctant to intervene to prevent this Saturnalia, and sometimes they make gestures of sympathy to “the community” by, for instance, “kneeling” along with the mobs. Sometimes the reluctance is born of a decent civic responsibility married to courage that deserves our respect and admiration. I have seen mayors, sheriffs, and ordinary citizens who have spoken out eloquently or helped the cops to detain or drive out the sinister black-clad semi-professional organizers of mayhem. But all too often the reluctance can be traced to the city or state politicians who don’t want to alienate their own “constituencies” which they think sympathetic to the riots and rioters—often wrongly as is demonstrated by the occasional episodes when local people help the police to detain or drive out the sinister black-clad professional organizers of mayhem.  

But we shouldn’t ignore the signs that a deeper sympathy for violent disorder and the overthrow of existing civil authority has spread on the radical left, among some elected politicians, and within the educated upper-middle class throughout the Anglosphere. The calculated silence of some politicians about the anarchy we’re all witnessing is bad enough; worse is the contorted inability of others such as California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, to condemn the violence when they praise the “protests,” and their seeming paralysis when they should be taking action to restore order. 

What are the likely results of this tolerated disorder? Neighborhoods will be deeply damaged economically, and the poorer the neighborhood, the longer it will take to recover. Some parts of Washington D.C., turned into post-apocalyptic wastelands by the riots in the 1960s, took decades to return to their earlier prosperity. Large retail corporations will redline districts where their outlets were destroyed even as companies like Nike add “riot chic” to their advertising appeal.  Capital and lives invested in small businesses will be wasted, and those who worked to establish them will have to start again. In many cases they’ll give up, take dead-end jobs, go on welfare, cease to be part of America’s entrepreneurial workforce. The welfare rolls will grow while tax revenue falls and budget cuts cripple local services. More young people, including many who only last week had real opportunities ahead of them, will now face prison sentences and the stigma of felony in later life. And America will be poorer, more divided, more partisan, more unequal, and more self-hating than before last weekend.  

And police brutality? The unlawful killing of George Floyd by a cop was a tragedy for him and his family and a serious crime for the rest of us. It was almost immediately recognized as such by everyone from President Trump downwards. Barring some astounding development, the policeman and his colleagues will receive long prison sentences—as have similar cases of police brutality in recent years. And there will be a surge in articles about the epidemic of police brutality and in proposals to reform police recruitment and training in order to stop it once and for all. It’s more than possible that Joe Biden will be elected on quite ambitious proposals to carry out that agenda. 

The difficulty is that as Heather Mac Donald has shown in (genuinely courageous) articles, the epidemic of police brutality against Black America is a falsehood disproved by repeated studies. Here is a 2019 study by authors at Michigan State University and the University of Maryland, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, based upon a database of 917 officer-involved fatal shootings in 2015 from more than 650 police departments.  

Fifty-five percent of the victims were white, 27 percent were black, and 19 percent were Hispanic. Between 90 and 95 percent of the civilians shot by officers in 2015 were attacking police or other citizens; 90 percent were armed with a weapon. So-called threat-misperception shootings, in which an officer shoots an unarmed civilian after mistaking a cellphone, say, for a gun, were rare. 

How is that explained? As Ms. Mac Donald points out: “It is a racial group’s rate of violent crime that determines police shootings, not the race of the officer. The more frequently officers encounter violent suspects from any given racial group, the greater the chance that members of that racial group will be shot by a police officer.”  

None of this should come as news. Writing in the New York Post in 2016, Pipeline editor Michael Walsh noted:

The “killer cop” narrative refuses to die, and the Washington Post decided to throw fuel on the racial fire with context-free statements like these: “Although black men make up only 6 percent of the US population, they account for 40 percent of the unarmed men shot to death by police this year.” This ignores the fact that black violent-crime rates are far higher than those of whites. According to the Department of Justice, blacks committed 52.5 percent of the murders in America from 1980 to 2008, when they represented 12.6 percent of the population.

This certainly does not excuse cases of police misconduct. Bad cops should be investigated and tried. But these incidents don’t prove that the “real problem” is cops. This isn’t an “epidemic.” And it isn’t racist to suggest that some perspective is warranted here.

That is not a conclusion that anyone wants to reach, especially after an innocent man has been killed by a cop, but it’s the underlying social reality. Policies based on ignoring it will produce perverse results, including the weakening of standards for police recruitment and training to achieve a particular racial balance. And the speeches of politicians and social critics that deny this reality will encourage the spread of a myth that seemingly justifies violent anarchy and attacks on all police officers.  Two policemen, innocent of anything except defending the rest of us, were killed this weekend. Their lives should matter too. But because you don’t know their names, they don’t.  

