Monday, June 03, 2019

Socialists Ruin the Environment

The extreme Left may hawk the Green New Deal, but its track record is woefully poor.

The steady drumbeat of speculation about the “i-word” (impeachment) has pushed America’s political mindset away from the s-word: socialism. But it’ll be back soon, wrapped in the cloak of “climate change.” Despite what’s predicted to be a “near-normal” hurricane season beginning this weekend, much of the nation is still reeling from the wild weather of recent weeks — which is always a good time for blaming our free-enterprise system.

We all know that weather is beyond human control, but that hasn’t stopped leftists from insisting we can change this through government mandates that reduce our dependence on carbon-based energy and force us into other lifestyle corrections. Climate change was among several pet issues radical Democrats sought to address when they took over the House in last year’s midterm elections, and the Green New Deal is their most obvious effort. Never mind that not a single Democrat senator had the guts to vote for this colossally asinine legislation when the opportunity arose. But there are still a number of true believers out there in the House, and parts of the legislation could certainly find their way into other bills.

Those who’ve lived it have written at length about the dangers of socialism as an economic system, but what was lost in the initial assessment and commentary on the GND was the environmental track record of nations often considered to be leaders in green.

For example, North Korea has its fans among the Radical Green because its carbon output per capita is barely one-fourth that of its capitalist neighbor to the south. If one doesn’t mind the starvation and repression, North Korea comes across as an environmental paradise — at least until one sees the nighttime satellite images of a light-free nation and the daytime images of extensive deforestation.

And North Korea isn’t an outlier among communist nations. Writing at National Review, Shawn Regan, a research fellow at the nonprofit Property and Environment Research Center, makes the case that socialism, practiced in the style of the Green New Deal, has a “dismal environmental legacy.” As Soviet-era communism began to collapse three decades ago, the West could see firsthand the “massive ‘tragedy of the commons’” in the former Soviet Union and its onetime Eastern European satellite nations. Mass starvation killed millions. And then there was Chernobyl, which is now the subject of an HBO miniseries revealing just how calloused and deceptive Soviet officials were in the lead-up to and cover-up of that disaster.

The Communist Chinese are the world’s worst current offenders. Residents of Beijing must often wear masks to even breathe in the smog-laden city. And yet American leftists are content to take China’s pinky swears about reducing emissions for deals like the Paris Agreement.

Yet our own government doesn’t escape scrutiny. The military, federally owned power plants, and agricultural policies have despoiled their share of our landscape over the decades. Even the EPA dumped millions of gallons of toxic sludge into a Colorado river.

On the other hand, the U.S. has built a sanitary infrastructure to eradicate most water-borne disease and restricted unfettered private property rights in favor of generally (but not always) reasonable environmental regulations. Public outcry eliminated most of the automobile smog from our big-city skies and wanton dumping of industrial wastes into our waterways, and created entrepreneurial opportunities for satisfying both private and public interests. One of the many advantages of our capitalist system is how nimbly it can address such issues as they occur.

As for the Green New Deal, its mandates and red tape would create prosperity for a connected class of bureaucrats and rent-seekers, while the rest of us are met with energy costs that have “necessarily skyrocketed,” to paraphrase a former president. The GND would thus be a GRD (Green Raw Deal) for all but a privileged few.

Environmental, economic, and ultimately societal — the destruction of our nation would be complete if the proponents of the GND ever truly got their way. Socialism’s awful economic legacy is well documented, but its environmental legacy is one the Left would love to keep under wraps.


Sorry, Democrats, There Is No Climate Chaos
Climate isn’t the same as weather — unless, of course, weather happens to be politically useful. In that case, weather portends climate apocalypse.

So warns Elizabeth Warren as she surveyed Iowan rainstorms, which she claims, like tornadoes and floods, are more frequent and severe. “Different parts of the country deal with different climate issues,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-Malthusia, cautioned as she too warned of extreme tornadoes. “But ALL of these threats will be increasing in intensity as climate crisis grows and we fail to act appropriately.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., recently sent a fundraising email warning Democrats that climate change was causing “growing mega-fires, extremely destructive hurricanes, and horrific flooding” which put “American lives are at stake.”

Even if we pretend that passing a bazillion-dollar authoritarian Green New Deal would do anything to change the climate, there is no real-world evidence that today’s weather is increasingly threatening to human lives. By every quantifiable measure, in fact, we’re much safer despite the cataclysmal framing of every weather-related event.

How many of those taken in by alarmism realize that deaths from extreme weather have dropped somewhere around 99.9 percent since the 1920s? Heat and cold can still be killer, but thanks to increasingly reliable and affordable heating and cooling systems, and others luxuries of the age, the vast majority of Americans will never have to fear the climate in any genuine way.

