Extinction Rebels Work on Wall Street

Raising alarms about the climate extincting humans is not only fun, but profitable. Just ask J.P. Morgan who recently put out a treatise pumping up the alarm.  Tyler Durden writes at Zero Hedge “The Human Race Could Go Extinct”: JPMorgan Fearmongers Climate Change Impact In Leaked Report. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

A new explosive report from JP Morgan was leaked out this week titled “Risky business: the climate and the macroeconomy” warns climate change poses a significant macroeconomic risk to the world economy and could result in a “catastrophic” event.

“The response to climate change should be motivated not only by central estimates of outcomes but also by the likelihood of extreme events (from the tails of the probability distribution). We cannot rule out catastrophic outcomes where human life as we know it is threatened,” the report advised its top clients.

JPM’s David Mackie and Jessica Murray, the authors of the report, said: “climate change would not only impact GDP and welfare directly but would also have indirect effects via morbidity, mortality, famine, water stress, conflict, and migration.”

They said the impact of climate had been underestimated by governments, adding:

“Something will have to change at some point if the human race is going to survive.”

The reason for this elaborate scheme is that after the 2008 financial crisis, where financial elites were bailed out and the middle class was left to rot, convincing the average person that money printing is needed once more would be a difficult task.

So again, financial elites created a fake climate change crisis to offer a policy prescription of money printing to protect their asset bubbles, but simultaneously, make everyone believe that it’s to transform the global economy into a much greener trajectory to save the planet.

“If no steps are taken to change the path of emissions, the global temperature will rise, rainfall pat-terns will change creating both droughts and floods, wildfires will become more frequent and more intense, sea levels will rise, heat-related morbidity and mortality will increase, oceans will become more acidic, and storms and cyclones will become more frequent and more intense.  And as these changes occur, life will become more difficult for humans and other species on the planet.”
–J.P.Morgan

And if you care to read JPM’s leaked report, here it is:

 

What If the US Banned Fracking?

Other posts have addressed the murky science underneath the claim that burning fossil fuels makes the earth warmer, and the alarmist claims that a warmer world is more dangerous than a colder one. This post takes up the issue that even if rising human CO2 emission were causing dangerous warming, what are the likely consequences of policies to cut down on carbon-based energy. Text below in italics comes from sources listed as links at the end.

This issue arises in the US context because presidential candidates of leftist stripes have pledged to do away with fracking operations and forego the resulting boom in natural gas and tight oil production.

The Narrative

“I will ban fracking—everywhere.”
— Elizabeth Warren

“Any proposal to avert the climate crisis must include a full fracking ban on public and private lands.”
— Bernie Sanders

“I favor a ban on new fracking and a rapid end to existing fracking.”
— Pete Buttigieg

“I want you to look in my eyes. I guarantee you, I guarantee you we’re gonna end fossil fuel.”
— Joe Biden

And don’t forget the Democratic 2016 nominee whose election was narrowly averted by the Trump surprise:

“So by the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.”
– Hillary Clinton in 2016

In other words, she declared her intention to follow the Obama program: Regulate anything that moves until it stops moving.

Some skeptics caution against overreacting to electioneering rhetoric, citing the practical limits of presidential authority to implement a ban on fracking. But “elections have consequences,” executive orders have an impact, and few industries have been subjected to such consistent attack and misinformation. It might be hard to imagine serious proposals to ban, say, farming or at least all grain farms, but it would be theoretically possible to do so by radically increasing imports. Administrative agencies can pursue creative interpretations of the labyrinth of rules and issue aggressive “guidances.” A broad and coordinated set of such actions can slow or outright stop all manner of industrial activities up and down supply chains, including, especially, the construction of vital pipelines and ports. And lest one forget, Congress enacted legislation in 1972 and 1982 to ban oil production on about 90% of America’s offshore domains.

A detailed analysis has been performed by the Global Energy Institute. The updated report is What if . . . Hydraulic Fracturing Was Banned?

The Economic Benefits of the Shale Revolution and the Consequences of Ending It.

The Reality

The extraction of oil and gas through the techniques of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (colloquially, “fracking”) has catapulted the United States into leadership of the world’s energy markets. Since 2007, fracking has doubled U.S. oil production and increased gas production by 60%. Instead of a major importer, America is rapidly becoming the largest exporter of oil and is expected to supply the majority of net new energy traded on global markets over the next two decades.

If the U.S. imposed a fracking ban, the supply disruption would trigger the biggest oil and natural gas price spikes in history—almost certainly by more than 200%—which would, in turn, tip the world into recession. Even the expectation that a ban could be enacted would destabilize markets. U.S. imports and the trade imbalance would soar, as would consumers’ spending on energy. To keep the lights on, America would have to nearly double the quantity of coal burned, as well as import up to 1 million barrels of oil per day for dual-fueled power plants that would lose access to natural gas.

A fracking ban, regardless of motivation, is anchored in magical thinking that non-hydrocarbon energy sources could fill a massive global energy shortfall if the U.S. exited the world stage as a major supplier of oil and natural gas. Both fuels will be critical for the global economy for decades to come. The key issue is not whether wind and solar can supply more energy—they can and will—but whether a future American administration would reverse the progress of the last decade in lowering energy prices and enhancing geopolitical stability.”
—Mark Mills, senior fellow, Manhattan Institute

Supply Impact

The study is based on what GEI calls conservative assumptions. These include the continued use of hydraulic fracturing in non-tight oil and gas plays, and a 23.7% annual decline rate for existing shale plays. GEI also assumes a drop in gas exports to Mexico, and increase in gas imports from Canada, and a shift from LNG exporting to LNG importing—all designed to close the supply/demand gap that would occur as shale gas is phased out.

“Currently, shale production is about 50.5 Bcf/d or 62 percent of U.S. production. Under a hydraulic fracturing ban, production from existing sources would drop significantly due to the field production decline rates. Similarly, natural gas production from tight gas formations would drop quickly as well, since they rely on hydraulic fracturing to generate production,” GEI said.

With gas in tighter supply (see graph above), prices would soar to $12/MMBtu by 2025 (2nd graph below).

Economic Impact

With supply for gas and oil constricted, energy prices would rise dramatically. In addition to $12/MMBtu gas, GEI says that West Intermediate crude would reach about $130/bbl by 2025, or more than double today’s price and nearly double the forecast out to 2025.

“In 2025, the U.S. would lose around 19 million jobs and $2.3 trillion in GDP. For comparison, this is roughly three times the economic impact of the Great Recession of the late 2010s,” GEI said. “Disallowing hydraulic fracturing would shrink the size of the U.S. energy industry and eliminate its ability to cushion the economy against large swings in prices. A ban on hydraulic fracturing would essentially be the worst of both worlds – low production as if prices were low, while the rest of the economy (in the form of millions of households and businesses) struggles to adapt to a doubling of oil prices and quadrupling of natural gas prices,” it said.

The economic results for the nation and for key energy-producing states (as well as two, Michigan and Wisconsin, which are considered to be close in the 2020 election) is shown below.

Why a US Self-embargo is Unicorns All the Way Down

The fracking ban campaign is neither new nor connected only to the politics of this presidential election cycle. The movement emerged from the intersection of two global trends: the expansion of hydrocarbon production; and a time when many pundits and policymakers believe that an “energy transition” to something different is urgently needed. For example, some 400 domestic and international environmental leaders and organizations petitioned the United Nations in September to demand “a global ban on fracking.”[14] Essentially all fracking production is done in the United States.

A ban on fracking would end U.S. exports, cause imports to soar, and increase the trade deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars. The more serious impact would come from the shock to global markets. Global oil prices swing widely when markets are surprised by even a 1%–2% change in the supply/demand balance. A fracking ban would entail a loss of 7% of global oil production, comparable to the 7% lost with the infamous 1973 Arab oil embargo—an embargo that drove world oil prices up 400% and triggered a global recession.[25] Similarly, the 1979 Iranian revolution took 5% of oil off global markets. Prices rose more than 200%, sparking another global recession.[26] Today, taking shale production off the market would also constitute an additional 17% loss to global markets in the form of natural gas.[27] Higher energy prices would hit global consumers; Americans would pay more than $100 billion a year at the gas pump alone, an average of $1,000 per household.[28] Even a slow 10-year production phase-out would trigger an estimated two-year recession in America and eliminate $270 billion of private investment.[29] There would be some winners: Russia and OPEC would derive huge revenue and geopolitical benefits.