As so often in social policy, we are witnessing how a false belief and policies rooted in it produce results that are the opposite of what’s intended (except perhaps by some cold-hearted Machiavellis who desire anarchy for their own political purposes.) And that’s where climate policy comes in. 

Here’s a short list of the features common to both climate policy and the political treatment of the violent protests: 

  1. Though both the protests and climate policy are justified as designed to help or “save” people from a present or looming disaster, they have the actual effect of making their lives far worse. If Black lives matter, so do Black livelihoods. But many of those livelihoods have just collapsed, first from Covid-19, now from your friendly neighborhood anarchist. And if a policy of achieving a net-zero carbon impact is imposed on our economies, all our livelihoods will descend into the basement. We will have a first, temporary taste of that immiseration when the various national lockdowns are lifted in the next few months. But unless we enjoy a series of scientific breakthroughs on energy generation, a net-zero-carbon-based pauperization will be a near-permanent return to a pre-industrial standard of living for almost all of us. 
  2. Celebrity Endorsements. Hollywood has stepped in to assist the processes of disorder and pauperization. Ditto some charities and NGOS—one Minnesota charity that usually gets by on about $80,000 has received $20 million in the last few days to bail out those arrested in the protests. I can appreciate the motive of helping people without means to survive court procedures. But why do Hollywood and “civil society” not also want to give a helping hand to the small store-owner who has just seen most of his capital stock vanish through his broken windows with perhaps the added anti-bonus of a skull cracked by someone zealous for "social justice"? I would like to be proved wrong here. Go ahead. Make my day. 
  3. Censorship. Somehow opinions and even facts not helpful to the establishment and media consensus on either climate policy or “social justice” have a hard time making it into the news and mainstream debate. When they do, they’re often labeled “denialism.” But not covering inconvenient facts about climate policy or crime is a far more dangerous form of denialism—and of its nature, far more difficult to detect or argue against. 
  4. Dissing Democracy. Some things are too important to be left to democracy, we’re told, which leads to an unspoken policy of leaving those things to be decided by the corridors of power or when all else fails, by the streets.  
  5. The Establishment’s Blind Eye. In recent years, when the voters or legal processes have endorsed social policies or energy developments opposed by both the radical left and the political establishment, physical (and sometimes violent) protests have erupted in order to block them. That’s happened in Canada over developing energy resources, in Australia over mining, in the U.S. over pipelines and offshore drilling, and in the U.K. over “fracking.” And when these blockings occur, usually illegally, the authorities look the other way or intervene in order to ensure that the protests remain “peaceful” (i.e., meet no effective opposition.) It’s happened far more dramatically this weekend over plainly un-peaceful protests too. The right to go about your legal business peacefully is, for practical purposes, a dead letter when it clashes with political or environmental correctness. 
  6. Not to go into conspiracy theories, but someone is financing the organizing of both sets of protests. Not many media organizations seem keen on finding out who—unless it might really turn out to be white supremacists with snow on their boots. 

All these distortions and infractions of lawful rights and democratic processes are possible only because there is overriding belief in a massive social crisis or social evil that makes extraordinary measures both necessary and urgent. That social crisis in the form of an epidemic of police brutality against black communities is examined above—and found wanting. The social crisis in relation to climate policy is the looming crisis that the world will turn to ashes in the next twelve years unless we all become medieval peasants with a taste for self-flagellation. (See Greta Thunberg passim.) 

How does that compare to the climate facts? It’s nonsense in a general way, of course, but if you should like to see it refuted in detail, you’re fortunate because the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London has just published The State of the Climate 2019 by Ole Humlum, a distinguished Norwegian professor of physical geography. It's chock full of information that undermines and refutes the simple picture of environmental degradation that the Greens’ climatist ideology usually presents, for instance: 

The temperature variations recorded in the lowermost troposphere are generally reflected at higher altitudes too. In the stratosphere, however, a temperature ‘pause’ commenced in around 1995, 5–7 years before a similar temperature ‘pause’ began in the lower troposphere near the planet’s surface. The stratospheric temperature ‘pause’ has now persisted for about 25 years. 

And I shall be returning to it next week.  In the meantime, enjoy:

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'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?

The Coming Struggle for Power with China

In the 1930s John Strachey, later a sober moderate cabinet minister in Clem Attlee’s postwar U.K. Labour government, wrote a book with the ominous title, The Coming Struggle for Power. As anyone familiar either with the politics of the day or with Orwell’s writings about that time could have guessed, Strachey called himself a Marxist but was in fact a comfortable bourgeois journalist, the son of the then-editor of the Spectator, who had never come closer to a genuine struggle than when he disputed with a friend over who should pay the bill for lunch.

But his book was one of many in those times which weakened the moral self-confidence of the Western democracies in their own free societies with the result that they would enter the Second World War and later the Cold War hesitant, badly-prepared, and uncertain of purpose. If a book named The Coming Struggle for Power were to be published today, its title would carry an ominous double entendre because the West today is locked in a struggle with China over both geopolitics and world energy resources.

