A Carbon-Neutral Deity?

Relativity permeates this earthly realm. Not Einstein’s but the common or garden variety of judging people and things against other people and things. For example, when Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, emerged from Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit he was condemned by the usual suspects for lagging behind the U.S., the U.K., and others, in not absolutely committing to net-zero emissions by 2050. On the other hand, he earned plaudits from the local conservative media rump for standing his ground; albeit much greener ground than he occupied a few years ago.

A conservative-leaning cartoonist in the Australian newspaper, Johannes Leak, caught the mood. Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau, Jacinda Ardern and Greta Thunberg were pictured at Joe Biden’s Mad Hatter’s tea party mocking Morrison approaching the table soberly with his “measurable achievements and realistic goals.” Accordingly, he basks in the glow of being less idiotically alarmist than his peers.

Of course, Australia’s so-called “achievements” (regarding his "realistic goals," more below) rest on a pipsqueak reduction in CO2 emissions which don’t move the gauge at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Nevertheless, in percentage terms, it’s relatively better than most. That’s what counts, apparently.

Whatever...

Is everything relative? Are there no absolutes? For a dwindling proportion of men and women there remains a God. For climate alarmists (and that’s now about everyone who’s anyone) a new absolute has emerged. This is vitally important. Religions need absolutes. If you are going have interfaith dialogue with the Pope, which John Kerry has just begun, you gotta have something to show. I suggest that carbon neutrality fits the bill.

“We have God, the way, the truth and the life,” the Pope averred.

“Well, Your Holiness, we have carbon neutrality, scary projections and wind turbines preventing the planet from becoming a fiery hellhole.”

“I think we've got a deal,” says the Pope.

OK, it might not have gone down quite like that. But there is no doubting the religiosity of climate change. And religions need an absolute.

Forget Kyoto and Paris and the relativity of comparing by how much this or that country has reduced its own emissions since 2000 or 2005. All now equally have to aim for, dare I say, the sacred number of net-zero. But what does it mean? Akin, if you like, to the old question about the meaning of God. I searched:

An Australian website called Carbon Neutral seemed a promising place to start. This what I found: “Carbon neutrality means that you have to reduce your climate impact to net zero.” OK, I think. But disappointment follows: “As it is almost impossible to avoid the creation of greenhouse gasses emissions entirely, you will need to balance these emissions through the purchase of carbon offsets.” Hmm? There seems to be a fallacy of composition going on here. Sure, any individual, company, state or country can buy offsets. But not all. Short, that is, of Martians turning up with carbon credits in their space knapsacks.

I turned, at random, to the website of OVO Energy, a U.K. "green energy" company. Here I found the answer. This is what it means in terms of what must be done.

We (the world) must switch to 100 percent reliance on renewable energy for electricity, accompanied by battery storage. We must insulate houses, install low-carbon heating and smart energy-saving products. Switch to electric cars but, note, as making them creates emissions we really need to shift to using public transport. And, as air travel is an issue until it is carbon free, we need to replace vacations with, wait for it, “staycations.” Fits in, I suppose, with Covid-fearing isolationism. Farm animals too are a problem, so we need to move to plant-based diets. Massive forest planting completes the future carbon-neutral nirvana.

Welcome to Cloud Cuckoo Land.

As anyone of common sense can see this is completely unachievable; apart from being undesirable for those not keen on regressing to a rude state of nature. But at least there’s an honesty about it, which we don’t hear from politicians, who simply repeat ‘net-zero by 2050’ as a mantra to signify fidelity to the faith. Even arithmetic has fallen victim to the faithful. To wit, take Liddell, a coal power station in New South Wales.

Built in 1973, it can still deliver up to about 1,700 MWh of dispatchable power. It’s due for closure in couple of years. Mooted to replace it: a mixture of wind, solar, batteries and gas. Of these, only gas can provide 24x7 power. In case there is any doubt. Wind is intermittent. The sun doesn’t shine of a night. Battery power drains quickly.

Consider wind. Wind turbines on average deliver at best only 30% of their capacity. A typical turbine with a capacity of 1.67 MW produces just 0.5 MWh on average. Thirty-four hundred such turbines would be required to provide 1,700 MWh; occupying about 60 acres per MW of capacity, or 340,000 acres of land. And hold on, an infinite number would be insufficient when the wind isn’t blowing.

To infinity and beyond!

In other words, wind power is expensive, land-intensive and useless. No ifs or buts. It has to be taken out of the 24x7 equation; as does the sun, as do batteries. This leaves only gas. The idea is to provide 660 MWhs of gas. Let’s see, when I went to school, 660 plus zero, or something very small, does not come close to equalling 1700. Never mind, there is still plenty of coal power around to tap to fill gaps.

