Pascal’s Climate Wager

David Freddoso explains in the Washington Examiner Good news: Illinois will be spared when the world ends.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

J.B. Pritzker, the new governor of Illinois, has begun his reign with the symbolic signing of his state back on to the Paris climate agreement:

It means Illinois will abide by the Paris agreement that aims at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 28 percent by 2025. Former President Barack Obama signed the U.S. onto the Paris accord in 2016 but President Donald Trump withdrew months later.

Pritzker’s order also directs the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to monitor the Trump administration’s environmental proposals and look for ways to “protect Illinoisans from environmental harm.”

This means Illinois will be spared when the world ends in 12 years, right? Well, no, I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way. But if you do especially want Illinois to be spared for some reason, perhaps it will at least make you feel better about yourself.

Paris was a nonbinding agreement. More importantly, its terms would not be nearly ambitious enough to save the world, were its continued existence truly threatened as some contend.

The symbolic return of the Deadbeat State to the Obama administration’s climate agreement doesn’t mean anything specific. Yes, the state government might be saddling itself with further costs it cannot afford, given its fleeing population and dwindling tax base. But the climate in Illinois will not be affected by any reforms in the U.S., because our entire economy’s worth of carbon emissions is becoming a drop in the carbon ocean of China’s and India’s growing emissions. Even if we switched 100 percent to nuclear power — the secret to France’s electrical success and the only feasible way the U.S. could ever reduce emissions on such a scale — the global threat would not diminish substantially for decades given growth in India alone (not to say that a switch to nuclear isn’t a good idea anyway).

This leaves us with a sort of reverse Pascal’s Wager. If the world is truly on its way to an end, then you’re just screwed. There’s nothing you or I can do at this point, so you might as well just enjoy your last days with the air conditioner on, not off.

If, on the other hand, the conjecture-based predictions of rapid world destruction are just so much hype, then Illinoisans can safely ignore Paris and Pritzker and consider moving to neighboring Indiana where the governor limits himself to real-world problems.

Footnote: 

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian.  He asserted that the best bet is to believe and act as though God exists even though the evidence is uncertain.  The argument was based upon three premises: the first concerns the decision matrix of rewards, the second concerns the probability that you should give to God’s existence, and the third is a maxim about rational decision-making.  On Pascal’s premises, the gains from wagering for God outweighed the losses the other way.

In the field of global warming/climate change, the wager is called the “Precautionary Principle” and is preoccupied with losses not gains.  IPCC adherents argue that all will be lost unless we stop burning fossil fuels, despite: no reliable evidence anything unusual is happening in our climate; renewable power tech is immature, serving only to make affordable, reliable energy expensive and intermittent; no proof humans can control planetary climate changes.

ipcc_ransom_note

2018: Trump Winning, IPCC Losing

Trump vs IPCC
Don’t take it from me, this is the state of affairs according to IPCC insiders. This report comes from a carbon alarmist who is dismayed by recent developments in the battle against global warming.

The Paris Climate Agreement versus the Trump Effect: Countervailing Forces for Decarbonisation  by Joseph Curtin, Senior Fellow, Institute of International and European Affairs.  Excerpts below in italics with my bolds.

In this publication, IIEA Senior Fellow Joseph Curtin argues that the “Trump Effect” has created a powerful countervailing force acting against the momentum which the Paris Agreement on climate change hoped to generate.

At the heart of the Agreement is an “ambition mechanism”, under which Parties are required to make progressively more ambitious pledges to reduce emissions following global “stocktakes” every five years. This mechanism was designed to catalyse greater efforts over the coming decades, but the Trump Effect has applied a brake via three distinct channels:

  • US Federal rollbacks have increased the attractiveness of fossil fuel investments globally;
  • The US decision to withdraw from the Agreement has created moral and political cover for others to follow suit; and
  • Goodwill at international negotiations has been damaged.

Domestic regulatory rollbacks are increasing the cost of ambition

The widespread rollback of Federal regulations is reducing risk premiums associated with investing in dirty technologies. It is true that market fundamentals and sub-Federal initiatives will ameliorate some of the damage. However, at the very least years of stasis, litigation and uncertainty can be anticipated. We can already see an impact. Following Paris, there was a plunge in investment in the dirtiest fossil fuel investments (coal and tar sands) in 2016, but the Trump Effect reversed the trend in 2017, while investment in renewables has declined. Given the size of the US economy, slower deployment of green technologies flattens learning curves globally, making it harder for other Parties to take on more ambitious pledges in the future.

In the first case, withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and the concurrent roll-back of domestic regulation, is slowing the rate of investment in green technologies at a time when rapid scaling up is required. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), meeting agreed global targets will require an estimated $3.5 trillion in energy-sector investments each year until 2050, about double the current level of investment. US withdrawal has the potential to undermine the “ambition mechanism” over time.

The first steps have been taken to repeal the Clean Power Plan, and to freeze fuel efficiency standards for vehicles at 2020 levels, among many other environmental policy roll-backs. Some have argued that these reversals have not yet taken effect, and, in any case, that their impact will be marginal if they ever do, because many clean investments are underpinned by market fundamentals, such as cheap natural gas prices and the falling costs of renewable energy. This view is supported by others who have argued that the Trump Effect will be ameliorated by the sub-Federal responses amalgamated under the “We Are Still In” initiative. Former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, and the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, have even argued that these efforts would “put the country within striking distance of the 26% reduction in greenhouse gases, by 2025, that the United States promised to hit in Paris”. 

However, these noble efforts and associated pronouncements not only put the brightest possible spin on city, state and business initiatives, they also understate the impact of Federal reversals. At the very least,years of stasis, regulatory process and subsequent litigation await, creating considerable uncertainty and affecting the risk perceptions. This in turn feeds into the cost of capital—a central determinant of the pace of technology deployment in the marketplace.

By creating uncertainty, the Trump Effect has already changed the calculus facing investors. Following Paris, in 2016 there was a plunge in investment in dirty assets like coal and tar sands, reflecting their increasing risk profiles as investors sought to determine if political leaders were serious about their stated intentions. This is because fossil fuels investments face “stranding” risk in a carbon-constrained world, potentially inducing very significant financial losses, and this is particularly the case for the most emissions-intensive sources of energy. However, the Trump Effect has reduced the risk premium associated with these investments by creating the impression that the era of fossil fuels may not be drawing to a close, or at least not as rapidly as the Agreement in Paris had suggested. Analysis has found that a sharp flight from the dirtiest fossil fuels investments was reversed in 2017, and that American banks led a race back into unconventional energy. For example, JPMorgan Chase quadrupled its tar sands investments. In the coal sector, among 36 banks surveyed in the same study, investment increased by 6% in 2017 after a 38% drop in 2016. The other side of the same coin is that, according to the IEA, investment in renewables declined by 7% in 2017. Its Executive Director, Dr Fatih Birol, ascribed this to the uncertainties created by politics.

In the long-run, the Trump Effect may not fundamentally challenge the underlying logic or the economic case for decarbonisation, but in the short-run its impact is already evident. Given the size of the US economy, slower deployment of green technologies not only affects the pace of decarbonisation in the US, but it also somewhat flattens “learning curves” for green technology globally. This in turn could damage the “ambition mechanism” of the Paris Agreement, although the importance and magnitude of these impacts remains speculative.