We have been understandably reluctant to acknowledge this conflict (which like an iceberg is only one-eighth visible above the surface) because no one wants to repeat the failure of Franco-British policy in dealing with the rise of the Kaiser’s Germany prior to 1914. The horrors of the Great War explain our fears well enough. But that war also undermined the illusion cultivated by some of the best minds of that time that trade and economic cooperation between the great powers—aka the “power of facts”—had made war between them illogical, pointless, almost impossible.

In August 1914, however, as one historian wrote, the power of facts took a terrible hammering from the facts of power.

One relevant fact is that industrial development, prosperity, and mutually beneficial trade do not automatically convert a country to political liberalism at home and commercial pacifism abroad. Wilhelmine Germany had enjoyed its own great economic rise in the 19th century, but it saw the rapid industrialization of Czarist Russia as a reason to wage war before its emerging rival became too powerful and a threat. The Kaiser’s Machtpolitik demonstrated that a nation’s interests and intentions, evidenced in its political culture, may dictate war on the grounds that security is more important than prosperity. And every now and then an event occurs that, whether large or small, inadvertently throws a spotlight on what is really driving a country’s overall “grand strategy.”

The Wuhan virus, as we’re not supposed to call it, has just thrown such a spotlight on Beijing’s drive for a more powerful role in world politics. Such a drive is itself legitimate. And if it’s accompanied by a willingness to work cooperatively with other countries and to abide by agreed international rules, other nations should strive to accommodate the rising power in collective global arrangements.

But the Chinese government’s handling of the Wuhan virus combined brutality in its suppression of ordinary citizens in its attempt to suppress the virus, an obsession with secrecy as it sought to protect its own image, a failure to inform other governments that a dangerous epidemic was spreading in and over its borders, pressure on the World Health Organization to delay warning the world of what was coming its way, outrageously dishonest propaganda blaming the virus on  the US, and forbidding air flights from Wuhan to other Chinese cities while allowing them to other countries as the epidemic was still raging there. All of this represented irresponsible national egoism on a global scale.

Big Trouble in Big China.

It also reminded other countries of how China under its present regime has behaved on other matters in recent years: its imprisonment of vast numbers of its Uighur minority in a new gulag; its creation of a virtual panopticon that keeps watch on dissidents via the internet, even to the point of being able to instruct airlines not to allow them to board flights; its widespread theft of intellectual property; its purchase of political influence in other countries by hiring senior political and civil service figures for Chinese companies, as well as by outright bribery; its attempt to control Chinese minorities abroad; and at home the restoration of a quasi-Maoism by Xi Jimping who also proclaimed himself President for Life (an absurd but revealing title.) As a result of Wuhan all these factors now seem to demonstrate the naivete of the idea that bringing communist China into the structure of global governance, in particular the World Trade Organization, would make the country a liberal democracy over time.

Or, as I quoted Rupert Darwall as writing last week: “Xi’s historic accomplishment is falsifying the globalists’ liberalization thesis.” That means not that we are heading for a war between the world’s two major nuclear powers, which would be a disaster for all mankind, but that the West, above all the United States, should be sufficiently strong to deter China from any foolish military provocations and, more broadly, to contain China as we contained the Soviet Union until its political system evolves or its political leadership changes course.

Right on cue, the same important story appeared last week in the London Times, the Daily Mail, and The Australian. Here is the Mail’s opening salvo:

The US would lose a war with China fought in the Pacific, is unable to defend Taiwan from an invasion and fears the Guam military base is at risk now, US defense sources have warned. ‘Eye-opening' Pentagon war games have revealed growing fears the US is vulnerable to threats from China and that any attack would lead to the US 'suffering capital losses', the sources said. The worrying analysis is expected to come to light in the Pentagon's 2020 China military power report this summer.

This is alarming, of course, but far from despair-inducing. Most of the studies of a US-China military clash are based on what the military balance between the two nations will be like in 2030. The Pentagon is now planning a larger military commitment to East Asia; the U.S. economy is still more technologically advanced than the Chinese (and will now be more watchful towards technical espionage); and though both economies are likely to suffer some damage from the Covid-19 and lockdown crises, historians will recall that the prospect of war was what pulled the U.S. economy out of its New Deal doldrums and into a massive expansion both industrially and militarily.

