Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Biden’s Green Energy Plans Would Require Covering The American West In Solar Panels

Environmentalists say they want to preserve the natural world in its original, pristine state.

Yet the climate change activists among them would instead cast a solar panel shroud of human fabrication over parts of the great American West.

President Biden has given them the green light

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management last month updated its Western Solar Plan, detailing options to open public land for large solar projects.

The bureau’s earlier blueprint allowed 16 million acres of public land to be used for solar development, which has now been enlarged to 22 million acres across 11 Western states. That’s more than 34,000 square miles — about the size of Maine.

Only portions of this land would be used. There are exclusions for steeply sloped terrain, tracts containing sensitive environmental and cultural resources, and land beyond a 10-mile distance from current or planned transmission lines.

Altogether, about 700,000 acres would be used to support the administration’s plan to convert the entire electric grid to intermittent sources such as solar and wind by 2035.

The scheme would add to the more than 11,000 megawatts of solar, wind, and geothermal energy the administration boasts it has already approved, which will provide electricity for more than 3.5 million homes — unless it’s a cloudy or windless day.

The Interior Department’s period for public comment on the revised plan ends April 18.

In addition to the massive human footprint blighting the natural environment, solar energy development has other downsides.

Most obvious is that even in the sun-drenched West, the sun doesn’t shine at night, which means backup power must always remain on standby.

And while solar panel manufacturing has exploded to meet growing world demand, it is not the United States that stands to benefit from Mr. Biden’s green energy policies.

In the past decade, China has grabbed a more than 80% market share of panel manufacturing, according to the International Energy Agency.

Increasing U.S. supply chain dependence and China’s export profits is hardly what the president has in mind with his “build back better” agenda.

Also, solar panels lose their capacity to transform sunlight into electrons in the course of an estimated 30 years of use. What to do with the expired sheets of glass and metal that no longer generate power?

According to the Department of Energy, the cost of recycling runs up to $45 per panel, which is far more than the $5 cost of disposal. That means most are destined for a landfill.

The consequence is a heap of trash that the International Renewable Energy Agency estimates could weigh in at 77 million tons by 2050 — yet another environmental blight.

With next-generation panels providing greater efficiency at lower cost, the option of replacing aging panels with new ones could result in 50 times as much waste, according to a 2021 Harvard Business Review study. Oops.


Foundations Who Channel Public Funds Into ‘Renewable’ Energy

Of all rackets, the so-called ‘renewable energy’ racket may be the most fraudulent and nonsensical.

What geologists call the Last Glacial Period occurred between c. 115,000 – c. 11,700 years ago.

Pretty much ALL human development has occurred since the glaciers retreated.

During the last Ice Age, glaciers advanced as far south as what is now the state of Missouri.

They retreated at a time when human population is estimated to have numbered around 4 million.

The so-called ‘greenhouse gases’—carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone—comprise less than one percent of the earth’s atmosphere.

Even scientists who pay lip service to the human induced global warming theory acknowledge that for most of the last 300 million years, CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere were much higher than they are today.

In the 1970s, climatologists were concerned that modern man would soon experience another cooling trend, resulting in yet another glacial advance that would bulldoze the cities of Canada and much of the United States.

In the eighties, the theory of global warming—induced by human ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions—became fashionable.

What really ignited this intellectual, social, and political trend was the discovery that billions of public funds could be funneled into ‘renewable energy’ industries through the mechanism of subsidies and tax credits.

This morning I stumbled across a notable investigative report titled Secret Partnership Fueling Climate Hawk Journalism.

Note that many of the foundations that are key players in Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex are also key players in the Climate-Industrial Complex.


Proposed Climate Reporting Rule Is Foolish and Outside of SEC’s Mission, Study Shows

A new study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) finds the climate disclosure rule being finalized by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “exceeds the commission’s statutory authority, undermines its existing disclosure-based framework, and greatly increases costs and work-hour burdens for companies subject to the mandate.”

When the SEC first broached the possibility of such a rule in 2022, I offered an official comment. I wrote, in part,

The SEC’s proposed climate accounting and disclosure rules fall well outside its legal mission to protect investors from fraud and the markets from insider trading and manipulation.

The factors likely to materially affect the success or failure of publicly traded companies are best known to the officers and managers of the firms and funds themselves, not the SEC, other regulatory agencies, politicians, or self-appointed stakeholders, including climate activists, not actively involved in the relevant business.

The effects of climate change 20, 30, 50, or 100 years from now are unknown and unknowable. …

The SECs proposed rules would require publicly traded companies to track and report on the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from their own operations and those of companies in their supply chain and the electric utilities that supply them power. In addition, companies would have to determine and report on how climate change is affecting their businesses now, how it is likely to affect them in the future, and what they are doing in response, including steps they are taking to reduce non-toxic greenhouse gas emissions.

These rules would take hundreds of millions, possibly billions, of dollars away from businesses core operations, to carry out the SECs mandate to predict future climate to account for its fiscal effect on business operations, and act as their brothers’ keepers by tracking their power companies and suppliers’ emissions as well as their own.

The SEC does not possess the statutory power to deputize or empower officers of publicly traded corporations to act as agents of the state to seek information from other companies under its regulatory control, much less from individuals or companies not under its regulatory purview.

CEI Research Fellow Stone Washington’s analysis confirms my own and goes beyond it to detail the myriad failings of the rule. Taken together, these flaws undermine any legitimate case the SEC might assert for its climate disclosure rule. CEI’s press release about the study states,

Under the SEC’s proposed rule, companies must report how climate change risk factors influence their financial decisions, business, models, locations, and projects. Regulated companies will be required to capture and report data on their direct, indirect, and value-chain produced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

By capturing data from regulated companies’ value-chain—known in the rule as Scope 3 emissions (Scope 1 are direct emissions, Scope 2 are indirect emissions)—the rule would greatly expand the SEC’s regulatory reach, allowing it to demand information from a host of private entities that are not usually the target of the commission’s regulatory powers. The rule’s requirements would harm many non-regulated suppliers, including farmers, ranchers, and facility owners, simply because they do business with a registered company.

[T]he climate disclosure rule’s Scope 3 mandate will compel unregulated private companies to turn over sensitive GHG emissions data to registered firm partners. This backdoor regulation will likely be deemed by a reviewing court to compel information that is financially immaterial.

In his study, Washington says the proposed rule has all sorts of legal problems:

The SEC’s current climate rule now seeks to radically redefine established standards of materiality. This defies the Supreme Court’s Northway decision, previous agency precedent, and the agency’s statutory authorization … [and] violates the nondelegation doctrine, specifically the “major questions doctrine.”

In addition to the lack of appropriateness and legality of the rule, it is impractical. Washington estimates the rule will impose an additional $864,000 or more of annual disclosure costs for the average firm, with firms being forced “to hire lawyers, accountants, and ESG experts to contend with the rule’s estimated 39 million additional hours of paperwork.”

Large companies can absorb such costs, but smaller ones will struggle. The rule will force them to increase their prices or divert scarce resources from their core operations. Either way, their operations will be made less competitive with those of larger firms. On top of all that, the SEC has requested an additional $101 million in funding from Congress to hire new ESG-focused staff—more deficit spending for President Biden’s all-of-government approach to fighting climate change.

In a recent article on the SEC’s rule, I noted an additional problem:

If a company reported in its public documents and to the SEC that it did not expect climate change to materially affect its operations, whether because its board did not consider climate change a serious threat based on real-world data, or because it had no way of anticipating the types of weather events that might occur in the future, where, or when, it would be honest. However, it is doubtful that such honesty of a conclusion on the part of a company would satisfy the SEC’s climate mandarins.

Indeed, although the rule would do nothing to prevent climate change, because no single company or industry substantially impacts global warming, it would open regulated companies up to potential enforcement actions from the SEC and lawsuits from activists for “improper filing,” if the SEC isn’t satisfied with the filing or the anticipated impacts do not occur but other unforeseen impacts do occur that do materially affect the company’s profitability.

What should we conclude about the SEC’s rule? Washington has an answer:

In its current form, the SEC’s proposed climate disclosure rule will lead to expanded red tape, huge compliance costs, lawsuits, and little meaningful disclosure. Thus, the SEC should reconsider implementing the rule … and focus on its statutory mission of collecting disclosures of financially relevant information.

I wholeheartedly concur.


Australia is way off track on drive for new fuel standards

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen is not someone who allows the grass to grow under his feet, or under the industrial-sized solar panels he is so keen to promote, for that matter.

Early this month, he announced the government’s intention to introduce a New Vehicle Efficiency Standard for Australia. At the time, he told us Australia and Russia are the only advanced economies in the world not to have such a policy.

After the standard is implemented here, Russia will be on its own – something that’s not likely to worry the Russian government unduly. Bowen is targeting a start date of next year.

As is the case with many policy settings, the devil is always in the detail. It’s not just about having or not having an efficiency standard; it’s also about the parameters of the policy, other related measures and timing. Bowen plans to accelerate the implementation of the standard here by insisting we catch up to the US by 2028. This is the first problem with Bowen’s announcement.

How these schemes work is that an overall efficiency standard (typically set in terms of CO2 grams per kilometre) applies across a manufacturer’s entire fleet for sale. On average, the standard must be met, with some vehicles above the standard and others below. Credits are generated if the standard is more than met and these are tradable. For those who cannot meet the standard, these credits can be bought.

The expectation is that manufactures will seek to impose higher prices on vehicles that are above the standard and lower prices for those below it.

In other words, the standard induces price cross-subsidisation so the overall standard can be met and penalties won’t be payable. Electric vehicles are highly prized in this setting. But for those models of cars with above-standard efficiency, prices will inevitably rise.