US withdrawal creates political and moral cover for further defections

While major players including the EU, India and China remain committed to the Paris Agreement, and are on track to achieve their pledges, the Trump Effect has emboldened others to shirk their commitments. The Russian Federation and Turkey have abandoned plans to ratify, while Australia abandoned measures to comply with the Agreement, all citing President Trump. Most significantly, the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has promised to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, following in footsteps of President Trump.

Social psychologists like Jonathan Haidt have suggested that evolutionary dynamics hardwire a sense of fairness and reciprocity into the human psyche.  Research has uncovered a tendency for parties to step away from negotiations when commonly held principles of fairness are perceived to have been transgressed,  and this applies even for beneficial deals.  Needless to add, the moral authority of the US to punish defection from the Paris consensus has also been sacrificed. Withdrawal therefore creates political space for other wealthy countries to follow suit—if the wealthiest and most powerful of all is not playing ball, they may well ask, then why should they?

The Trump Effect therefore leaves a moral vacuum at the heart of the Agreement, which makes building new global norms around decarbonisation more challenging. . . It has been reported by several media (not least the New York Times and Washington Post) that most national governments are falling far short on promises to curb GHGs, creating the impression of an Agreement in crisis.

Goodwill at international negotiations is being damaged

At ongoing international climate negotiations, the Trump Effect is slowing progress. The Trump Administration has reneged on a pledge to the Green Climate Fund, leaving an outstanding liability of $2 billion, and has opposed stringent rules for reporting on efforts to scale up financial commitments from rich countries. These decisions have aggravated distrust between developed and developing countries, which is a necessary ingredient for progress. Meanwhile, the EU, China and India, which have room to take on more ambitious commitments in 2020, are unlikely to play their cards in the absence of a similar commitment from the US. In this manner, the Trump Effect could grind the Paris “ambition mechanism” to a halt.

Following withdrawal, US officials have continued to attend, and have even played a constructive role at times. Negotiations have moved on to considering the rulebook to monitor pledge implementation. Key differences remain over the accounting rules to be used; the information to be included; and the extent to which the same rules should be universally applied. China and other emerging economies proposed that some elements of these updates should only be compulsory for developed countries. The Umbrella Group (led by the US, and supported by the EU) opposes any differentiation, and the US delegation remains resolutely opposed to providing funding for “loss and damage” associated with climate impacts. But these positions are holdovers from the Obama Administration.

However, when it comes to climate finance there has been a Trump Effect. Pledges of hard grant-aid have always lubricated the wheels of international agreements between wealthy and poorer countries. While the Obama Administration promised $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, which was established in 2009 as a conduit for funds, the Trump Administration has reversed this decision, leaving an outstanding liability of $2 billion.

Controversy has surrounded the workings of the Green Climate Fund, and while the funding gap created by the Trump administration has been a key problem, it has faced other unrelated governance and administrative challenges. . . Developed countries, including the US, are opposed to reporting on climate finance as part of their pledge updates. They oppose stringent rules and want more private capital to meet their commitments, whereas developing countries are calling for more grant-aid. Observers to negotiations are concerned that the Trump administration’s uncompromising position on finance may be influencing other developed countries, which in turn may be feeding into a broader divide and sour negotiations.

At the time of writing, it is unclear if this process will yield any increases in pledge ambition in 2020. In previous cases “horse-trading” of increased ambition took place. For example, the US and China jointly agreed their pledges and prior to that the EU promised to increase its ambition (for 2020) if similar pledges were forthcoming from other parties. The EU Commissioner for Climate Action, Miguel Arias Cañete, has indicated a willingness to increasing the EU’s Paris pledge to a 45% GHGs cut by 2030,51 although Germany and Poland are opposed to any increased ambition on competitiveness grounds. There also appears to be technical scope for India and China to increase pledges based, but in both cases there would also be domestic opposition to pledge increases to be overcome. We therefore see these Parties as unlikely to play their cards in the absence of a similar move from the US. On this basis, it is unlikely that more ambitious pledges will be forthcoming before the end of 2020.

Conclusion

In this analysis, we uncover considerable evidence of a distinct Trump Effect, which is counteracting the momentum created by the Paris Agreement. The US economy is large enough to affect global technology learning curves, and the uncertainty created by the withdrawal has already altered the risk profiles associated with green versus fossil fuel technologies. Furthermore, withdrawal appears to violate commonly held perceptions of fairness, and there are reduced reputational, political and economic risks for turning one’s back on the Agreement, as already evidenced by the decisions of Turkey and Australia; and the EU, China and India are perhaps less likely to play their hands and increase ambition before the end of 2020, given the posture of the US. Finally, there has been a Trump Effect at international negotiations, particularly in the area of climate finance, which has diminished goodwill between developing and developed country Parties – an intangible commodity, but nonetheless a vital ingredient for progress.

“The Paris Accord is not dead, it is just resting.”

And there is more evidence that the Paris Accord is a dead parrot.  Lawrence Solomon of Energy Probe writes in the Financial Post: Paris is dead. The global warming deniers have won. Excerpts below with my bolds.

As Solomon sees it, events are unfolding in a way that proves Trump’s wisdom in withdrawing the US from the failing Paris Accord.

Huge Expansion of Coal-fired Power Plants

The Global Coal Plant Tracker portal confirmed that coal is on a tear, with 1600 plants planned or under construction in 62 countries. The champion of this coal-building binge is China, which boasts 11 of the world’s 20 largest coal-plant developers, and which is building 700 of the 1600 new plants, many in foreign countries, including high-population countries such as Egypt and Pakistan that until now have burned little or no coal.

China builds UHV projects across regions allowing coal-fired power stations to be built near coal reserves, away from population centers

All told, the plants underway represent a phenomenal 43 per cent increase in coal-fired power capacity, making Trump’s case that China and other Third World countries are eating the West’s lunch, using climate change as a club to kneecap us with expensive power while enriching themselves.

Sagging Investment in Renewables

As reported by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, renewables investment fell in 2016 by 18 per cent over the peak year of 2015, and nine per cent over 2014. In the first two quarters of 2017, the trend continued downward, with double-digit year-over-year declines in each of the first two quarters. Even that paints a falsely rosy picture, since the numbers were propped up by vanity projects, such as the showy solar plants built in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In the U.K., renewable investment declined by 90 per cent.

None of the Bloomberg data represents hard economic data, however, since virtually all renewables facilities are built with funny money — government subsidies of various kinds. As those subsidies come off, a process that has begun, new investment will approach zero per cent, and the renewables industry will collapse. Even with Obama-sized subsidies, the clean-energy industry has seen massive bankruptcies, the largest among them in recent months being Europe’s largest solar panel producer, SolarWorld, in May, and America’s Suniva, in April.

