Friday, August 30, 2019

The most dangerous thing about the Amazon fires is the apocalyptic rhetoric

Matt Ridley

Cristiano Ronaldo is a Portuguese expert on forests who also plays football, so when he shared a picture online of a recent forest fire in the Amazon, it went viral. Perhaps he was in a rush that day to get out of the laboratory to football training, because it later transpired that the photograph was actually taken in 2013, not this year, and in southern Brazil, nowhere near the Amazon.

But at least his picture was only six years old. Emmanuel Macron, another forest ecologist who moonlights as president of France, claimed that ‘the Amazon rainforest — the lungs which produce 20 per cent of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire!’ alongside a picture that was 20 years old. A third bioscientist, who goes under the name of Madonna and sings, capped both their achievements by sharing a 30-year-old picture.

Now imagine if some celebrity — Donald Trump, say, or Nigel Lawson — had shared a picture of a pristine tropical forest with the caption ‘Amazon rainforest’s doing fine!’ and it had turned out to be decades old or from the wrong area. The BBC’s ‘fact-checkers’ would have been all over it, seizing the opportunity to mock, censor and ostracise.

In fact, ‘Amazon rainforest’s doing fine’ is a lot closer to the truth than ‘Amazon rainforest — the lungs which produce 20 per cent of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire!’. The forest is not on fire. The vast majority of this year’s fires are on farmland or already cleared areas, and the claim that the Amazon forest produces 20 per cent of the oxygen in the air is either nonsensical or wrong depending on how you interpret it (in any case, lungs don’t produce oxygen). The Amazon, like every ecosystem, consumes about as much oxygen through respiration as it produces through photosynthesis so there is no net contribution; and even on a gross basis, the Amazon comprises less than 6 per cent of oxygen production, most of which happens in the ocean.

But it is the outdated nature of the pictures shared by celebs that is most revealing, because the number of fires in Brazil this year is more than last year, but about the same as in 2016 and less than in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2012. For most of those years, Brazil’s president was a socialist, not a right-wing populist, so in BBC-world those fires did not count. More significantly, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon basin is down by 70 per cent since 2004.

It is probably true that President Jair Bolsonaro’s rhetoric has encouraged those who want to resume logging and clearing forest and contributed to this year’s uptick in fires in the country. But was it really necessary to claim global catastrophe to make this point, and was it counterproductive? ‘Macron’s tweet had the same impact on Bolsonaro’s base as Hillary calling Trump’s base deplorable,’ says one Brazilian commentator.

I sometimes wonder if the line wrongly attributed to Mark Twain, ‘a lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on’, is now taken as an instruction by environmental pressure groups. They operate in a viciously competitive market for media attention and donations, and those who scream loudest do best, even if it later turns out they were telling fibs.

Around the world, wild fires are generally declining, according to Nasa. Deforestation, too, is happening less and less. The United Nations’ ‘state of the world’s forests’report concluded last year that ‘the net loss of forest area continues to slow, from 0.18 per cent [a year] in the 1990s to 0.08 per cent over the last five-year period’. A study in Nature last year by scientists from the University of Maryland concluded that even this is too pessimistic: ‘We show that — contrary to the prevailing view that forest area has declined globally — tree cover has increased by 2.24 million km2 (+7.1 per cent relative to the 1982 level).’

This net increase is driven by rapid reforestation in cool, rich countries outweighing slower net deforestation in warm, poor countries. But more and more nations are now reaching the sort of income levels at which they stop deforesting and start reforesting. Bangladesh, for example, has been increasing its forest cover for several years. Costa Rica has doubled its tree cover in 40 years. Brazil is poised to join the reforesters soon.

Possibly the biggest driver of this encouraging trend is the rising productivity of agriculture. The more yields increase, the less land we need to steal from nature to feed ourselves. Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University has calculated that the world needs only 35 per cent as much land to produce a given quantity of food as 50 years ago. That has spared wild land on a massive scale.

Likewise, getting people on to fossil fuels and away from burning wood for fuel spares trees. It is in the poorest countries, mainly in Africa, that men and women still gather firewood for cooking and bushmeat for food, instead of using electricity or gas and farmed meat.

The trouble with the apocalyptic rhetoric is that it can seem to justify drastic but dangerous solutions. The obsession with climate change has slowed the decline of deforestation. An estimated 700,000 hectares of forest has been felled in South-East Asia to grow palm oil to add to supposedly green ‘bio-diesel’ fuel in Europe, while the world is feeding 5 per cent of its grain crop to motor cars rather than people, which means 5 per cent of cultivated land that could be released for forest. Britain imports timber from wild forests in the Americas to burn for electricity at Drax in North Yorkshire, depriving beetles and woodpeckers of their lunch.

The temptation to moralise on social media is so strong among footballers, actors and politicians alike that it is actually doing harm. Get the economic incentives right and the world will save its forests. Preach and preen and prevaricate, and you’ll probably end up inadvertently depriving more toucans and tapirs of their rainforest habitat.


State or climate — an easy choice

Looking at remote sensing data from NASA’s satellites across the past two decades, the Earth has increased its green leaf area by a total of 5 per cent, roughly 5.5 million square kilo­metres — equivalent to the size of the entire Amazon rainforest.

Who knew?

Certainly not French President Emmanuel Macron. In an alarmist tweet featuring a photo of an Amazon fire said to have been taken 30 years ago, he told the G7 leaders conference: “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rainforest — the lung which produces 20 per cent of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire.” Well, not really. Atmospheric scientists claim that even though plant photosynthesis is ultimately responsible for breathable oxygen, only a fraction of that plant growth actually adds to the store of oxygen in the air. Even if all organic matter on Earth were burned at once, less than 1 per cent of the world’s oxygen would be consumed.

No doubt the Amazon fires are worrying. However, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicates that total fire activity across the entire Amazon Basin this year seems relatively unexceptional. Indeed, NASA observed on ­August 21: “It is not unusual to see fires in Brazil at this time of year due to high temperatures and low ­humidity. Time will tell if this year is record-breaking or just within normal limits.”