Losing the share of new electricity generation that is now fueled from natural gas (produced by fracking) would push utilities to increase the use of existing underutilized power plants where they’re available, which are mainly coal-fired.[30] That would increase carbon dioxide emissions by some 600%—more than all emissions avoided from wind and solar on U.S. grids.[31]

Regions heavily dependent on natural gas but with minimal coal capacity would be faced with rolling blackouts—such as New England (where gas currently provides 49% of electricity), the Mid-Atlantic region (38%), and the Pacific coast (30%).[32] Some of that shortfall could come from burning oil in the 130 GW of gas-fired turbines designed to be dual-fueled.[33] If fully utilized, those turbines would burn about 1 mmbd of oil (necessarily imported), a 10-fold increase in U.S. oil-fired power generation.

The Impossibility of Filling the Gap

The central motivation for the movement to ban fracking is the global abundance of hydrocarbons at a time when many pundits and policymakers believe that an “energy transition” is urgently needed. But America’s shale production could not be replaced quickly by alternatives, at any price, regardless of climate-change motivations. To the extent that there is an “energy transition” to new technologies, it is happening in slow motion.

Politically popular wind and solar power have become far less expensive and have enjoyed massive global subsidies; but together, they still provide only 1.8% of global energy. The 5 million electric vehicles on all the world’s roads now displace 0.1% of global oil use.[34]

Replacing the quantity of energy produced by fracking in the U.S. shale fields would entail (in energy-equivalent terms) expanding all of America’s solar and wind production by 2,000% more than what has been added in the past decade.[35] Somehow accomplishing that miracle wouldn’t help the 99% of Americans driving oil-fueled cars. In fact, because the hydrocarbon market is global, the entire world would have to increase global wind and energy supply by 500% to replace the energy that would be lost from an American fracking ban—never mind the additional energy needed to fuel global economic growth.[36]

Resources:

New Study by Global Energy Institute Puts Impact of Fracking Ban at $7.1 Trillion Over Four Years

A Fracking Ban Would Trigger Global Recession

New Chamber Analysis Quantifies Economic Risks of Proposed Fracking Ban

U.S. Chamber of Commerce says proposed fracing ban puts Texas economy at risk

 

Corrupting Climate and Weather

An article at The Spectator raises the question Do alarmists know the difference between weather and climate?  The author Charles Moore may also be a man for all seasons like Sir Thomas More.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images.

A lot of clever people are putting the ‘green’ into ‘greenbacks’

Until recently, those expressing skepticism about climate change catastrophe have been hauled over the coals (or the renewables equivalent) for not understanding the difference between ‘climate’ and ‘weather’. The lack of global warming at the beginning of the 21st century was not to be taken, chided the warmists, as evidence that climate change was not happening. Weather was the passing phenomenon of each day: climate was the real, deep thing.

Now, however, the alarmists themselves have elided the two concepts, using the Australian bush fires as their cue. As Sir David Attenborough puts it: ‘The moment of crisis has come’. They could be right, of course, but how could they really know? In this sense, President Trump is surely justified in warning, at Davos, against the ‘Prophets of Doom’. Prophecy is a different skill from an exact understanding of the here and now.

Mr Trump might usefully have talked about the Profits of Doom too. If the movement can persuade western society that the climate emergency is upon us, there are enormous sums to be made by people who claim to be able to remedy it. Hence the patter now coming out of companies such as Blackrock, BP or Microsoft, fanned by Mammon’s public intellectuals, such as Mark Carney. A lot of clever people are putting the ‘green’ into ‘greenbacks’. A lot of less clever investors are going to get their fingers burnt.

See Also Stoking Big Climate Business

Footnote:  Case in Point:  Green Fraudsters Plead Guilty

Jeff Carpoff, 49, of Martinez, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. His wife, Paulette Carpoff, 46, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and money laundering. According to court documents, between 2011 and 2018, DC Solar manufactured mobile solar generator units (MSG), solar generators that were mounted on trailers that were promoted as able to provide emergency power to cellphone towers and lighting at sporting events. A significant incentive for investors were generous federal tax credits due to the solar nature of the MSGs.

The conspirators pulled off their scheme by selling solar generators that did not exist to investors, making it appear that solar generators existed in locations that they did not, creating false financial statements, and obtaining false lease contracts, among other efforts to conceal the fraud. In reality, at least half of the approximately 17,000 solar generators claimed to have been manufactured by DC Solar did not exist.

“By all outer appearances this was a legitimate and successful company,” said Kareem Carter, Special Agent in Charge IRS Criminal Investigation. “But in reality it was all just smoke and mirrors — a Ponzi scheme touting tax benefits to the tune of over $900 million. IRS CI is committed to investigating those who take advantage and impact the financial well-being of others for their own personal gain.”

“The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG) is pleased to join our law enforcement colleagues in announcing these guilty pleas,” stated Special Agent in Charge Wade Walters for the FDIC OIG San Francisco Regional Office. “The defendants conspired with others to create a fraudulent business venture that duped unsuspecting entities, including banks, to invest approximately $1 billion, which the two later used to support a lavish lifestyle.

Source:  https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/01/27/dc-solar-owners-plead-guilty-to-largest-ponzi-scheme-in-eastern-california-history/

Court Thwarts Seattle Climate Power Play

News today that the Washington state supreme court has blocked a scheme by Governor (and erstwhile candidate for climate President) Inslee from taking over the energy industry.  Washington state is a place where leftist progressives live in large numbers in and around Seattle and impose their virtue signalling ideas on the rest of the population who are more skeptical.

This story is also of interest since the maneuver follows the practice of weaponizing environmental law to overthrow society’s dependence on energy from fossil fuels.  For example, NGO lawyers have attacked permits for infrastructure like pipelines by demanding that the assessment also include emissions from end users burning the gas or oil after it has left the pipeline.  In the Washington state case, Inslee tried to put the Department of Ecology in charge of taxing energy used by the transportation industry under the auspices of a Clean Air Act. This was in fact an end run around the defeat of a state carbon tax in the last election.

The story from the Seattle Times is State Supreme Court limits Gov. Inslee’s rule cutting greenhouse-gas emissions  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The Washington State Supreme Court has invalidated key portions of a rule imposed by the administration of Gov. Jay Inslee capping greenhouse-gas emissions by fuel distributors, natural-gas companies and other industries.

In a 5-4 ruling Thursday, the court upheld a 2017 lower-court decision that the state Department of Ecology had exceeded its legal authority in trying to apply clean-air standards to “indirect emitters” that don’t directly burn fossil fuels.

“The issue is not whether man-made climate change is real — it is,” wrote Chief Justice Debra Stephens in the majority opinion. However, Stephens wrote, the department’s efforts to enforce the state Clean Air Act went beyond what had been authorized by the law.
[That is a social opinion not a legal one since IPCC suppositions have not yet been litigated.]

“We are confident that if the State of Washington wishes to expand the definition of emission standards to encompass ‘indirect emitters,’ the Legislature will say so. In the meantime. Ecology may not claim more authority than the Legislature has granted in the Act,” Stephens wrote.

The state had projected the rule would reduce emissions by 20 million metric tons by 2035 — about two-thirds of the target established by the Legislature in 2008. But three-quarters of that reduction would have come from applying the regulation to indirect emitters, according to the court ruling.