Renewables are Environmental Hazards

As reported in July in Daily Caller, solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per kilowatt-hour than nuclear reactors — they are laden with lead, chromium, cadmium and other heavy metals damned by environmentalists; employ hazardous materials such as sulfuric acid and phosphine gas in their manufacture; and emit nitrogen trifluoride, a powerful greenhouse gas that is 17,200 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas over a 100-year time period.

acciona_wind_xl_410_282_80_c1

Climate Doom and Gloom Predictions Prove Unreliable

One recent admission comes from Oxford’s Myles Allen, an author of a recent study in Nature Geoscience: “We haven’t seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models,” he stated, saying that erroneous models produced results that “were on the hot side,” leading to forecasts of warming and inundations of Pacific islands that aren’t happening. Other eye-openers came in the discovery that the Pacific Ocean is cooling, the Arctic ice is expanding, the polar bears are thriving and temperatures did indeed stop climbing over 15 years.

polar-bear-and-al-gore-meme

Public Opinion Manipulated by Fake Evidence

As the Daily Caller and the Wall Street Journal both reported in April, Obama administration officials are admitting they faked scientific evidence to manipulate public opinion. “What you saw coming out of the press releases about climate data, climate analysis, was, I’d say, misleading, sometimes just wrong,” former Energy Department Undersecretary Steven Koonin told the Journal, in explaining how spin was used, for example, to mislead the public into thinking hurricanes have become more frequent.

an_inconvenient_lighter

The evidence against Paris continues to mount. Paris remains dead.  

 

 

5 Signs Eco-pessimists are Wrong

This video accompanied an editorial at Investor’s Business Daily Climate Hoax: Global CO2 Emissions Spike, Despite Paris Climate Pledges.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Climate Change: Three years after leaders from around the world signed on to the Paris climate agreement, pledging to cut their carbon footprints, global CO2 emissions accelerated. Does anyone still think President Donald Trump was wrong for pulling the U.S. out of this sham agreement?

According to the Global Carbon Project, which monitors this, global CO2 emissions climbed by 1.6% last year. They are on track to shoot up by 2.7% this year. That’s after three years of annual emissions remaining flat.

Worse After Paris Deal

Wait a minute. The accelerating growth in carbon emissions came after some 200 countries signed the Paris agreement?

At the time, Barack Obama called the Paris agreement “an enduring agreement that reduces global carbon pollution and sets the world on a course to a low-carbon future. ”

It “sends a powerful signal that the world is firmly committed to a low-carbon future,” Obama said. He even called the agreement “a turning point for the world.”

Annual CO2 measured at Mauna Loa through 2017.

Right.

The reality is that nations need energy to grow. And the best and most economical forms of energy are oil, natural gas and coal.

CO2 ppm added in the last three years.
(60-year rate 1.53ppm)

2015   2.18ppm
2016   3.38ppm
2017   2.32ppm

So, while all those leaders were making promises and bragging about how they were saving the planet, their economies were increasing the use of fossil fuels.

As the New York Times laments in its front-page story, “Even as coal has fallen out of favor in some markets, the rise in emissions has been driven by stronger demand for natural gas and oil, scientists said. And even as the use of renewable energy like solar and wind power has expanded exponentially, it has not been enough to offset the increased use of fossil fuels.”

China Builds Coal Plants
China — already the single largest contributor of CO2 emissions — will see emissions climb by 4.7%. It continues to build coal-fired plants within its borders, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa, the Times notes.

India’s emissions will likely shoot up by more than 6% this year, as the country tries to do things like bring electricity to 300 million people — almost equal to the entire population of the U.S. — who don’t have it.

As we noted in this space recently, not one of the G20 countries is close to meeting the CO2 emissions targets they pledged to reach in the Paris deal.

This is all further evidence that whatever these leaders claim, and no matter how many end-of-the-world predictions environmentalists make, nobody is serious about drastically cutting CO2 emissions by anywhere near the levels climate scientists say is needed to prevent “global catastrophe.”

Witness the retreat this week by climate-change champion and French President Emmanuel Macron, who suspended the country’s relatively modest carbon tax plan — which would have raised gas prices by 12 cents a gallon — after violent protests broke out across the country.

Or look at liberal Washington state, whose voters overwhelmingly rejected a carbon tax in the midterm elections.

Or look at any poll that measures public priorities and see how low climate change ranks. The latest IBD/TIPP poll found that only 17% ranked dealing with climate change as a top priority for the new Congress.

The Wrong Approach

We’re not complaining about this, mind you. We think all the doom-and-gloom scenarios are wild speculations based on dubious 100-year computer forecasts. And the environmentalist agenda has less to do with saving the planet and more to do with controlling everyone’s lives.

Even if the climate does warm as predicted, the better approach is to adapt to changing environments, if and when they occur. Not wreck entire economies in a futile attempt to stop it.

If nothing else, mankind has proved its remarkable ability to survive and thrive in the harshest environments on Earth.

The sooner world leaders come realize this, the better.

See also UN “Stretches” CO2 Goals

The blue line is CO2 in ppm observed at Mauna Loa. The linear regression line shows the continuation of the 1.53 ppm per year rate projected to the end of this century. As noted above the blue line is already exceeding the earlier rate. The orange line shows CO2 hitting 430 ppm in 2032 at the 1.53 rate, or earlier if more recent rates continue. For example, if the 2.14 ppm per year rate continues, 430 ppm is reached by 2028. The red 450 scenario is reached in 2045. Both scenarios presume zero additional CO2 after those dates.

 

Katawice COP24 Briefing for Realists

czestochowska

The Black Madonna of Częstochowa is just nearby.

The upcoming COP24 will be dramatic with the host country Poland resolute on continuing to burn coal.  Comments by the Polish Minister of Environment have been aimed at lowering expectations in advance of the meeting, in stark contrast to the recent over-the-top IPCC SR15 climate horror movie.  See UN Horror Show

Polish coal miners 2015 protest against liquidation of Polish coal mines. Note the vests like those now seen all over France.

In addition, Brazil is canceling their invitation to host next year’s COP 25.  Considering the obstacles along with the location, COP24 could be considered a “Hail Mary” gathering.  Three years ago French Mathematicians spoke out prior to COP21 in Paris, and their words provide a rational briefing for COP24 beginning in Katawice this weekend. In a nutshell:

Fighting Global Warming is Absurd, Costly and Pointless.

  • Absurd because of no reliable evidence that anything unusual is happening in our climate.
  • Costly because trillions of dollars are wasted on immature, inefficient technologies that serve only to make cheap, reliable energy expensive and intermittent.
  • Pointless because we do not control the weather anyway.

The prestigious Société de Calcul Mathématique (Society for Mathematical Calculation) issued a detailed 195-page White Paper that presents a blistering point-by-point critique of the key dogmas of global warming. The synopsis is blunt and extremely well documented.  Here are extracts from the opening statements of the first three chapters of the SCM White Paper with my bolds and images.

Sisyphus at work.

Chapter 1: The crusade is absurd
There is not a single fact, figure or observation that leads us to conclude that the world‘s climate is in any way ‘disturbed.’ It is variable, as it has always been, but rather less so now than during certain periods or geological eras. Modern methods are far from being able to accurately measure the planet‘s global temperature even today, so measurements made 50 or 100 years ago are even less reliable. Concentrations of CO2 vary, as they always have done; the figures that are being released are biased and dishonest. Rising sea levels are a normal phenomenon linked to upthrust buoyancy; they are nothing to do with so-called global warming. As for extreme weather events — they are no more frequent now than they have been in the past. We ourselves have processed the raw data on hurricanes….

Chapter 2: The crusade is costly
Direct aid for industries that are completely unviable (such as photovoltaics and wind turbines) but presented as ‘virtuous’ runs into billions of euros, according to recent reports published by the Cour des Comptes (French Audit Office) in 2013. But the highest cost lies in the principle of ‘energy saving,’ which is presented as especially virtuous. Since no civilization can develop when it is saving energy, ours has stopped developing: France now has more than three million people unemployed — it is the price we have to pay for our virtue….