For the one requires the other. It’s not possible to build up strong modern military forces except on the basis of a strong modern advanced economy which in turn must rest on the most efficient energy-producing industries. China recognizes that fact and acts upon it. Despite his brief flirtation with President Obama when they  shook hands and agreed to pursue the carbon reduction targets under the Paris accords, President Xi Jimping has adopted a very different practical agenda. As Darwall points out:

Despite being feted as a climate saviour, China’s drive for coal continued unabated. A 2018 plant-by-plant survey by CoalSwarm found that 259 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity are under development in China, comparable to the entire US coal fleet (266 GW). If completed, the new plants 29 will increase China’s current coal fleet of 993 GW by 25%. Abroad, China is involved in 240 coalfired power projects in 25 countries as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s military strength thus rests upon cheap abundant reliable energy. And its rivals?

Before the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. had a successful and expanding economy based in part upon the fracking revolution that gave it low-cost, high-productivity, reliable energy without subsidies. That was a solid foundation for a stronger American military. Europe was a sadly different proposition: continental Europe has embarked on a quixotic crusade to reduce the rise in world temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius since the advent of industrialization by reducing its use of fossil fuels to net zero-carbon emissions by 2050. Not surprisingly its economies are stalled. Britain has adopted the same self-destructive target and, in doing so, has abandoned the fair prospect of its own fracking revolution. And almost all predictions of the effects of this net-zero ambition, if it is seriously attempted and sustained, are that the countries concerned—all Western countries—would suffer a prolonged depression.

And all that was before the virus and the lockdowns.

Now, it is becoming the conventional wisdom in Western Europe, Britain, and Canada that the hoped-for post-Convid-19 economic recovery will be rooted in a Green New Deal that will direct resources not to recovery as such but to ensuring that any recovery will favour “Green” industries and deny investment to industries dependent on fossil fuels. And if Joe Biden were to win the November election, this same policy approach would be adopted in the United States too.

In his new study of the likely effects of such a policy, John Constable of the Global Warming Policy Foundation points out these results would be extremely damaging.:

[I]t is the adoption of high-productivity energy sources that is responsible for modern growth. Turning our backs on those energy sources would have been unwise even in a state of continuing global growth fundamentally driven by Asian use of coal and oil, as well as a resurgent North American use of gas. To do so in time of suppressed global trade and growth has the potential to be genuinely dangerous in the longer term, and perhaps even in the short term.

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Dr. Constable thinks this would be a “counterproductive disaster,” and he does not take account of the West’s military competition with China in his calculation. Nonetheless, he thinks that the civil service [in Britain] will press the policy, and that the politicians will not resist. One might add that in the U.S. and throughout the West the media, academia, most cultural institutions, and large numbers of the voters will be eager partisans of the same counterproductive disaster. And if the Chinese communists win the battle for power as energy, they will be hard to beat in the struggle for power as geopolitical hegemony.

John Strachey abandoned Marxism in 1940, left the Communist Party, joined the Labour party, and volunteered for the Royal Air Force in which he served until 1945 when he was elected as a Labour MP and appointed Minister of Food in the Attlee government. For the remainder of his career, he was a forceful voice for moderate social democracy and common sense in British politics.

Almost certainly, there will be decent people who similarly realize the terrible consequences of this New Green Disaster when they see the poverty it visits upon their fellow-citizens, and who make the same political U-turn as Strachey did. But will that realization dawn before the Chinese Communist Party has achieved an economic and military world hegemony?

Europe's Green Mask Conceals Marxist Objectives

In his beautifully written essays, Conrad Black always shines a bright light on what otherwise might be neglected. His epistle on German energy policy is no exception.  In it he reviews the history of the environmental movement and how it formed a coalition with those who mistrusted economic growth. The left, he notes, realized the potential of this new means of achieving its ends after military conquest and revolution failed. They embraced the green movement to achieve what they could not otherwise:

The Left saw that the most effective method of obstructing capitalism was not through the revolutionary subversion of Western governments or developing countries (though some of that persisted, especially in Latin America), but in an ostensibly nonpolitical movement that assaulted capitalism under the cloak of saving the planet and making it a happy nature sanctuary.

Never mind that capitalism has greatly benefited the poorest in the world through its innovative genius and human incentives while Marxist governments give us hellholes like Venezuela and Zimbabwe. 

“Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. This is one of the greatest human achievements of our time,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “But if we are going to end poverty by 2030, we need much more investment, particularly in building human capital, to help promote the inclusive growth it will take to reach the remaining poor. For their sake, we cannot fail.”

Because of political fragmentation, to stay in power German politicos have embraced green energy zealotry. In so doing Germany is impoverishing itself, shuttering nuclear and coal plants, increasing the (already dear) cost of electricity to consumers, and making itself ever more dependent on Russia and vulnerable to economic and political disruption. It has, in Black's words, “shut down its advanced and efficient nuclear energy program and is transforming itself into a state of thorough energy-dependence on President Putin’s threadbare Russia, chronically unreliable (apart from its rascality and duplicity).”