[The hypocrisy is striking; people who burn gasoline in their cars and trucks are directly responsible for those emissions, not their suppliers.  Energy products are provided in a free society to those who want and can afford to pay for them.  Those who want to live without such energy are also free to make that choice.  But beware, in modern nations like the G20 nearly 90% of energy comes from burning fossil fuels. CO2 zealots want to shut off the supply for everyone else instead of themselves.  Socialism is another name for shared misery]

Figure 12: Figure 9 with Y-scale expanded to 100% and thermal generation included, illustrating the magnitude of the problem the G20 countries still face in decarbonizing their energy sectors.

During a news conference, Inslee said he disagreed with the court majority’s central conclusion but hasn’t yet decided whether to ask lawmakers to amend the Clean Air Act to include indirect emitters.

State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, praised the court ruling in a statement calling the clean-air rule “a classic example of government arrogance and overreach.”

A longtime opponent of Inslee’s climate agenda, Ericksen, the ranking Republican member of the state Senate’s environment committee, said the rule would have imposed “onerous new regulations on oil refiners and distributors of natural gas” and passed potentially billions of dollars in costs on to consumers.

Ericksen added he hoped the decision would “quell the enthusiasm of other agencies” to push legal boundaries, citing the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s decision to develop a low-carbon fuel regulation.

Frustrated by legislative inaction, Inslee had directed Ecology in 2015 to use executive authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions.

After a lengthy rule-making process, the state issued regulations in 2016 which would have targeted dozens of top emitters, from Skagit County oil refineries to Boeing’s Everett plant and Eastern Washington food processors. The rule required such facilities to cut their carbon footprint by an average of 1.7% a year — either by cleaning up their own facilities or paying for carbon-reduction projects off-site.

But the rule was quickly challenged in a lawsuit by business groups led by the Association of Washington Business. The association’s president, Kris Johnson, said in a statement he welcomed the court’s ruling and intends to work with lawmakers “to find a bipartisan solution” to reduce the state’s carbon emissions.

A trade association for paper mills said its members remain concerned about the effects of even a more limited version of the clean-air rule.

And Justice Wept

Environmentalist judge gives free pass to climate activists.  Where will this lead?

CGTN reports approvingly Climate activists win landmark case over Federer demo at Credit Suisse.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Swiss climate protesters have won a landmark legal battle against investment bank Credit Suisse, which could transform the way that climate activism is prosecuted in Switzerland in future.

A judge ruled on Monday that the danger posed by climate change means activists from the climate group Breakfree were not guilty of trespassing when they occupied a branch of the Swiss investment bank two years ago to demonstrate against the financiers’ funding of fossil fuel projects.

In November 2019, a group of young people wearing tennis kits and wigs staged a tennis-themed sit-in at a Credit Suisse branch in Lausanne. Their goal was to convince Swiss tennis player Roger Federer to end his sponsorship deal with the investment bank and highlight what they said was Credit Suisse’s investments in industries which are seen as adding to climate change.

The group was charged with trespassing and slapped with a 21,600 Swiss franc fine ($22,200), but during their appeal hearing on Monday, Judge Philippe Colelough stated that the activists had acted proportionately and ruled that they did not have to pay the fine.

The judge agreed with the protesters that they had entered the bank in the face of an “imminent danger” from climate change.

Because of the insufficient measures taken to date in Switzerland, whether they be economic or political, the average warming will not diminish nor even stabilize, it will increase,” he said. Adding that: “In view of this, the tribunal considers that the imminence of danger is established.

“The act for which they were incriminated was a necessary and proportional means to achieve the goal they sought.”

The ruling, given in the Lausanne municipality of Renens, was greeted with cheers from the crowded court room. The Swiss state will cover the cost of the fine instead.

“I didn’t think it was possible,” said Beate Thalmann, one of those accused in the trial. “If Switzerland did this, then maybe we have a chance.”

Credit Suisse said last week that, while it respected the protesters’ cause, it considered the occupation of the bank’s property unacceptable.

“Combating global warming is important,” the financier said in a statement. “Credit Suisse respects freedom of expression as a fundamental democratic right. [However,] to protect its clients, employees and branches, it does not tolerate unlawful attacks on its branches, irrespective of the perpetrators and their motives.”

Since the decision from the court, there has been fresh Swiss climate activism.

On Tuesday, protesters dumped coal inside a branch of bank UBS in the same city of Lausanne, while carrying a banner reading: “We will leave when you quit fossil fuels.”

Bullying in the name of Climate is now sanctioned by the courts  How many more times will CO2 Hystericals be allowed to overthrow others’ rights? Thanks a lot Judge Colelough.

Footnote:

Given how much Switzerland depends on the financial industry, this is looking like the barbarians attacking the main gate.  That didn’t work out so well for Rome in 410:

EPA Overhaul Long Overdue

Prudent public officials should anticipate that some future periods will be warmer and other periods cooler than today. They should also affirm that cold is the greater threat to human health and prosperity. Thus investments should place priority on building robust infrastructure and ensuring reliable affordable energy. These things can not be achieved if the planning and approval process is so long and costly that needed developments are discouraged or abandoned.

The worst kept secret in US politics is how effectively environmental activists and lawyers have used EPA regulations to block, impair and frequently kill off projects for energy infrastructure. Some regions like the Northeast are lacking natural gas supply pipelines from US sources and are forced to import from Russia, among other foreign producers. Former EPA administrator made the point that some people believe that if you are for the environment you are against development, and if you are for development you are against the environment. Instead the law and the agency have the mission of ensuring environmentally responsible development, recognizing that natural resources are essential to human flourishing.

Thus I welcome this announcement reported in the Wall Street Journal Trump Seeks Overhaul of Federal Environmental Rules  Of course the subtitle say: Environmentalists criticize proposal, saying it will hamper efforts to slow climate change.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

WASHINGTON—President Trump proposed a major overhaul of federal environmental permitting, responding to business complaints of bureaucratic delays to infrastructure projects such as roads and energy pipelines.

“We want to build new roads, bridges and highways bigger and faster,” Mr. Trump said from the White House, adding that the proposal would help create new jobs.

But environmentalists assailed the changes to rules tied to the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, saying they would weaken standards at a time when climate change is making federal review even more critical.

“Forcing federal agencies to ignore environmental threats is a disgraceful abdication of our responsibility to protect the planet for future generations,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said this week anticipating the overhaul. He called it a “gift to the fossil-fuel industry.”  The administration sees the move as a broad-based effort to modernize rules that have gone largely untouched for more than 40 years.

The primary aim is to shorten the review process to two years—a drastic change given that assessments can now take a decade or more.

“The step we’re taking today…will hit a home run in delivering better results to the American people by cutting red tape that has paralyzed common-sense decision-making for a generation,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said on a call with reporters. “The consequences of the government being stuck in place are far-ranging.”

Some projects that don’t have significant federal government funding or involvement might now become more likely to skirt the process altogether, a change likely aimed at helping pipelines in particular. For projects that do have to go through the NEPA review process, the changes would clarify what environmental effects agencies have to plan for and what future changes to the environment permit reviews will have to consider in advance. The stated goal is to limit reviews to environmental risks more directly associated with a project.

Critics fear that is a major setback for planning around climate change. Administration officials say agencies would still have the option to include climate-change risks in their permitting processes. But infrastructure experts and environmentalists say any weakening in that connection would be a step in the wrong direction as the effects of climate change are becoming more pronounced and society needs stronger rules to adapt to those emerging risks.

Issuing this proposal is an early step in what could be a lengthy process. There will be at least two months of public comment starting when the proposal is published on Friday, administration officials said. Many more months of review will likely follow that before any changes are finalized.

Many expect the administration won’t have enough time to finish an overhaul if Mr. Trump isn’t re-elected in November. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D., Ariz.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, on Thursday called the rewrite illegal, potentially foreshadowing several lawsuits that could further delay an overhaul.

The president on several occasions has criticized the environmental permitting process as a bureaucratic barrier to economic development. Many lawmakers and economists say that America needs to fix a backlog of infrastructure needs, which the administration has pegged at roughly $1 trillion.