The Liddell story is like many. Renewable energy (RE) only works now, when it does work, because it is a small part of the energy mix feeding into grids, which borrow from dispatchable power sources in case of need. Watch out when those dispatchable power sources become fewer and fewer. Unless, that is, of course, Kerry’s yet uninvented technologies come to the rescue. After all, there is no imaginable limit to what can be achieved come uninvented technologies. In other words, come miracles befitting the new religion and its totemic absolute of carbon neutrality.

I noted above that Morrison was lauded for having “realistic goals.” Really? He’s pinning his hopes on reaching net-zero on green hydrogen and carbon capture; to which he’s committing oodles of taxpayers’ money. Relatively speaking, he’s just a little less besotted with uninvented technologies and the new religion than is Kerry.

'You Will Be Hollow'

It is hard to resist pointing the finger at ostensibly centre-right politicians who betray their calling by failing to defend free speech, by supporting climate and Covid alarmism and the destructive policies which thereby ensue; by allowing young minds to be warped by fantasies of gender fluidity; by spending vast amounts of public money to cure economic ills; and so on. But aren't they exactly what we deserve?

After all, their basic instinct is to gather votes. They are essentially vote harvesters. They don’t like to stray too far from the prevailing zeitgeist.

Of course, sometimes a political leader of rare independence of mind springs up who is able to set the pace rather than follow the herd. Thatcher, Reagan and Trump in modern times. Maybe Hawke in Australia even though he was of the left (as it used to be). However, politicians are predominantly creatures of their time and place.

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever."

The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison is a creature of his time and place. For example, to him, free speech is an optional extra at best. He’s on the record as dismissing attempts to amend or ditch section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act which outlaws acts “reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people.” Bothering one’s head about this matter doesn’t create one job or open one business, he has said. Or gain one vote, he could have added.

Thus, the perpetually aggrieved have an open door to claim to have been insulted or offended. Obviously, they and their lawyers can make merry, and so they have. Poor sods are hauled before the various federal and state human rights commissions, populated by leftist do-gooders, to suffer humiliation and intimidation; which, ironically enough, is outlawed by the very Act, and companion state acts, wielded against them.

Free speech is just one of a number of casualties of the new order. It no longer exists in Australia and nothing will change that. There are no votes in it. And that is because the political environment, within which we live has been insidiously subverted, manipulated and changed over many years. And that, in turn, has changed us. We, the people, have been moulded anew and are not what we were. What, even you and me? Perhaps not, but we are an endangered species.

There is a particular to and fro in 1984 between Winston Smith and his inquisitor O’Brien. Winston has the quaint idea that the proles might rise up. “They are helpless like animals,” O’Brien retorts.

"Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves."

Let’s not go so far as O’Brien; nonetheless, we have seen how easily most people can be scared into believing that climate change threatens the planet and their children’s or grandchildren’s future. And into believing that the least-deadly plague ever to afflict mankind must be tackled by the most onerous measures ever to be inflicted on populations by their governments. Consider further.

Public service departments and corporates run training sessions on unconscious racial bias designed, I can only think in my antediluvian way, in order to instill and perpetuate racial animus. Biological men are now allowed to compete in women’s sports and share their bathrooms.

As reported by political maverick Mark Latham, former leader of the federal Labor Party, the New South Wales Teachers Federation runs courses instructing teachers in how to mess with the minds of schoolchildren by suggesting that their “gender” is a “social construct.” Hard to believe, but teachers are told not to tell the parents if a child expresses doubts about the rightness of his or her biological sex, in case they are unsympathetic. You have to weep.

Unfortunately, I am sure that this particular Australian teachers’ union isn’t alone in the world. And don’t think for a minute that the relatively recent replacement of the noun ‘sex’ with the amorphous noun ‘gender’ is a neutral, value-free, change in language. One’s sex is clearly either XX or XY. One’s gender is apparently limited in its variation only by the imagination of an LGBTQI activist.

It is true that some of the more bizarre woke theories of race and gender are not yet mainstream. Most parents, for example, I would think and hope, would not want their young son or daughter indoctrinated into the occult world of gender fluidity. But give it time. Those calling the tune have gained ubiquitous power and influence. The have completed their long march through institutions.

When and how did it start? There are theories. Who knows exactly? But it has the appearance of being an outgrowth of the dead carcass of Stalin-style communism. Something akin to speciation has occurred – “the formation of a new and distinct species in the course of evolution.” Incubated in universities, it has spread throughout the media, schools, trade unions, public services, governments and corporates. No effective counter force now exists. Some of those heading major mining companies in Australia would seem more woke than Greenpeace activists. Think you can reason with its standard bearers, forge compromises? Think again.