Now if you think this is suppressing consumer sovereignty, you wouldn’t be wrong. Instead of allowing car buyers to take into account fuel efficiency as well as other characteristics, this policy deliberately restricts consumer choice to meet the government’s target. Bear in mind here that the most popular vehicles in Australia – the Ford Ranger ute and the Toyota HiLux – will massively exceed the new standard. There is speculation of price increases of between $10,000 and $25,000 for some models.

Bowen claims everyone will still be able to buy their preferred car; indeed he expects the choice of vehicles to expand even though Australia is known to be one of the best catered-for markets for right-hand-drive cars in the world.

The fact that there is little demand for some very small, fuel-efficient vehicles – those that are common in Europe and the UK – is mainly due to their unsuitability for families as well as being underpowered for Australian conditions. Bear in mind here that in Europe and the UK, petrol/diesel is highly taxed. The high price of petrol/diesel has been a driving force for many years determining the kinds of cars these citizens purchase. And, of course, many of these countries are the size of a handkerchief compared with Australia.

Using his department’s assumption-driven modelling, Bowen is predicting Australians stand to save about $1000 per vehicle per year by 2028. If that sounds unconvincing, it’s because it is. For starters, most people only buy new cars occasionally.

There are also some large leaps of faith about the take-up of electric vehicles – the real heart of this new policy – and the fact that it should be cheaper to charge a vehicle at home and drive a certain distance compared with filling up an internal combustion engine vehicle. Recent data point to it now being more expensive to use paid-for fast chargers between Melbourne and Sydney than driving a petrol-fuelled car.

(A complication that Bowen chooses to ignore about this policy is the fact that EVs use electricity generated still mainly from coal. The modelling doesn’t take into account this second-round effect.)

Had his department been closely watching overseas developments, he would also have been aware of significant problems emerging in a number of countries in relation to vehicle emissions standards, particularly the US.

Notwithstanding the extremely generous subsidies available to EV purchasers and the fact that a number of the car manufacturers have aggressively switched to EVs – think here Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen – EV sales have stalled. There are said to be row upon row of unsold EVs in dealers’ premises in the US and the dealers are now loudly complaining. The Biden administration is now considering watering down its emissions standards.

It turns out early adopters were keen to buy EVs – many had another vehicle in their garage – but demand has since slowed. The combination of high purchase prices, costly insurance and poor resale values, as well as ongoing issues with charging, has contributed to this outcome. (In the UK, this trend is, unbelievably, being blamed on an article written by Rowan Atkinson.)

Some of the car companies are now scrambling to change direction, with GM reintroducing a plug-in hybrid model to kickstart sales as well as deal with the efficiency standard. Toyota has emerged a winner in this race, with its chief always sceptical about rapid consumer acceptance of EVs. Toyota has been a substantial investor in hybrid technology and its hybrid vehicles have emerged as commercial winners in a number of countries.

Another clear trend in the motoring world is the increasing dominance of Chinese car manufacturers, particularly in the EV space. Their factories are churning out reasonable quality cars at much lower prices than the car companies that have dominated world sales for decades. Volkswagen, in particular, is under pressure as its strategic tilt to EV production fails to meet commercial expectations. (The fact that Chinese vehicles are constructed using cheap coal-fired electricity is again something that policymakers such as Bowen chose to ignore.)

So what is really driving Bowen’s decision to run with this new vehicle efficiency standard with its accelerated timetable? There are number of factors at work. The first is that some of the car companies and activists have been strongly pushing this standard. Volkswagen, which was caught up in a significant emissions misreporting incident, is very keen to see the new standard implemented.

Secondly, Bowen now realises the government’s stated emissions reduction target of a 43 per cent cut by 2030 won’t be met with current policy settings and the delayed rollout of renewable energy and new transmission lines. He is seeking some quick abatement from road transport to get closer to the target.

As for the conclusion that the policy will return $3 for every $1 spent, pull the other one. I can come up with an equally plausible set of assumptions that leads to a negative net return. When the government report makes the fatuous claim that “the projected impact of (car) emissions on Australian’s climate outlook cannot be ignored”, you know the bureaucrats are talking through their hat. (Hint: it’s about global emissions.)

Bowen might also be well-advised to admit that Australians love their cars.




Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Eiffel power – France’s nuclear charge

As a consistent supporter of nuclear energy, it is encouraging to see a new French energy bill reaffirming the country’s commitment to nuclear power as ‘energy sovereignty’.

The draft bill omits setting targets for solar power, wind power, and other renewables, in favour of expanding ‘the sustainable choice of using nuclear energy as a competitive and carbon-free’ source of electricity.

This development follows a new wave of support for nuclear energy at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai last year. France’s President Emmanuel Macron led the pledge which signed up 21 world leaders to ‘triple nuclear energy capacity from 2020 by 2050’. After signing he cheered: ‘Nuclear energy is back!’

Across the world, many countries are turning to atomic energy and rethinking their renewables targets.

In July 2023, the Swedish Parliament dumped its 100 per cent renewable target in order to build new nuclear plants claiming it needs a stable and reliable energy source.

South Africa, battling crippling energy blackouts, announced plans to add 2,500 megawatts of new nuclear generation within the next decade to resolve power shortages and secure long-term energy supply.

South Korea have reversed their phase-out of nuclear power acknowledging its efficiency in a time of rapid electrification of industry and everyday life.

Even after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, by 2015 the Japanese government had re-started the nuclear power industry with a target of reaching 20 per cent of the national electricity supply by 2030. Last year, Japan’s Cabinet approved the construction of new power plants and extended the lifespans of its existing reactors to 60 years.

While some nations are phasing out nuclear in favour of renewables, their dependency on importing electricity is growing. After Germany shut down the country’s last three nuclear power plants in April 2023, they have found themselves relying on imports from both France and Belgium’s nuclear-integrated power grids.

Nuclear energy remains a reliable, stable, and carbon-free energy source around the world, and Australia, as a world supplier of uranium, should embrace its energy opportunities too.

There are 60 nuclear power reactors currently under construction around the world and a further 110 are planned. There are 440 operating in 33 countries and an additional 30 countries considering, planning, and commencing nuclear power programs.

By contrast, Australia continues its Cold War reactionary approach, with outdated legislation blocking any true assessment of this alternative, internationally proven, carbon-free energy source.

In November 2023, the Victorian Labor government and Labor-allied crossbenchers voted down a private member’s bill seeking to repeal the state’s 1983 prohibition on nuclear energy-related activity. During debate, Labor dismissed the ‘fantasy being peddled now by the nuclear industry that somehow we have got new technology’ and described those favouring nuclear as the solution to our energy transition as ‘charlatans’.

If Labor can only resort to 40-year-old arguments and name-calling, they are clearly finding it difficult to come up with substantive reasons for their opposition.

In 2020, the Legislative Council’s Environment and Planning Committee inquiry into nuclear prohibition found that no detailed business case could be made without the moratorium being lifted.

The report found that ‘a number of submitters and witnesses have made the point that the necessary business case or firm proposals will not be attempted while a prohibition remains in place’. It concluded that ‘current estimates of the cost of nuclear energy in Australia are unreliable and accurately costing the full cost is not possible without a detailed business case being undertaken’.

Despite the evidence that banning the debate on nuclear energy stops assessment of its cost and efficacy, Labor continues to bury their heads in the sand.

We cannot forget Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, who put on a nationally embarrassing display at COP28 in Dubai.

While he attracted widespread derision for his extended Acknowledgement of Country, which now encompasses all the indigenous peoples of the world, it is perhaps fortunate less attention was paid to the detail of what he said.

Bowen claimed Australia was ‘within striking distance’ of the Albanese government’s target of a 43 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 while simultaneously tabling an ‘Annual Climate Change Statement’ in Parliament which showed Australian carbon emissions rose by 3.6 million tonnes the first six months of 2023.

Bowen’s virtue signalling knows no bounds as he jetted in on a fossil-fuelled plane to the UAE, the world’s eighth largest fossil fuel exporter, where the COP28 unanimously agreed to ‘transition away from fossil fuels’.

While leading nations provide a compelling and trailblazing example of how nuclear energy can provide safe, cheap, and carbon-free electricity, Labor’s ill-conceived excuses and dogmatic arguments now look embarrassingly outdated and parochial. The advent of Australian nuclear submarines should finally shatter them.

A non-nuclear Net Zero is fantasy, and for the good of Australia, it’s high time the state and federal Labor parties recognised that fact.


UK: Decarbonisation is Labour’s next green policy disaster

Keir Starmer isn’t even in Downing Street yet already his government-in-waiting is in danger of being defined by its £28 billion green spending pledge, just as Tony Blair’s administration was defined by ‘45 minutes’ – the claimed deployment time of Saddam Hussein’s fabled weapons of mass destruction.

First, Starmer promised to spend that sum on green initiatives in every year of the next parliament. Then it was revised down to spending £28 billion in the last year of the next parliament. Last week he dropped the pledge and said instead that £4.7 billion a year would be spent on green investment.

But in the melee a more rash policy has been overlooked: Labour’s pledge to decarbonise the electricity grid by 2030 – which brings the present government’s target forward by five years. This is one of the five great ‘missions’ laid out in the party’s pre-manifesto pitch, along with the creation of a state-owned company, Great British Energy, to achieve it. Not only will it save carbon emissions, Labour claims (without any evidence or published workings) but it will also save us an enormous amount of money, taking ‘up to £1,400 off the annual household bill and £53 billion off energy bills for businesses’ within six years. This is quite a boast, considering the average household pays £1,928 a year in energy bills.