Nevertheless, with the next UN Climate Summit due on September 23, it’s time to ring the alarm bells. Before each UN climate action conference the media rhetoric ramps up and new evidence of an existential threat is provided. A blazing Amazon rainforest is perfect propaganda ­material. But then, as British scientist Philip Stott observes: “In essence, the Earth has been given a 10-year survival warning regularly for the last 50 or so years.”

Still, CNN obediently turns NASA’s cautious observation into a catastrophe, declaring: “Amazon rainforest is burning at an unprecedented rate.” NBC News despairs: “Amazon wildfires could be game over for climate-change fight.” And, predictably, The New York Times fails to mention that while today’s fires are significantly worse than last year’s, they appear close to the ­average of the past 15 years.

For Macron, the Amazon fires give him ammunition to attack someone he dislikes, right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro’s unfiltered style has seen him dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics” and, like the US President, he attracts condemnation for his attitude, ­especially on climate change.

It’s true, since coming to office in January, Bolsonaro has moved Brazil further away from climate action and Brazil’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. Critics argue his government has weakened the institutional and legal framework that helps fight deforestation and lessened the participation of pro-environment groups. Indeed, before Bolso­naro coming to office, Amazon deforestation had declined almost 80 per cent in a little more than a decade. Now the Brazilian President is opening up previously protected areas to private ownership. He believes forests and forest protection are impediments to Brazil’s economic growth and that his critics are leading a “disinformation campaign built against our nation’s sovereignty”.

Indeed, Brazilian farmers ­believe they have a right to burn. They see fires as a natural part of life. Most fires are agricultural in nature; smallholders burning stubble after harvest or clearing forest for crop land. For this, Don­ald Trump is also blamed. Toby Gardner, director of non-government organisation Trase, reckons the huge growth in Brazil’s farms is because of Trump’s trade war that “sent China, the top buyer of US soybeans, shopping in South America”.

But while international condemnation is directed at Brazil, what largely goes unreported is that the worst fires are in Bolivia. But then Bolivian President Evo Morales is of the hard left and seeking a fourth term in office. Unlike Bolsonaro, Morales talks the global warming talk. In 2010 he hosted a summit to tackle “the threats of capitalism against life, climate change and the culture of life”. Having politically correct credentials gives him a free pass. He can approve oil ­exploration and fracking in indigenous territories. All 11 of the ­nation’s protected areas have been opened for oil and gas exploration. But still Morales is spared criticism.

Of course, Bolsonaro’s threat to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and his abandonment of Brazil’s offer to host a key Latin America and Caribbean climate week on the grounds “the event only serves as a platform for NGOs … which has nothing to do with climate change” did nothing for his global standing.

Nor with Macron, whose relationship with the Brazilian is now toxic. A proud Bolsonaro accuses Macron of having a “colonialist mentality”, while the Frenchman calls him a liar over a broken pledge to fight global warming. Macron says he will block efforts to seal a major trade deal with Brazil. Now the relationship has completely broken apart after a Brazilian supporter posted an insulting comment about Macron’s wife that Bolsonaro re-tweeted.

Such are the politics of climate change. Like the US, Brazil believes its national interest lies outside the Paris Agreement. It is not alone. Countries such as Bolivia, Poland and others, including Aus­tralia, find it increasingly difficult to balance domestic priorities with the economically crippling demands of their Paris commitments.

Something will have to give. Environmental awareness is one thing but outsourcing sovereignty is something else. Amazon fires have exposed what has long been suspected. Despite international agreements and peer group coercion, in the end nations will pursue their self-interest. With the passing of each survival deadline that decision becomes easier.


What My Friends on the Left Need to Know About the Green New Deal

“Nowhere has our public discourse failed us more egregiously than on the environment and climate change,” I wrote last year while reviewing the first sketches of a proposed Green New Deal. It’s since become a buzzword, but until now it remained only vaguely defined.

Now Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has significantly upped the ante. Sanders’ Green New Deal proposal is very specific, earmarking $16 trillion over 10 years to initiatives from “reaching 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030” to reauthorizing the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps to “coming together in a truly inclusive movement that prioritizes young people, workers, indigenous peoples, communities of color, and other historically marginalized groups.”

The opening to the Sanders campaign’s new page on the Green New Deal encapsulates the candidate’s view of the issue:

The climate crisis is not only the single greatest challenge facing our country; it is also our single greatest opportunity to build a more just and equitable future, but we must act immediately.

Sanders and I wouldn’t disagree that his plan represents a sea change in the way our government, society, and economy interact. The plan is gigantic. I want to fill page after page with factoids about how big it is, but just a few will suffice:

The proposal’s total cost is $16 trillion, over 20 times the cost of the New Deal (in today’s dollars, just under $700 billion).

If the proposal succeeded in creating 20 million jobs, it would raise the percentage of the workforce employed by the government to around a third, double what it is now.

Remember that goal of 100 percent renewables by 2030? We’re only at 15 percent now, meaning almost the entire U.S. energy system would be overhauled.

I rarely post my articles on my personal Facebook page. I’d say most of my friends are somewhere on the left, and I haven’t yet learned how to not get sucked into multi-day social media debates. This one goes out to them, because setting aside all the proxy wars fought about climate change, Bernie Sanders’ proposed Green New Deal is a really, really bad idea.

The Four Fallacies
I approach climate change from the presumption that it is real, that a significant portion is caused by humankind, and that it’s potentially a very big problem. I don’t doubt the intentions of Senator Sanders or especially supporters of his proposal. And I’m not funded by anyone with a net worth even a penny over $1 billion. I’m just an economist living in the woods.

So, in the harsh, occasionally scathing criticism that follows, I want everyone to remember it’s not because of any of the things above. But then how do I reach conclusions so different than Sanders? I think Sanders’ view of the problem is based on four major fallacies, incorrect assumptions so hardwired that he doesn’t even know he’s making them.

What are the four fallacies?

Climate change is a binary (0/1) variable.

Climate change is primarily the fault of a few people rather than a complex, emergent phenomenon.

Planning from the top down is a good way to solve climate change.

Planning from the top down is the only means to solve climate change.