Lord Black suggests that people can focus on only one crisis at a time and that the Wuhan virus makes the Social Democrats' demand that the government must deal with that and “climate change” at the same time is insane. On this point, I think he’s more optimistic than I am. If Europe were on the stock exchange, I’d recommend shorting it. Here’s why I think he’s right on the genesis of this madness but he’s overly optimistic about its demise .

He’s right that the cost of dealing with Wuhan virus is high. It’s estimated that the cost of containing it will be as much as 7.2 and 20.6% of Gross Domestic Product, according to Germany’s emergency budget. This cost will come on top of the already astronomical costs to German consumers of the present energy policy. Relying on renewable energy has increased the cost of electricity substantially. German consumers are taxed to provide subsidies to solar and wind producers because these sources are by their very nature unreliable and because these facilities are so spread out, transmission lines from these distant sources must be built throughout the country. And it is predicted that these prices will increase indefinitely the more renewable sources are used. 

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But it will not be economically or politically easy to undo present actions and policies. Germany’s closure of its nuclear and coal powered plants continues as rapidly as the courts there will permit—the plan being to shut all nuclear power stations by 2022, Moreover Germany is well on the way to eliminating all 84 of its coal-fired plants.  The coal plants now provide about 40% of its electrical energy, the nuclear about 11%. Once shuttered, it will be costly if not impossible, to bring these sources back online. Japan is reopening shuttered nuclear plants, but the same “green” forces in Germany (and here) will certainly make such action politically difficult, although nuclear power is demonstrably the greenest source of electrical generation. German consumers may not realize that shuttering these plants has not reduced carbon emissions even as it increased their electricity costs, but to date the madness continues under pressure from the left and their “useful idiots.”

To my knowledge German consumers have not rebelled at the sharp increase (over 50% between 2006 and 2017) in electricity occasioned by the power production shift. And the madness is seeping over to France. Up until now, France has not followed the German energy lunacy. As a result French consumers pay a great deal less for electricity than do their German neighbors. France generates most of its electricity from nuclear and very little from solar and wind. Under German pressure that is changing; it should come as no surprise to those who pay attention that despite paying $33 billion for renewables between 2009 and 2018 “the carbon intensity of French electricity has increased.” In fact, per Mark Nelson and Madison Czerwinski, who seem to have most thoroughly investigated this, “France could have completely decarbonized its electricity sector had it spent $32 billion on new nuclear plants rather than solar and wind.”

One must conclude in light of rising consumer costs and increased reliance on renewables (even as they increase carbonization) that there must be another reason why governments keep ceding to green demands so counterproductive to their stated aims An obvious clue is to be found in the statement of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. While most of us see the spread of the Wuhan virus as a blot on the notion of globalization, the blinkered Guterres suggests it is a tribute to globalization and a call for further impoverishment of economies of the industrialized nations -- the very countries that create technological advances and provide aid to the world’s poor.

He obliquely acknowledges the economic contributions of the First World: “the G20 countries collectively account for more than 8o percent of global emissions and over 85 per cent of the global economy.” Yet he seeks to impoverish them—as Germany is impoverishing itself-- for an unattainable goal: “carbon neutrality by 2050.” Guterres contends, against all evidence, that societies will become more resilient the more they rely on sustainable energy rather than conventional sources. While most sentient observers notice that technological advancement and international aid requires capital for which capitalism and conventional power production are the best means to achieve it, he argues for less of it. Indeed, there is but a gossamer scrim hiding the real plan: redistribution from rich countries to poor, from tenable energy sources and producers to untenable ones. From democratic and functioning societies to proven failures. Following his screed it is impossible not to laugh at his concluding remarks, “Let us use the pandemic recovery to provide a foundation for a safe, healthy, inclusive and more resilient world for all people.”

In sum, his view must delight the Left, which has so far been unable to achieve its dual goals of smashing Western democracies and impoverishing all but those power mad and deceitful enough to arrogate power to themselves.

Design for Living, Badly

Since the end of the Cold War, the world’s governments have been engaged in a vast collective enterprise under the aegis of the United Nations and with the guidance of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to reduce the rise in global temperature, aka global warming, aka climate change. That reduction has changed over time. Until 2010 the aim was to cut the rise to 2.0 degrees above . . . well, above what?  

The answer is an odd one: the target was to hold the rise to 2.0 degrees above the global temperatures prevailing before the world began to industrialize.  

But as Rupert Darwall points out in his new monograph, The Climate Noose: Business, Net Zero, and the IPCC’s Anti-Capitalism (Global Warming Policy Foundation, London), there didn’t seem to be any solid scientific foundation for choosing that target: early 20th-Century warming between 1910 and 1945 had occurred before anthropogenic carbon emissions could have had a major impact on global temperature. So why choose that starting point? 