A large part of Labour’s decarbonisation plans are laid out in a document called ‘Make Britain a Clean Energy Superpower’. Labour says it wants to quadruple offshore wind and double onshore wind by 2030, as well as to triple solar capacity. But this is likely to be impossible, not least because the National Grid won’t be able to get hold of enough subsea cables to plug in the required number of extra offshore wind turbines. There are four suppliers of such cables in the world – all of them have full order books until 2030.

Would Labour’s plan be doable even if it could get the required kit – and would it really save households money? Labour’s case is based on the idea that wind and solar energy are the cheapest forms of energy around. It repeats an often-quoted conceit that, at one point in 2022, ‘renewable energy was nine times cheaper than gas’ and asserts that it remains much cheaper.

But the ‘nine times’ claim was never true. It was made by CarbonBrief, a green energy advocacy website. They arrived at the figure by taking the prices paid for gas power at the very peak of the market in the summer of 2022 – £446 per megawatt-hour – as European countries rushed to fill their gas storage facilities ready for winter, following the loss of Russian gas after the invasion of Ukraine. It then compared them with the long-term, guaranteed ‘strike prices’ offered to operators of wind and solar farms over a 15-year period. In an auction in 2022, wind and solar farms agreed to a strike price of £48 per megawatt–hour.

It was like comparing the cost of a bus journey using a season ticket to that of hailing an Uber in rush hour. If you take the average price of gas power over the past 15 years, it is considerably less than wind or solar power.

Since 2022, the economics have changed sharply again: the price of gas has come down, but the price of renewable energy has jumped. Last July, the Swedish energy company Vattenfall pulled out of a North Sea wind farm project, complaining that the strike price it had agreed to the previous year was no longer enough. When the government held another auction for wind and solar power two months later, setting a maximum strike price of £44 per megawatt-hour for offshore wind, it didn’t receive a single bid.

The price of wind energy was on a downward trend while commodity prices were falling and interest rates were near zero (most of the costs come upfront, so these projects are especially reliant on cheap credit). That trend has now been firmly reversed. No one knows what wind will cost in 2030. It’s impossible to predict if commodity prices or interest rates will return to levels that make it the cheapest form of energy. Any claim to save consumers money is therefore spurious.


The renewables bubble has burst

It wasn’t so long ago that Orsted was being held up as an example of how oil and gas companies should handle the transition to clean energy. In 2009 the then-DONG (Danish Oil and Natural Gas) announced that it was going to turn around it business so that instead of earning 85 per cent of its money from oil and gas it was going to earn 85 per cent of it from renewables. It was an early mover in offshore wind – and, at least for some years, shareholders were richly rewarded. The share price marched upwards from around £19 in 2014 to a peak at £100 in early 2021. Increasing your money fivefold and saving the planet at the same time – you can hardly argue with that.

The economics of building wind farms has changed

Except that the bubble in renewables didn’t last. Fast forward three years and Orsted has wiped out almost all its share price gains of the past decade. In the third quarter of 2023 it managed to lose £2.5 billion as its revenues halved on the same period in 2022. This week it suspended its dividend and announced the loss of 800 jobs. It also lowered its target for renewable-generating capacity by 2030 from 50 gigawatts to 35-38 gigawatts. Meanwhile, oil and gas companies which were being battered by low wholesale prices up until 2021 have had a great couple of years. Suddenly, the divestment campaign which told us to bail out of soon-to-be ‘stranded assets’ and pile into wind and solar because they are the future looks a little poorly thought-out.

It is fair to say that not every renewable energy company has done as badly as Orsted, which has run into particular problems in a now-cancelled project to build two wind farms off the coast of New Jersey. Depending on what contracts they have, existing wind and solar farms have either benefitted from high electricity prices in Europe or they have continued to make plodding but reliable index-linked earnings thanks to guaranteed ‘strike’ prices. But Orsted’s misfortunes do rather expose the claims – still being made by Labour and others – that wind and solar energy is incredibly cheap as well as clean. The biggest problem for wind and solar is that most of their lifetime costs come upfront, in the construction phase. That is an issue when the cost of steel and other raw materials are going up – and even more so when the near-zero interest rates on which the finances of these projects were based are no longer there.

That the economics of building wind farms had changed was clear last July when Swedish firm Vattenfall withdrew from a North Sea project which it had won the right to build in a UK government auction just a year earlier. Next time the government held an auction, in September, there was not a single bid. In response, the government has since increased the maximum strike price on offer from £44 to £73 per MWh. That is still a little lower than the average wholesale price of electricity over the past year but 50 per cent above the average wholesale price in the decade up to 2020. Wind and solar energy can no longer claim to be cheap – and, barring a highly-unlikely return to near zero interest rates, making an Orsted-style switch to renewables is certainly not looking like a way for oil and gas giants to boost investment returns. ?


Eating green ideology: official Australian diet advice to warn of climate impact

The federal government’s official advice on diets will now incorporate the impact of certain foods on climate change, sparking outrage from farmers who fear it is driven by an “ideological agenda” against red meat.

It could lead to consumers being told to reduce steak and lamb chop intakes in favour of ­alternatives like chicken, which some scientists say has a lower carbon footprint.

Red meat producers are concerned that the move by the Nat­ional Health and Medical Research Council to incorporate environmental sustainability into Australian Dietary Guidelines will be based on “misinformation” and present an incomplete picture about the industry’s effect on the environment. They have called for it to be scrapped.

The statutory authority’s dietary guidelines expert committee says the change is based on “stakeholder feedback” and has already started setting up a sustainability working group to help its review of the 2013 guidelines, due by the end of 2026.

Red Meat Advisory Council chair John McKillop accused the NHMRC, which is responsible for funding medical research and providing health and nutrition recommendations to the government, of straying beyond its remit. “These developments are an overreach by the dietary guidelines expert committee that go well beyond the policy intent of the Australian Dietary Guidelines to provide recommendations on healthy foods and dietary patterns,” he said.

“The red meat industry has a strong story about sustainability, so our concerns are not because we believe it’s a weakness but ­because it’s not the role of the dietary guidelines nor is it the expertise of the dietary guidelines expert committee. The nation’s dietary guidelines should be focused on promoting public health, preventing chronic diseases and ensuring that all Australian have access to accurate and reliable information about their basic nutritional ­requirements.”

Sustainability was included in an appendix of the previous guidelines, but the expert committee says “sustainability messaging should be incorporated within the revised dietary guidelines, and not included as a separate section within the appendices”.

Mr McKillop said expanding the scope of the dietary guidelines into other non-nutritional topics would undermine their purpose and the public’s confidence in them. “This is going to make clear and simple nutritional messaging even more difficult,” he said.

RMAC will ask the NHMRC committee to reconsider the change to the guidelines. “If they refuse, we’ll be asking the federal government to intervene as it’s starting to look like the process is running off the rails,” he said.

“The dietary guidelines review process must not be allowed to be used as a vehicle to drive ideological agendas at the expense of the latest nutritional science.”

The dietary guidelines expert committee has defined sustainable diets as being “accessible, affordable and equitable diets with low environmental impacts”.

In a statement, the NHMRC said including sustainability followed a “stakeholder survey” in which one in three people surveyed listed it as a priority.

“While the 2013 guidelines included messages about the environmental impact of food choices, the placement of the messages in an appendix has made them easy to overlook,” a spokesman said.

“Stakeholder feedback suggests there is low awareness of their existence. The revision of the guidelines provides an opportunity to improve integration of messages about food sustainability into the guidelines.”

The organisation rejected the suggestion that incorporating sustainability messaging would undermine public confidence.

“Developing or updating NHMRC guidelines involves a thorough review of the evidence, methodological advice on the quality of these reviews, drafting of the guidelines, public consultation and independent expert review of the final guidelines,” the spokesman said.

“The dietary guidelines expert committee advised that recommendations for dietary patterns and food groups should firstly consider health impacts in the Australian context, followed by consideration of sustainability and other contextual factors,” the spokesman said. “This is consistent with how sustainability has been incorporated into dietary guidelines in other countries.”

Central Queensland cattle farmer Mark Davie said industry concerns were heightened by perceived misinformation about the health impacts and sustainability of red meat production permeating media, public policy and nutritional advice.

Mr Davie, who chairs the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, questioned how the NHMRC could measure one food source against another while still accounting for benefits to things like soil or biodiversity.

Meat producers are concerned that an updated version could follow rhetoric from organisations like the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, which advocates for reduced livestock grazing.




Monday, February 19, 2024

Biden Administration May Relax EPA Rules Driving Electric Vehicles: Report

In recent years, the American car market has been pushed toward becoming a significantly more electric one by the Biden Administration's strict Environmental Protection Agency rules. Those car tailpipe emission rules are so strict that they could result in two-thirds of all new cars having emissions at all by 2032. But now, after months of pressure from automakers, dealers, labor unions and the other side of the political aisle, the White House may ease up on that plan—a move that will sure to draw the ire of EV proponents and anyone sounding the alarm over global warming.

This report comes from the New York Times, citing three unnamed officials said to be familiar with the plan. The exact details of this plan are not known, except that a "sharp increase" in EV sales would not be required "until after 2030."

The new EPA rules are expected to be finalized this spring, the Times reports.

If so, the move could have profound effects on the future of the EV industry, America's ability to compete against a rising electric China, and a signature Biden policy achievement as he faces a tough reelection battle.

From the Times:

The E.P.A. designed the proposed regulations so that 67 percent of sales of new cars and light-duty trucks would be all-electric by 2032, up from 7.6 percent in 2023, a radical remaking of the American automobile market.