A plan like Sanders’ Green New Deal will not successfully achieve the goals it lays out, and is likely to cause significant damage to the economy. I’m not so naive as to think this article will change minds, but if it gets a few people to stop and question their assumptions in the midst of a public debate with more bad blood than ever, I’ll take it.

Fallacy 1: Climate change is a binary (0/1) variable

In his proposal Sanders writes:

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report last year issued a dire warning to the world: we have no time left to come together as a global force and aggressively reduce our carbon pollution emissions. It also made a strong case for limiting warming at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius if we hope to continue to have a habitable planet.

The October 2018 report Sanders references is a massive document, but even a quick read of the boldface statements in the Summary for Policymakers is eye-opening. For example:

Climate-related risks for natural and human systems are higher for global warming of 1.5°C than at present, but lower than at 2°C (high confidence). These risks depend on the magnitude and rate of warming, geographic location, levels of development and vulnerability, and on the choices and implementation of adaptation and mitigation options (high confidence).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientists frame climate change as a deeply complex issue nested in the way we live in which more efforts at mitigation now will reduce the incidence and risk of a host of adverse weather and environmental events.

Sanders mischaracterizes the scientists’ findings, framing the issue as a choice between massively overhauling society and doing nothing, with the latter posing a serious risk of human extinction (“habitable planet” leaves a bit more wiggle room than extinction, but I don’t know another way to read it).

This sword-of-Damocles view of climate change, common in today’s discussions, will not get us anywhere. In addition to not being true, it takes people who are open to taking significant action and forces them to choose sides. It helps fuel the denialist movement and has likely prevented many smaller actions, both government and individual, that would have left us in a better spot than where we find ourselves.

Fallacy 2: Climate change is the fault of a few people

Climate change is an emergent phenomenon, not one caused by a small group of people.

Sanders sees climate change as a problem primarily caused by a small group of people. Their motivation is greed and a Sanders presidency will be different because he will fight those people.

Or, as stated in Sanders’ Green New Deal proposal:

We cannot accomplish any of these goals without taking on the fossil fuel billionaires whose greed lies at the very heart of the climate crisis. These executives have spent hundreds of millions of dollars protecting their profits at the expense of our future, and they will do whatever it takes to squeeze every last penny out of the Earth.

Billionaires and corporate executives do bad things. Sometimes they have bad intentions. But climate change is an emergent phenomenon, primarily the product of billions if not trillions of decisions made every day by everyone in an increasingly complex global network. From Americans’ decisions about what kind of car to buy to urbanization in the developing world, causes of climate change are all around us and frequently not separable.

Sanders proposes a top-down solution to what he envisions as a top-down problem. His analogy to the Second World War speaks volumes:

The scope of the challenge ahead of us shares similarities with the crisis faced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940s. Battling a world war on two fronts — both in the East and the West — the United States came together, and within three short years restructured the entire economy in order to win the war and defeat fascism.

The challenge posed by climate change is nothing like winning a war, which is about focusing a nation’s efforts into one or a few points of conflict. Instead, one has to focus on thousands or millions of “fronts” in addressing climate change, and as I’ll argue below federal governments just aren’t good at that, especially in an increasingly networked and technological society.

A far more apt comparison for Sanders’ formulation of climate change is to the U.S. government’s War on Drugs. Drugs are another emergent phenomenon, embedded in poverty, mental health, and global politics. And large-scale government action has proven futile if not counterproductive.

Fallacy 3:We Can Control the Environment and Economy From The Top Down

Attempting to control a complex system from the top down is not effective and is likely to do considerable economic damage.

Why can’t we solve climate change from the top down?

I want to think about your self-awareness — the volume of information you’ve learned about yourself, what products you like, what you consider fulfilling, how you might perform or react in different situations. Now imagine going out and trying to find a job, or a good investment, without the use of that self-awareness or similar awareness of the person with whom you’re doing business.

Supporters of Sanders’ proposals might say they have no intention for this model to take over the economy but in one fell swoop are seizing control of 8 percent of GDP and about 16 percent of the U.S. workforce.

The analogy is not to suggest that Sanders is after socializing the entire labor market, but rather how easy good or decent outcomes collapse under the weight of information. You couldn’t possibly even write down most of your intuition about yourself to pass up the chain of command to an economic planner.

When economic decisions are centrally made, as they ultimately are in the Green New Deal, planners must throw out an incalculably large store of information. That’s why we’re usually better off letting people make their own decisions. It’s why we need markets and why socialist economies are known for odd and vexing shortages of goods.

Sanders’ proposal takes a considerable chunk of society’s resources out of people’s hands and leaves them at the White House door. When Sanders writes, “We will spend $1.52 trillion on renewable energy and $852 billion to build energy storage capacity,” how on earth does he know how to spend it?

That brings us to one more shortcoming of top-down responses to bottom-up problems. They rely on several smart people in a room whose intelligence may be formidable but is put to shame by the most creative force we know, evolution. We need thousands of small private firms, informed or incentivized by the price mechanism, to develop technology to both mitigate and address the impacts of climate change.

Fallacy 4: Nation-states are our only hope to address climate change

This may leave you saying, “Okay, Gulker, then what are we supposed to do?” I’m not going to pretend that’s an easy question, and I wish there were more people focused on it. A climate policy that relies more heavily on the evolution inherent in markets as a bottom-up force for change can’t really be presented as a “plan” like what we’ve gotten from Sanders.

To get there, though, we must free ourselves from the flawed idea that only nation-states are big, powerful, and well-informed enough to have a meaningful impact on global issues. Virtually everyone on any side of the climate issue makes this final mistake. Take the money and time spent lobbying, campaigning, and waiting for the government to catch up to one’s view on climate change. Invest in a prominent technology with a GoFundMe instead.

A plan like Sanders’ proposal may actually suck some of that creative energy out of the market by making massive, centrally planned investments in technologies picked by the best and brightest to win.

Sounds like a drop in the bucket, but think about if hundreds of millions of people did that. Nobody would oppose or care enough to stop someone’s volunteerism, and economic and cultural change would happen if more people were simply demanding firms they do business with follow certain rules.