This not about those with the same laudable objective debating different ways to bring it about. The objective of this new left-woke species is the destruction of our way of life and its replacement. Let’s be clear. How do you reason with those who want to teach young tomboy girls that they might really be boys. And who, to that end, support life-changing medical procedures. How do you reason with those who support men, who fancy themselves as women, competing against women on the sporting field.

"I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth."

How do you reason with those who wants to replace our power sources with renewable energy when they know that this is unachievable and unworkable and will entrench poverty and despair among the world’s poor. A friend of mine makes much of wind droughts in explaining why wind energy won’t work. Another friend perceptibly says, do you think they don’t know that? Of course, they know it. Their aim is to tear down capitalist economies. Reducing CO2 emissions is simply a way to that end; if it were not, they would advocate for nuclear energy.

Conservative minds -- forget that limitation -- anyone of common sense on either end of the old-fashioned political spectrum can’t possibly comprehend the raison d'être of those who support marginalising Christianity or undermining the traditional family or opening national borders to allcomers or sowing racial divisions.

Be afraid, those who can’t comprehend what’s going on are the endangered species. Tomorrow seemingly belongs to the other. I am reminded of the old chap in the village-square café, in the movie Cabaret, looking bemused as the crowd joins with the Nazi-uniformed lad in singing “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” He also couldn’t comprehend what was happening around him.

Neither can Tucker Carlson at Fox News. You can see him straining to comprehend the latest bizarro development. It’s not possible. We will go mad trying. We are in the land of delusional green new deals where two and two really do make five.

I recently read The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher. Dreher argues, on behalf of Christians, that the world is becoming so antagonistic towards Christian values that the way to survive will be, Benedict-like, to live in close-knit Christian communities. And also, to refocus on working outside of professional occupations to avoid being cancelled; or, otherwise, to be discreet in airing one's views. Dreher is convinced that the game is lost. It certainly looks that way.

Personally, I am keeping my fingers crossed for November 3. But whatever happens then, the omens ain’t good.

Antipodean Covid Craziness

I have heard and read suggestions that having sex with someone outside of one’s own household would be safer if both parties refrained from kissing or, to take it a step further, even wore masks throughout the encounter. I suppose it could be made to work. I simply don’t want to speculate on bizarre sexual practices. Instead I will stick to the more mundane matter of federalism in the age of Covid-19, with reference to the Australian experience. That’s bizarre enough for anyone.

All governments in Australia, the federal government and state and territory governments have responded to the pandemic in exactly the same way as have most governments around the world. Though I’d say, together with New Zealand, Australian governments take the cake for overreaction. I say that because the Covid death rate in Australia (and New Zealand’s is much lower still) is a figure to die for, so to speak, if you are European or North American.

When I last looked (19 September) the death rate in Australia was 33 per million population. Compare that with the UK’s 614, the USA’s 615, Sweden’s 580 and, even, Canada’s 244. Incidentally, this relatively benign outcome is due to geography and fortuitous circumstances; dumb luck not brilliant management.

Nonetheless, it was commonplace some months ago to be presented with a comparison of Australia’s death rate with that of Sweden, with an accompanying admonishment that there but for lockdowns goes Australia. That canard no longer plays, as Sweden’s daily death rate has since plummeted. But for a time, the Swedish model, once so admired by the Left back in the day, was held up in the Australian media as a blight on mankind.

In fact, as we now know, or should know, this virus runs a course of causing a significant number of deaths among the aged and sick before running out of steam as it comes up against those who are less susceptible. That pattern is evident across all northern hemisphere countries – even the United States once you adjust for a later ramping-up phase in some states. The degree and extent of lockdowns would not confound the null hypothesis that they make no difference.

I know, the null hypothesis way of approaching science is yet another example of white privilege having its a wicked way. But there it is. I probable suffer from unconscious bias in favouring the scientific method and, perforce, can’t do much about it because, well, its unconscious.

South Dakota is my favourite point of comparison. No lockdown. Death rate 226 per million. New York, locked down, death rate 1680 per million. Of course, these kinds of state-by-state comparisons, which take no account of circumstances, don’t mean much. And yet, on their face, they provide no comfort at all to those who favour the absurd strategy of locking-up healthy people, destroying their businesses and livelihoods, in a largely forlorn attempt (witness aged-care deaths) to prevent ailing people getting sicker. And, to boot, they provide a segue into the benefits and costs of federalism.

The benefits of federalism are that political decisions are more attuned to the needs of those they affect and, potentially, that competition between states to retain and attract businesses and workers tends to keep them honest. Covid has made one particularly large cost evident: state sovereignty can make it impossible to pursue a consistent national strategy to deal with pandemics.