That remains the goal. But as they finalize the regulations, administration officials are tweaking the plan to slow the pace at which auto manufacturers would need to comply, so that electric vehicle sales would increase more gradually through 2030 but then would have to sharply rise.

The change in pacing is in response to automakers who say that more time is needed to build a national network of charging stations and to bring down the cost of electric vehicles, and to labor unions that want more time to try to unionize new electric car plants that are opening around the country, particularly in the South.

Last year was a landmark one for EV sales, with all-electric cars making up 7.6% of the market and record sales from every brand. But the rate of EV adoption slowed down toward the end of the year, moving less quickly than the industry anticipated. The so-called "EV slowdown" is often overblown, but the transition has been hampered by combatant car dealers, a largely inadequate public charging network, intense political opposition and concerns about how the cars operate differently than gas-powered ones.


Labor union urges Scottish Labour Party to oppose heat pumps and pursue hydrogen

Labour delegates attending its [Scottish] party conference this week will be urged to support the Scottish Government turning its back on Patrick Harvie’s heat pumps strategy and instead press ahead with using hydrogen to heat homes.

Bosses at the GMB union, who have been publicly hostile to the Scottish Government’s strategy to clean up how buildings are heated, are calling on Scottish Labour to oppose heat pumps and other renewable heating systems being pursued by [Scottish minister] Mr Harvie, and instead turn attention to hydrogen – believing it will help safeguard jobs.

But Mr Harvie has told The Herald that hydrogen “is not expected to play a central role in heating buildings”.

An independent study commissioned and published by WWF Scotland last year concluded that using hydrogen for heating was a “distraction” and called for the focus to be put on other methods, primarily heat pumps. […]

Bosses from the GMB union, which represents energy workers in Scotland, will table a motion at Scottish Labour conference on Friday, calling for more focus to be put on hydrogen for heating.

The motion to be tabled at Scottish Labour’s conference in Glasgow this weekend, seen by The Herald, will back “deep concern” over the Scottish Government’s heat in buildings plans, claiming the strategy “proposes banning gas boilers and forcing onto households untested systems such as heat pumps which come with higher installation and running costs”.

It adds that “the existing, vast and skilled gas workforce and 280,000km gas network” could be “be reskilled and repurposed to provide low and no-carbon hydrogen to homes”.

Mr Harvie, the Scottish Government’s Zero Carbon Buildings Minister, has launched a consultation that will phase out fossil fuel gas boilers by 2045, when Scotland has pledged to become net zero.


Two windfarms share £80 million just to switch off

The cost to consumers of so-called windfarm constraint payments is rising quickly.

Regular readers will know that I have long been concerned over the extraordinary level of payments to windfarms to switch off. These so-called ‘constraint payments’ are deemed necessary when the wires in the transmission grid have inadequate capacity to get a generator’s power to market. When that happens, the windfarm (and it is always a windfarm) is paid to switch off, and a gas-fired power station is paid to switch on so that the end user of the electricity is not left short.

This is particularly a problem for windfarms in Scottish waters, because there is relatively little transmission capacity running across the border to England, where most of the power users are found. In 2022, I noted that the offshore windfarm called Moray East had spent 25% of the previous year switched off. The suspicion is that there may be perverse incentives for developers to build windfarms in Scotland precisely so they receive constraint payments.

With a large new offshore windfarm called Seagreen coming on stream in 2023, I was interested to see how things had developed. The data, taken from the Renewable Energy Foundation, is revealing.

Figure 1 shows that the total payments to windfarms has risen to £303 million, off a constrained volume of 4.3 terawatt hours. That’s roughly four days’ electricity demand thrown away entirely.

And if we break down the 2023 bill, we can see that once again it is the canny Scots who are the big beneficiaries (Figure 2), with Moray East getting an extraordinary £43 million, and Seagreen (as expected) not far behind at £39 million.

Moray East’s constrained volume is 590 GWh, which will represent something like 20% of its output. Seagreen’s is 759 GWh, which will be somewhat higher.

Interestingly, payments to Moray East’s neighbour, Beatrice, have fallen away sharply, from £33 million in 2022 to just £9 million in 2023. I don’t know why this is.

In summary then, the rip-off continues, and indeed is getting worse.


An ESG Asset Manager Exodus

Has the tide turned on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing? It appears so. JPMorgan Asset Management, BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors on Thursday retreated from the Climate Action 100+ investor compact because they don’t want the political and legal liability.

Climate Action 100+ describes itself as the “largest ever global investor engagement initiative on climate change.” Its 700 or so institutional investor members manage more than $68 trillion in assets (before Thursday’s exits). Their goal is to force companies to zero out CO2 emissions by 2050.

Members are supposed to “engage” 170 “focus companies” such as Boing, Home Depot and American Airlines—that is, threaten to vote against non-compliant corporate directors and back shareholder resolutions that pressure management. Their campaign has had great success with 75% of targeted companies committing to “net zero.”

But the climate left is never content. Last June the alliance impelled its members to publish information on their “engagements” and to explain how and why they voted on shareholder resolutions flagged by the outfit. The point was to embarrass asset managers that climate scolds accuse of being insufficiently committed to the cause.

Asset managers have been walking a fine legal line. GOP Attorneys General in 2022 warned that they might be violating their fiduciary obligations and antitrust laws. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan in December subpoenaed BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors for documents and communications related to their involvement in “collusive” agreements.

The climate alliance’s new rules would compound the legal and political jeopardy. In its withdrawal announcement, State Street said its rules “are not consistent with our independent approach to proxy voting and portfolio company engagement.” BlackRock said the rules “would raise legal considerations.”

All true. But perhaps their customers have also begun to realize that ESG and net-zero mandates are political crusades that accomplish little except politicizing investment. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink noted correctly last year that ESG has been “entirely weaponised.” But asset managers should have known that bowing to the left would invite pushback from the right.

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander lambasted the trio on Thursday for “caving to climate deniers.” “We are in the process of reviewing how well our managers are aligned in that approach and will consider our options for the management of our public market investments,” he warned.

What does it say when the climate left believes it can achieve its goals only by intimidation and coercion?




Sunday, February 18, 2024

Conceptual error in climate change analysis

It is often said that the ‘science is in on climate change’. Is it? We should always adhere to the principle of the ‘working hypothesis’ and have an open mind on scientific questions no matter how well-recognised the researchers are. In the study of science, there is always the chance new information can come along to cause a rethink.

A common error in problem-solving and policy development is to confuse a technical strategy for a desired client outcome. Our Climate Change Minister could be accused of this. Reducing emissions is a ‘strategy’, not the fundamental desired client outcome. With the mission ‘to reduce carbon emissions’ by increasing renewable energy, the way to assess performance is to concentrate on measuring emission reduction, and then to follow this up with how quickly the renewables are built and their cost (wind farms, solar panels, transmission lines).

Instead of the current strategy-driven mission, a fundamental client outcome statement would be: ‘To protect against, and where possible, prevent damage from extreme off-trend fluctuations in climate.’ How would you go about managing your program using this mission statement?

First, you gather accurate temperature, rainfall, and weather measurements. They are the valid and fundamental ‘outcome’ measures – not data on CO2 emissions. If there is an undeniable and dangerous increase in temperature and rainfall, more cyclones, and a clear and unabated rise in sea level, then the possible cause must be thoroughly identified. Depending on the answer, you would adopt appropriate mitigation strategies, or strategies that adapt to weather patterns and temperature levels.

Another principle of problem-solving is to map out the total picture and not be driven by ideology. The Climate Change Minister should consider possible causes other than human-induced emissions. It was announced in April 2023 that coronal cones 20 times larger than Earth have been discovered and may cause a massive outburst of energy from the sun. What could be the implications for our planet? Ask solar physicists.

Chief scientist in applied helio-physics at John Hopkins, Ian Cohen, has suggested that solar storms could take out satellites, cut power and shut down the internet. In 1972 a solar storm caused 4,000 magnetically sensitive mines in water off Vietnam to detonate. Earth is said to be entering a period of peak activity as part of an eleven-year cycle. It is suggested this potentially could be more violent than the solar cycles of the past three decades. Now that would be something for climate scientists to really worry about…

With respect to the world’s temperature, there are several sources that claim to present the precise figure. One says the 2023 average global temperature was 1.45c above the 1950-90 average. Another says since 1880, Earth’s temperature has increased by 0.08c. Another says during the last 50 years the increase is 0.13c. To the unscientific mind, these temperatures do not appear to be verging on catastrophic boiling us all to death. As of 2024, data on natural changes in temperature, rainfall, and sea level do not show any statistically significant difference to historical records.

There are respected scientists who question the current climate orthodoxy. Physicist Prof. William Happer of Princeton University and Prof. Richard Lindzen, Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT have argued science demonstrates there is no climate-related risk caused by fossil fuels and CO2, and that 600 million years of CO2 and temperature data contradicts the theory that high levels of CO2 will cause catastrophic global warming. They state reliable scientific theories come from validating theoretical predictions with observations, not consensus, peer review, government opinion, or manipulated data.

In July 2023, the International Monetary Fund cancelled a planned talk on climate change by 2022 Nobel physicist John Clauser when they learned he had stated publicly:

‘I can confidently say there is no real climate crisis, and that climate change does not cause extreme weather events. The OPCC is one of the worst sources of dangerous disinformation.’

Clauser pointed out that the US Environmental Protection Authority has charts that show a heatwave Index going back to 1895, showing heatwaves were more common before the 1960s and especially in the 1930s.

In addition to these physicists, there are eminent Australian geologists who challenge the CO2 cause theory. Emeritus Prof. Ian Pilmer of the University of Melbourne, and Prof. Michael Asten of Monash University, have argued that throughout the history of the planet, there have been long periods of major change in climate due to natural forces. This would indicate recent human-based emissions may not be the important factor that we have been led to believe.