More than any other takeaway, we do not face a choice between the Sanders’ proposal reshuffling our economic deck (I’ve argued for the worse), and certain doom. It might not give environmentalists everything they want, but think if we’d deployed this decentralized strategy 20 years ago, how much better a spot we’d be in.

Climate change is but one example of how our society and technology have evolved faster than our governance institutions. And that is something we ignore at our own peril.


Forests Make a Comeback

In the last week, there have been many reports about the fires in the Amazonian forests. Many of these reports led news shows or were on the front pages of leading newspapers. The Amazon forest, which produces about 20% of earth's oxygen and is the world’s largest rainforest, is often referred to as "the planet's lungs." The nickname strikes the imagination and it is frequently used in campaigns regarding the perils of deforestation. As such, the news reports about the fire strike a fear that one of the last great forests is disappearing.

That’s completely untrue. Forests are making a comeback! More precisely, the tree cover of the planet is increasing. To be sure, it is nowhere near what it was at the beginning of the 19th century when the world’s population was below 1 billion individuals (most of whom were abjectly poor). Indeed, many forests on the planet were destroyed and cleared as population grew in number and wealth. However, globally speaking, the tree cover has begun to recover. Since 1982, a recent peer-reviewed paper in Nature suggests, the planet’s tree cover increased by 2.24 million km2 (an increase of roughly 7%).

The transition also differs by region as some countries saw a recovery of forest much earlier. Many European countries saw the beginning of this recovery in the early decades of the twentieth century (and some began the transition much earlier). For the United States, there are some studies placing the beginning of the recovery in the 1930s but many states (especially in New England and the Middle Atlantic states) saw their forest recoveries begin as early as 1907. To be sure, some regions on Earth are experiencing falls in forest cover. This is the case for Brazil and many other Latin American countries (not all as Chile and Uruguay have already seen their forest recoveries begin). Nevertheless, the global picture is one of optimism.

And there is cause for being optimistic that the trend will continue.

Geographer Pierre Desrochers and economist Hiroko Shimizu noted that nine-tenths of all the deforestation caused by humans took place before 1950. The main reason for this was that forest-clearing was one of the easiest channels by which to increase the food supply while also providing energy.

However, as we are now vastly more productive in our agriculture, we require less land to feed the same population. The effects of productivity growth in agriculture are so strong that some agricultural scientists are speaking of “peak farmland” – the idea that we will need less and less land to feed a growing population.

Moreover, as transports and communication technologies have also improved, we have been able to concentrate production in the most productive areas of the planet in ways that explain a sizable share of total gains in productivity. As we grow more productive in farming, mankind can now leave some acres to return to nature to be reforested. With the prospect of new advances in bio-engineering, meat printing, sky-farms and other innovations, this is a force for reforestation that will only strengthen.

There have also been considerable improvements in the ability to transform wood into products. Consider simply the role of saws. A few decades ago, most saws were quite thick. This meant that large portions of trees became saw dust which could not be reused. Today, most saws are razor-thin. This minimizes the waste which, anyways, we now reuse as plywood.

While this may appear like a trivial example to use, but this was the margin to play on a few decades ago to improve productivity. Today, considerable resources are invested in the scientific management of forests and bioengineering better trees. This ability to derive more value from tree incentivizes reforestation.

These sources of reforestation are also the channels that improve the well-being of mankind: greater productivity makes us richer. This is why some researchers have noted that improvements in human well-being (using both narrow and broad measures such as GDP and the Human Development Index) and forest expansion seem to go hand in hand.

Other researchers have noted the same, in a more indirect fashion, when they pointed out that the institutions that generate improvements in living standards may also hasten forest recoveries. As living standards are globally on the rise, this only reinforces the case for optimism with the fate of forests.

To be sure, none of this suggests that the fires in the Amazonian ought to be ignored. However, it does suggest that one should not focus exclusively on those fires to infer anything about the state of forests worldwide.


Climate crisis canceled: Where did all the drought go?

A record low amount of drought occurred in the United States in 2017, but that didn’t stop climate alarmists from blaming 2018 California wildfires on global warming. Yes, even though California state officials determined Pacific Gas & Electric power lines were to blame. So if global warming was a major factor in the 2018 wildfires, is global warming due praise for the record lack of drought in 2017? And what is the state of drought in California and the United States today?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports good news for Americans and bad news for climate alarmists. As the late summer/early autumn drought season kicks in, the entire state of California is free of drought. A couple small areas of southern California are experiencing minor dry conditions that do not rise to the level of drought. The rest of the state is experiencing normal or wetter than normal conditions. Did global warming suddenly stop?

It’s not just California, by the way. NOAA also reports the United States just experienced its most abundant rainfall in any recorded 12-month period. And examining extreme drought versus merely regularly drought, this spring marked the smallest portion of the country experiencing drought in nearly two decades. So 2017 brought the smallest amount of drought ever recorded, and mid-2018 through mid-2019 brought the most abundant rainfall on record. But when faulty PG&E power lines sparked wildfires during the middle of this abundant rainfall, alarmists say global warming is causing drought which causes or exacerbates wildfires.

It is for reasons like this that alarmists lack credibility with the American people….



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Thursday, August 29, 2019

What would  the Gloria Steinem Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University have to say about the Amazon fires?

Quite a lot, sort of.  The person comfortably ensconced in that chair is Naomi Klein, negative Naomi for short. Bad happenings are meat and drink to her.  Her headline reads: "The Amazon is on fire — indigenous rights can help put it out".  A strange claim indeed. So we read on hoping to find what the mechanism for that might be.  Despite her headline, however,  she says almost  nothing about the fires.  It is all about Mr Bolsonaro and Western civilization generally -- plus a plea for more locking up of land occupied by indigenous people.

Why does native land matter? Only in her last paragraph do we get a clue.  She says: "colonialism is setting the world on fire. Taking leadership from the people who have been resisting its violence for centuries, while protecting non-extractive ways of life, is our best hope of putting out the flames."