Chapter 3: The crusade is pointless
Human beings cannot, in any event, change the climate. If we in France were to stop all industrial activity (let’s not talk about our intellectual activity, which ceased long ago), if we were to eradicate all trace of animal life, the composition of the atmosphere would not alter in any measurable, perceptible way. To explain this, let us make a comparison with the rotation of the planet: it is slowing down. To address that, we might be tempted to ask the entire population of China to run in an easterly direction. But, no matter how big China and its population are, this would have no measurable impact on the Earth‘s rotation.

Full text in pdf format is available in English at link below:

The battle against global warming: an absurd, costly and pointless crusade
White Paper drawn up by the Société de Calcul Mathématique SA
(Mathematical Modelling Company, Corp.)

A Second report was published in 2016 entitled: Global Warming and Employment, which analyzes in depth the economic destruction from ill-advised climate change policies.

The two principal themes are that jobs are disappearing and that the destructive forces are embedded in our societies.

Jobs are Disappearing discusses issues such as:

The State is incapable of devising and implementing an industrial policy.

The fundamental absurdity of the concept of sustainable development

Biofuels an especially absurd policy leading to ridiculous taxes and job losses.

EU policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% drives jobs elsewhere while being pointless: the planet has never asked for it, is completely unaware of it, and will never notice it!

The War against the Car and Road Maintenance undercuts economic mobility while destroying transportation sector jobs.

Solar and wind energy are weak, diffuse, and inconsistent, inadequate to power modern civilization.

Food production activities are attacked as being “bad for the planet.”

So-called Green jobs are entirely financed by subsidies.

 

The Brutalizing Whip discusses the damages to public finances and to social wealth and well-being, including these topics:

Taxes have never been so high

The Government is borrowing more and more

Dilapidated infrastructure

Instead of job creation, Relocations and Losses

The wastefulness associated with the new forms of energy

Return to the economy of an underdeveloped country

What is our predicament?
Four Horsemen are bringing down our societies:

  • The Ministry of Ecology (climate and environment);
  • Journalists;
  • Scientists;
  • Corporation Environmentalist Departments.

Steps required to recover from this demise:

  • Go back to the basic rules of research.
  • Go back to the basic rules of law
  • Do not trust international organizations
  • Leave the planet alone
  • Beware of any premature optimism

Conclusion

Climate lemmings

The real question is this: how have policymakers managed to make such absurd decisions, to blinker themselves to such a degree, when so many means of scientific investigation are available? The answer is simple: as soon as something is seen as being green, as being good for the planet, all discussion comes to an end and any scientific analysis becomes pointless or counterproductive. The policymakers will not listen to anyone or anything; they take all sorts of hasty, contradictory, damaging and absurd decisions. When will they finally be held to account?

Footnote:

The above cartoon image of climate talks includes water rising over politicians’ feet.  But actual observations made in Fiji (presiding over talks last year in Bonn) show sea levels are stable (link below).

Fear Not For Fiji

In 2016 SCM issued a report Global Temperatures Available data and critical analysis

It is a valuable description of the temperature metrics and issues regarding climate analysis.   They conclude:

None of the information on global temperatures is of any scientific value, and it should not
be used as a basis for any policy decisions. It is perfectly clear that:

  • there are far too few temperature sensors to give us a picture of the planet’s temperature;
  • we do not know what such a temperature might mean because nobody has given it
    any specific physical significance;
  • the data have been subject to much dissimulation and manipulation. There is a
    clear will not to mention anything that might be reassuring, and to highlight things
    that are presented as worrying;
  • despite all this, direct use of the available figures does not indicate any genuine
    trend towards global warming!

IPCC Freakonomics

The latest unguided missile IPCC report came out of a South Korea meeting, and surprisingly the first media response was silence. Could it be some of them actually considered that these new claims and demands are so over the top that their audiences will guffaw and break with their media masters once and for all?

The graph illustrates the problem very clearly. Since 1992, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has met 23 times. These UNFCCC discussions have utterly failed to reduce CO2 emissions. Yet from 2020, emissions have to drop dramatically, if we are to stand a chance of keeping global warming below 1.5°C.

According to IPCC SR15 this will require an annual average investment of around US$2.4 trillion (at 2010 prices) between 2016 and 2035, representing approximately 2.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP). The cost of inaction and delay, however, will be many times greater. (sic).  Note:  This is referring to increasing investments in renewable energy from current US$335B per year to $2.4T.  Present global spending on Climate Crisis Inc. is estimated at nearly US$2T, not limited to renewables.  So this would double the money wasted spent on this hypothetical problem.

After their initial shock, like the lemmings they are, the news and opinion makers filled their pages and screens with end of the world proclamations, and continue to do so.

Elsewhere I have posted on the disconnect between reality and the IPCC scientific claims. The focus in this post is on the appalling economics piled on top. At IER Robert Murphy writes The IPCC Should Heed the Work of Nobel Laureate William Nordhaus. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

One of the recurring themes of my work on the economics of climate change is that the very people who lecture the world on the dangers of “science denial” don’t actually follow their own advice. The recent announcement of the Nobel Prize in Economics, along with the release of the UN’s latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, illustrates my claim perfectly. Specifically, William Nordhaus just won the Nobel for his work on basically inventing the economics of climate change. But while Nordhaus’ model shows that even a ceiling of 2° Celsius is too aggressive—with the costs outweighing the benefits—the media breathlessly tells the world that the latest “science” from the IPCC shows humanity that we have about a decade to implement draconian measures if we are going to achieve the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°Celsius.

The Media Announcements

From the Guardian:  We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN
Urgent changes needed to cut risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty, says IPCC

The following quotation comes from the New York Times article announcing this year’s joint winners of the Nobel (Memorial) Prize in Economics, namely William Nordhaus and Paul Romer. Note how the piece ties Nordhaus to the virtually simultaneous release of the latest IPCC report:

The 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science was awarded on Monday to the American economists William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer for reshaping the understanding of the long-term determinants of economic growth.

Mr. Nordhaus was cited for his work on the implications of environmental factors, including climate change. Mr. Romer was cited for his work on the importance of technological change.

Mr. Nordhaus, a professor of economics at Yale University, pioneered the economic analysis of climate change. He is also a leading proponent of the use of carbon taxation to reduce emissions, a policy approach preferred by many economists.

The announcement of the award came the same day that a United Nations panel on climate change released a report warning of dire consequences from climate change and urging governments to respond to the problem with greater urgency. The report builds on and cites Mr. Nordhaus’s work. [New York Times, bold added.]

Now, any normal citizen reading the above two samples from our major media—who ostensibly are all up-to-speed on the “consensus” and would never dream of letting ideology get in the way of the empirical evidence—would be quite certain that William Nordhaus’ work supports the IPCC’s call to limit global warming to 1.5°C. And yet, as I’ll show in the next section, this is utterly false. Nordhaus’ work shows that such an ambitious climate change goal is far too aggressive.

Nordhaus on Proper Climate Policy

Now to be clear, I am a critic of Nordhaus’ work on climate change economics. Back in 2009 I wrote a peer-reviewed article criticizing his “DICE” model, and here at IER I’ve written articles (such as this one) arguing that Nordhaus misled the public in one of his popular articles on climate “skeptics.”

