Category Archives: Environment

‘We Want Them to Go Bankrupt’

Here is the Democrat Party in plain sight. This is what they want for the USA. What do you think? mrossol

WSJ  11/20/2021

Saule Omarova continues to make the case against her nomination to be Comptroller of the Currency, as critics need only to quote her own words. The latest example is a video interview she gave in February in which the Cornell professor opined on “the case for a U.S. national investment authority.”

The conversation at one point turned to climate change and its impact on fossil-fuel producers, and Ms. Omarova was on the case. “A lot of the smaller players in that industry are going to, probably, go bankrupt in short order—at least, we want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change,” she said in the session that was part of the Jain Family Institute’s “Social Wealth Seminar” series.

She went on to say “that creates a lot of this sort of loss of jobs, a lot of displacement, and economic fallback that we cannot afford, really,” which is nice of her to concede. Bankruptcy isn’t painless, especially when the government drives you out of business.

But then she adds that the response would be to set up a National Capital Management Corporation that would “become a kind of equity investor at that point, taking over management of those companies and basically leading them through restructuring to a new technological basis and to a new technological business model.”


So first put private companies out of business “in short order,” then put government central planners to work to restructure them as the political class wants. Give Ms. Omarova credit for candor. Most progressives disguise their real intentions.

All of this matters because as Comptroller Ms. Omarova would have enormous authority to regulate banks. It’s clear from this interview that one of her policy ambitions is to deny capital to certain companies that she wants to go bankrupt. Senators will have to decide if they want the Comptroller to be a one-person systemic risk to the banking system.


Climate change is no catastrophe

UnHerd by Michael Shellenberger, November 3, 2021

No global problem has ever been more exaggerated than climate change. As it has gone from being an obscure scientific question to a theme in popular culture, we’ve lost all sense of perspective.

Here are the facts: in Europe, emissions in 2020 were 26% below 1990 levels. In the United States, emissions in 2020 were 22% below 2005 levels. Emissions are likely to start declining, too, in developing nations, including China and India, within the next decade. Most nations’ emissions will be bigger this year than last, due to post-Covid economic growth. But global emissions are still likely to peak within the next decade.

And the result will be a much smaller increase in global average temperatures than almost anyone predicted just five years ago. The best science now predicts that temperatures are likely to rise just 2.5-3°C above pre-industrial levels. It’s not ideal, but it’s a far cry from the hysterical and apocalyptic predictions of 6°C, made just a decade ago. A 3°C increase is hardly an existential threat to humanity.

Not that you’d know it, if you had half an eye on the headlines this summer. The floods, fires and heatwaves that plagued the world were, for many observers, proof that the impacts of climate change have already become catastrophic. In Europe, more than 150 people died in flooding. In the United States, wildfire season started earlier and lasted longer, razing hundreds of thousands of acres. Around the world, hundreds died from heatwaves.

But again, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the facts: there has been a 92% decline in the per decade death toll from natural disasters since its peak in the 1920s. In that decade, 5.4 million people died from natural disasters. In the 2010s, just 0.4 million did. Globally, the five-year period ending in 2020 had the fewest natural disaster deaths of any five-year period since 1900. And this decline occurred during a period when the global population nearly quadrupled — and temperatures rose more than 1°C degree centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

Suggested reading

The great climate change fallacy

By Tom Chivers

But then, 1°C is not that much. What determines whether people die in heat waves is not whether temperatures rose to 110°F — or even 115°F— instead of 109°F. It is whether or not they have air conditioning. Heat-related deaths have halved in the US since 1960 — even as the population expanded and heat waves grew in frequency, intensity, and length — because more and more people did.

Though climate alarmists steadfastly ignore it, our capacity to adapt is extraordinary. We are very good at protecting people from natural disasters — and getting better. To take just one example, France in 2006 had 4,000 fewer deaths from a heat wave than anticipated thanks to improved health care, an early-warning system and greater public consciousness in response to a deadly heat wave three years earlier. Even poor, climate-vulnerable nations like Bangladesh saw deaths from natural disasters decline massively thanks to low-cost weather surveillance and warning systems and storm shelters.