Darwall concludes that the 2.0 degree target was prompted by what he calls “the foundational tenet of environmentalist ideology: that the Industrial Revolution constitutes the original sin of modern civilization.” And that suspicion is supported by other oddities that he uncovers during his summary of how global warming policy has developed since 1989.  

For instance, the UN Framework on Climate Change was signed in 1992 with the aim of reducing carbon emissions. In the twenty-two years from then to 2016, carbon emissions (from fossil fuel burning and cement manufacture) actually rose faster than before—namely, by 61 per cent compared to 50 per cent in the period 1970 to 1992.  Was this because the capitalist West was pumping out greenhouse gases? Everyone from the UN Secretary-General to the Pope would like you to think so. But that’s not remotely the case. Darwall is fond of unveiling inconvenient facts and here is one of his best: 

1981 was the last year when the West’s carbon dioxide emissions exceeded those of the rest of the world. By 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the West’s emissions were 46% of global emissions. Before the pandemic struck, they accounted for around 25%.

Developing countries now emit three times the emissions of the advanced West.  

Sky's the limit.

That shouldn’t surprise us too much because it’s a firm principle of climatist ideology, not to mention a firm policy commitment of Third World governments, that developing countries should not agree to be bound by any limits on their industrial development and use of carbon-based energies. When attempts were made to get the developing world to accept such limits at the 2010 Copenhagen conference, China, India, Brazil and others rebelled and the conference ended in obvious failure.  

The response of the IPCC, the European Union, and the Obama administration was to relaunch the international climate policy process in a way typical of global bodies. They adopted a far tougher target for carbon emissions reduction—namely, one of a 1.5 degree rise in temperature since industrialization—but left the task of meeting the targets to national governments while proposing a raft of  reforms to make it possible. The 2018 IPCC report described these reforms as “very ambitious, internationally cooperative policy environments that transform both supply and demand" or, more succinctly, as “intentional societal transformation.”  

And, of course, they reveal the dirty little secret of UN environmentalism—it's a program for economic redistribution from the West to the developing world almost as much as for climate change mitigation. Since foreign aid has been intellectually discredited in recent years, the climate change process now has to take up the slack. But the economic consequences of imposing these reforms—as coyly hinted at in the dead bureaucratic language of the IPCC reports—are so savage in their impact on the poor that no amount of capital transfers from the West would compensate for them.  

There were some very large and gaping loopholes in this strategy, as there always have been in IPCC reports, to enable governments to evade, postpone, and “forget” the commitments they accept in such agreements. Realistically, such loopholes have to be there—or the entire U.N. Framework would collapse. The developing world has never accepted that the 1.5 percent restraints apply to itself in the first place; the U.S. under Trump has rejected them (while actually achieving larger emissions cuts than any other country because it has permitted fracking); and the EU and most of its member states outside Central Europe have adopted them hypocritically in the knowledge that they can’t possibly be achieved without a global recession worse than any in history (including what might emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.)

Incredibly, some Western governments—notably, U.K. governments under Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Theresa May, and now Boris Johnson—have gone beyond the IPCC recommendations and committed themselves to net-zero emissions by 2050. Barring some amazing technological breakthrough that target cannot be achieved, but it can cause enormous economic damage in the course of failing and being abandoned.  

What then will happen? One of the academic architects of the 1.5 target initially said it was “incompatible with democracy” -- i.e., that the voters would never stand for it. His judgment is confirmed by the fact that whenever the voters in the U.S. or Australia have been given the chance to vote down carbon taxes, they have taken it enthusiastically. The sceptic was persuaded to amend his judgment to say that implementing the target would merely be “very hard” after a discussion with the headmaster, but his first thoughts were correct. Exactly how “hard” it would be to sell the IPCC formula is somewhat speculative because, tellingly, both the IPCC and sympathetic Western governments refuse to conduct cost-benefit analyses of the commitment.  

Mr. Darwall’s own attempts to construct one from the scattered information in the reports is devastating. Whatever the assumptions, it seems, the costs vastly outweigh the benefits, and the impact on everyone, especially the poor, will be to increase their energy and food costs, to reduce their standard of living overall, and to destroy any prospect of improvement in their lives 

Poor, but Green.

And because governments cannot promise credibly to deliver either the 1.5 or net zero targets if the voters stop them, the UN and Green campaigners have turned to another partner: namely business. Indeed, the recruitment of Wall Street and industry to the cause of promoting a carbon-free economy is the central and the most novel part of his argument. He shows how leading figures in Wall Street and central banks, such as Michael Bloomberg and Mark Carney, have suddenly discovered that capitalist corporations should abandon shareholder sovereignty and profitability as the main engines of their activity and instead seek wider social objectives, above all "saving the planet," in partnership with a wider range of stakeholders. Nor do they merely make this argument, they are designing financial incentives to penalize companies engaged in lawful and socially necessary activities such as mining or oil and gas exploration by obstructing their access to capital investment. And they seek changes in the law to encourage corporate giving to “Green” causes irrespective of its impact on shareholder value. 