So "colonialism" has started the fires and fires don't burn native lands?  So at the very end we get the actual proposition underlying her article:   Fires don't burn native lands. That is simply not true.  The fact, of course, is that fire does not ask permission for where it goes so native land is burning too.  It always has. Much of the  land that is NOT burning is that part taken over by the "colonialists" -- who have cleared the forest and planted crops. Reality is the reverse of Naomi's fairy-tale world.

I can't call Naomi a liar. Her claim is too patently absurd for that.  As usual, her article is a spray of hate and nothing more.

Put simply, a great deal of the coal, oil, and gas that we must leave in the ground if we want a habitable climate lies under land to which indigenous people have an ancestral and legal claim. The willingness by governments around the globe to violate those international protected rights with impunity is a central reason why our planet is in a climate emergency.

This is not just about Bolsonaro. Recall that one of Trump’s first acts as president was to sign executive orders pushing through the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, two fossil fuel projects fiercely opposed by indigenous people in their path. And now there’s Trump’s new obsession with purchasing Greenland, an indigenous-controlled territory alluring to his administration mainly because melting ice linked to climate breakdown is freeing up trade routes and newly accessible stores of fossil fuels. From within his own colonial mindset, Trump feels it’s his right grab the island, much like everything else he feels entitled to grab.

The violation of indigenous rights, in other words, is central to the violation of our collective right to a liveable planet. The flip side of this is that a revolution in respect for indigenous rights and knowledge could be the key to ushering in a new age of ecological equilibrium. Not only would it mean that huge amounts of dangerous carbon would be kept in the ground, it would also vastly increase our chances of drawing down carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in well cared-for forests, wetlands, and other dense vegetation.

There is a growing body of scientific research showing that lands under indigenous control are far better protected (and therefore better at storing carbon) than those managed by settler governments and corporations. Of course, indigenous leaders have been telling us about this link between their rights and the planet’s health for centuries, including the late Secwepemc intellectual and organizer Arthur Manuel (particularly in his posthumously published book, “The Reconciliation Manifesto”). Now we are hearing this message directly from the people who make their home in our planet’s burning lungs. “We feel the climate changing and the world needs the forest,” Handerch Wakana Mura, an Amazonian tribal leader, told a reporter.

Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change issued a Special Report on Climate Change and Land, which stressed the importance of strengthening indigenous and community land rights as a key climate change solution. A broad coalition of indigenous organizations greeted the findings with a statement that began, “Finally, the world’s top scientists recognize what we have always known . . . We have cared for our lands and forests — and the biodiversity they contain — for generations. With the right support we can continue to do so for generations to come.”

As the various candidates vying to lead the Democratic Party prepare for CNN’s climate crisis town hall on Sept. 4 — a first in any presidential electoral cycle — we are sure to hear about the need for a rebooted Civilian Conservation Corps to expand forested land and rehabilitate wetlands. It will be interesting to hear whether any of the candidates highlight the central role of indigenous rights in the success of that vast undertaking.

Because colonialism is setting the world on fire. Taking leadership from the people who have been resisting its violence for centuries, while protecting non-extractive ways of life, is our best hope of putting out the flames.


Climate Crazies Now Want You to Feel Guilty About Your Vacation

The scolds who buy into the notion that we're all killing dear old Mother Earth have a seemingly endless list of joys they want to remove from our lives, and have now set their sights on one of the greatest: your annual vacation.

The New York Times has an opinion piece this weekend titled "How Guilty Should You Feel About Your Vacation?" The article was written by a travel writer named Seth Kugel.

In a half-hearted attempt to seek absolution, Kugel immediately dons his journalistic hair shirt:

I’ve often wondered how it would feel to work in an industry blamed for its outsize impact on global warming — say, oil drilling or cattle ranching. But it recently struck me that the question is not hypothetical. I’m a travel writer.

Yes, I’ve long known that jet fuel emits a ghastly amount of greenhouse gases, but I pinned that on the fossil fuel and aviation industries. Now the flight shaming movement, which emerged recently in Sweden and spread into Europe, has attempted to shift blame onto travelers.

The "flight shaming movement" mentioned has been championed by that teenage brat who got a week's worth of publicity by refusing to meet with President Trump, even though no such meeting was ever discussed.

Those of us not members of the climate hysteria cult have long marveled at the disconnect exhibited by those who are as they wag their fingers at us from private jets and commercial airliners. It's nice to see that they are at least beginning to realize that they are full of it.

The problem, of course, is that they want everyone to feel bad about it. As I have written on many occasions, leftists are inherently miserable, and their mission is to make sure everyone joins in that misery.

I have been self-employed almost my entire adult life, so I barely know what a vacation is. I have, however, had the great fortune to fly all over the world doing stand-up, which wouldn't have been possible without those glorious, greenhouse gas-belching jet engines getting me there.

No guilt here.

I have seen the vision of the future that the climate crazies have for us, and it mostly involves abandoning almost every modern convenience you love.

In 2010, Americans for Prosperity (ZOMG, THE KOCH BROTHERS!!!) sent me -- via massive jet -- to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico. I was there for five days mostly to tweet, mock, and hang out in the hotel bar on the beach.

We toured the conference's expo one day and saw many examples of a low carbon footprint "future," like doing your laundry by hand and using what is basically a low-water camping toilet as one's home bathroom.

On it went. To be a guilt-free, climate-conscious person in the 21st century, they were suggesting we start living like poor people from 1870.

Their sales pitch is weak, to say the least. If the only way I can save the planet is to be miserable, I'm not really being sold on the effort.

They love their misery over on the left, though, and probably can't fathom why others wouldn't want a slice of it. I'm going to let them keep wondering.


Electric vehicles have ‘higher carbon emissions’

When you count how their electricity is generated

Electric vehicles in Australia’s eastern states are responsible for more carbon dioxide emissions than regular petrol vehicles, according to an expert report that warns Labor’s green cars policy would require up to $7 billion in upgrades and installation of recharging infrastructure across the nation.