With respect to measuring emissions (nitrous oxide and methane), there is an expectation that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would have collected accurate data. Then one reads an independent 2023 report of these greenhouse gas emissions from farm dams in Australia’s irrigation regions, that the measurements had been massively over-estimated by the IPCC by 4 to 5 per cent.

To add further confusion to the issue, a 2023 research paper submitted to the European Physical Journal Plus claimed climate science has become ‘highly politicised’. Italian scientists analysed long-term data on heat, droughts, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and ecosystem productivity, and found no clear trend of extreme events. The statements by these scientists would appear worthy of examination. Unfortunately, comments to the publisher by other climate scientists caused the withdrawal of the article.

If activists are correct, and if temperatures and rainfall start to show a significant increase without any influence from natural factors such as the sun or outer atmospheric disturbances, the second ‘outcome’ mission opens your mind to several strategies that could be compared against each other on cost and effectiveness – renewables, outer space satellites capturing solar energy and transmitting to Earth, small nuclear, carbon capture, examine possibility of amalgamating carbon and turning it into a useful product, lower emission coal-fired power stations, hydro, hydrogen fuel cells, a scientific search for a predator for carbon other than trees (or the planting of more trees), and so on.

A valid client ‘outcome’ statement encourages you not to jump to a conclusion in the initial stages of critical thinking about the cause of any global warming. If you make a mistake at that point, there are significant productivity implications. Governments could waste a significant amount of money (a catastrophic amount) on a less than optimum strategy. Rather than relying almost entirely on climate scientists who concentrate on carbon emissions, a politician with a mind focused on validity could bring together an inter-disciplinary team – climate scientists, nuclear physicists, solar physicists, atmospheric physicists, examine the moon’s behaviour, plant technologists, oceanographers, geologists, volcanologists, botanists, bushfire specialists and so on. Has any national government followed this approach? Has any Minister for Energy, in any country, expanded their vision beyond their own narrow ideology is a potential danger to their country…?

There are very obvious reasons why some politicians and many rich investors in renewable energy would oppose a serious questioning of the renewable strategy and switching to nuclear instead. If small nuclear was introduced – as is being done in many countries – it would make current renewable energy strategies redundant. That would mean all the billions of dollars spent on wind and solar would have been a waste of money. We wouldn’t need them. Admitting that would be far too embarrassing for any ideological politician and far too financially damaging to any rich wind farm investor obtaining government grants.

If the Sun is found to be the fundamental cause of the problem (variations in energy output, massive infrequent solar flares, and/or variations in distance between Earth and Sun), or if there is a slight tilting of the Earth on its axis, or the Moon changes position, or even disturbance further out in our solar system, you would evaluate adaptation strategies.

It seemed reasonable for some people to assume the vast flooding in 2022 could be attributed to human-induced climate change. There is however, a different possibility … nature. Environment analyst Graham Lloyd explained.

‘The meteorological processes at play are well understood. Three consecutive La Nina weather patterns have left the eastern seaboard soaked and prone to flooding. Triple La Ninas have happened four times in the Bureau of Meteorology’s 120-year record … The Southern Annular Mode is a climate driver that can influence rainfall and temperature. Although wet, the latest BoM figures show that 2022 was the ninth wettest year on record (not the wettest).’

When the above material, stressing the need to examine the total picture in any critical thinking, was shown to a high school Principal, to a high school science teacher and to an environmental engineer, they were all surprised and quite critical that one would want to show this to students. Annoyed actually. One was emphatic…

‘Why waste the students’ time having them look at irrelevant issues? We KNOW what the problem is. It is CO2 emissions. And we KNOW what the solution is. It is 100 per cent renewables.’

My answer to them was:

‘The difference between you and me, is that you want to tell the students WHAT to think. I want to teach them HOW to think. I want them to understand insightful thinking. Not to be indoctrinated’.

You can be the judge as to who is on the right track.


JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock drop out of massive UN climate alliance in stunning move

JPMorgan Chase and institutional investors BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) on Thursday announced that they are quitting or, in the case of BlackRock, substantially scaling back involvement in a massive United Nations climate alliance formed to combat global warming through corporate sustainability agreements.

In a statement, the New York-based JPMorgan Chase explained that it would exit the so-called Climate Action 100+ investor group because of the expansion of its in-house sustainability team and the establishment of its climate risk framework in recent years. BlackRock and State Street, which both manage trillions of dollars in assets, said the alliance's climate initiatives had gone too far, expressing concern about potential legal issues as well.

The stunning announcements come as the largest financial institutions in the U.S. and worldwide face an onslaught of pressure from consumer advocates and Republican states over their environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities.

"The firm has built a team of 40 dedicated sustainable investing professionals, including investment stewardship specialists who also leverage one of the largest buy side research teams in the industry," the bank said in a statement shared with FOX Business. "Given these strengths and the evolution of its own stewardship capabilities, JPMAM (JP Morgan Asset Management) has determined that it will no longer participate in Climate Action 100+ engagements."

BlackRock, meanwhile, withdrew its U.S. business from Climate Action 100+, shifting involvement in the alliance to BlackRock's smaller international entity where a majority of clients are pursuing decarbonization goals, the Financial Times first reported Thursday. A spokesperson for BlackRock confirmed to FOX Business that the move had been made in recent weeks.

And State Street said its exit from the alliance was made because Climate Action 100+'s "phase 2" commitments conflicted with the firm's internal investing policies.


Meta, Amazon and Google shed 3,000 do-goody ESG staff as backlash over 'woke capitalism' intensifies

Meta, Amazon, Google, and other US firms are shedding staff with environmental, social and governance roles (ESG), research shows, in the latest sign of the backlash against what critics deride as 'woke capitalism.'

More people left ESG jobs than started them for much of 2023, marking the reversal of a once-mushrooming sector, according to Live Data Technologies, which tracks the employment market.

US firms saw 3,071 ESG departures in December 2023, compared with 2,897 arrivals — a net loss of 174 roles, says the review of more than 360,000 US-based ESG professionals that was published in The Wall Street Journal.

Meta Platforms, Amazon, and Google had the largest ESG job outflows among US firms last year, the data show. The pattern was visible across other technology, financial-services and consulting firms.

Those firms have not commented on the exodus.

'2023 saw a real cooling in chatter around ESG and in some quarters, quite a pronounced attack on what ESG was about,' Joe Dubbin, managing director at Cripps Leadership Advisors, a recruitment firm, told the Journal.

'It has certainly filtered through into the hiring requirements that we've been tasked to go do.'


European Central Bank tells staff: If you’re not green, you’re not wanted

A top European Central Bank official stunned employees by saying people who don’t buy into the institution’s green objectives aren’t welcome to work there.

Frank Elderson, one of six members of the ECB’s executive board, told an internal meeting: “I don’t want these people anymore.”

His comments, verified by POLITICO, have sparked outrage among ECB staff, who described them as “authoritarian” and said they showed a free and open discussion about climate change ― and the role the bank should play in tackling it ― was no longer possible at the Frankfurt-based organization.

At the meeting earlier this month, Elderson asked employees ― some in person, some online ― “Why would we want to hire people who we have to reprogram? Because they came from the best universities, but they still don’t know how to spell the word ‘climate.’

Anyone already working at the ECB should be retrained, Elderson added. He insisted he was "not threatening anyone," and did not expand on what he meant by being able to "spell" climate.

The Dutchman’s remarks have broader significance because the ECB is embroiled in a debate ― internally and among Europe’s politicians ― over how much its policies should steer toward making the economy "greener," or whether it should just stick to its main goal of keeping eurozone prices stable.

Diversity and inclusion

The comments drew an angry reaction from employees who took to a private chatroom for bank staff. Their responses were also seen by POLITICO.

Elderson, who is the bank’s climate czar and vice-chair of its supervisory arm, “killed the ideal of diversity and inclusion in one sentence,” said one member of staff. “I thought these underpinned the culture of this institution.” They described the Dutchman’s comments as “authoritarian.”

Others warned his comments risked fostering “groupthink,” which would impair the ECB’s decision-making.




Thursday, February 15, 2024

What Should We Think Of Michael Mann’s Defamation Trial ‘Win’?

Written by Roger Pielke Jr.

I was a witness in the case and testified on Tuesday.2 Here, I’ll offer my thoughts on the case and some personal reflections on my experience

Mann’s case alleged that he was defamed by statements made by the bloggers more than a decade ago, which harmed his reputation and career (I won’t rehash the details here, but you can get a full accounting of the trial at this comprehensive podcast).3

The defense built their case around making three points to the jury.

One was to bring in experts to testify that Mann’s methods in producing the so-called “Hockey Stick” graph were manipulative, and thus critics of the Hockey Stick were factually correct in saying so.

The second point was to demonstrate that the debate over climate at the time the blog posts were written was intense and vitriolic, with Mann saying things about others that were worse than what the defendants said about him.4

Finally, the defense argued that Mann hardly put on a case — he provided no evidence or witnesses supporting his claims of damage to his reputation or career.

In contrast, the prosecution was — in the words of the court, “disjointed” — and was reprimanded on multiple occasions by the judge, most notably for knowingly providing false information to the jury on alleged damages suffered by Mann.5

When I was cross-examined, Mann’s lawyer had considerable trouble getting basic facts right like timelines and who said what.6

Even so, in a trial that most neutral observers would surely see as favoring the arguments of the defense, Mann walked away with a resounding, comprehensive victory.7 How did that happen?