Since 1980, death caused by all natural disasters and heat and cold is somewhere under 0.5 percent.

It’s true that 2019 has seen a spike in tornadoes, but mostly because 2018 was the first year recorded without a single violent tornado in the United States. Tornadoes killed 10 Americans in 2018, the fewest since we started keeping track of these things in 1875, only four years after the nefarious combustion engine was invented.

There has also been a long-term decline in the cost of tornado damage, as well. In 2018, we experienced near-lows in this regard. The only better years were 2017, 2016 and 2015.

After a few devastating hurricanes around a decade ago, we were similarly warned that it was a prelude to endless storms and ecological disaster. This was followed by nine years without a single major hurricane in the United States.

According to the U.S. Natural Hazard Statistics, in fact, 2018 saw below the 30-year average in deaths not only by tornadoes and hurricanes (way under average) but also from heat, flooding and lighting. We did experience a slight rise in deaths due to cold.

Pointing out these sort of things usually elicits the same reaction: Why do you knuckle-dragging troglodytes hate science? Well, because science’s predictive abilities on most things, but especially climate, has been atrocious. But mostly because science is being used as a cudgel to push leftist policy prescriptions without considering economic tradeoffs, societal reality or morality.

There are two things in this debate that we can predict with near certitude: First, that modern technology will continue to allow human beings to adapt to organic and anthropogenic changes in the environment. Second, that human beings will never surrender the wealth and safety that technology has and continues to afford them.

People who deny these realities are as clueless as any “denier” of science. Which brings me back to Democrats.

There have been a number of stories predicting that 2020 will finally be the year politicians start making climate change an important issue. One can only imagine these reporters started their jobs last week.

It’s true that a number of Democrats presidential hopefuls have taken “no fossil fuel money” pledges — as if they were going to get any of that cash anyway — as they spew carbon into the atmosphere searching for another bad-weather photo-op. Kevin Curtis, executive director of NRDC Action Fund, told BuzzFeed News that all of this was “really wicked cool.”

The 2018 midterm elections, adds Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, are when “climate change was beginning, for the first time, to play a significant role in a few races across the country.”

A poll conducted by that very same Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that even for the most left-wing voters, climate change — an imminent planetary tragedy that threatens the existence of all humanity and most animal species — ranked third on the list of most important issues. It ranked 17th among all voters, behind things like border security, tax reform and terrorism.

Maybe one day the electorate will finally buy in. Climate change, though, didn’t even make a blip on exit polls of 2018. Which is why Democrats keep ratcheting up the hysteria over every environmental tragedy.

“Climate chaos is here,” declares Merkley, “but it’s not too late to act.” Remember: When disaster is perpetually 10 years away, it’s never too late to send Democrats some of your money.


Green Policies Turned California A Charred Black

More than half of California’s roughly 105 million acres are owned by the federal and state governments. It is on these sprawling parcels that the wildfires tend to rage before devouring private land, homes, and businesses.

Public lands “have proved far more vulnerable to forest fires than properties owned by private groups,” Hoover Institution scholar Richard Epstein wrote in California’s Forest Fire Tragedy. “Private lands are managed with the goals of conservation and production. The management of public lands has been buffeted by legislative schemes driven by strong ideological commitments.”

The loudest voices assign blame for the fires to man-made climate change. But the human activity primarily responsible for the destructive spread of wildfires is public policy favoring burned timber over harvested timber. While maybe well-intended, laws inspired by the 1970s environmentalist movement, which is determined to make sure saw blades and trees never meet, have stoked the furnaces.

Rep. Tom McClintock, one of the few Republicans remaining in California’s congressional delegation, explained during a House floor speech last fall that “excess timber comes out of the forest one way or the other. It is either carried out, or it burns out. But it comes out.”

When excess timber was harvested in another era, he added, “we had healthy, resilient forests and we had thriving prosperous communities.” Timber sales from federal lands, said McClintock, generated revenue for local California communities and created thousands of jobs.

Given the extensive fire coverage in the media, it would be easy to believe we’re living in unprecedented times. Yet the number of all U.S. wildfires has remained “roughly constant” since the 1970s, a 2015 Reason Foundation policy brief tells us. What has increased, and sharply every year over the past three decades, is the area burned by wildfires. The average size of each wildfire more than doubled over that period.

The report’s author, Julian Morris, says “climatic factors cannot explain the pattern of fires observed over the past century.” Then there has to be another cause. Though it’s politically incorrect to agree with President Trump, he wasn’t wrong when he tweeted about the “gross mismanagement of the forests” being a factor in the fires.