I’ve written on this theme myself on The Pipeline here and here. It is becoming a cause for concern more broadly. Andrew Stuttaford, an old friend, recently wrote powerfully on the dangers of this misnamed corporate social responsibility on NRO. In effect, it gives corporate managers the power to tax their shareholders to spend that revenue on political causes of which the shareholders themselves might not approve.  

Taxing is rightly regarded as a government monopoly in democratic regimes, and we call those rulers who divert public money into their own bank accounts “kleptocrats.” We should be very wary of the idea that Michael Bloomberg is gifted with special insight into what the voters want, given that he recently spent half a billion dollars of his own money to get nothing whatever in the Democratic primaries. Who knows what he might not achieve with ours? Kleptocracies are not improved by being private rather than public.  

Unless the spread of corpocrats buying virtue with our cheque books is restrained, the victims will not only be their shareholders and people whose security rests on pensions invested with them. They will include capitalism itself. For, as Darwall argues brilliantly, in seeking to transform capitalist companies into charities that may also make a profit (with luck), the new green capitalists would unconsciously ensure that companies (and entrepreneurs) would no longer be moved by the constant incentive of profitability to innovate and compete. Indeed, it is that very incentive to innovate that the IPCC and the principal ideologists of environmentalism dislike so much. They want a stable, even a declining, world that consumes less and less. Their plans honestly include a series of restraints and obstacles to enterprise, innovation, and growth.

If they were also able to replace the animal spirits of capitalism with the protective mentality of the bureaucrat, they would make companies into agents of economic and social stagnation and in time decay. In short, what the Bloombergs, Carneys, and corporate responsibility hucksters want would lead to a result they almost certainly don’t want. They want capitalism to commit suicide in order to save the world from the growing pains of prosperity.  But we know that the world before capitalism, like the world outside capitalism before 1989, was one of stagnation, decay, poverty, tyrannies, limited horizons, zero net hope.  

The international implications of that I’ll return to next week.  Meanwhile, read on:

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This Is What Desperation Looks Like

I mean, someone is in denial:

If you're not familiar with his life and work, Gerald Butts is Justin Trudeau's college drinking buddy who grew up to be an environmental activist and, eventually, Trudeau's chief adviser. He was forced to resign back in 2019 for his role in the SNC-Lavalin affair, amid accusations from former Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould, that he had improperly pressured her to drop corruption charges against the Montreal based engineering and construction firm.

Now he's back environmentalizing, and probably pulling in a lot more green than he was while he was in government. But that money isn't going to flow for too long if Canadians despair of the future of Green Energy, which is exactly what Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs new documentary will make them do.

No surprise, then, that he's hoping it will all just go away.

Oh, by the way, watch what Butts calls the "last wheezing gasp of climate denialism," also known as Planet of the Humans (which currently has more than 6 million views -- some wheezing!) before Butts' fellow leftists get it taken down.

The Harsh Sounds of Silence

Q. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to see it, did it happen?

A. That is a more complicated question than Bishop Berkeley, who first formulated it in the 18th Century, could ever have realized. Let me try to give you a full answer.

In the first place, if the person not in the forest is an environmentalist who supports strong action to halt climate change, then the tree did not fall but instead volunteered to play its full part in creating renewable energy. If the person not in the forest is Michael Moore who disputes the value of renewable energy industries, then the tree fell with a loud crash in order to alert people that it had made a contribution to climate policy. And if the person is a climate skeptic or denier, whether he’s in the forest or not, the tree did not fall because whoever heard of a tree falling without making any sound whatsoever.

And it gets clearer every day that the instinctive and sometimes preferred strategy of the climatist movement is to silence both critics and dissidents when they question the prevailing theory, rooted in IPCC reports and embraced by most Western governments, that climate change is an emergency threat to the world: either we reduce  the predicted rise in world temperature from 2.0 to 1.5 degrees by 2050 or the world will burn. Some Greens suggest that the world will burn at an even earlier date than the official IPCC-approved forecasts suggest. They include Greta Thunberg, Prince Charles, Extinction Rebellion, and Michael Moore, the last of whom has now fallen foul of climate censors to the surprise of all who have no idea how revolutions proceed.

A film made by Moore and Jeff Gibbs, Planet of the Humans, was shown to three million viewers on the internet last week, criticizing the theory and practice of renewable energy as a solution to climate change. It’s reviewed on this site by Tom Finnerty, Michael Walsh, and me, and though we differ on some points and regard the movie as mistaken in its main proposals, we all agree that it’s an important film that makes damaging criticisms of the renewables industry and that has divided the larger Green movement.