In my view, there were two absolutely pivotal moments in the trial.

One occurred when Mann was testifying and he explained that he felt that the bloggers were not just criticizing him, but they were attacking all of climate science, and he could not let that stand.

As the world’s most accomplished and famous climate scientist, Mann intimated that he was simply the embodiment of all of climate science.

For the jury, this set up the notion that this trial was not really about Mann, but about attacks on all of climate science from ‘climate deniers’.

The second pivotal moment occurred when in closing arguments Mann’s lawyer asked the jury to send a message to ‘right-wing science deniers’ and Trump supporters with a large punitive damage award.

Here is how an advocacy group called “DeSmog” accurately reported these dynamics:

Mann sued Simberg and Steyn for defamation, but the trial proved to be about much more than statements that harmed the scientist’s reputation — the entire field and validity of climate science was under scrutiny.

In closing arguments, Mann’s lawyer John Williams compared the climate deniers in this case to election deniers overall. “Why do Trumpers continue to deny that he won the election?” he asked the jury. “Because they truly believe what they say or because they want to further their agenda?”

He asked the jury to consider the same question about Steyn and Simberg: Did they believe what they wrote was the truth, or did they just want to push their agenda? …

“Michael Mann is tired of being attacked,” Williams told the jury. “You have the opportunity to serve as an example to prevent others from acting in a similar way” to Simberg and Steyn.

An underlying current throughout this trial has been that ‘climate denialism’, like what the two defendants practice, isn’t really about the science. It’s more about politics and policy that drives organizations and individuals to “attack the science and confuse the public . . .

This framing — ‘climate deniers’ versus climate science — has also characterized mainstream media coverage.

For instance, The Washington Post announced, on the day the case went to the jury, that this case was part of a “mounting campaign” against “right-wing trolls” (below).

Prominent climate scientist or right-wing trolls? Which side are you on?

The case was formally about defamation, but in reality, it was not at all about defamation.

As Michael Mann stated after the verdict, the case was really about politics and ideology:


Boiling Point Reached On Green Policies

Something rather amazing is happening across Western Europe, although American media outlets would like to pretend that nothing is happening.

The sea change is that ordinary people are pushing back against green policies that will destroy farming (and also destroy the food supply) and against the endless immigration that’s intended to wipe out Europe’s ancient populations in favor of entirely new populations from the Muslim world and Africa (both Muslim and non-Muslim regions).

The farmer protests began last year in the Netherlands when the government announced that it intended to cut livestock farming by 30 percent to prevent ‘greenhouse gases’.

It was a pure “you vill eat ze bugs” moment, and the farmers protested vehemently.

Indeed, they protested uber-conservative Geert Wilders right into a parliamentary majority, although the wacky parliamentary system means he hasn’t been able to form a coalition to lead the government.

Because those policies are not limited to the Netherlands but have spread across Europe (where post-WWII socialism provided a ready landing pad for environmental madness), the same farmer protests are now in other European nations.

Again, no farmers means no food, except for the delightful Stone Age diet of bugs, scavenged fruits and vegetables, and gleaned grains.

Our famine-free era will be just a short interlude in the long history of human starvation.

As a reminder, when Stalin deliberately forced a famine on the Ukrainian people during the 1930s, the saying was that an orphan was a child whose parents died before they could eat him.

That’s the world leftists are pushing.


Biden’s Latest Climate Regs Hammer Manufacturing

The Biden administration finalized regulations severely tightening restrictions on fine particulate matter that the manufacturing and energy sectors are legally allowed to emit, an action that industry said would have devastating economic consequences.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the regulations Wednesday morning in a joint announcement with environmental activists, saying limiting particulate matter known as PM2.5 or soot would have health benefits for Americans nationwide.

The rulemaking lowers the annual PM2.5 standard from a level of 12 micrograms per cubic meter to a level of nine micrograms per cubic meter.

“Today’s action is a critical step forward that will better protect workers, families, and communities from the dangerous and costly impacts of fine particle pollution,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan told reporters in a call. “The science is clear. Soot pollution is one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution and is linked to a range of serious and potentially deadly illnesses, including asthma and heart attacks.”

“The stronger standard is designed to ensure clear, routine pathways for industry to continue to upgrade and build while maintaining cleaner, healthier air,” Regan continued. “We know that cleaner air and a strong and bustling economy go hand in hand.”

According to the EPA, the regulations will prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost workdays while yielding up to $46 billion in net health benefits by 2032. …snip…

However, industry associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and the American Petroleum Institute (API) have warned of the potentially wide-ranging impacts of more restrictive particulate matter restrictions.

In a September letter to Regan, those groups and 30 other industry associations said the regulations could lead to onerous permitting requirements that would “freeze manufacturing and supply chain investments.”

They also pointed to a May 2023 study conducted by Oxford Economics and commissioned by NAM that concluded more restrictive PM2.5 regulations would threaten between $162.4 and $197.4 billion of economic activity while putting 852,100 to 973,900 current jobs at risk.

“Tightening the NAAQS PM2.5 standard will grind permits to a halt for a large portion of our country,” Marty Durbin, the senior vice president for policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday. “EPA’s new rule is expected to put 569 counties out of compliance and push many others close to the limit, which threatens economic growth.”

“Compliance with the new standard will be very difficult because 84 percent of emissions now come from non-industrial sources like wildfires and road dust that are costly and hard to control,” he continued. “While EPA states there are exemptions for wildfires, 70 percent of those requests haven’t been granted in the past, and the process for seeking one is time-consuming and difficult for states to manage.”

Durbin added that the EPA should have maintained the previous standard of 12 micrograms per cubic meter and focused its attention instead on reducing non-industrial emissions. The regulations, he said, punish counties and the private sector “for situations largely out of their control.”

The regulations, meanwhile, will make the U.S. PM2.5 standards among the world’s most burdensome.

While Australia and Canada have annual standards lower than nine micrograms per cubic meter, Japan has a standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter, and the U.K. and European Union both have a standard of 20 micrograms per cubic meter.

China and India have annual standards of 35 micrograms per cubic meter or greater.

“Protecting public health and the environment is a top priority for our industry, and America has seen significant air quality improvements and reduced emissions over the past decades under the existing EPA standards,” said API Vice President of Downstream Policy Will Hupman.

“Yet, today’s announcement is the latest in a growing list of short-sighted policy actions that have no scientific basis and prioritize foreign energy and manufacturing from unstable regions of the world over American jobs, manufacturing, and national security,” Hupman continued. “As we review the final standard, we will consider all our options.”


Absurd: New Zealand courts can now decide on climate change

The World Justice Project ranks New Zealand 7th out of 142 countries on its ‘Rule of Law Index’, narrowly ahead of Australia’s 13th place. However, Australia still has hope – if only because of a recent decision by the Supreme Court of New Zealand.

The case is easily told. In 2019 Mike Smith, an indigenous activist fighting climate change, filed a lawsuit against seven large New Zealand companies – including Fonterra and Z Energy – for their carbon emissions. Smith claims that they are causing him harm.

The case falls under what lawyers call ‘tort law’. It is an ancient branch of the common law dealing with making good damage unlawfully caused to one person by another.

In his case, Smith argued that the seven companies were responsible for the torts of ‘public nuisance’, ‘negligence’ and a hitherto unknown tort of ‘damage to the climate system’.

Armed with these claims, and supported by pressure group Lawyers for Climate Action, Smith went to court. The defendants promptly applied to strike his claims out. In legal parlance, such a ‘strike out’ means that the court considers a claim too frivolous to be taken seriously.

In the first instance, the High Court struck out Smith’s public nuisance and negligence claims. However, the High Court allowed Smith to take his damage to the climate system forward, not least to see whether that fabled new tort really exists.

The Court of Appeal did not think so. It threw out Smith’s whole case.

This is where Smith’s case would have ended, had it not been for the New Zealand Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. A couple of years ago, it permitted Smith to argue his case.

Last week, we finally learned the verdict. The Supreme Court not only allowed Smith to have his claim of damage to the climate system heard in the lower court. It did so on all three alleged torts.

You do not have to be a lawyer to understand the problems with New Zealand’s top judges’ decision last week. But perhaps one must be a lawyer to come up with it.

To be clear, the Supreme Court did not decide that Smith will eventually win his case. But it does mean that the court believes that he might.

Still, is this a logical analysis of Smith’s claims?

To answer this, we need to consider a little background on climate change and New Zealand’s policy for dealing with it.

In the grand scheme of planetary emissions, New Zealand is a rounding error. Of every tonne of global carbon emissions, New Zealand is responsible for 1.7 kilograms. Since Smith sued only seven New Zealand companies, his case is effectively a few grams out of each global tonne of carbon emissions.

Now, in tort law, the general rule is that there must be a close link between a defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s alleged damage. The legal standard is that it cannot be “too remote”, i.e. the specific action must be causally connected with the harm.

Could any reasonable person think there is such a close link? Would anyone seriously believe that a (globally speaking) tiny amount of carbon dioxide from a specific emitter would cause specific harm in Mr Smith’s life? Had the Supreme Court followed the Court of Appeal’s lead, the case would have been closed.

If the link between action and damage is too loose, then anything goes. According to chaos theory, the flap of a butterfly’s wing can cause a hurricane. By Smith’s logic, if the butterfly had an owner, that owner should pay for the rebuild after the storm.

If this is already problematic, it gets worse. New Zealand has a legislative framework for dealing with carbon emissions: the Emissions Trading Scheme, or “ETS.” All non-agricultural emitters of climate gases in New Zealand must buy carbon units. These units permit them to emit these gases.