However, what I want to do in the current post is simply show that the guy who just won the Nobel Prize for his work on climate change economics does NOT support anything close to the IPCC’s latest announcement. This should show that, far from being “settled science,” the ever-increasing stridency of the calls for global action to combat climate change are more and more based on ideology and/or arbitrary decisions not tied to reasoned analysis.

For starters (and I thank David R. Henderson for reminding me of this salient point), as of DICE-2007 (i.e., Nordhaus’ model back in 2007), the climate goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C was a horrible policy, which would make humanity $14 trillion (in present-value terms, in 2005 US$) poorer than doing nothing at all. (See Table 4 of my article to see the details.)

Now it’s true that the numbers have changed since 2007, and Nordhaus’ model would no longer give such a pessimistic assessment. However, back in 2013 Nordhaus argued in his then-new book on climate change that the optimal policy (depending on assumptions regarding participation among the world’s governments, etc.) would limit global warming from 2.3°C up to nearly 4°C, as Paul Krugman admits in his review of the book.

Please re-read my last sentence: As of 2013, William Nordhaus—who just won the Nobel Prize for his work on the economics of climate change—was saying the optimal path of global warming would allow for temperature increases of at least 2.3°C and possibly close to 4°C. Yet the IPCC’s media people are telling the world that we should really shoot for 1.5°C of warming to avoid catastrophe, and that the difference between 1.5°C versus 2.0°C is huge.

Chain of suppositions comprising Integrated Assessment Models.

Conclusion

I have serious reservations about the work of William Nordhaus and the other creators of so-called Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs), which are used to calculate the “social cost of carbon.” Yet to the extent that we are going to take IAMs at face value—and the major media touting Nordhaus’ Nobel certainly do—then they should give pause to those clamoring for aggressive government action. Although Nordhaus favors a carbon tax, his work shows that the recent goals announced by the IPCC are ludicrously aggressive, and would likely cause far more damage to economic growth than they would alleviate in terms of climate change.

Footnote:  Robert Murphy has a follow up article with additional analyses at MISES William Nordhaus vs. the U.N. on Climate Change Policy

In this article I will provide more details of just how Orwellian it is, that some pundits and reporters are linking Nordhaus with the IPCC’s latest announcement. More generally, this whole episode underscores the farce of the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) concept. The Obama Administration and academics like Nordhaus go through all of this work to generate estimates of the quantitative damage caused by carbon dioxide emissions, and then the United Nations goes ahead and recommends policies that aren’t even in the same ZIP code as what those “scientific” estimates entail. If anybody in this debate is a “denier,” it is the people claiming the IPCC’s latest pronouncements have anything to do with the peer-reviewed economics literature.

Robert Murphy also has this video clip of a presentation on climate economics (H/T Jim Rose)

UN’s Broken Climate Policy Machine

The recent UN IPCC climate report is another reminder that the UN, like a broken record,  keeps trumpeting a failed climate policy.  Richard Epstein explains in an essay at the Stanford Hoover Institution Our Latest Global Warming Scare  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The new alarmist UN report features bad science and worse economics.

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a special report last week predicting apocalyptic environmental consequences if the nations of the world are unable to reduce the amount of warming to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels in the next 12 years. The IPCC report insists that meeting this target requires “rapid and far-reaching” changes—all unspecified—in a wide range of areas including land, energy, industry, buildings, transportation, and cities. These changes, the report insists, must reduce carbon dioxide emissions to about 45 percent of 2010 levels by 2030 and to a neutral level of no new carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

Much press coverage has embraced the report’s conclusions. The New Yorker stresses the dire warningls of the IPCC report. The Guardian speaks of the “urgent changes” needed to contain climate change underneath its headline picture of a raging California wildfire. Yet it is here that the story starts to unravel from both a scientific and economic perspective. The unstated narrative behind the picture is that temperature increases due to global warming will cause environmental catastrophes. But in the case of forest fires, this claim is simply untrue: in the United States, the number of forest fires has been down by about 86 percent since 1930, and the current year ranks as the 40th highest on record. To be sure, the risks of fire today remain great but for reasons that are unrelated climate change. Higher levels of CO2 make plants more drought resistant, which increases the amount of burnable material. What matters most, however, is not temperature change, but finding the proper techniques for forest management. Yet one weakness of the IPCC report is that in its discussion of forest fires, it does not mention alternate causes.

The same gap exists with respect to the frequency and severity of hurricanes. From all the recent publicity, one might think that they are rapidly on the rise. But the evidence cuts very much in the opposite direction. It is easy to find reports of major hurricanes that occurred before 1950, as with the record flooding in North Carolina in 1945. But anecdotes never tell the full story. Cato Institute scholars Patrick Michaels and Ryan Maue have demonstrated that hurricane frequency rises and falls in a cyclical manner:

There are a number of clear inferences that can be drawn from just this data set. First, there has been a steady increase in overall levels of CO2 since at least 1950. But whatever its cause, that single variable cannot explain the cyclical pattern of hurricanes. Similar cyclical patterns have been observed in measuring the extent of Arctic ice since at least 1900, including changes during the last 12 years. The same is true of sea levels, which have risen consistently over thousands of years, but not at constant rates; the rates have fluctuated several times in the past 120 years, making it difficult to find a trend. No one is quite sure why there is variability, but the overall levels of sea rise are far lower than feared ranging somewhere between 5 and 8 inches per century. The great vice of the IPCC report is that it attributes all negative environmental phenomena to climate change. It does not acknowledge the data that presents a serious challenge to the dominant orthodoxy that increases in CO2 since the onset of industrialization are the cause of temperature change and the supposed global dislocations.

The larger scientific issue is to develop an expanded theory of climate change that incorporates variables other than carbon dioxide in the equation. Globally, these include the effects of water vapor, also a greenhouse gas, and of aerosols, which tend to lower temperatures. Locally, these include recently discovered volcanic activity under the West Antarctic ice sheet, and the falling of land from the draining of aquifers. MIT climatologist Richard Lindzen recently discussed these issues in his lecture at the Global Warming Policy Foundation—“Global Warming for the Two Cultures”—which calls attention to the deep gap between scientific knowledge and popular culture. Lindzen put the role of CO2 emissions into proper perspective in order to negate the claim that changes in the level of CO2 can drive major climate changes. He pointed out that the total energy flows over the surface of the earth amount to about 200 watts per square meter. The key conclusion is: “Doubling CO2 involves a perturbation of 2% percent to this budget.” The obvious question is how that small change in an energy budget can drive the major changes to the earth’s climate that so many claim. Clearly, other factors have to be at work, including water vapor, whose effects are exceedingly difficult to model. Its distribution is uneven and uncertain over the surface of the earth, and it can take the form of different kinds of clouds with different absorption rates for heat. Water vapor both keeps radiation from the sun from coming in just as it prevents the leakage of radiation out from the system. The wide variation in temperature patterns, sea levels, and plant growth long before modern post-industrial history indicate that these forces are powerful.

At this point, CO2 seems to have a reduced role. But again, matters get more complicated. If the effect of CO2 on temperature is relatively weak, its effect on plant growth is powerful, given that CO2 and water are basic resources that plants require to live. Here the unambiguous effect is that the increase in CO2 has made plant life stronger, and has led to a major amount of global greening over the last 30 years. That increase in CO2 levels tends, moreover, to reduce temperature extremes by making land cooler in the day and warmer at night.