And today, our capability for modifying environments is far greater than ever before. Dutch experts today are already working with the government of Bangladesh to prepare for rising sea levels. The Netherlands, of course, became a wealthy nation despite one-third of its landmass being below sea level — sometimes by a full seven meters — as a result of the gradual sinking of its landscapes.

Global sea levels rose a mere 0.19 metres between 1901 and 2010. But the IPCC estimates sea levels will rise as much as 0.66 meters by 2100 in its medium scenario, and by 0.83 meters in its high-end scenario. Still, even if these predictions prove to be significant underestimates, the slow pace of sea level rise will likely allow societies ample time for adaptation.

Where the secondary effects of climate change do cause catastrophe, it’s often due to failures on the part of authorities. The extent of the devastation wrought by wildfires on the West Coast of America was, for instance, preventable. California has mismanaged its forests for decades — including by diverting money that the state’s electric utilities could and should have spent on clearing dead wood.

Given how good we are at mitigating the effects of natural disasters, it’s ironic that so many climate alarmists focus on them. It’s perhaps because the world’s most visually dramatic, fascinating events — fires, floods, storms — make their cause stick in the minds of voters. If it were acknowledged that heat deaths were due to lack of air conditioning and forest fires were due to the buildup of wood fuel after decades of fire suppression, alarmist journalists, scientists and activists would be deprived of the “news hooks” they need to scare people, raise money and advocate climate policies.

And not all climate alarmists are altruists. Elites have used the cause to justify efforts to control food and energy policies for more than three decades. Climate alarmists have successfully redirected funding from the World Bank and similar institutions away from economic development and toward charitable endeavours — which don’t power growth.

Suggested reading

Is this the end of the world?

By Doug Coupland

This is part of a common pattern: the people who claim to be most alarmed about climate change are the ones blocking its only viable solutions, natural gas and nuclear. This year’s increase in coal production is a case in point. China has been widely criticised for waiving environmental and safety regulations on its mining recently, in a mad rush to meet winter heating demands. But less attention has been paid to the fact that the increased demand is mostly due to climate activists’ efforts to prevent oil and gas development in Europe and the United States. Lack of natural gas is what led directly to China having to reopen coal mines — and to Europe, North America, and the rest of Asia having to burn more coal. Had climate activists not fought fracking in America and expanded oil and gas drilling in Europe, then we would not be experiencing its worst energy crisis in 50 years.

Meanwhile, the organisations claiming that climate change dooms poor Africans to war, drought and poverty — including the WWF, the World Economic Forum and the United Nations — are the ones seeking to deny poor Africans life-changing natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, and funding for fertiliser, roads and tractors. It goes without saying that all those organisations are dominated by rich, white Westerners.

The truth is that prosperity and environmental progress go hand in hand. Reductions in carbon emissions came from fracking and off-shore natural gas drilling; both lowered electricity prices, too. Technological innovation like this lowers energy prices, which reduces natural resource use, moving humans from wood to coal to natural gas to uranium. So it’s better to see growth — such a bogeyman to Team Green — as a solution, rather than a problem.

Instead of putting the brakes on, we should be facilitating more innovation, prosperity and wealth. For instance, the melodramatic UN’s own Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) concludes, as do all reputable analysts, that future food production, especially in poor African nations, will depend more on access to technology, irrigation and infrastructure than on climate change — these are the things that made all the difference, last century, in today’s rich nations. Humans today produce enough food for ten billion people, a 25% surplus. And even the FAO suggests that we’ll produce even more, under a wide range of climate change scenarios.

Indeed, the best available economic modelling finds that, by 2100, the global economy will be three to six times larger than it is today, and that the costs of adapting to a high (4°C) temperature rise would reduce gross domestic product by just 4.5%. Why kill ourselves trying to eliminate a problem that just isn’t that severe?