Proper management of forests has to include tree-thinning, though not clear-cutting, and controlled-burns on public lands, as well as the removal of dead, diseased, and already-burned trees, which is oddly not allowed. Those 129 million dead trees in the state that can’t be hauled out are kindling to feed the next fires.

Of course forests aren’t the only acreage burning in California. Fires in Southern California roar through scrub brush, driven by hot Santa Ana winds, especially in areas where the brush has not been appropriately cleared. In many cases, brushy areas are scorched by fires that began in government-controlled forests.

“Wildfires have no boundaries,” Cal Fire Deputy Director Mike Mohler told PRI.

While state and national policymakers have been busy for decades searching out still another source of man-made pollution to eliminate, they have allowed a natural source to grow into a nearly uncontrollable monster. Maybe they’ve been distracted. As California and federal officials have taken “immense” steps “to stop, for example, tailpipe emissions,” says Epstein, both have been slow to rethink logging policy and other management strategies. The result has been a wave of wildfires that have produced far more pollution in California than automobile exhaust.

Policy changes are desperately needed, but as long as policymakers are able to get away with blaming the problem on climate change, and focus their thinking on what to do after lives and property have been destroyed, California will continue to be consumed by fire.



Four current articles below

Labor’s Shayne Neumann backs Adani, says party must get behind coal mining

Labor frontbencher Shayne Neumann says he would be happy for more coal mining, including the $2 billion Adani Carmichael coalmine, to take place in Queensland if it generates jobs.

“I’m happy for more mining generally to take place, can I just say in Queensland,” he told Sky News on Sunday morning.

“As long as these things are done in an environmentally safe way and as long as it stacks up environmentally, commercially, and I’ve said all along and Labor’s said all along there shouldn’t be any federal government funding towards it.”

Mr Neumann’s comments clash with those made by new Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who last week continued to question the economics around the Adani mine and said the markets would ultimately decide.

Construction is expected to start on Adani within weeks, after Queensland’s environment department approved its plan to protect the endangered black-throated finch.

The final barrier to the controversial mine in the Galilee Basin, in central Queensland, is approval of the company’s groundwater management plan, which will be decided on June 13.

Mr Neumann said the Adani coal mine will be a “good” thing for Queensland, because it will bring jobs and economic development to the state.

“Well, if it brings jobs to Queensland of course it’s good,” Mr Neumann said.

“There’s a couple of steps to go. The Queensland government’s looking like its taking through a process that involves getting advice from Geoscience Australia, from CSIRO. There’s a groundwater management plan that they’re working with Adani in relation to. My understanding is that process will be completed in June sometime. And if jobs arise from this and if the proposal of Adani stacks up, if the environmental concerns are addressed by the Queensland government, if that’s the case then it brings jobs in Queensland then of course it’s good for Queensland.

“If there’s jobs and if there’s economic development and financial security it’s essential to North Queenslanders.”

.@ShayneNeumannMP on the Adani coal mine: If jobs arrive from this, Adani's proposals stack up, and if the environmental concerns are addressed by the Queensland government then, of course, it's a good thing.

Mr Neumann said Labor had to be supportive of the mining industry in Queensland if the party wanted to win the next election. He said the party needs to “listen to the voice” of central and regional Queenslanders.

“Royalties underpin the Queensland government budget and they will when the budget is announced very shortly. So it’s important. It’s not just in mining, it’s tourism, it’s service industries, it’s primary production. These things are important.”

Mr Neumann said the party needs to rebuild and reconnect with the state.

“We just can’t think that we can win government when we’re giving away 20 seats to the LNP, it’s a reminder that Queensland is the third biggest state in terms of population. The number of seats we have in federal parliament, in Queensland for example is almost equivalent to Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia combined. It’s a great reminder to us that we’ve got to do better in Queensland if we think we can win government.”

Mr Neumann wouldn’t speculate on what portfolio he would be given when Labor announces its frontbench reshuffle later today.


Morrison win boosts support for climate solutions, not slogans

On the second anniversary of Don­ald Trump’s decision to pull the US from the Paris Agreement, the world is becoming more polarised on climate change action.

The re-election of the Morrison government and the rejection of Labor’s Paris-plus agenda follow a pattern now familiar in the US, Brazil and parts of Europe.

The outcome means there will be no further financial support from Australia for the Green Climate Fund, a centrepiece of the Paris Agreement to help developing ­nations. Carryover permits from the Kyoto process will be used to meet our Paris targets and business will not need international carbon trading ­permits.

A returned Morrison government preserves the status quo and provides further evidence of the difficult political path of meeting, let alone expanding on, the Paris Agreement.