The seven companies Smith sued had such certificates for their emissions. So, they were complying with the rules and regulations put in place by parliament and administered by government.

A key part of the rule of law is predictability. If you play by the rules and obey the law, you should not have anything to fear. So how could the companies find themselves sued when they are complying with environmental law?

But wait, not even that is the end of this absurd story. That is because of the way the ETS works.

Under New Zealand’s ETS, the government auctions and allocates a fixed number of emission credits each year. Trading in ETS units only determines who emits how much of that total amount.

If Smith is ultimately successful in his claim, the seven companies will emit less in future. However, under the logic of the ETS, others will emit more. New Zealand’s total emissions will not change by a single gram.

Suing the government for not running a tighter cap would have had some coherence. Suing individual participants in the market does not. Again, one would have expected the Supreme Court to take this into account. Obviously, it did not.

Absurdities abound in this case. Law students learn that without a reasonably close connection between action and damage, there can be no tort. Not so, apparently, in this case.

Law students also learn that statute is the dominant source of law. Of course, this does not prevent common law from being applied and developed. But in this case, the Supreme Court has opened the door for climate change to be brought into common law when a sophisticated statutory regime is already in place.

Moreover, trying to deal with climate change through the common law is doomed to fail under the ETS. In effect, the existence of the ETS makes any common law tort toothless and superfluous.

All of this is, frankly, concerning. The most troubling thing about the Supreme Court’s decision is the signal it sends: Matters of policy and politics (such as climate change) can be decided by the courts.

In a democracy, however, voters elect parliaments to deal with the problems facing society. How democratic would it be for the courts to usurp such matters from elected lawmakers?

New Zealand is lucky to be one of the world’s highest ranked countries for the rule of law. But with decisions like the one just delivered by the Supreme Court, one may wonder for how much longer.




Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Climate change row as British scientists claim ‘Day After Tomorrow’ modelling is wrong

A climate model predicting a devastating ‘Day After Tomorrow’ collapse of ocean systems has been criticised for relying on ‘entirely unrealistic’ scenarios.

A Dutch team from Utrecht University published work in the journal of Science Advances this week suggesting that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could reach a tipping point, triggering a new ice age.

The AMOC transports heat and salt throughout the world’s oceans and helps regulate the global climate, driving the Gulf Stream that keeps Britain warmer than it should be for its northerly latitude.

In the apocalyptic science fiction film The Day After Tomorrow, the ocean system is disrupted by climate change, plunging the northern hemisphere into a permanent winter.

Although ice-core data suggests the AMOC can switch off, recent sophisticated modelling has not been able to reproduce the effect, leading many scientists to think a collapse is unlikely to happen.

The new study claims to have shown that AMOC is “on route to tipping”, a prospect that the authors say is “bad news for the climate system and humanity”.

However British scientists warned that the outcome had been “forced” by using unlikely variables, such as assuming large influxes of freshwater into the Atlantic.

Prof Jonathan Bamber, director of the Bristol Glaciology Centre at Bristol University, said: “They did this by imposing a huge freshwater forcing to the North Atlantic that is entirely unrealistic for even the most extreme warming scenario over the next century.

“Their freshwater forcing applied to the North Atlantic is equivalent to six cm/year of sea level rise by the end of the experiment, which is more than seen during the collapse of the ice sheet that covered North America during the last glaciation.”

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that the AMOC is unlikely to collapse this century, and many scientists do not believe it will fail even if the climate continues to warm.

Observational data for the ocean system only goes back to 2004, making it difficult to predict, and because it spans the globe, most models cannot account for all the nuances and influences.

Commenting on the new research, Prof Andrew Watson, of Exeter University, said “They say it suggests that ‘the present day AMOC is on route to tipping’.

‘Push it quite hard’

“This sounds alarming, but it’s important to note that this is not the same as saying collapse is going to happen imminently. They have to run their model for a long time (1,700 years) and push it quite hard to make the collapse happen.

“Models are not reality. The real system may be more, or less, prone to collapse than this model suggests.”


Britain’s Disastrous Path to Net Zero Is a Warning to the U.S.

At last year’s U.N. climate conference in Dubai, the Biden administration agreed to triple the world’s renewable-energy capacity by 2030.

In Britain, the impact of cap-and-trade on the cost of fuel to generate electricity is massive.

Britain was conned into net zero by deceptive and illusory promises of cheap renewable power. The results have been an economic disaster.

At last year’s U.N. climate conference in Dubai, the Biden administration agreed to triple the world’s renewable-energy capacity by 2030. It also joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, pledging to eliminate coal-powered generation. This is all part of President Biden’s goal to completely decarbonize the U.S. electrical grid by 2035 and achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.

Britain has been going down this path since 2008, when Parliament wrote an 80 percent decarbonization target into law, which it raised to 100 percent, or net zero, in 2019. This luxury net-zero policy, which only the rich can afford, has been devastating for both businesses and ordinary Britons just trying to heat their homes and get to work.

A new report for the RealClear Foundation by Rupert Darwall is a timely and much-needed warning to America. It shows what would happen if Democrats and progressives get their way and inflict net-zero climate policies on the country.

British politicians boast of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions faster than any other major economy but ignore the unfortunate fact that Britain’s economy has been performing poorly since 2008.

In 2020, even before the recent surge in energy costs, everyday Britons were paying about 75 percent more for electricity than Americans, the result of a double whammy—cap-and-trade policies on the one hand and renewable subsidies on the other. And then came the Ukraine shock. During the 2022 energy crisis, electricity rates for British businesses were more than double the average paid by U.S. businesses.

In Britain, the impact of cap-and-trade on the cost of fuel to generate electricity is massive. In 2022, government-imposed carbon costs averaged $128 per megawatt hour (MWh) for coal-generated electricity and $51 per MWh for natural gas. Those costs are on top of actual fuel costs, which averaged $150 per MWh for electricity generated from coal and $160 per MWh for natural gas. These mean that it cost $278 to generate 1 MWh of electricity from coal and $211 from natural gas.

In the United States, electricity prices were significantly lower for two reasons. First, no cap-and-trade policies. Second, for coal, British power stations were old and operated at much lower thermal efficiencies than in the U.S. (the U.K. has nearly phased out all coal-powered stations—although some had to be brought back during a 2023 cold snap); and, for natural gas, it is much cheaper piped (as it is in the U.S.) than liquified and shipped (as it is in Europe).

So in the U.S., the fuel cost per MWh of electricity generated from coal was $27 per MWh (versus $278 in Britain) and $61 per MWh for natural gas (versus $211 in Britain).

Britons also have to pay the cost of subsidizing politically favored wind and solar. Analysis of the renewable portfolios of Britain’s Big Six energy companies shows that the average price for wind- and solar-generated electricity between 2009 and 2020 was well over £100 per MWh, whereas the price for reliable electricity from gas- and coal-fired power stations fell from £60 per MWh in 2013 to less than £50 per MWh in 2020.

That same year, consumer subsidies of renewables helped the Big Six to earn a profit of £61 per MWh of electricity on average for the higher-cost, intermittent, demand-unresponsive and therefore less valuable renewable outputs. On the other hand, government-imposed costs forced the Big Six to take massive write-downs on their gas-fired power stations, collectively recording a staggering £1.6 billion loss in 2014 for providing the lower-cost, reliable generating capacity on which Britain’s households and businesses depend.

Unsurprisingly, these policies have led to overinvestment in renewables and underinvestment in the reliable generating capacity needed to keep the lights on—and the costs down. Britain’s unintermittent, reliable coal- and gas-generating capacity peaked in 2010, at 88.0 gigawatts (GW). It then fell by 25.1 GW over the next decade, mainly as coal-fired plants were shuttered. Over the same period, wind and solar capacity rose by 33.5 GW.

Britain has managed to keep its lights on because higher electricity prices have driven demand down. Between 2010 and 2019, economy-wide electricity consumption fell by 10.8 percent. Even so, the gap between consumption and domestic generation has been widening, causing a surge in imported electricity from its European neighbors. That’s not an option for the U.S. We cannot import the equivalent of two-fifths of Canada’s electricity output.

Energy prices comparable to those in Britain—and across much of Europe—would tear the heart out of the American economy, which relies on cheap, abundant energy. The impact on working- and middle-class Americans would be intolerable.

While it is unlikely that Congress would pass legislation like Britain’s Climate Change Act, which made net zero the law of the land after an 88-minute debate in the House of Commons, the threat of net zero is nonetheless as real as it is dangerous.

In May 2021, the White House issued an executive order on the adoption of a whole-of-government approach to climate financial-risk disclosure, demonstrating how an alliance between the administrative state and woke ESG investors on Wall Street would bring about net zero.

In August 2022, Congress passed the energy bill misnamed the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides for budget-busting, fiscally irresponsible uncapped subsidies of wind and solar, which will wreak havoc on the economics of reliable generating capacity, just as they have in Britain.

In 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed regulation on greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel-power generators that, if implemented, would go a long way toward achieving the administration’s economically devastating goal of entirely decarbonizing electricity generation by 2035.

Renewable energy is not a low-cost substitute for fossil fuels. Renewables are not cheap, nor can they provide the reliability that modern societies expect and on which they depend. Darwall’s report convincingly demonstrates how Britain was conned into net zero by deceptive and illusory promises of cheap renewable power. The results have been an economic disaster.

There is still time to heed Britain’s warning and instead choose the path of energy abundance and economic prosperity by developing America’s unsurpassed reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas.


The political class is only just realising that voters prefer prosperity over climate jingoism

If you want to see how the politics of climate change are shifting, compare today with late 2009. In both cases, a general election was approaching.