In recent months, the administration has turned its attention to addressing several bedrock environmental laws and changes aimed at jump-start development. A plan to overhaul NEPA would be the latest in a series of moves that have also tried to limit the reach of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act, especially in how much those laws require consideration of risks associated with climate change. The NEPA review process can serve as the ultimate fail-safe on environmentally unsound projects.

But energy companies and manufacturers in particular have argued that NEPA, in recent decades, has become a tool for environmentalists to block progress. Since its last update, major roads and pipeline projects have become harder to complete and a drilling boom has led to an expansion of oil-and-gas production nationwide. Industrial interests have asked for a modernization to improve efficiency and consistency in permitting across federal agencies.

“The administration’s modernization of NEPA removes bureaucratic barriers that were stifling construction of key infrastructure projects needed for U.S. producers to deliver energy in a safe and environmentally protective way,” said Anne Bradbury, chief executive of the American Exploration & Production Council, a trade group for some of the country’s largest independent oil-and-gas companies.

Environmental groups have been concerned that an attempt to streamline NEPA permitting would degrade its ability to protect the environment. They have criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2018 decision to eliminate letter grades that often came as guidance in the process. Such changes can make NEPA reviews less helpful to the public and weaken a process designed to prevent oil spills and other environmental accidents, environmentalists said.

Footnote:  

Convoluted and CO2 obsessive regulations are a large factor leading to the Australian bushfires.  Also, Canada is unable to build a badly needed pipeline expansion that the federal government wants and owns because of the same kind of onerous environmental permitting processes.

2020 Green Obstruction Targets

The remarkable turnaround in the US economy was achieved despite large and expensive Green efforts to stop economic projects and infrastructure. While needed energy pipelines and power plants remain unbuilt in coastal places like New York and California, the heartland will be a battleground for activists wanting to leave the best sources underground in favor of aboveground dilute and intermittent wind and solar power.

Walker Orenstein writes at the Minnesota Post The five environmental stories to watch in 2020. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Next year will be a pivotal one for many of Minnesota’s most controversial environmental debates, from mining to climate change and the 2020 elections. Here’s a look at some of the big questions heading into 2020:

File photo courtesy of the Timberjay PolyMet Mining has won state and federal approval to break ground on its $1 billion copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes.

1. Will PolyMet move forward?
PolyMet Mining has won state and federal approval to break ground on its $1 billion copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes. But the project now faces serious questions after Minnesota courts put several permits on hold by this year.

First, The Minnesota Court of Appeals ordered a lower court to examine if state regulators hid concerns the federal government had with a key water safety permit. The Court of Appeals is also investigating whether Glencore, the Swiss mining giant that owns a majority of PolyMet’s shares, should be named on state permits, and whether the plan for a tailings dam at the mine is safe enough.

On top of the permit issues, PolyMet’s majority owner Glencore is now facing a bribery investigation in the United Kingdom and is in the midst of a leadership change.

After a year of turmoil, 2020 could be pivotal for a project that has faced 15 years of environmental review and could bring hundreds of jobs to the Iron Range. If built, it would be the first copper-nickel mine in the state.

2. Will the Line 3 pipeline get built?

Another controversial project on the brink of construction is Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline. The Canadian energy company is hoping to build a 337-mile pipeline through northern Minnesota to replace an aging and corroding one that is operating at half capacity. State regulators on the Public Utilities Commission granted the $2.6 billion project a Certificate of Need and approved its route.

In July, however, the Court of Appeals ruled the PUC failed to consider the impact an oil spill could have on Lake Superior’s watershed, setting the project back months. A new environmental assessment was completed earlier this month by the Department of Commerce, modeling a spill into a tributary of the St. Louis River. In a worst case-type scenario, the research found oil would be unlikely to reach Lake Superior.

Final Line 3 Replacement Project routek

The five-member PUC now needs to vote again on whether to approve Line 3, which also needs federal permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to move forward.

Opponents of Line 3, who argue building new fossil fuel infrastructure would further contribute to climate change, have protested the Walz administration at many public events and have taken steps to disrupt Enbridge’s existing infrastructure. Will wide-scale protests follow if Line 3 does get approved for construction?

3. Will the Legislature pass any climate change policy?

The 2019 session ended with very little new climate and energy policy, despite a Democratic push to make Minnesota’s power grid carbon-free by 2050 and GOP support for a measure to make it tougher to build new fossil fuel projects.

While 2019 was ultimately focused on writing a two-year budget, such debates could find new life at the Legislature in 2020. Especially since lawmakers will have a healthy pot of unused money from Xcel Energy, from the funds the energy company pays to store nuclear waste in Minnesota.

4. Will there be a showdown over the study of mining near the Boundary Waters?

Ever since the Trump administration canceled a study that could have led to a 20-year ban on copper-nickel mining in the Rainy River watershed, some Democrats have tried to finish the research or at least get the federal government to disclose what it found.

While U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum and others have not been successful in Congress, the state Department of Natural Resources has asked for the information to include in its environmental review of a mine Twin Metals Minnesota wants to build just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The DNR won’t say if it will proceed with its review if the federal government stonewalls the agency. But the state has left open the possibility of a showdown with the pro-mining Trump administration. “We will request the information, we expect to get it,” Barb Naramore, an assistant DNR commissioner, told reporters. “If for some reason it’s not forthcoming we’ll need to evaluate the implications of that at that point in time.”

5. How will environmental issues play in the 2020 elections?

The 2020 elections carry massive stakes for local environmental issues. If Trump is re-elected, his administration is likely to continue support for Twin Metals. Many of the Democratic frontrunners have said they oppose mining in the Rainy River watershed, including Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Joe Biden has not, although the Obama-Biden administration launched the study on a 20-year mining ban in the Rainy River watershed and took other steps to stymie Twin Metals.

Trump has generally supported pipelines, while Warren and Sanders have also opposed Line 3.

At the Legislature, Republicans would likely need to keep a majority in the state Senate to head off the most aggressive parts of Gov. Tim Walz’s climate change agenda in 2021. While not all DFLers support the governor’s measures, minority Democrats in the Senate recently launched a “Clean Energy and Climate Caucus” with an eye on passing some form of Walz’s legislation.

Leaf Blowers Banned (Take that, Greta)

Greta keeps repeating that nothing is being done to reduce emissions, blind to all the imposed policies and regulations.  So today good news out of California, the leader in fighting climate change.  From NBC San Diego Encinitas Leaf Blower Ban Goes Into Effect.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Businesses in Encinitas are no longer allowed to use gas powered leaf blowers as of Friday, Dec. 20.

The Encinitas City Council approved the leaf blower ordinance back in August. Then in September, the ordinance went into effect for city operations.

The goal of the city’s Climate Action Plan is to eventually ban all gas powered leaf blowers by January 20, 2020 in order to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. The next goal is to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030. The city estimates that this leaf blower ban will reduce local green house gas emissions by 128 metric tons of CO2 emissions by the end of 2020, and 142 metric tons by 2030.

Then on January 20, 2020, the ban will go into effect for residents as well.

But, the ordinance also states that electric or battery powered leaf blowers are allowed. So the city is now offering a city-funded rebate program, so that residents and business owners can buy a new electric or battery-powered leaf blower.

The ordinance also lays out a list of rules about the time of day people are allowed to use their leaf blowers.

Now, people in Encinitas are only permitted to use their electric or batter powered leaf blowers between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and between 12 noon and 5 p.m. on Sundays.

So calm down Greta and show some respect for all the nanny-state rules coming on.

Coercive Environmentalism

Gus Van Horn writes at Real Clear Markets The Recycling Crowd Embraces Grade-School Juvenility.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The third-grade boy shamefully completed his apology, in front of first grade. I was luckier than I felt. Just that morning, I had been convinced that the way to win friends was to do what the popular kids did: Stomp on the first-grader’s coffee-can art project. I knew this was wrong but I immediately impressed the popular crowd — the wrong way. My swift punishment only reinforced what I already knew: A crowd was a poor substitute for my own judgment. This lesson has served me well throughout my life, yet I was surprised to find myself transported back to that classroom by a New York Times video — about recycling, of all things. A connection jolted me when I viewed “The Great Recycling Con:”

The captains of industry were making the same mistake I had but with a twist: They are stomping on their own cans.