So why is there so much fear about the consequences of climate change? As reported by Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute total fossil fuel consumption is up 55% since 1950. Total energy-related CO2 emissions is up 500 percent. Total CO2 concentration is up by about one-third. The total temperature increase during that time has been 0.65°C. But in the meantime, global life expectancy has increased from 48 years to 71.4 years. Global malaria infections are down about 37 percent, and global malaria deaths are down by 62 percent. Corn yields per acre are up 25 percent since 2000, 44 percent since 1990, and 88 percent since 1980. Global GDP is sharply up and global poverty is sharply down. And other numbers only reinforce the same trend: as Johan Norberg shows in his book Progress, all major indicators—life expectancy, income, health—are up. As basic levels of technology continue to improve, we will have cheaper production of energy and its more efficient utilization.

Things seem pretty good, so why does the IPCC think that the future is bleak? And why does it think that major transformations are needed to deal with the risks of CO2 emissions? There is no reason to think that all nations can be coaxed into a single coherent central plan to manage emissions, assuming that one even exists. At the very least, China, now the largest emitter of CO2 and India, the third largest, will both sit this one out. Yet at the same time, the United States, which has rightly ditched the Paris Accord, posted in 2017 the largest reduction in CO2 emissions of any nation by relying increasingly on natural gas as a source of energy, even as overall global CO2 levels have moved upward. As Bjorn Lomborg, the head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, has written, it is not easy to introduce wholesale changes into any economy, and the IPCC presents no evidence that the enormous cuts in fossil fuel consumption it requires to reach its targets can realistically be made.

The first and most simple point is that fossil fuels are here to stay because over the long-haul they are more efficient than either wind or solar energy, especially now that improvements through fracking have reduced the costs of fossil fuel extraction while other improvements in technology have increased the amount of energy extracted per unit of fossil fuels. Even with massive subsidies, the efforts to produce major shifts to wind and solar have proved prohibitively expensive, given their intrinsic unreliability when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine, and the persistent difficulty of storing such energy in a cost-effective manner. Pull out the subsidies, and these markets may survive in certain niche locations, but they will not displace fossil fuels. The far better path, therefore, is to concentrate on improving yields and reducing externalities from our best energy sources, instead of overlooking the serious externalities that wind and solar themselves can create. The simple path of steady and predictable technological improvement promises far greater returns than the measures suggested by the IPCC report.

Summary

When someone asks me, why don’t you support the fight against climate change, I give the three reasons expressed so well by french mathematicians.

Fighting Global Warming is Absurd, Costly and Pointless.

  • Absurd because of no reliable evidence that anything unusual is happening in our climate.
  • Costly because trillions of dollars are wasted on immature, inefficient technologies that serve only to make cheap, reliable energy expensive and intermittent.
  • Pointless because we do not control the weather anyway.

The prestigious Société de Calcul Mathématique (Society for Mathematical Calculation) issued a detailed 195-page White Paper that presents a blistering point-by-point critique of the key dogmas of global warming. The synopsis is blunt and extremely well documented.

Details and links at Bonn COP23 Briefing for Realists

Footnote:

Epstein’s article refers to a favorite IPCC tactic of omitting information that contradicts their alarmist narrative.  An extensive example of this sin of omission is a legal brief submitted in support of the kids suing the US government for not ensuring them a favorable climate (Juliana vs. US) to be heard later this month.  The document is deconstructed in the post Facts Omitted by Climatists

UN “Stretches” CO2 Goals

Several articles are in the media discussing UN meetings in progress to move the climate change goal posts from preventing 2C of warming to a goal of 1.5C additional warming. The US have questioned the plausibility of such an ambition, and this post goes into some of the reasons why. At the bottom I shall raise several skeptical points about this whole enterprise, but first we should look at the data UN uses as a trampoline for leaps of faith.

Data on Annual CO2 Concentrations

The annual average concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are reported from Mauna Loa in a dataset accessed from NOAA here. The graph below shows the record.
Note that in 1959 there was 316 ppm of CO2 according to this dataset, and in 2017 the annual average CO2 was 407 ppm. So the rise of 91 ppm over 59 years is a rate of 1.53 ppm per year. Of course the actual interannual differences vary from that average rate, and as we shall see, many recent years have exceeded 2 ppm per year additional CO2. The table below shows all years in the record that added more than 2 ppm of CO2.

Year Added ppm
1973 2.23
1988 2.38
1998 2.97
2003 2.52
2005 2.28
2006 2.1
2010 2.47
2012 2.2
2013 2.67
2014 2.13
2015 2.18
2016 3.38
2017 2.32

Note that as warming increased so also did CO2 in ppm. You can pick out El Nino years in the list, suggesting that ocean outgassing has a large impact on atmospheric CO2.

The larger point is that, for whatever reasons, the annual addition of CO2 has increased this century to a rate of 2.14 over the last 20 years.

UN Aspirational Goalposts

UN insiders have been making a simple case for some years preceding the Paris 2015 accord. IPCC has claimed that in their judgement keeping atmospheric CO2 less than 450 ppm ensures future warming will not exceed 2C. I don’t buy it, but that has been sold to Paris signatories. Now comes increasing the ambition to limit warming to 1.5C, and the same authorities translate that into a limit of 430 ppm of CO2.

These numbers and their logic can be seen in a document from Climate Analytics: Timetables for Zero emissions and 2050 emissions reductions  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

This briefing note outlines suggested time frames for reaching zero global CO2 and total greenhouse gas emissions for the ‘below 2 °C’ and ‘below 1.5 °C by 2100’ limits based on the findings of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR5) and the 2014 UNEP Emissions Gap Report.

Emissions scenarios leading to GHG concentrations in 2100 of about 450 ppm CO2eq or lower are likely to maintain warming below 2 °C over the 21st century relative to pre-industrial levels. These scenarios are characterized by 40% to 70% global anthropogenic GHG emissions reductions by 2050 compared to 2010, and emissions levels near zero or below in 2100.” (IPCC AR5 SYR) Information in Table SPM.1 of the IPCC AR5 SYR

“A limited number of studies provide scenarios that are more likely than not to limit warming to 1.5 °C by 2100; these scenarios are characterized by concentrations below 430 ppm CO2eq by 2100 and 2050 emission reduction between 70% and 95% below 2010.” (IPCC AR5 SYR)

UN Goals Stretch Beyond Credibility

So let’s look at these two scenarios in relation to observed CO2 in the atmosphere.

The blue line is CO2 in ppm observed at Mauna Loa.  The linear regression line shows the continuation of the 1.53 ppm per year rate projected to the end of this century.  As noted above the blue line is already exceeding the earlier rate.  The orange line shows CO2 hitting 430 ppm in 2032 at the 1.53 rate, or earlier if more recent rates continue.  For example, if the 2.14 ppm per year rate continues, 430 ppm is reached by 2028. The red 450 scenario is reached in 2045. Both scenarios presume zero additional CO2 after those dates.

UN Piles Supposition on Top of Supposition

Previous posts here have taken issue with UN IPCC assertions that rising CO2 causes temperatures to rise and that human fossil fuel emissions cause CO2 to rise.

See: Who to Blame for Rising CO2

CO2 Fluxes, Sources and Sinks

How Climate Law Relies on Paris

Greatest COP OUT Ever is Jammed

Climate change deal struck at Paris Summit

Bangkok Post brings word that the Paris Accord is falling apart.  It’s coming down to the many  “Developing” nations saying: “Show us the money!” The few “Developed” nations are responding: “We don’t write blank checks.”  The article is US, allies roasted as UN climate talks end in Bangkok  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Experts from around the world have been locked in discussions this week in Bangkok, aiming to reach a comprehensive rulebook for countries to implement the landmark Paris Accord on climate change.