In October 2009, with the Copenhagen climate summit imminent, the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, announced that we had only “50 days to save the planet”. The summit failed to agree any substantive action to reduce carbon emissions. The planet survived. But let that pass: the important point for Mr Brown was political. He wanted to make his party look as green as possible for the election, countering the Conservative opposition’s offer, under David Cameron, of “Vote blue, go green”.

It is 15 years on, and we shall have an election fairly soon. Sir Keir Starmer now, like Mr Brown then, is thinking mainly about the ballot box.

After a tussle with their consciences, Sir Keir and Rachel Reeves, who, in 2021, declared at the party conference that she would be Britain’s “first green chancellor”, announced on Thursday that her exciting green investment plan, unveiled in that same speech, will, sort of, not happen. Under that plan, a Labour government would have spent an extra £28 billion every year until 2030, including “borrowing to invest”.

As late as Tuesday, Sir Keir was still clinging publicly to the £28 billion figure. He said he was “unwavering”. But on Thursday he waveringly tried to defuse his own tax bombshell. He had decided, though of course he did not put it like this, that voters care more that Labour should be safe with the economy than it should save the planet.

Since July last year, when Labour failed to grab Boris Johnson’s old Uxbridge seat at a by-election, its leadership has finally noticed that the link in the public mind between the words “green” and “prosperity” has become tenuous. In that by-election, Sadiq Khan’s Ulez is thought to have worked its negative magic. Voters felt the pain of green policies, not the gain.

It follows that looking green is no longer a clear electoral plus. The Tories saw this slightly earlier than Labour last year. They stole a march by lessening the net-zero torture, extending the lives of the internal combustion engine and gas boilers. Probably Rishi Sunak intended no revolution of policy, only its softening, but the effect is marked. Once people realise you can have prosperity or an energy system dominated by renewables, but not both, they will choose prosperity. That realisation has big political consequences. I believe it makes net zero by 2050 unachievable.

A comparable cost-related disenchantment is visible in business. Last September, no bid was received for the government auction of offshore wind acreage. The subsidy was not big enough to make it worth bidders’ while. Before Christmas, Siemens Energy, one of the world’s biggest wind turbine companies, faced a collapse in its share price. Its chairman warned in January that the green transition must be paid for by higher energy bills: anything else was net zero “fairy-tale” thinking, he said.

Business wants green energy only if it is “de-risked” – in other words, if it is subsidised for the life of the asset. It is supposed to be “sustainable”, yet often only taxpayers’ money can sustain it. In short, it is unprofitable. And now, thanks to Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (a title as good as The Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984), businesses will try to extort higher subsidy here and buzz off to America if they cannot get it.

Thursday’s press reported that ├śrsted, the gigantic Danish developer of offshore wind in Britain (and elsewhere), is sacking hundreds of workers and abandoning markets after losses of £2.2 billion in 2023. The day before, the new boss of BP, Murray Auchincloss, predicted resurgent demand for fossil fuels, especially gas, and is leading the company in that direction.
This is the same Mr Auchincloss who, under his now disgraced predecessor, Bernard Looney, had been a leader in the company’s plan to move away from fossil fuels in favour of renewables, which he described as the new “upstream oil and gas”. BP lost competitive edge against its rivals. We don’t hear about that plan any longer.

Part of the Looney case was that the switch to renewables was “grounded in economic reality”. We have now been with green energy and government attacks on fossil fuels long enough for people to wonder if that is true.

As is well set out in Rupert Darwall’s new short book, The Folly of Climate Leadership (RealClear Foundation), the increasing costs have been relentless. They are particularly high here because of what Darwall calls Britain’s “climate jingoism” – our vainglorious desire to get ahead in what successive governments have decided is a race to net zero.

Our Climate Change Act of 2008 mandated an overall cut in greenhouse gases of 80 per cent of the 1990 baseline by 2050. That was under Labour, led by Mr Brown. In 2019, that percentage was upped to 100 per cent (“net zero”) and became law after only 88 minutes’ debate in the Commons. That was under the Conservatives, led by Theresa May. In 2020, we were told that Britain would become “the Saudi Arabia of wind power”. That, of course, was under the Conservatives, led by Boris Johnson.

Our heroic example did not inspire others. Between 2008 and 2019, our CO2 fossil-fuel emissions fell by 33 per cent, but those from the rest of the world rose by 16 per cent, wiping out in 140 days, Darwall calculates, the reductions we achieved over 11 years.

There is a high price for setting this pace: by 2020, our citizens were paying about 75 per cent more for their electricity than were Americans. Darwall points out that, from 2008-22, Britain has experienced its lowest underlying growth rate since the 18th century.

The two phenomena are related. Competitively priced energy is essential for robust economic growth. By the 1990s, with Arthur Scargill well beaten and privatisations accomplished in the previous decade, Britain had achieved a good and secure energy mix on the “gas to nuclear” track, rendered more efficient by letting price signals drive changes. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but a relatively clean one. Today our energy system is expensive, creaky, insecure, teetering on the edge of serious power cuts and, since the invasion of Ukraine, vulnerable to the malevolence of Vladimir Putin.

If you survey this history, two thoughts arise. One is the uniformity of error across the political spectrum. How was it that most people in all main parties thought they had to think the same things about the complicated and uncertain subject of climate change? Why did they unquestioningly accept ideas like the uniformity of “the science”, the concept of “emergency” in relation to policy, or the ability of governments, rather than businesses and consumers, to make the most efficient choices?


Net Zero becomes all dissonance and no cognition

Politicians have trapped themselves into waging a crusade voters say they want but won’t pay for.

The fault, dear Olaf, lies not in ourselves but in our voters.

That, with apologies to Shakespeare, is starting to look like an explanation for the net-zero agonies now engulfing German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and many other Western politicians. It’s both fun and accurate to lambaste our political class for its many climate hypocrisies and idiocies. But as climate policy becomes more expensive and less coherent by the week, voters deserve more and more of the blame.

A clue lies in a report released this week by the Ifo Institute, a think tank in Germany. Some 55% of respondents said they believe their country should play a leading role in the global effort to combat climate change, in a poll of Germans conducted last September. Considerably fewer were willing to pay anything for it. Asked their preferred measures for achieving net zero, only 16% supported mandates such as a ban on natural-gas-fired home heating that would impose direct costs on households. Eight percent supported an explicit carbon tax, the most economically efficient way to reduce emissions.

The punch line is that Germans’ most popular option for addressing climate change was “targeted subsidies for climate-friendly measures,” which 28% of respondents supported. Note the timing. This poll was conducted before a constitutional court ruling in November disallowed Berlin’s preferred method for using off-balance-sheet government borrowing to fund climate-related subsidies. Germans supported climate subsidies when it looked like free money.

Not anymore. The admission that subsidies must be funded by tax increases or offsetting spending cuts has cast Mr. Scholz’s administration into a crisis from which it might not recover. Case in point: A mass protest—by farmers, as it happens—erupted when Berlin tried to inch toward a policy vaguely resembling a carbon tax. The administration had to backtrack. Whatever else voters say they want on climate, people really, really don’t want to redistribute the costs of mitigation toward those who emit more carbon—at least not if Johann Q. Publik thinks he might be the emitter in question.

I don’t mean to pick on the Germans, as rich a vein as that is. Everyone else is confused, too. A December poll in Britain found that 85% of respondents described climate change as “an important problem” facing the U.K. (with 46% of respondents describing it as the most important or one of the most important problems). Forty-one percent said they’d be more likely to vote for a party that promised strong action on climate change vs. 33% who said they’d be more likely to vote for a party promising to slow down on climate policy.

Do they mean it? Of course not. The same poll found less than a quarter of respondents saying climate-change or net-zero policies would be “very important” in determining their votes in the election due this year. In a question for which respondents could choose more than one answer, 57% said they would vote based on policy promises concerning the National Health Service and healthcare, and 55% said they’d focus on the parties’ approaches to inflation.

Surveys in several large European economies in August found at least two-thirds of respondents in each country were worried about climate change—and totally unwilling to pay any personal costs to mitigate it. In: planting trees, subsidizing home insulation, taxing heavily emitting companies. Out: banning internal-combustion cars, limiting meat and dairy consumption, increasing fuel taxes. Hilarious: Voters support a frequent-flyer tax as long as they don’t think they’ll have to pay it themselves, since taxing all flights remains deeply unpopular.

Squaring the circles of our many and varied cognitive dissonances is what we as voters pay our politicians to do. The problem is that for years politicians have been leaning into the dissonance rather than the cognition.

By promulgating apocalyptic rhetoric about climate change, the climate-industrial complex in politics, academia, green tech and the media has persuaded voters that climate change is an existential danger. This is why 77% of Britons can tell a pollster that climate change is “a serious global threat” and Germans can come to view their global leadership on this issue in quasimoral terms. We don’t even talk about our beloved entitlements this way, let alone any other policy with the possible exception of immigration.

What a crash, then, as voters start noticing what net zero might cost them personally. Knowing that they can’t or won’t bear the costs themselves but also unable or unwilling to drop the moral crusade, voters instead demand ever more creative expenditures of someone else’s money to achieve climate goals.

This explains the reluctance of even moderately sensible politicians to admit what they’re so obviously doing: abandoning the climate project. Rollbacks of the most expensive, least popular climate measures, such as electric-vehicle mandates or agricultural-vehicle taxes, invariably are accompanied by pledges to keep doing something else for the climate at someone else’s expense.

It’s a note of caution for those of us breathing a sigh of relief at recent net-zero reversals. Voters are growing clearer-headed about what they aren’t prepared to pay to avert climate change. Yet true sanity won’t arrive until they’ve decided they also don’t care.