I remember the early days of residential recycling as clearly as that hug. At first, only the neighborhood crank went through the trouble. But, after about a decade of shaming by celebrities and over-hyping of stories — like the long search of a garbage scow for a customer — governments got involved. Seemingly overnight, nearly everyone was being forced to recycle or taxed to support it. Companies had marching orders to label products so we could comply. The details of these orders were minute to the point of confusion. This point can be gleaned from the video, but get a load of this subtitle: “The greatest trick corporations ever played was making us think we could recycle their products.”

I’m disappointed that corporations had voiced so much support for recycling, but they hardly deserve the blame for labeling laws.

Reaction to proposed Vermont law requiring clear plastic trash bags.

But this has been the MO of the left since the industrial revolution. Regarding 1800’s railroads, Ayn Rand noted:

[W]hat could the railroads do, except try to “own whole legislatures,” if these legislatures held the power of life or death over them? What could the railroads do, except resort to bribery, if they wished to exist at all?

Who was to blame and who was “corrupt”–the businessmen who had to pay “protection money” for the right to remain in business–or the politicians who held the power to sell that right?

The railroads played a game they should have opposed — only to end up blamed for a situation they didn’t create. (To the degree they saw this as an acceptable way to win market share, they share the blame.) We see this today with companies bullied into removing harmless ingredients, such as nitrites from food, or parabens from cosmetics, under the perverse twin incentives of fashionable panic and fear of competition.

The worst case involves the fossil fuel industry, which is vital to our lives and prosperity – while under constant and intense pressure from environmentalists. Energy advocate Alex Epstein notes:

The industry never explained the value of energy and why fossil fuels are superior sources of energy. In fact, the industry is constantly out there saying, “We’re not against wind and solar, we’re for all of the above, we’re in the middle of an energy transition,” etc. That’s why I always stress when I talk to people (a) that low cost, reliable energy is indispensable to human flourishing and (b) that the fossil fuel industry is uniquely good at creating it. People need both of those points.

Epstein is right: Companies should stop fearing the cool media kids scaremongering and start reminding the people who count – their customers — of the full value they offer.

When I think about that day in school, I wish I could go back and tell that third-grader that real friends don’t tempt people to ignore their own judgment; and that he already had good friends, because he had a lot to offer. The same goes for countless productive individuals in whole industries that our media routinely paint as evil ahead of our politicians taking yet more control. Our industry captains have gone along with this for far too long. Rather than accepting these scurrilous attacks, they should view them as personal insults. A great way to begin to fight back is to remind people of the enormous good they and their employees create.

Who’s the bully? Who’s the victim?

Previous Post:  On Coercive Climatism: Writings of Bruce Pardy

Many people have heard of Jordan Peterson due to his battles against post modernism and progressive social justice warfare. Bruce Pardy is another outspoken Canadian professor, whose latest statement was posted at the National Post, H/T GWPF.

Let the Paris climate deal die. It was never good for anything, anyway
Opinion: Paris is a climate fairy tale. It has always been more about money and politics than the environment.  Excerpts below with my bolds.

Paris is more a movement than a legal framework. It imagines the world as a global community working in solidarity on a common problem, making sacrifices in the common good, reducing inequality and transcending the negative effects of market forces. In this fable, climate change is a catalyst for revolution. It is the monster created by capitalism that will turn on its creator and bring the market system to the end of its natural life. A new social order will emerge in which market value no longer determines economic decisions. Governments will exercise influence over economic behaviour by imposing “market-based mechanisms” such as carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems. Enlightened leaders will direct energy use based upon social justice values and community needs. An international culture will unite peoples in a cause that transcends their national interests, giving way to the next stage of human society. Between the lines of the formal text, the Paris agreement reads like a socialist nightmare.

The regime attempts to establish an escalating global norm that requires continual updating, planning and negotiation. To adhere, governments are to supervise, regulate and tax the energy use and behaviour of their citizens (for example, the Trudeau government’s insistence that all provinces impose a carbon tax or the equivalent, to escalate over time.) Yet for all of the domestic action it legitimizes, Paris does not actually require it. Like the US$100-billion pledge, reduction targets are outside the formal Paris agreement. They are voluntary; neither binding nor enforceable. Other countries have condemned Trump’s withdrawal and reaffirmed their commitment to Paris but many of them, including Canada, are not on track to meet even their initial promises. Global emissions are rising again.

If human action is not causing the climate to change, Paris is irrelevant. If it is, then Paris is an obstacle to actual solutions. If there is a crisis, it will be solved when someone develops a low-carbon energy source as useful and cheap as fossil fuels. A transition will then occur without government interventions and international declarations. Until then, Paris will fix nothing. It serves interests that have little to do with atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Will America’s repudiation result in its eventual demise? One can hope.

Bruce Pardy belongs to the Faculty of Law, Queen’s College, Kingston, Ontario. This post will provide excerpts from several of Pardy’s writings to give readers access to his worldview and its usefulness making sense of current socio-political actions.

In 2009 Pardy wrote Climate Change Charades: False Environmental Pretences of Statist Energy Governance
The Abstract:
Climate change is a poor justification for energy statism, which consists of centralized government administration of energy supplies, sources, prices, generating facilities, production and conservation. Statist energy governance produces climate change charades: government actions taken in the name of climate change that bear little relationship to the nature of the problem. Such actions include incremental, unilateral steps to reduce domestic carbon emissions to arbitrary levels, and attempts to choose winners and losers in future technology, using public money to subsidize ineffective investments. These proffered solutions are counter-productive. Governments abdicate their responsibility to govern energy in a manner that is consistent with domestic legal norms and competitive markets, and make the development of environmental solutions less likely rather than more so.

Pardy also spoke out in support of Peterson and against the Canadian government legislation proscribing private speech between individuals. His article in National Post was Meet the new ‘human rights’ — where you are forced by law to use ‘reasonable’ pronouns

Human rights were conceived to liberate. They protected people from an oppressive state. Their purpose was to prevent arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and censorship, by placing restraints on government. The state’s capacity to accommodate these “negative rights” was unlimited, since they required only that people be left alone.

If only arm twisting were prohbited beyond the ring.

But freedom from interference is so 20th century. Modern human rights entitle. We are in the middle of a culture war, and human rights have become a weapon to normalize social justice values and to delegitimize competing beliefs. These rights are applied against other people to limit their liberties.

Freedom of expression is a traditional, negative human right. When the state manages expression, it threatens to control what we think. Forced speech is the most extreme infringement of free speech. It puts words in the mouths of citizens and threatens to punish them if they do not comply. When speech is merely restricted, you can at least keep your thoughts to yourself. Compelled speech makes people say things with which they disagree.

Some senators expressed the view that forcing the use of non-gendered pronouns was reasonable because calling someone by their preferred pronoun is a reasonable thing to do. That position reflects a profound misunderstanding of the role of expression in a free society. The question is not whether required speech is “reasonable” speech. If a statute required people to say “hello,” “please” and “thank you,” that statute would be tyrannical, not because “hello,” “please” and “thank you” aren’t reasonable things to say, but because the state has dictated the content of private conversation.

Traditional negative human rights give people the freedom to portray themselves as they wish without fearing violence or retribution from others. Everyone can exercise such rights without limiting the rights of others. Not so the new human rights. Did you expect to decide your own words and attitudes? If so, human rights are not your friend.

These positions derive from bedrock reasoning by Pardy on the foundations of law and legitimacy. An insight into his thinking is his rebuttal of a critic The Only Legitimate Rule: A Reply to MacLean’s Critique of Ecolawgic Dalhousie Law Journal, Spring 2017

Ecosystem as One model of Society

An ecosystem is not a thing. It does not exist as a concrete entity. “Ecosystem” is a label for the dynamics that result when organisms interact with each other and their environment. Those dynamics occur in infinite variation, but always reflect the same logic:
Competition for scarce resources leads to natural selection, where those organisms better adapted to ecosystem conditions survive and reproduce, leading to evolutionary change. All participants are equally subject to their forces; systems do not play favourites.