The news from Europe and elsewhere is mixed. A promised clean energy transition in Germany is faltering over its high cost and failure to reduce emissions, and investment in renewable energy has stalled across the EU, where major wind companies are in financial trouble.

The EU elections punished centre-focused parties, delivering strong gains to the Greens at one extreme and nationalist leaders at the other. The makeup of the new European parliament may make it easier for the EU to deliver a strengthened climate program.

But in India a landslide election victory by President Narendra Modi promises an acceleration of that country’s modernisation, which will draw much of its energy from coal. Brazil also has prioritised development over conservation. And China, the biggest emitter, remains the driving force and banker for new coal-fired power station developments around the world.

As Trump prepares to make good his promise to complete the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the spotlight has turned to the credibility of the science that underpins the call to climate action.

A front-page article in The New York Times on Monday reports: “In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr Trump’s hard-line views on other nations” — leaving the Paris deal and insisting climate be deleted from communiques issued by world leaders on issues such as the Arctic.

“And, in what could be Mr Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests,”the article says.

The Trump administration wants science advisers to shorten the horizon on climate predictions to 2040 rather than the turn of the century and not to include worst-case scenarios, which the UN report already considers to be unlikely. After months of wrangling, former Princeton professor William Happer has been promoted to chair a climate review panel, causing alarm among climate activists.

Australia’s election result has been projected at least in part as a Hi-Vis revolution that will act as a safety valve to defuse the sort of community tensions that have erupted in France as regional centres rebelled over the expensive climate demands of the capital.

In Australia, the division has been between jobs-hungry coal centres in Queensland and NSW and demands for action from wealthy urban electorates.

As the coal centres celebrate their win, momentum is building behind a grassroots movement to bolster demands for change and broaden the UN agenda past climate to biodiversity and sustainable development. The schools strike movement that has been organised behind the figurehead of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg is one high-profile example.

A concerted push to build a mass movement of civil disobedience under the banner Extinction Rebellion is likely to be a more potent expression of the frustrations being felt by climate groups. For long-time climate activists such as British writer George Monbiot, Extinction Rebellion is a natural precursor to system change.

“The political class is chaotic, unwilling and, in isolation, strategically incapable of addressing even short-term crises, let alone a vast existential predicament,” Monbiot says.

Superficially at least the movement is getting results. Britain, preoccupied by Brexit, has declared a climate emergency, which protest groups believe has put the country on to a warlike footing. The declaration was made after a protracted series of protests by Extinction Rebellion that aimed to paralyse the City of London.

There has been a couple of ­Extinction Rebellion protests in Australia. Thousands have marched or “played dead” in protests in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Hundreds are gathering at meetings in regional centres to bolster a protest movement that claims to be decentralised and without formal leadership.

The goal of Extinction Rebellion is to install a nonpartisan citizens assembly to reshape the global economy. Members of the assembly would be selected at random and educated by expert scientists, the group says.

Extinction Rebellion projects a crisis with a pitch that is calculated to alarm. “We are in the middle of an ecological crisis,” the group says.

“Our course is set for mass species extinction, and societal collapse. Our future looks bleak and our children are not safe.”

It is a message falling on fertile ground. Queensland MP Warren Entsch says he has experienced first hand the passions surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, which for many has become a proxy for climate change. Entsch asked Scott Morrison to be appointed envoy to defuse two of the hottest environmental issues, plastics and the reef.

“I met with a lot of young people who had been counselled by local activists on what to say,” Entsch tells Inquirer. “Some were so scared about the situation they were moved ­almost to tears, but none of them had actually seen the Great Barrier Reef.”

Entsch arranged for briefings from marine biologists and reef operators to give them another perspective but says they were quite hostile to alternative views.

“What concerned me the most was that all the kids could do was quote slogans,” he says. “In my view it was almost akin to child abuse.”

Entsch says he has been inspired by the actions of 11-year-old Molly Steer, who had rejected advances from activists to head the school strike movement in Australia. Instead, Steer has focused on plastic straws. “Molly is not into slogans, just solutions,” Entsch says.


Build dams or we damn farmers to unrelenting hardship

By Graham Richardson -- a big wheel in the Labor Party

If you live in one of our great cities you probably know nothing of the drought gripping large chunks of eastern Australia. You can still go down to the shops safe in the knowledge the butcher will have the meat you want and the fruiterer will stock the fruit and veg required for a healthy diet.

A touch of reality forced its way into my head yesterday when I ­interviewed Nationals leader Mich­ael McCormack. This bloke really cares about the people he represents and you could almost hear the pain in his voice as he talked about the struggles of the farming communities he tries to protect and foster. In the driest continent it beggars belief to think no new dams have been built here in more than three decades. While I remain a strong supporter of protecting our natural beauty, I can no longer handle the idea that saving a rare frog should hamper our citizens getting safe, clean water.