But talks have foundered over the key issue of how efforts to limit climate change are funded and how contributions are reported.

Delegates representing some of Earth’s poorest and smallest nations said on the final day of the summit that the US and other Western economies were failing to live up to their green spending commitments.

The Paris deal, struck in 2015, aims to limit global temperature rises to less than two degrees Celsius and to below 1.5C if possible by the end of the century.

To do this, countries agreed to a set of promises, including to establish an annual $100-billion fund to help developing nations react to our heating planet.

The US and other developed economies want less oversight on how their funding is gathered and more flexibility over how future funding is structured.

But developing nations insist they need predictable and open funding in order to effectively plan their fight against the fallout from climate change.

The Bangkok talks were organised as an emergency negotiating session after little progress was made at previous rounds towards a final rulebook.

Under the timeframe set in Paris, the guidelines for nations must be finalised by the COP 24 climate summit in Poland in December.

While delegates have made some progress on areas such as new technology and carbon markets, activists said the US — with Western acquiesence — had stonewalled any momentum on the key funding issue.

Background:  Definition of Cop Out

n. An excuse designed to shirk responsibility;
n. Refers to taking the easy way out of a sticky situation. Placing blame on something else to make things easier for yourself is a cop out

Synonyms: pretense, dodge, pretext, fraud, alibi

Within the thousands of laudatory media reports of the Paris climate agreement, there are frequently embedded paragraphs such as this:

Scientists who closely monitored the talks in Paris said it was not the agreement that humanity really needed. By itself, it will not save the planet. The great ice sheets remain imperiled, the oceans are still rising, forests and reefs are under stress, people are dying by tens of thousands in heatwaves and floods, and the agriculture system that feeds 7 billion human beings is still at risk. here

I was struck by the list of calamities that used to be labeled as “Acts of God.”

Definition of Act of God
n. a natural catastrophe which no one can prevent such as an earthquake, a tidal wave, a volcanic eruption, or a tornado. Acts of God are significant for two reasons: 1) for the havoc and damage they wreak, and 2) because often contracts state that “acts of God” are an excuse for delay or failure to fulfill a commitment or to complete a construction project. Many insurance policies exempt coverage for damage caused by acts of God, which is one time an insurance company gets religion. here

Now insurance companies have been well-served by that excellent cop out. My father-in-law always said insurance policies were like umbrellas that won’t open when it rains. Probably that bit of folk wisdom prompted one insurer to come up with this logo:

What Paris Agreement Means

With the momentous agreement in Paris, there is now a universal cop out for all elected officials at every level of government. Why wouldn’t they all sign up? It’s a get-out-of-accountability card. Because whatever bad thing happens on your watch, it’s the result of “climate change”.

Having a drought in California? The climate did it, caused by everyone burning fossil fuels, so not the government’s fault. Never mind the lack of attention and funding for the water storage infrastructure, including the neglect by first time elected Gov. Jerry Brown of his father’s, Pat Brown’s California Water Project to provide water security. No, in his second mandate, Jerry Brown addresses the problem by setting up a carbon market, so they can sit back and collect indulgences carbon offsets while waiting for El Nino to come through.

Worried about flooding in Florida or New Jersey? Climate change causes it, so everyone is guilty and no one is accountable. Never mind that people foolishly build on flood plains, or on subsiding coastlines, or locate New Orleans below sea level between the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain. If only we reduce our CO2 emissions, these disasters will never happen again.

Should I go on? Wildfires in old growth forests where people have built homes so that controlled burning of underbrush is not done. It’s climate change, not bad forestry practices.

No wonder such rejoicing at the conclusion of COP 21. Raise your glasses of kool-aid and recite together the IPCC Creed:

We claim for ourselves the authority,
On behalf of all needy countries,
To collect Other People’s Money,
For a solution that won’t work,
To solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
If we keep the Fear alive,
We will surely meet again and again.

Truly, Paris Accord is the Greatest COP OUT Ever.

Countries claiming compensation from users of fossil fuels.

Footnote: 

French Mathematicians spoke out prior to COP21 in Paris, and their words provide a rational briefing for subsequent COP gatherings.  In a nutshell:

Fighting Global Warming is Absurd, Costly and Pointless.

  • Absurd because of no reliable evidence that anything unusual is happening in our climate.
  • Costly because trillions of dollars are wasted on immature, inefficient technologies that serve only to make cheap, reliable energy expensive and intermittent.
  • Pointless because we do not control the weather anyway.

Details at Bonn COP23 Briefing for Realists

 

Socialist Snow Job

The UN is more up front than ever with its world governance agenda. The latest proclamation was solicited from the BIOS Research Unit in Helsinki Finland Global Sustainable Development Report

The background paper commissioned by the UN Secretary-General’s IGS states that  biophysical realities are driving the transition to postcapitalism by the decline of what made ‘endless growth capitalism’ possible in the first place: abundant, cheap energy.

The UN’s Global Sustainable Development Report is being drafted by an independent group of scientists (IGS) appointed by the UN Secretary-General. The IGS is supported by a range of UN agencies including the UN Secretariat, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the UN Environment Programme, the UN Development Programme, the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the World Bank.

The section titles express the themes favored by these “ecological economists.”

GOVERNANCE OF ECONOMIC TRANSITION

  • New economic thinking for the turbulent years ahead
  • What needs to be done – in social and material terms?
  • Rapid economic transition requires proactive governance – markets cannot accomplish the task
  • Economic theory to support transition governance
  • The new geopolitical order during and after transition governance

It is a blatant call for a supra-national new world order necessitated by climate change.

Pointing to the susceptibility of democratic governments to interest groups that have an economic stake in maintaining the status quo, these environmentalists doubt democracy is up to the challenge of climate change at all. Others note that human inertia is so great that, barring a catastrophic event, the best democratic governments can do is to adapt to climate change — i.e., building sea walls around vulnerable cities. More of them are saying that, to make the hard decisions needed to deal effectively with climate change, it may be eventually be necessary to put democracy on hold, opting instead for some kind of environmental authoritarianism.

But why should we believe such radical concentration of power would be good for the planet? What is the evidence for such claims?

As it happens we have empirical evidence to test this assertion that socialism is superior to capitalism for saving the natural environment. David Legates points out recent historical examples where two modern societies were split, one part to develop for 50 years under a socialist autocracy and the other part under a free market democracy. What can we learn from these two experiments: North/South Korea and East/West Germany? Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The Experiment: Capitalism versus Socialism

With growing alarmism over carbon dioxide-induced climate change, many activists have turned toward socialism as a viable way to limit carbon-dioxide emissions. The collectivist model is perfect for top-down control over the general public as, supposedly, the government can then enact legislation to defend the environment and protect against climate change. Capitalism, it is argued, is a system based on greed, and its economic bottom line trumps the need for clean air and clean water. By contrast, the socialist model should provide a much cleaner environment as pollution (including carbon dioxide by its erroneous inclusion as a pollutant by alarmists) is anathema to the collective whole.