Suggested reading

Eco-fascism is our future

By Paul Kingsnorth

Consider the other threats humankind has recently been forced to cope with. In July 2019, NASA announced it had been caught by surprise when a “city-killer” asteroid passed by — just one-fifth of the distance between Earth and the Moon. In December 2019, a volcano unexpectedly erupted in New Zealand, killing 21 people. And in 2020 and 2021, four million people died from coronavirus.

While nations take reasonable actions to detect and avoid asteroids, super-volcanoes, and deadly flus, they generally don’t take radical actions — for the simple reason that doing so would make societies poorer and less capable of confronting all major challenges. Richer nations are more resilient, which is part of the reason why disasters have declined. When a hurricane hits Florida, it might kill no one, but when that same storm hits Haiti, thousands can die instantly through drowning — and thousands more subsequently, in disease epidemics like cholera. The difference is that Florida can afford to prepare properly, and Haiti can’t.

The richer the world gets, the better it will cope, then. But the climate alarmists have taken against economic growth. According to their holy scripture, the industrial revolution, powered by fossil fuels, was our fall — and the consequence is, according to the United Nations, “extinction.” The only alternative is puritan: don’t eat meat and don’t fly. There are even indulgences, for the wealthy who feel guilty, in the form of carbon offsets sold through the airlines.

This is the heart of the matter: climate alarmism is powerful because it has emerged as the alternative religion for supposedly secular people, providing many of the same psychological benefits as traditional faith. It offers a purpose — to save the world from climate change — and a story that casts the alarmists as heroes. And it provides a way for them to find meaning in their lives — while retaining the illusion that they are people of science and reason, not superstition and fantasy.

Naturally, as a religion, climate change has a fraudulent aspect. Some offsets pay rich landowners not to cut down trees they could not profitably cut down anyway. Exposed, the climate religion seeks to censor. The American government’s Forest Service has repeatedly silenced one of California’s most published and respected scientists, Malcolm North, who stressed to me and other reporters that the cause of high-intensity forest fires is not climate change, but rather wood fuel. The Center for American Progress, which raises tens of millions from natural gas, renewable energy, and financial interests, has been pressuring Facebook to censor critics of renewable energy.

It’s working: few people have a realistic understanding of climate change. Few consider whether, at its current rates, it might be less dangerous than efforts to mitigate it.


Can we trust the climate scientists?

Unherd  7/26/2021

There’s a problem with writing about science — any science — which is that scientists are human like the rest of us. They are not perfect disembodied truth-seeking agents but ordinary, flawed humans navigating social, professional and economic incentive structures.

Most notably, scientists, like people, are social. If they exist in a social or professional circle that believes X, it is hard to say not-X; if they have professed to believe Y, they won’t want to look silly and admit not-Y. It might even be hard to get research funded or published if it isn’t in line with what the wider group believes.

All this makes it very hard, as an outsider, to assess some scientific claims. You can ask some expert, but they will be an expert within the social and professional milieu that you’re looking at, and who will likely share the crony beliefs of that social and professional milieu. All of which often makes it hard to disentangle why scientists do and say the things they do. Especially when it comes to scientific claims that are politically charged, claims on hot-button topics like race, sex, poverty — and of course climate.

I couldn’t help thinking about that as I was reading Steven Koonin’s new book, Unsettled. Koonin is (as it says, prominently, on the front of the book) the “former Undersecretary for Science, US Department of Energy, under the Obama administration”. The publishers are obviously very keen to stress the Obama link: “…under the Trump administration” might not have carried the same heft.

Koonin came to public attention a few years ago, after he wrote a controversial opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal headlined “Climate science is not settled”. It was a response to what he considered the widely held opinion among policymakers and the wider public that, in fact, climate science is settled. His particular concern was that we can’t yet accurately predict what the future climate shifts will be. The book itself is best thought of as the extended version of that op-ed, with added graphs.