In ecosystems, the use of the word “autonomy” does not mean legally enforced liberty but the reverse: no externally imposed rules govern behaviour. In ecosystems unmanaged by people, organisms can succeed or fail, live or die, as their genetically determined physiology and behaviour allow. Every life feeds on the death of others, whether animal or plant, and those better adapted to their circumstances survive to reproduce. Organisms can do anything that their genes dictate, and their success or failure is the consequence that fuels evolution.

When an antelope is chased by a lion and plunges into a river to escape, that action allows the antelope to survive and thus to reproduce. The offspring may carry a genetic disposition to run into water when chased by predators. There are no committees of either antelopes or humans deciding how antelopes will behave. Autonomy in ecosystems is not a human creation. It is not based upon human history or culture and is not a human preference.

Market as a Different Model of Society

A market is not a thing either. Nor is it a place. Markets, like ecosystems, do not exist as concrete entities. “Market” is a label for the dynamics that result when people exchange with each other. Bargains may be commercial in nature, where things are bought and sold, but they also occur in other facets of life. For example, in Ecolawgic I suggested that marriage is a kind of exchange that is made when people perceive themselves better off to enter into the bargain than not to.

As I said in Ecolawgic, “Laws and governments can make markets more stable and efficient, such as by enforcing contracts and creating a supply of money, but they create neither the activity of trading nor the market dynamics that the transactions create.”  A market is not a place or a legal structure but the dynamics of a collection of transactions. It does not exist before or independently of the transactions within it. The transactions make the market. Transactions are not created by governments but by the parties who enter into them.

People transact whether they are facilitated by governments or not. The evidence is everywhere. If it were not so, human beings would not have bartered long before there were governments to create money and enforce contracts. During Prohibition, no alcohol would have been produced and sold. Citizens of the Soviet Union would not have exchanged goods. Today there would be no drug trade, no black market and no smuggling. Cigarettes would not be used as currency inside jails. People would not date, hold garage sales or trade hockey cards. There would be no Bitcoin or barter. Try prohibiting people from transacting and see that they will transact anyway. They will do so because they perceive themselves as better off. Sometimes the benefit is concrete and sometimes it is ethereal. The perception of benefit is personal and subjective.

Ecosystems are Coercive, Markets are Voluntary

Ecosystems and markets share many features but they differ in one important respect. Violence plays an important role in ecosystems but is not a part of voluntary market exchange. Ecosystems are arenas for mortal combat. Lions eat antelopes if they can catch them. Nothing prevents taking a dead antelope from a lion except the lion’s response. There are no restrictions on survival strategies, and organisms do not respect the interests, habitats or lives of other organisms.

Markets, in contrast, proceed upon the judgment of the transacting parties that they are better off to trade than to fight. The hunter did not shoot the woodworker to get chairs, and the woodworker traded for meat instead of stealing it. They chose to trade because it made them better off than fighting. The reasons are their own. Perhaps they were friends, colleagues or allies. Perhaps they believed that harming other people is wrong. Perhaps they hoped to have an ongoing trading relationship. Perhaps fighting carried risks that were too high and they feared injury or retribution. Perhaps trading was less work than fighting.

For whatever reason, they chose to trade. This choice is not universal. People have traded throughout human history, but they have also fought. I do not maintain that trading is any more “natural” or inbred than fighting, but neither is it is less so. When people choose to fight, they are no longer part of a market. Markets are like ecosystems with the violence removed.  They are the kinder, gentler version of ecosystems.

There are only two models for legal governance and only one legitimate rule.

The logic is as follows:
1. In the wild, organisms compete for scarce resources. Those organisms better adapted to conditions survive and reproduce. Their interactions constitute ecosystems. No legal rules govern behaviour and might is right.
2. Human beings trade spontaneously. Parties enter into transactions when they perceive themselves as better off to trade than to fight. Their transactions constitute markets.
3. Moral values and policy goals are preferences whose inherent validity cannot be established. They are turtles all the way down. Therefore laws based upon those preferences lack legitimacy.
4. When governments use might to impose laws and policies that are illegitimate, they unintentionally imitate ecosystems, where might is right. Political constituencies use whatever means necessary to impose their preferences, and their opponents use whatever means necessary to resist. They are “autonomous” in the ecosystem sense: there are no inherently valid restrictions on behaviour. The result is a social order of division and conflict.
5. The alternative is to model human governance on the other system that exists independently of state preference: markets. If the model for human governance is markets, interactions between people are voluntary. People are “autonomous” in the market sense: they may pursue their own interests without coercion. Instead of imposing illegitimate rules and policies, the state uses force only to prohibit people from imposing force on each other. A plethora of sub-rules follow as corollaries of the rule against coercion: property, consent, criminal offences that punish violence and so on.
6. There is no third choice. Coercion is not right or wrong depending upon the goals being pursued since those goals are merely preferences. Their advocates cannot establish that their goals have inherent validity to those who do not agree. Therefore, giving priority to those objectives is to assert that might is right. If might is right, we are back to ecosystems, where any and all actions are legitimate.
7. If might is right, anything goes, and the model is ecosystems. If might is not right, force is prohibited, and the model is markets. Choose one and all else follows.

When I claim that a prohibition on force is the only legitimate rule, I mean the only substantive rule to govern relations between competent adults. No doubt the administration of a legal system, even a minimalist one, would require other kinds of laws to function. Constitutional rules, court administration, the conduct of elections and procedures to bring legal proceedings are a few of the other categories that would be necessary in order to give effect to the general rule.

No Property, No Market

But the existence of property rights must follow from a general rule prohibiting coercion. If it does not, the general rule is not what it purports to be. When people trade, they recognize the property interest held by the other party. It is that interest that they wish to obtain. When the woodworker trades chairs for the hunter’s meat, she trades “her” chairs for “his” meat. The trade would not occur without a mutual understanding of the possession that both hold over their respective stuff.

Sometimes those interests are recognized and protected by the law, which according to Bentham created the property. However, since markets arise even where no property is legally recognized, the notion of property must be prior to the law. Above I gave examples of markets that have arisen where no legal regime has protected property rights: prehistorical trade, alcohol sales during Prohibition, black markets in the Soviet Union, the modern day drug trade, smuggling of illicit goods, and the internal markets of prisons. Since trading occurs even in the absence of an approving legal regime, the notion of property must exist independently as well.

No Consent, No Market

Autonomy in the market sense means to be able to pursue your own interests and control your own choices without coercion. Consent is part and parcel of autonomy. Without the ability to consent, no trades can be made. Without trades, no markets exist. If one cannot consent to be touched, to give up property, to make bargains, to mate, to arm wrestle, to trade chairs for meat, to sell labour for money, and so on, then one is not autonomous.

If force is prohibited, then corollaries are laws that protect people from having force imposed upon them. Laws apply the force of the state to prevent or punish the application of force. A criminal law that prohibits assault is an extension of the general rule. A tax to finance the police department is legitimate if its purpose is to investigate and prosecute violent crimes. Traffic laws prevent people from running each other over.  Civil liability compensates for physical injuries caused by the force of others.

Illegitimate Laws, No Market

Illegitimate laws use state coercion to seek other ends such as enforcing moral standards, pursuing social goals or saving people from themselves. A criminal law that prohibits the use of drugs uses state force to prevent an activity in which there is no coercion. A tax to fund the armed forces to protect the peace may be legitimate, but one to take wealth from Peter to give to Paul is not. The legal regimes of modern administrative states consist largely of instrumentalist laws and policies that are inconsistent with the general rule, including tax laws, economic development programs, bankruptcy, patent regimes, mandatory government-run pension plans and MacLean’s version of environmental regulation, in which each decision turns on a political determination of the values to be applied.