In a nutshell, the argument is that capitalism cannot provide the ingenuity and resilience necessary to provide a sustainable environment. The only hope, therefore, is the limitation to growth that socialism provides. Li laments that the core of the environmental movement lies in the upper middle classes of capitalist societies who erroneously believe that technology can provide a solution to climate alarmism.  In his view, the real problem, of course, is the capitalist lifestyle, which is unsustainable as it requires unlimited economic growth. By contrast, socialism provides the perfect solution in which growth can be limited by a benevolent government whose sole interest lies in protecting the collective whole. Indeed, the term eco-socialism (or Hospice Earth) has been coined to describe the concept that socialism can “replace capitalism’s need for endless material growth with more environmentally sustainable alternatives of production to meet genuine human needs.”  It is argued that eco-socialism can transform energy production such that the global society can avoid declines in human populations and all sociopolitical conflicts.

So how does this relate to The Experiment? If this line of reasoning is to be believed, then the socialist-oriented countries should be better suited to environmental preservation and sustainability than their capitalist counterparts. Or at the very least, the plans should have been in place for a cleaner environment, if the effect of other socio-economic maladies had not taken precedence. What are the facts?

Bitterfeld, East Germany

The merger of East and West Germany exposed the truth about environmentalism under socialism. Estimates suggest that 42 percent of East German rivers and streams were unable to be processed for drinking water, and almost half of East German lakes were unable to sustain fish or other higher forms of life. At most a third of industrial sewage and half of domestic sewage was treated before being dumped into rivers and lakes, while 40 percent of the population lived in conditions for which West Germany would have issued smog warnings. Only one East German power plant had sulfur-scrubbing capabilities for its stack. Even the East German Environment Minister admitted in 1990 that their environmental policy “did not exist.”

In 1990, Greenpeace labeled Bitterfeld, East Germany, as “the dirtiest place in the most polluted country in the world.”40 Sulfur dioxide permeated the air at levels five times that of West Germany, and 75 percent of the trees were dead. A Bitterfeld chemical plant put 10 times as much mercury into the Saale River each day as a comparable West German plant would dump into the Rhine River in a year. Unfortunately, the situation in East Germany was not unique; most Soviet satellite countries in Eastern Europe experienced the same environmental degradation.

The two Koreas seen from space at night.

North Korea has not fared any better under its brand of socialism. Environmental disasters plague the North, whereas South Korea thrives in abundance. Air pollution is extreme due to both the extensive combustion of coal without sulfur scrubbers and winds that blow polluted air in from China. Cutting of firewood for home heating and cooking has led to serious deforestation and concomitant soil erosion. Large cities have sewage treatment, but wastewater in rural areas is still deposited untreated into rivers. Any effort at environmental protection becomes subservient to production and the desire for full employment. Despite 25 years of technological advancement since the end of East Germany, present-day conditions in North Korea are really no better.

So why doesn’t the environmental movement see that capitalist societies are cleaner than socialist countries and gravitate toward capitalist solutions? Some environmentalists do; however, the concern over carbon dioxide has subverted common sense. Capitalist nations emit fewer pollutants but more carbon dioxide. By contrast, socialist societies are less technologically developed and, consequently, they emit less carbon dioxide. For example, per capita emissions of carbon dioxide in South Korea are almost four times as great as in North Korea. In a world in which carbon dioxide is the only currency, environmentalists are enamored with the small carbon-dioxide footprint that socialism affords. When carbon-dioxide emissions are labeled as the greatest threat to humanity, North Korea becomes a world leader in environmental sustainability, and socialism is the tool by which global compliance can be afforded.

Socialism works for the environmentalist because of several qualities. First, socialism is a collective state, thereby making personal preferences subservient to the state’s determination of what is good for the collective.  Moreover, property rights are held only by the state, and individuals must surrender all they own to the state. This actually has an additional backhanded benefit in that if no one owns that polluting factory or that river into which toxic waste is being dumped, there is no one to blame. The state will not self accuse.

Moreover, the authoritarian underpinnings of socialism allow no tolerance for dissent to be raised about what the state is—or isn’t—doing to protect the environment. Coercion is a necessary ingredient for socialism, and concomitantly many environmental policies, to be advanced. Further, its authoritarian base allows it to dictate policy, the outcome that environmentalists desire.

But the real issue is that socialism lags behind capitalist societies in the production of both wealth and technology. Socialists inherently see the restriction of energy and its availability as necessary to further their collective ideals. Without affordable, abundant energy, democracy may never have developed in Europe and Southeast Asia and led to Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, and the United States becoming leaders in innovative thinking. Availability of inexpensive energy leads to remarkable increases in industry and worker efficiency, in wages and available free time, and in living standards and human health. Ultimately, this has allowed capitalists to develop the ability to be good environmental stewards. Indeed, the air and water in capitalist countries are much cleaner than in their socialist counterparts.

It stands to reason that the availability of free time afforded by capitalism has allowed civilization to become more environmentally conscious. Environmental issues are the least of one’s concerns if one is in dire need of food, clothing, shelter, and safety. The abject poverty of many nations is looked upon with admiration by some environmentalists, even though poor countries pay little attention to their environmental health. It is criminal that environmentalists are willing to pay poor countries to remain in their current condition rather than develop the technology to further expand their economies and lift themselves from poverty. Remember, carbon dioxide is environmentalists’ currency, and delimiting its emission is their overarching goal.

The irony is that the model touted by these so-called eco-socialists is the biggest obstruction to environmental stewardship. While socialism purports to enhance the wellbeing of its citizenry, it in reality does just the opposite. Even advocates of socialism admit to its environmental failures. As James Wanliss eloquently wrote:

The environment under socialism fares no better. It is incontestable that pollution is horrendous in many of the poorest countries with the lowest levels of political and economic freedom. By contrast, countries with the greatest levels of political and economic liberty tend to be the cleanest and the wealthiest.

With merger of the two Germanys and the failure of Soviet communism, the appeal of ecologically motivated authoritarianism waned, although the ideas remained. It has re-emerged today and is modeled after modern day China rather than the Soviet Union. Although they eschew full centralized control, environmentalists see an authoritarian state as the key to allow governments to subordinate individual rights and democratic methods. Unfortunately, this type of regime can only return a society to the environmental degradation of East Germany or North Korea. Since greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are now the only concern of most environmentalists, they ignore the filth and degradation that actually accompany socialist societies.

The Importance of Freedom

The key ingredient that separated West from East Germany and still separates South from North Korea is freedom. Freedom is the elixir that fuels innovation, supports a diversity of thought, and allows people to become who they want to be, not what the state demands they must be. When the government guarantees equality of outcomes, it also stifles the creativity, diversity, ingenuity, and reward systems that allow people and countries to grow, develop, and prosper.

Energy availability is a necessary ingredient for freedom. Oppression—and indeed socialism is an oppressive political economic system—flourishes when citizens remain poor and deprived of technology. Freedom thrives when citizens have both the time and the ability to travel, communicate, innovate, and organize to better their lives or to fight a common enemy.

Both versions of The Experiment have proven this. Unfortunately, forgetful, unobservant, and ideological politicians in the U.S. are again touting the supposed benefits of socialism. They believe that capitalism is greedy and evil—and socialism, if “properly implemented,” will take us forward to realizing a better future. “Trust me, this time it will be different,” they say.

The next experiment is underway—in Venezuela. It is showing, once again, that those who turn toward the sirencall of socialism always crash upon its rocks.

And let’s not forget Brazil

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.”