At the very least the Gibbs-Moore movie is a substantive contribution to informed debate on climate change. Ideally, it should lead to criticisms from opponents, a response from the film-maker to the critics, and a rejoinder from them to him, perhaps ad infinitum but more usually for about five exchanges on a hot topic. And that’s what we see where Tom Finnerty locks horns with Moore on The Pipeline.

But within days other climatist factions had called for the film to be withdrawn from public viewing and for Moore and Gibbs to be silenced. Here are The Guardian’s account of this, the letter from Moore’s critics denouncing the film, and Michael Walsh’s reflections on the politics of the controversy. The controversy is a window into the mind of the coercive utopian: he protects us from making bad choices.

Quite as sinister but more subtle is the approach of more “moderate” and “liberal” censors. They protect us from ourselves by simply not mentioning unwelcome stories or commentaries at all. Though Moore and Gibbs are accomplished film-makers, the film’s subject is a large topical one, and its approach has the “man-bites-dog” character of the classic news story, there has been almost no mention of the movie in forums that would usually give generous coverage to a story with those qualities —apart, that is, from reports that environmentalists want it banned.

Vladimir Bukovsky pointed out some years ago that intelligent readers in Soviet times were able to glean quite a lot of genuine news from Pravda and Izvestia by waiting for them to attack some Western claim or achievement which they had never reported in the first place. “Aha,” they would then say. Silence deprives readers of even that recourse. As the noted wit "Iowahawk" has famously observed:

In The Pipeline’s own original reviews, we pointed out that almost all of the film’s most wounding attacks on renewable energy projects echoed the arguments that climate sceptics and “deniers” (aka lukewarmers, in reality) had made over the years. And as Bukovsky would have predicted, these flaws in renewable energies came as a shattering surprise not only to climatists but to conventional bien pensant liberal opinion as well. That’s an indicator of just how effective the bias of silence has proved in keeping vital facts about climate change and climate policy off the front pages, out of public debate, and inside the corridors of power whether in the Washington Beltway or the Westminster village.

And that’s still going on.

This week, the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London published a paper titled The Climate Noose: Business, Net Zero, and the IPCC”s Anti-Capitalism by Rupert Darwall. Mr. Darwall is an economist, a former special advisor to the UK Treasury and Chancellor Norman Lamont, and the author of two books and many other works on climate change and energy policy. It’s a substantial work, and I shall be returning to analyse its reports and proposals more fully next week. For the moment, however, consider these questions it raises:

How much will it cost? The IPCC tries to sweep cost under the carpet, saying cost data on 1.5°C are scarce. The few numbers it provides imply the policy costs of net zero by 2050 are up to 61 times estimated climate benefits. 

What is the likely impact on the world’s poor? The IPCC concedes that draconian emissions reductions mean higher food and energy prices, the latter delaying the transition to clean cooking. Is there any chance of reaching net zero in 2050? Irrespective of what Europe and the US do, there’s not a chance. In less than a decade and a half, the increase in developing nations’ carbon dioxide emissions outstripped the combined total of US and EU emissions.

Above all: Why should companies target net zero when the world’s governments are going to miss it by a country mile? Unilateral net zero will make companies, their shareholders, employees, customers and local communities poorer.

Darwall does not place the total blame on the IPCC. Western governments have repeatedly endorsed the same goal of a reduction in the world temperature increase to 1.5 degrees by 2050 when any realistic analysis suggests that it’s impossible to achieve. They have repeatedly refused to impose any real cost-benefit analysis on their net-zero commitment—indeed, they treat reasonable demands for such estimates as immoral. They acknowledge that their commitment will have a serious negative impact on living standards, including those of poorer communities everywhere, through rises in food and energy prices without offering any serious idea of how to alleviate it.

Moreover, they place increasing political and financial pressure on private corporations to adopt policies that would make their investors poorer and their ability to help their economies to grow weaker. They don’t seem to grasp that the effect of this commitment on global economic relations would be to shift economic power from the West to Asia, in particular to China, at the very moment when we have become aware that Beijing is at best an untrustworthy power, and at worst an outright enemy. And they seem oblivious to the likelihood that the outcome of their approach would be an impoverished world under the aegis of a global economic regulator.

One might suppose that such a warning to the West’s governments would get at least some attention from a media supposedly committed to holding government to account. So far, however, Darwall’s monograph has not been mentioned in the main UK or US media. We would surely expect it to attract the attention of the Financial Times since its business readership has a direct interest in knowing what governments intend for them in its Green agenda.

Again, not a peep. Silence reigns today.

And tomorrow?

Will those who persist in seeing trees falling in the forest for no good reason, like both Moore and Darwall, find their next investigation being confronted by a sign that says: Trespassers will be prosecuted?