We can break down his thesis into, roughly, three areas. One, is that despite “the mainstream narrative among the media and policymakers”, it is hard to be sure that the climate has changed in meaningful ways due to human influence. In particular, floods, rainfall, droughts, storms, and record high temperatures have not become more common, and although the climate is unambiguously warming and sea levels have gone up, it’s hard to confidently separate human influence from natural variability.

Two, he says, climate models are highly uncertain and struggle to successfully predict the past, let alone the future, so we shouldn’t trust confident claims about the climate future. And if we do accept the IPCC’s predictions, they aren’t of imminent catastrophe. Instead, they point to slow change which humanity can easily adapt to, and, broadly speaking, to humanity continuing to prosper.

And three, he continues, there is basically nothing we can do about it anyway, partly because carbon dioxide hangs around in the atmosphere for so long, but mainly because the developing world is developing fast, and using ever more carbon to do so, and actually that’s a good thing.

These are — according to Koonin — all, by and large, only what the IPCC assessment reports and other major climate analyses say. The public conversation, which he says is full of doom and apocalypse and unwarranted certainty, has become unconnected from the state of the actual science. And he blames scientists — and policymakers, the media and the public — for that disconnection.

So is he right? Certainly he has a case when it comes to Point One: I think he is correct that the media narrative about climate change is not especially well correlated with the IPCC’s own central assessments. For instance, I think it’s fair to say that the recent floods in London, China and Germany have been held up as examples of a changing climate. But the IPCC’s most recent assessment report, 2014’s AR5, found studies showing evidence for “upward, downward or no trend in the magnitude of floods” (see p214 of the AR5 Physical Science Basis document; be warned it’s a big PDF), and concluded that they were unable to be sure whether, globally, river floods had become more or less likely.

Similarly, I think there is a perception among many commentators and policymakers that storms, hurricanes, and droughts are all more common as a result of climate change, but the IPCC’s own report (see p.53 of AR5) has “low confidence” that those things are more common than they were 100 years ago. I know some scientists think the IPCC is overoptimistic, but it is the closest we have to consensus climate science.

That said, there is some fairness in accusing Koonin of cherrypicking. He spends a lot of time arguing about extreme daily temperatures, convincingly (to my mind) debunking a claim in the 2017 Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), the flagship US government climate science assessment, that US extreme daily temperature records have gone up. In fact, CSSR is comparing the ratio of extreme high temperatures to extreme low temperatures, and what in fact has happened is that extreme low temperatures have become less common. Which is interesting.

But the IPCC does think extreme daily temperatures have gone up globally (see p53 again). In his chapter on “Hyping the Heat”, Koonin doesn’t mention the IPCC, and the IPCC outranks the CSSR. His detective work is interesting, but he is fighting a henchman, not the end-of-level boss. Maybe the IPCC is wrong as well, but we don’t learn that here.

On Point Two, I don’t feel competent to assess the models; certainly it seems highly plausible to me that there are enormous uncertainties in predicting something as inherently chaotic as the climate, especially when to do so you first have to predict something as inherently chaotic as people. But my non-expert understanding is that broadly speaking the models have been getting it about right.

That said, I think he is right that, if you were to ask the average person in my social circle, you would hear that climate change will lead to catastrophe in the near future. And I think that is overstating what the IPCC reports actually say. For instance, it is true that the IPCC predicts more people will go hungry than otherwise would have: it says that almost 140 million children will be undernourished, in a world where climate change goes unmitigated, compared to 113 million in a world where there is no climate change (see p730 of this IPCC report). But that is still fewer than went hungry in 2000 – almost 150 million, out of a much smaller population. The IPCC predicts that a world with climate change will be worse than one without; but not so much worse that other things, such as economic growth and technological progress, won’t broadly keep the big things, like life expectancy and human health, improving. That does seem worth saying.