It is either ecosystems or markets. Either might is right or it is not. If it is, then human society is subject to the law of the jungle where people are at liberty to fight like animals if they choose to do so. If it is not, then human society is a marketplace where people may enter into transactions voluntarily and the state may justifiably use force only to prevent or punish the application of force.

There is no third choice. Some might insist that coercion is not categorically wrong but that it can be right or wrong depending upon the other goals to be pursued. Those goals are merely preferences. They are turtles all the way down. I do not maintain that other rules will not be passed and enforced using the established machinery of government but only that they have no claim to legitimacy, any more than other rules that might have been chosen instead. If force is used to pursue those preferences, why would others not use force to resist? Such a choice results in a free-for-all. If state force is right only because it cannot be resisted, that means that might is right. The administrative welfare state prevails not because it is justified morally or socially but because it has managed to secure a monopoly on violence. The imposition of government preferences is an invitation to those opposed to an arbitrary policy agenda to take up force against it.

Summary

In  a way, Pardy is warning us not to take for granted the free market social democracies to which we were accustomed.  Post modern progressive social justice warriors have decided that society is essentially an endless power struggle, that one group’s rights are gained only at the expense of another group.  In other words, it’s a dog-eat-dog, might makes right ecosystem.  Pardy says there is another way, which has been the basis for the rise of civilization, but can be reversed by governance that destroys the free market of ideas and efforts by imposing values favored by the rich and powerful.

Footnote about Turtles.  Pardy explains the metaphor:

In Rapanos v. United States, Justice Antonin Scalia offered a version of the traditional tale of how the Earth is carried on the backs of animals. In this version of the story, an Eastern guru affirms that the earth is supported on the back of a tiger.  When asked what supports the tiger, he says it stands upon an elephant; and when asked what supports the elephant he says it is a giant turtle.  When asked, finally, what supports the giant turtle, he is briefly taken aback, but quickly replies “Ah, after that it is turtles all the way down.”

Choose Life over Climate Despair

I have often written that prudent policymakers recognize the future will include periods both warmer and cooler than the present, and cold is the greater threat to human life and prosperity. Thus, government priorities should be to invest in affordable reliable energy and robust infrastructure. A recent article gets the importance of energy abundance, and makes many lucid points about climate policy failures, even while accepting uncritically some mistaken suppositions about the issue and what can be done about it.

Matt Frost published an article at The New Atlantis After Climate Despair. Excerpts in italics with my bolds, some images and comments.

The dream of a global conversion to austerity has failed to stop climate change. Energy abundance is our best hope for living well with warming — and reversing it.

Overview

Each of us constitutes a link between the past and the future, and we share a human need to participate in the life of something that perdures beyond our own years. This is the conservationist — and arguably the conservative — argument for combating climate change: Our descendants, who will have a great deal in common with us, ought to be able to enjoy conditions similar to those that permitted us and our forebears to thrive.

But the dominant narrative of climate change, though it claims to be aimed at protecting future generations, in fact leaves little room for continuity. Preventing more than 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above the nineteenth-century baseline, the latest aim of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will, as they put it, require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Only a vanishingly unlikely set of coordinated global actions — an extraordinary political breakthrough — can save us from what the most pessimistic media portrayals describe as “catastrophe,” “apocalypse,” and the “end of civilization.”

Only by changing our entire energy system and social order can we preserve the continuity of our biosphere. And so climate politics has become the art of the impossible: a cycle of increasingly desperate exhortations to impracticable action, presumably in hopes of inspiring at least some half-measures. Understandably, many despair, while others deny that there is a problem, or at least that any solution is possible.

But we are not condemned to a choice between despair and denial. Instead, we must prepare for a future in which we have temporarily failed to arrest climate change — while ensuring that human civilization stubbornly persists, and thrives. Rather than prescribing global austerity, reducing our energy usage and thereby limiting our options for adaptation, we should pursue energy abundance. Only in a high-energy future can we hope eventually to reduce the atmosphere’s carbon, through sequestration and by gradually replacing fossil fuels with low-carbon alternatives.

It is time to acknowledge that catastrophism has failed to bring about the global political breakthrough the climate establishment dreams of, and will not succeed in time to avert serious warming. Instead of despairing over a forever-deferred dream of austerity, our resources would be better spent now on investing in potential technological breakthroughs to reduce atmospheric carbon, and our political imagination better put toward preparing for a future of ever more abundant energy.

[Frost could have added that human flourishing has always occured in warmer, rather than colder times. Our Modern Warm Period was preceded by Medieval Warming, before that by Roman Warming, and earlier Minoan Warming. Each period was cooler than the previous, so the overall trend in our interglacial is downward. Ensuring favorable conditions for future generations means protecting against the ravages of frosty times. (pun intended)]

The Futility of Dread

The bleak poll results may reflect a broad, if perhaps tacit, agreement that we have reached diminishing returns on dread. Even now that most Americans accept the dire predictions of scientists and journalists, their assent does not change the fact that we currently lack the institutional, technological, and moral resources to prevent further climate change in the near term. The lay public has been taught to regard stabilizing the climate as an all-or-nothing struggle against the encroachment of a dismal future.

The bar for success is set high enough that failure is now the rational expectation.

A common reaction to “there is no solution” is “then there is no problem.” No matter how persuasive the evidence of impending danger, most people find ways to dismiss or evade problems that appear insoluble. Attempting to build political support for impossible interventions by making ever more pessimistic predictions will not work; it will only leave us mired in gloom and impotence. This polarized fatalism will grow more extreme as opposing partisans, recognizing our dearth of practicable options, choose either glib denial or morbid brooding.

Entirely predictable Time Magazine declares Greta Person of the Year. Just like Big Brother she is watching.

Missing the Target

We will not stop global warming, at least in our lifetimes. This realization forces us to ask instead what would count as limiting warming enough to sustain our lives and our civilization through the disruption. There can be no single global answer to this question: Our ability to predict climate effects will always be limited, and what will count as acceptable warming to a Norwegian farmer enjoying a longer growing season will always be irreconcilable with that of a Miami resident fighting the sea to save his home. But because our leadership has approached climate change as a problem of coordinated global action, they have constructed quantitative waypoints around which to organize the debate.

Some news sources portrayed 2030 as an official deadline for avoiding climate catastrophe. It is worth noting that the report’s lead author, Myles Allen, has warned against this interpretation: “Please stop saying something globally bad is going to happen in 2030. Bad stuff is already happening and every half a degree of warming matters, but the IPCC does not draw a ‘planetary boundary’ at 1.5 degrees Celsius beyond which lie climate dragons.”

The extreme unlikelihood that we will meet the target of 1.5 degrees becomes even clearer when we notice that doing so requires that we not only cut emissions radically, but at the same time remove enormous volumes of carbon dioxide already emitted. The report estimates that a total of 100 billion tons must be removed by 2050. For comparison, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted globally from fossil fuels last year was around 37 billion tons.

Even were it possible to scale bioenergy and capture that quickly, doing so would have a major drawback: It would take up an immense amount of farmland. By one 2016 estimate, capturing enough carbon to meet even the 2-degree target by the end of the century could require devoting up to three million square miles of farmland to bioenergy crops — nearly the size of the contiguous United States.

[Frost seems not to realize the the 2C target, and more recently 1.5C are both rabbits pulled out of a magical activist hat. Economists have projected that future generations will be far wealthier than us, and only slightly less so should there be all the warming predicted from burning known carbon fuel reserves. Many dangers are based upon scenario RCP8.5 which is so unrealistic that some analysts say that models using it should be revised. Principled inaction is appropriate when threats are claimed without solid evidence.]

The Age of Overshoot

Expanding the climate options we allow ourselves to consider is easier said than done. The political and moral challenges are daunting. We will need to adapt to a warmer climate for perhaps decades to come, while at the same time preparing technological and policy solutions for a more distant future where we can finally claw our way back to lower levels of carbon and warming. At the same time, the stressors that a warmer climate will bring will be unequally felt across the globe, likely making our politics more divided and only dimming hopes for international coordination.

We must finally abandon the empty hope of imposing equitable austerity via globally coordinated government fiat.