A pre-election briefing obtained by The Australian, which was prepared by engineering firm ABMARC, concedes the immediate benefit of electric vehicles in Australia “is not guaranteed”. It also states Bill Shorten’s electric vehicle target of 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030 would need between $5bn and $7bn in recharging infrastructure and additional investment in “switchboards, transformers and poles and wires”.

“Installing this level of charging infrastructure would require a significant increase in the rate of investment in recharging infrastructure,” the report says.

The report, released to stakeholders in May, also provides a breakdown comparing average CO2 emissions of hybrid, petrol, diesel and electric vehicles in Australia.

ABMARC, which is used by government departments, motoring firms and major energy companies, reveals “CO2 emissions from electric vehicles in Victoria are particularly high, similar to the average diesel CO2 emissions”.

On average, in NSW, Victoria, ACT and Queensland, petrol vehicles “provide less CO2 than electric vehicles”, with ABMARC linking the emissions disparity with “Australia’s continued reliance on coal-fired power stations”. The consultancy firm also notes that the Australian Average Diesel emissions data was “heavily skewed by light commercial vehicles (utes) and larger SUVs”.

The report says hybrid vehicles “provide greater environmental benefits in nearly all states and territories” than electric vehicles with the exception of Tasmania, which primarily uses hydro-electricity.

The ABMARC analysis also unravels the argument for Australia to replicate Norway’s electric car market, which imposes heavy taxes on passenger vehicles and provides generous incentives for EVs.

Pro-electric-vehicle groups and the Greens, who want 100 per cent of new car sales to be electric by 2030, use Norway, Denmark, Ireland and The Netherlands as models for supporting electric vehicle uptake.

As a result of Norway’s pro-EV policies, the ABMARC report shows the cost of a Hyundai i30 in the Scandinavian country is $54,204 compared with $18,498 in Australia.

In addition to reducing taxes on EVs, Norway provided incentives to boost electric car uptake, including free parking, excluding or limiting conventional vehicles from parking in some locations, reducing registration fees for EVs, exempting them from road tolls, free charging on public charging points and access to fast lanes.

In April, Mr Shorten unveiled a $100 million commitment towards the rollout of 200 fast-charging stations across the nation, a 50 per cent electric vehicle target for government vehicle purchases and new tax incentives for fleet buyers to purchase green cars instead of conventional combustion engine vehicles.

On May 7, in response to Coalition “scare campaigns”, Anthony Albanese declared “the whole world is moving towards electric vehicles”. “When we announced our policy you’d think that the world was going to end with nonsense like we’re coming for people’s utes and all this sort of rubbish,” Mr Albanese said.

ABMARC notes that a 50 per cent target by 2030 would be “extremely challenging and not possible without very significant policy changes and incentives”.

“Incentives similar to those in Norway are likely to be required and it is not clear how these could be readily achieved as Australia does not currently have Norway’s policy mechanisms at its disposal”.

Scott Morrison’s criticism of Labor’s electric vehicle policy — in tandem with the Coalition’s attacks on Labor’s big tax-and-spend agenda and climate change costings — was viewed by some inside the ALP as a weak point for the opposition in some electorates.

Along with Labor’s major policies put forward at the May 18 election, the electric vehicle target is now subject to an ALP review, due to be finalised by October.

Following Mr Shorten’s electric vehicle policy announcement, Tesla boss Elon Musk suggested EV sales could hit 50 per cent of new cars sooner than 2030. Musk cited the Norwegian experience, which through generous subsidies and benefits has increased its EV uptake.

“Norway has already proven it could be done last month. No question Australia could do this in far fewer than 11 years,” he tweeted. Electricity prices in Norway are among the lowest in first- world nations.


Yes, We Have No Bananas. We Have No Bananas Today!

By Rich Kozlovich

On August 19, 2019 Steve Savage published an article on entitled, Viewpoint: Our favorite Cavendish banana may be heading towards extinction—Scientists say only a biotech solution, blocked by anti-GMO activists, can save it. Originally this article appeared at Forbes entitled, It’s Time To Build A Better Banana. Both titles are profound and provocative, but I like my choice better, which was inspired by the author as he mentioned it in the article as the title of a song popular in the early 1920's.

As I read this very excellent article by Steve Savage it reminded me of a 2014 series I published regarding claims about GMO's. Bananas was part of that ten part series rebutting claims by Mike Adams, who publishes Natural News and styles himself as the Health Ranger. On July 27 2014 he published this piece of scare mongering junk science entitled, The Agricultural Holocaust explained: the 10 worst ways GMOs threaten humanity and our natural world.

That month I started posting my rebuttals to Adams ten complaints against Genetically Modified Organisms in a ten part series. I later condensed all ten and republished them in this one article, GMO’s: Scare Mongering at Its Worst! Today, I will be updating Part VII from that article dealing with his seventh false claim about “GMOs collapse biodiversity”.

He claims:

"In an effort to monopolize the global seed supply, GMO companies are buying up smaller seed companies and shutting them down, collapsing their seed supplies. The following chart shows some of the seed consolidation activity that's concentrating ownership over seeds into the hands of a very small number of powerful, unethical corporations:"

He provides a chart (Editor’s Note: The link provided no longer works so I removed it. RK) however, there was no citation, or link, as to the chart’s origin. I can’t confirm anything the chart shows, except there seem to be an awful lot of seed companies - and based on everything else he’s said in this article – I have to wonder if he doesn’t want anyone to know its origin.

He goes on to claim:

"This consolidation of seed companies has caused an alarming collapse in seed diversity over the last decade, placing humanity at increased risk for catastrophic crop failures due to a loss of genetic diversity."

"That's the problem with genetic conformity: it makes the crops far more susceptible to systemic diseases that can cause catastrophic crop failures. Precisely this scenario is happening right now with banana crops, as most commercial banana trees are genetically identical clones."

"That's the problem with genetic conformity: it makes the crops far more susceptible to systemic diseases that can cause catastrophic crop failures. Precisely this scenario is happening right now with banana crops, as most commercial banana trees are genetically identical clones."

"As a result, a fungus has attacked banana crops and is causing devastating destruction across the banana industry. The industry is responding by -- guess what? -- foolishly turning to genetically engineered bananas, which will suffer from the exact same weakness of genetic conformity, practically guaranteeing a future disease epidemic.”