And Koonin’s Point Three is worth making too. If India were to increase its per capita emissions to those of Japan, “one of the lowest emitting of the developed countries”, he says, then that change alone would raise global emissions by 25%1. Realistically, we’re not going to be able to stop India — or China, or Brazil, or Mexico, or any of the other middle-income countries — from developing, and development at the moment means carbon.

More importantly: we don’t want them to stop developing. Richer countries have healthier, longer-lived citizens and are better able to cope with a changing climate. Even huge, swingeing cuts to Western emissions — politically unrealistic — would only go some way to offsetting the inevitable growth in the developing world. Those cuts may be worth doing, but there are limits to how much good they can do.

But even if Koonin is right about almost everything — if the best guess of the science is that we’re heading towards things merely getting better more slowly, rather than getting worse — then I think he’s missing a major point. That is, climate change models are uncertain. In fact Koonin claims they’re even more uncertain than we think. So they could easily be erring on the side of optimism.

And the one thing we should have learnt from the Covid pandemic is that it’s not enough to say “the most likely outcome is that it’ll be fine, so let’s act as if it’ll be fine.” The correct thing to say is “the most likely outcome is that it’ll be fine, but if there’s a 10% chance that it’ll be completely awful, then we need to prepare for that 10% chance.” Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world reduces the chance of some unforeseen but plausible disaster: as a happy bonus, it makes our cities more pleasant places in which to live. It will come at some cost, but hopefully not too high, because green technology is getting so cheap and effective these days.

Reviews by climate scientists have been unimpressed. “I would normally ignore a book by a non-climate scientist,” starts one review, which goes on to not ignore it. Another accuses him of cherry-picking his fights (not entirely unfairly, as I said). A third says the book is “distracting, irrelevant, misguided, misleading and unqualified”.

But none that I’ve read really addresses the nitty-gritty of his arguments — which is hard to do in a 900-word review, of course, but still. They usually pick some line out of the first chapter or two, disagree with it, and then say the whole book is therefore rubbish. But I wanted a bit more meat to the objections.

The third review, for instance, quotes Koonin as saying “The warmest temperatures in the US have not risen in the past fifty years,” and then asks “According to what measure?” Well, Koonin tells you the measure, at length: absolute record extreme daily temperatures. Maybe he’s wrong, but he does answer that in the book. (And your next sentence is “Highest annual global averages?” He’s talking about the US! You just quoted that bit!)

Similarly, it complains that Koonin says that the sea is only rising about a foot per century, saying “The trouble is that while seas have risen eight to nine inches since 1880, more than 30 percent of that increase has occurred during the last two decades.” But again: Koonin addresses this, for pretty much an entire chapter. His point is that most of the rest of the rise came during an (unexplained by climate models, according to him) period of rapid warming from 1910 to 1940, before human influence should have been relevant. That, he says, is good evidence that natural variation is driving the current acceleration. Is he right? I don’t know. But the reviewer is not attacking Koonin’s argument at its strongest point.

In fact, none of them seem to: they just want to dismiss the book. They attack Koonin’s credibility and credentials, his temperament. They say he was only hired by the Obama Energy Department because of his contrarian views; they call him a “climate denier”, which seems de trop since he accepts most of the central claims of the climate consensus. The response felt more like a circling of the wagons than a serious effort to counter a serious argument. After all, it is unpleasant to hear reasons why you might be wrong about something: cognitive dissonance is painful.

I started this book confident that climate change is a serious concern, and I finished it only slightly less confident; Koonin has not persuaded me. But I’m glad Unsettled, flawed though it is, has been written. As I said at the beginning, science in a politically charged environment is very hard to assess. Scientists are as prone to groupthink and motivated reasoning as anyone else, and I know very well that there are some who feel they need to keep heterodox views quiet. The reviews, which make so little effort to engage with the substance of the arguments, do not reassure me that climate science is a uniquely groupthink-free discipline.