The trend is to rely on saltwater conversion facilities. They are expensive to build and run. Last time I looked, this is a pretty big country and there ought to be the space for a few more dams. Anyone who has turned on a tap in Adelaide knows I am on the right track. Water policy caters for environment-friendly flows, and that seems to outweigh concerns for those people who rely on our ­rivers for drinking water as well.

The Nationals have made the running on this, but I wonder how keen they will be when they tell a group of Australians their homes and their way of life will be flooded and washed away. I can recall the efforts of a past Queensland gov­ernment to dam the Mary River. The people in the valley there started a revolution that saw the authorities beat a hasty retreat.

Maybe it just seems like it but droughts seem to take our country in their arid grip more often than they did in the past. Eastern Australia has had a few showers but the constant rain for days on end required to break a drought of the dimension we are experiencing has not come. As a counterpoint to this, though, Townsville has just survived the worst flooding in its history. As Dorothea Mackellar wrote, this is a country that pro­duces “droughts and flooding rains”. Whenever I think of these phenomena, I find my ­admiration for our farmers and graziers ­expanding rapidly.

While I rarely find myself agreeing with Barnaby Joyce, he, like McCormack, has long been a champion of building more dams in a country that just lost interest in building them after the last one was built more than three decades ago. There is no cheap way to provide extra water for drinking or agriculture. Once there has been a maximised allowance of water to be taken from our rivers, we have nothing to fall back on.

Labor has no real history of making water policy front and centre and the Liberals have not given it much prominence either. When the crunch comes, it has to be conceded the Nationals have grimly hung on to a policy that the major parties have ignored. But now water policy has, if you will pardon the pun, gone mainstream.


Coal royalties will not be increased in next Queensland budget

The recent pro-coal vote in the Federal election has got the State Leftists running scared

Coal royalties would not be increased in Queensland's next budget “in exchange” for millions of dollars in contributions from mining giants to a regional infrastructure fund, Treasurer Jackie Trad has promised.

Ms Trad, the deputy premier, said she met with "some of the biggest coal miners in Queensland" on Wednesday to devise a strategy to boost regional infrastructure, without increasing the rate of royalties.

The move could save coal companies as much as a billion dollars a year, Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said.

The announcement comes days after Ms Trad said she would not speculate on a change to the rate of royalties before the June budget was handed down.

“I have put on the table a period of time in which royalties would not change here in Queensland in exchange for ... a bit more of a contribution by companies into this fund,” Ms Trad said.

“So, a three-year freeze on any changes to Queensland's royalty regime, but I want these companies to think about making an additional contribution through this fund to the regional communities in which they operate."

Mr Macfarlane welcomed the freeze and said he would spend the next 24 hours speaking with about 150 gas, coal and mineral companies to decide whether to accept the deal. “It is the Treasurer's offer, we are prepared to consider it,” he said.

The government would contribute $30 million to start the infrastructure fund.

Ms Trad said she hoped miners would chip in $70 million to bring the fund to $100 million, but stressed the contributions were voluntary.

"I want to put on record the fact that many mining companies already contribute quite significantly to the local communities in which they operate. "That is their social licence. But we know that regional Queensland is still doing it quite tough and we can make a bit more of a contribution if we work together."

Mr Macfarlane said companies already gave “tens of millions of dollars” to regional community groups.

The rate of royalties, set in each state budget, had not increased in seven years, Ms Trad said.

Adani has until the end of June to settle its royalties agreement with the government for its controversial central Queensland mine to go ahead.

Adani Australia chief executive Lucas Dow said all mining companies wanted was a "stable" mining royalties regime. When asked whether the Carmichael mine would still be viable if coal royalties were increased in the budget, Mr Dow said: "Certainly, our position would be that we think it would be unwise to increase royalties."

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the regional infrastructure fund was a dressed-up mining tax and accused the state government of trying to kill off new coal mines – even though contributions to the fund were voluntary.

“Queenslanders won’t be fooled by Jackie Trad, who today told the resources industry that her new mining tax was voluntary, but if they didn’t pay it, Labor will raise mining royalties anyway,” Ms Frecklington said.

“Queensland Labor is already getting an extra $1 billion dollar from coal royalties. They should be investing more of that into infrastructure.

“These mining companies are already bound by community service obligations and this is quite simply double-dipping.”

Mr Macfarlane said if the Treasurer had raised the rate of royalties by 2 per cent, it could have cost mining companies an extra billion dollars a year.



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