Unlike America’s, Australia’s federalism doesn’t have the advantage of being competitive. In fact, it is anti-competitive. States ceded the power to levy income taxes many decades ago. Their general income comes largely via the federal government through GST collections. But these are distributed not on the basis of where they are collected but in accordance with the relative economic performances of the respective states. The more poorly a state performs, the more GST revenue it receives. Work that one out. California could only dream about it, I suppose.

Unfortunately, while there are no competitive benefits of federalism in Australia, the costs of handling the pandemic have been huge. Early in the piece, prime minister Scott Morrison set up a so-called ‘national cabinet’ of himself, the six state premiers and two territory leaders, with the laudable objective of coordinating national strategy. What a complete and utter fiasco it has been.

Basically, they have been able to agree that things should open up when it is “safe” to do so. Beyond that it is every man and woman for themselves. The federal government pays all the bills, or most of them, while being effectively powerless. To wit, it can't let people into the country if the states won't have them. Therefore, we have a North Korean policy of restricting citizens from leaving the country, because, usually, they will want to come back. It can't get cafes open and kids back to school if the states don't agree. It can't get state borders opened despite the Constitution guaranteeing (ostensibly?) free interstate movement. In all of this, there is a standout recalcitrant state.

Dan Andrews, the Covid King of Oceania.

The Labor premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, has conducted himself and his state in exactly the way you would expect of a hard-left despot. Incompetence on the one hand; authoritarianism on the other. And, to emphasise, the Prime Minister can do nothing about it.

In Victoria, everyone is locked inside their homes for most of the day with a curfew from 8 p.m., now graciously moved to 9 p.m. as daylight saving time approaches Down Under. A curfew! Meanwhile, the federal government feeds money to the unemployed. As the world has seen, pregnant women and grannies are handcuffed and marched off for daring to breach any of the myriad confining rules. One heavily pregnant lady was harangued by two policemen and an accompanying soldier (who had the good grace to look shamefaced) for daring to rest on a park bench while engaging in ‘allowable’ exercise. Evidently some cops are getting in touch with their inner Stasi -- inevitable, when socialists are loosed from constitutional constraints. Hmm, didn’t I mention, c.10,000 BLM feeble-minded stooges went unpunished when ‘protesting’ back in June, while cops knelt.

Victorians attempting to escape Melbourne to regional areas within Victoria are fined $4,957. Why not $5,000? Well, I suppose they've picked up pricing tips from used-car salesmen. Police operate around-the-clock checkpoints (Checkpoint Charlie springs to mind). If mum and dad are in the car, each will be fined; apparently kids and dogs will get off scot-free. Did this new offence of daring to drive beyond 5 kilometers from home go through the Victorian parliament? Of course not. It is all done by diktat under an emergency powers law.

"Dear Leader" Dan, let me aptly call him, has recently succeeded in having these emergency powers extended by six months. And who gave him the casting vote in the upper state house? Samantha Ratnam, of the Greens Party, hurried back from maternity leave. Whenever villainy is afoot, spot complicit Greens.

And don’t think enough is enough. Legislation has been introduced that will, if passed, create thought crime. Under this legislation officers will be appointed (no qualifications required) to assess whether those ordered to isolate will really do so. If an authorised officer “reasonably believes that a person is likely to refuse or fail to comply with a direction made the by the Chief Health Officer,” then the culprits will be locked up tout de suite for what they intend to do. Shades of Minority Report in Dan’s socialist state of Victoria.

You should note that the onerous lockdown in Victoria follows an outbreak of cases in June stemming almost wholly from one hotel quarantine misadventure. Poorly controlled, the infection spread inside and outside the hotel. Among other failings, apparently some security guards, appointed for their claimed indigenous identity rather than their expertise, fraternised a little too intimately with hotel guests. It was not reported whether they wore masks. But I assume not.

The upshot has meant that deaths in Victoria (80 percent inside aged-care homes. What’s new?) have dwarfed those in other states. Nevertheless, the death toll per million in Victoria, at 113, is half the rate in South Dakota. The different approach to tackling the pandemic isn’t to do with the virulence or otherwise of the virus. It is to do with politics.

Speak to conservatives and almost to a man and woman they believe that the reaction to Covid-19 has been grossly overblown; that the costs of lockdowns have not nearly been properly taken into account. Yet almost all governments have overreacted. By implication, this sadly shows how little conservatism now influences public policy. And why should it. The latest Newspoll (16-19 September) shows 62 per cent of Victorians supporting their Dear Leader.

When I look across the Australian political landscape, I see governments whether of the left or ostensible centre-right buying into the global warming agenda. And differing only in their degree of panic in responding to Covid. Federalism makes it worse by allowing the nation state as a whole to be hijacked by its least enlightened constituent parts.