Before I go on, let me state from the outset that the worst lies start with the truth. But once the truthful statements have been twisted with lies of omission and logical fallacies it’s perverted to generate erroneous conclusions. It’s a lot like snake oil salesmen and a fast hustle. It’s true that genetic diversity is important to continued health in seeds, but everything he says after that is seriously flawed.

Let’s start with this business of loss of genetic diversity he claims is being caused by “unethical” companies deliberately causing a “collapse” (what does that mean?) in the seed market. That’s a load of horsepucky! When I first read his claims I have to admit it took me by surprise because not once could I remember seeing any commentaries about a claim such as this, and there was nothing in my files, so I sent out a request for information to my net hoping someone out there could provide some information on this. People started responding back about what he portrays as a deliberate and nefarious effort to destroy biodiversity.

We have to understand that, just as in any industry, there are natural ebbs and flows. There is a constant ebb and flow regarding seed stock involving GMO’s, non-GMO’s, hybrids, self pollinators, and cross-pollinating plants. Just as there is in any business. Recently there’s a resurgence in non-GMO breeding efforts because it appears we’re in a growers market. This makes sense as ASTA (American Seed Trade Association) states on its web site:

“everything starts with the seed”.

One of my correspondents, who works for a large international trade association involved in Agriculture, stated the entire seed industry is very “robust….big and small companies alike”. All these so-called consolidations have actually strengthened the mid-sized and small companies because they’re more agile than the larger companies and can move more quickly into profitable situations.

As for these companies deliberately trying to “collapse” the seed market – I keep asking - what does that mean? Does he imply these companies are buying up smaller seed companies and destroying their seed stock? It seems to me that’s what he’s trying to convey – but he won’t dare say it because he knows it’s a lie. No company would deliberately destroy seed stock because these large science based companies know better than anyone how science is constantly moving forward and tomorrow they may suddenly discover a new tool to unlock some “genetic assets in a seed line”. “Self-interest alone would compel companies to preserve genetic resources.”

Is he trying to say these large companies are buying up all the small companies and hiding seed stock? Well, that’s loony. They’re buying seed stock to utilize it in some fashion, and they’re not ever going to eliminate the small and mid-size companies, and I doubt if they want to. It wouldn’t be worth the cost and it wouldn't prevent new companies from forming. GMO companies are not causing a loss in genetic diversity, they’re preserving genetic diversity and enhancing the genetic diversity that already exists.

About thirty years ago Waste Management Incorporated decided the pest control industry was a good fit for their corporation because they felt they had corporate expertise in the legislative and regulatory arena that was compatible with the pest control and lawn care industries. So, they went around the country and bought up a large number of quality regional pest control companies. Overnight they became the number three company in the nation.

A lot of prominent people in the pest control industry started covering themselves in sackcloth and ashes, wringing their hands, believing this was the end of the small pest control companies – the conglomerates were taking over – “it’s the end of the pest control industry as we know it!” A few old hands just chuckled, shook their heads and said, “that will never happen”; they were right, and the conglomerate “consolidation” scare ended.

Are bigger companies still buying smaller companies? Of course! That’s the nature of business! Are small companies still coming into existence? Of course! That’s the nature of business! Everything else is horsepucky!

There’s one more thing about his claim that large companies are deliberately “collapsing the seed market" that bothered me from the start. First of all, exactly what does “collapsing the seed market" mean?

He provides not one piece of evidence other than a chart without a source.

Not one link to a commentary explaining the information on the chart.

Not one commentary from anyone in the seed market, including any small companies warning us of these alleged abuses

Not one quote from an honest broker of information and

Not one news story!


He then asks us to take a leap of faith and believe that GMO’s are destroying the banana crops in the world. He now issues another really big lie of omission, claiming:

“This consolidation of seed companies has caused an alarming collapse in seed diversity. As a result, a fungus has attacked banana crops and is causing devastating destruction across the banana industry. The industry is responding by -- guess what? -- foolishly turning to genetically engineered bananas which will suffer from the exact same weakness of genetic conformity, practically guaranteeing a future disease epidemic.”

There’s a real problem with this Jeremiad he fails to include in his statement. The lack of bio-diversity is common in bananas because bananas are self pollinating. Bananas are not suffering from a lack of diversity due to GMO’s. There are wild species that are pollinated by bats, but those used in food production aren’t. I don’t know about anyone else, but somehow, I think that’s an important piece of information. Don’t you?

Currently the banana we’re most familiar with the a variety called the Cavendish, and it is under attack from something called the Black Sigatoka fungus, which is becoming resistant to fungicides. Did any kind of genetic engineering have anything to do with this. NO!

The variety that preceded the Cavendish was called the Gros Michal, also a self fertilizing banana. It became commercially “unviable” in the 1950’s due to the Panama Disease, which is caused by a fungus to which the Cavendish is immune. However, the Gros Michel isn’t extinct and can be used where the Panama disease isn’t found. But let’s understand this. The Gros Michel variety became commercially interesting in the 1820’s and it took about 130 years before this naturally occurring problem struck. All that happened long before GMO's.

Within the next 10 to 20 years it seems likely the Cavendish, which like almost all bananas lacks genetic diversity, will suffer attacks that can’t be thwarted with fungicides. This will have a serious impact on large commercial and small farm agriculture. However there are a very large number of varieties of bananas out there we’re not familiar with which could produce one or more replacements, although they would be substantially different that what we’re used to. But no matter what direction agriculture goes in this matter we must come to realize that this problem is a naturally occurring one that can’t be blamed on GMO’s.

In fact it seems rational that GMO’s will be the answer!

Scientists have made announcements about the complete sequencing of the banana genome, and by utilizing genes from wild species that reproduce via seeds they could potentially develop a non-seed variety that would be immune to fungi and even pathogens. Resistant genes from onions and dahlias were introduced into plantains –a member of the banana family used in cooking - which are demonstrating resistance to a greenhouse fungus.

Will they make it in the real world?

The only rational answer is yes - eventually!