Furthermore, as we adapt to a warmer climate, complacency will be tempting, since we will likely not experience a sudden decline in global quality of life or biodiversity, and may be able to avoid the most dire disruptions. Changes will be slow, with many unfolding on a generational time scale, and with dramatically different impacts among populations. The misery that climate change is likely to cause, or is already causing, will be difficult to distinguish from deprivation as we already know it — the people most harmed, that is, will be the poor, who are already most vulnerable to natural forces. Even if there is a distinct moment of irrecoverable failure, or a tipping point that triggers the worst feedback effects, most people might not notice until it has passed.

[His belief that CO2 is some kind of temperature control knob is touching, but naive and dangerous. H2O is actually earth’s thermostat, and we don’t have a dial for that either. Fortunately the climate system includes complex negative feedbacks which throughout history have kept both ice house and hot house eras from being permanent. Otherwise we would not be here to talk about it.]

The global failure to control emissions is not just a failure of political will or technological progress. Rather, it reflects the problem’s inherent resistance to unambiguous characterization. Different observers can all adopt different conceptions of the problem, many of which are not mutually exclusive but remain practically or politically irreconcilable.

For this reason, we will no more agree on some single new ethics than we will on the “correct” amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Addressing the problem, then, must not mean the coordinated pursuit of a single solution but a perpetual process of decentralized negotiation and risk reduction. Our varied conceptions of climate change will never fully converge, and so the “correctness” of any approach is best evaluated not by whether it meets the latest IPCC target but by how well it affords broad political buy-in. Identifying alternatives to our current, failed approach to climate change requires identifying a more constructive set of ideas — practical, political, and sentimental. We will then be able to focus our resources on those interventions most likely to succeed.

[Among the failed solutions is the idea that modern societies can be powered with solar and wind energy.  Not only is bioenergy land intensive (as noted above), so are these other renewables.  Here is the map of UK showing the acreage required to power London without thermal generators.]

The gray area would be covered in wind farms, while the yellow area is needed for solar farms.

Austerity vs. Abundance

What should motivate our response to climate change is what got us into this mess in the first place: our desire for the abundance that energy technology affords. Energy is the commodity that allows us to protect ourselves from the ravages of nature and to live distinctly human lives, and many of the benefits we enjoy today were made possible by the exploitation of fossil energy. Our children should enjoy greater energy abundance than us, not less.

But the mainstream climate establishment — the government officials, researchers, advocates, and journalists who sustain the consensus agenda represented by the IPCC — is bent on austerity. They demand that we ration fossil energy consumption until zero-emission sources like wind and solar replace the fossil share of the global energy budget.

Discussions about climate change are also riddled with population anxiety. Lugubrious climate dread appears both as the idea that we should not inflict any more humans on this dying world and that we should not inflict this dying world on any more humans. For the most part, we no longer suffer from feverish speculation about runaway global population growth, since the population may peak anyway by the end of the century. Yet we still hear the old Malthusian idea that our limited energy resources will only be enough for everyone if there are fewer people to whom they must be handed out. Because the climate establishment views energy consumption as the problem, energy consumers must be on the negative side of the ledger — even if their welfare, or their grandchildren’s welfare, is supposed to be the good being protected.

An alternate framework based on abundance would engage each of us as participants in the flow of human history, as the forebears of unknown successors. It would complement even the doomsayers’ calls for taking expensive measures today, since the benefits of mitigating climate change would apply to more people as the population increases. The number of future occupants of our planet is, or should be, the salient variable in any calculation of the long-term costs and benefits of climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. We can’t know the economic return on any dollar we invest today in stabilizing the future climate, but we can model it as a function of, among other things, the number of our grandchildren’s grandchildren. Our climate approach should presuppose that we are the benefactors of a burgeoning future population, not the progenitors of an ascetic cult formed to dole out a dwindling stock of resources. New sources of carbon-free energy would offer more value to more people than whatever new levers of social control we might invent to enforce a worldwide carbon-rationing regime.

A stronger focus on human utility does not discount the non-human biosphere: When we evaluate the natural world for its beauty or its diversity, we are still expressing human values, and those values are part of the civilization we hope to carry forward in time. For instance, the desire to protect coral reefs, one of the first casualties of global warming, can increase as more people gain freedom from poverty, allowing them to see the reefs’ aesthetic and ecological benefits as worth spending resources to preserve.

An abundance framework is also aligned with our persistent human desire for comfort, and would lead us to reformulate our collective problem as one of scarcity, rather than prodigality. Instead of constraining our energy budget, we would look to a future in which a large, decarbonized energy capacity allows more people to enjoy the access to wealth and comfort that many of us take for granted. It would make little sense to leave cheap fossil energy underground in the name of future generations’ well-being, only to also leave those descendants an energy-constrained world full of incentives to drill. To remove those incentives, they will need abundant energy.

Obviously, meeting the energy demand of a high-growth world would require new sources of carbon-free power in amounts beyond the IPCC’s most optimistic scenarios. But we are already stuck hoping for a global political breakthrough. Technological breakthroughs are less far-fetched a solution. And a mass embrace of abundant energy is more realistic than sudden globally coordinated altruistic self-abnegation. Once we embrace abundance as a normative principle, it directs our attention and ambition toward the bets that, however long the odds, might actually pay off.

Embracing abundance means more than just a rhetorical or sentimental overhaul; it should change how we rank our policy and technology options. And gaining new energy sources would actually expand our options beyond the limited ones available to us now. Choosing abundance does not require that we first have all the answers for how to produce carbon-free energy, or how to reduce current levels of carbon dioxide. Rather, shifting our mindset from austerity to abundance will open up the political space necessary for imagining these answers and pursuing them.

In the near term, we must accept that expanding our political capacity to regulate carbon dioxide depends on driving down the cost of carbon-free energy. Penalizing fossil-energy use can encourage research and development of alternatives, but panic alone will not engender a new democratic mandate for costly restrictions on emissions. Cheap, low-carbon energy can be an alternative to bureaucratic rationing or socially enforced austerity. If we are stuck hoping for a breakthrough, let us hope for one that further emancipates us from want rather than one that more efficiently imposes it.

After Despair

We are stuck waiting for a breakthrough. The sort of breakthrough we await says much about who we are and where we hope to go. The consensus austerity view would have us hope for a moral breakthrough of penitential retrenchment. The abundance view would have us hope for a technological breakthrough to enable a flourishing future. One says that we have used too much energy, and our descendants should use less. The other implies that we have not devoted enough energy to capturing and storing carbon dioxide, and that we must leave our children and grandchildren as much energy capacity as possible to clean up our carbon waste.

Our mission must be to provide future generations with better technological alternatives than the ones currently on offer, which range from prohibitively expensive (like BECCS) to wildly reckless (like pumping sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to block sunlight). We owe our descendants progress toward the long-deferred dream of energy “too cheap to meter,” as Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, famously said in 1954. We owe them the tools with which to dispose of the waste carbon they will inherit. We owe them a better sentimental investment than morbid despair about the future they will occupy.

Other policy approaches are less applicable to a strategic framework of energy abundance. “Weaning ourselves off nuclear energy,” as Senator Elizabeth Warren proposes, is a fatuous idea even within the austerity framework, if the risks of climate change are as dire as predicted. Replacing already online, zero-carbon generation with wind and solar plants that require carbon-emitting construction and infrastructure overhauls will only dig us deeper into debt. In an abundance framework, the proposal becomes even more misguided.

The policy measures we pursue in the near term should express the ethos of abundance and continuity. They should avoid emission cuts today that might limit wealth and technology options tomorrow. And they should set us up to take the best advantage of whatever breakthroughs, technological or political, we might be fortunate enough to see in the coming years.

Key Points

Global conversion to austerity is a lost cause.

Energy abundance is our best hope for the future.

We have always lived well when it warms.

When nature reverses and cools, we had better be ready.

Footnote: Since 1985 the band Opus has celebrated Life and access to energy (I’m sure they were referring to electrical power as well as personal mobility).