One thing Koonin suggests is a so-called “Red Teaming” of climate scientists: getting scientists to act as adversarial critics of the existing consensus, a method used by superforecasters, among others, to improve their accuracy by actively hunting out flaws in their reasoning. Science can only progress if assumptions are tested. Red teams in climate institutions — any institutions — seem like a good idea, and I’d support them.

Whether it’s possible or not, of course, is tricky to say. The climate debate is so highly charged, so borderline toxic, that it might be difficult for any climate scientist to take on the red-team role without making their own life more difficult. According to Koonin, one senior climate scientist told him “I agree with pretty much everything you wrote, but I don’t dare say that in public.” The old “in my emails, everyone agrees with me” line is hardly a new one, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a bit of truth in it.

But if the Catholic Church was able to stomach someone advocating for the Devil, then climate science should be able to stomach one doing it for the sceptics. And in the meantime, this book does an acceptable job.

  1.  He’s right. Japanese people emit about nine tons per capita, and Indians about two, so if 1.3 billion Indians started emitting seven extra tons a year, that’d be about nine billion tons on top of 2019’s 38 billion or so[0]=18743&tl_period_type=3&mc_cid=c1772088ed&mc_eid=0ff3e7ea29


Facebook’s ‘Fact Checks’ Suppress Debate

An example of how major technology platforms are subtly or not so subtly influencing “the narrative”. It is pernicious. mrossol

WSJ   5/16/2021 By Steven E. Koonin

This paper published Mark Mills’s review of “Unsettled,” my book on climate science, on April 25. Eight days later, 11 self-appointed “fact checkers” weighed in with a 4,500-word critique on the website Facebook is waving that fact check as a giant red flag whenever the review appears in anyone’s feed.

By branding Mr. Mills’s review with “very low scientific credibility,” the company directs its billions of users to a website that claims to discredit the review and, by direct implication, my book. This action adds to the growing suppression of open discussion of climate complexities.

ClimateFeedback bills itself as “a worldwide network of scientists sorting fact from fiction in climate change media coverage.” Its modus operandi is to label necessarily brief media statements as misleading or inaccurate, often because they lack context. While acknowledging that “global crop yields are rising,” for instance, they add the untestable claim that yields might have been greater absent human-caused climate change. The gang of enforcers who “fact checked” Mr. Mills’s review included professors from Stanford, UCLA and MIT.


The oddest element of Facebook’s action is that the “fact check” doesn’t challenge anything I wrote in “Unsettled,” but rather provides “context” for Mr. Mills’s statements.

The “fact checkers’ ” motivation is apparent in their criticism of a statement about extreme weather events. Two of three fact-checking contributors, Daniel Swain and Andreas Prein, acknowledge that “tornado frequency and severity are also not trending up; nor are the number and severity of droughts,” and go on to explain why it might not be true in the future, as I do in “Unsettled.” Highlighting the absence of global trends in most types of severe weather is a rebuttal of the widespread claim that the climate is “broken.” But another contributor, Kerry Emanuel, an MIT professor who hasn’t read my book, disapproves of the statement because “it sets up a strawman” to disparage climate predictions. It seems Mr. Emanuel would allow media to discuss only deleterious climate trends.

Thoughtful challenge and dialogue are the most powerful ways that science gets closer to truth. But Facebook’s “fact checkers” criticized what they imagined I wrote based on a 900-word review, rather than what I did write in a book of more than 75,000 words. They’re no better than trolls who pan political adversaries’ books on Amazon without bothering to read them. It’s not the behavior of serious scientists, and it demonstrates the need for a book like “Unsettled.”

Wise responses to the changing climate require that we get the unfiltered certainties and uncertainties of climate science into the public dialogue. As most fair-minded people will discover, there is far more unsettled in the official United Nations and U.S. government reports than we have been led to believe. It doesn’t help to have Facebook spreading disinformation under the guise of “fact checking.”

Mr. Koonin is author of “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters.” His detailed response to the “fact check” appears here.