Will this lead to high tasty high yield bananas at some point? The only rational answer must be a resounding YES, eventually!

But only if we abandon all this scare mongering about GMO’s. GMO’s will save commercial banana production and will end the need to make so many applications of fungicides, which is a very real financial burden for small farmers. That's why American Farmers Just Love Their GMOs and You Should Too.

The advances made by scientists in this arena over the last five years has been amazing, and we need to stop listening to these "all natural" misfit activists. "All natural" has become big business, and they're gong to do everything in their power to protect that business.

We really do need to get that!


Australia: Super giant to impose 100pc carbon reduction targets

This is just virtue signalling puffery that can achieve nothing.  What will happen if the power stations fail to comply?  Nothing.  They could sell the power stations at a huge loss but what good would that do them?

Australia’s biggest energy network will face an unprecedented emissions reduction target as its owner — industry super­annuation giant IFM ­Investors — launches an ambitious project to cut carbon across its vast asset holdings.

Emissions reductions targets of up to 100 per cent by 2030 will be slapped on a broad range of infrastructure assets across the nation, including the Ausgrid electricity network, Melbourne and Brisbane airports, and NSW ports.

The move risks stoking a conflict­ with the Morrison governmen­t, which has sought to clamp down on social and environme­ntal activism by industr­y super funds.

The $140 billion IFM Invest­ors, chaired by former ACTU head Greg Combet and co-owned by 27 of the biggest industry super funds, including Aust­ralianSuper, Hostplus and Cbus, also controls or has large stakes in assets such as the Port of Brisbane, Southern Cross Station in Melbourne and Northern Territ­ory Airports.

IFM Investors will announce today a move to strip 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annual­ly from the assets by 2030 — equal to removing almost 70,000 cars from the road.

According to its Paris Agreement target, Australia will reduce emissions to 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

Following the collapse of the Coalition’s national energy guarantee last year, IFM Investors will apply an emissions reduction target of ­between 8 and 25 per cent on infra­structure projects by 2024, and of 38 to 100 per cent by 2030.

Ausgrid, which was half-privatised by the NSW Liberal government for $16bn in 2016, is the largest energy network in the country, supplying more than 1.6 million homes and businesses across Sydney, the NSW central coast and the Hunter region.

It will now attempt to reduce its emissions by 8 per cent over the next five years, and by 17 per cent by 2030. To achieve this, IFM will invest in a range of solar energy projects, launch ­effic­iency upgrades on its buildings, install thousands of energy-efficien­t lights and use low-emissio­n vehicles. NT Airports, meanwhile, is hoping to achieve a 100 per cent emissions ­reduction by 2030.

The emissions reduction prog­ram comes after the government’s $10bn Clean Energy Finance Corporation, established by the Gillard government in 2012, invested $150 million last year into IFM to help lower emissions across the country’s largest infrastructure assets.

IFM head of Australian infrastructure Michael Hanna said it made “perfect business sense” to cut emissions by “reducing costs, mitigating future business risks and contributing to outcomes that our customers value”.

“This exciting initiative represents a genuine commitment and start to aligning our assets to the Paris Agreement,” Mr Hanna said.

Clean Energy Finance Corporation boss Ian Learmonth said the reductions had “the potential to make a material impact” on Australia­’s carbon footprint. “This … sets an important example for other major infrastructure owners and managers,” he said.

Deep divisions between union-backed funds and big business surfaced this year when Josh Fry­den­berg asked the prudential regul­ator whether it had the power to ensure union-appointed super trustees did not pursue political objectives at the expense of ­members’ interests.

The Treasurer’s ­intervention came after the ACTU backed a Maritime Union of Australia ­campaign for industry funds to pressure BHP and BlueScope Steel into reversing a decision to forgo the renewal of a legacy contract­ for two Australian-crewed vessels — the last servicing the iron-ore industry.

AustralianSuper, the nation’s largest fund — where ACTU president Michele O’Neil is an alternate board director — also joined a throng of major instit­utional investors to pressure global­ commodity group Glencore to cap its coal production.

Industry funds have an equal-representation board model, meaning they appoint ­directors from unions and employer groups. Together, they have $677bn of assets under management — more financial power than the bank-run retail fund sector ($623bn), or public­ sector funds ($475bn).

Last week, the US Business Roundtable overturned 57 years of corporate orthodoxy holding that the only purpose of a corporation was to generate profit for shareholders by publishing a new “statement­ on the purpose of a corporation”. The statement sought to elevate the concerns of customers, employees and com­munitie­s. It was signed by 181 chief executives, including Lachlan Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of Fox Corporation and co-chairman of News Corp, ultim­ate publisher of The Australian.

Ausgrid, which owns the ­NSW energy distribution network, triggers the majority of its emissions through electrical line losses by transmitting power over long ­distances. While these particular costs would be too “prohibitive” to clamp down on, IFM said it would tackle inefficient street lights, which account for 11 per cent of emissions, and convert more than 250,000 to energy-efficient bulbs.

The company will also install more than 11,500 rooftop solar panels across its work sites. Excluding­ the emissions for line losses, the program will cut Ausgrid­’s emissions by 44 per cent by the end of 2024.

IFM and AustralianSuper jointly own 50.4 per cent of Ausgrid­ for a 99-year lease. IFM owns 25 per cent of Aust­ralia Pacific Airports Corporation, which owns Melbourne Airport under a 50-year lease.

It also owns 20 per cent of Brisbane Airport Corporation, which controls the airport under a 49-year lease. IFM owns 45 per cent of NSW Ports, which manages Port Botany and Port Kembla, the Enfield Inter­modal Logistics Centre and Cooks River Intermodal ­Terminal.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Why shouldn’t Brazilians burn down trees?

The talk about Amazon oxygen is wrong.  A mature forest consumes most of the oxygen it creates when tree and plant litter decay.  Oxidization is part of the decay

The Western hysteria over the rainforest fires is riddled with colonial arrogance.

Every now and then the environmentalist mask slips. And we get a glimpse of the elitist and authoritarian movement that lurks beneath the hippyish green facade. The hysteria over the rainforest fires in Brazil is one of those moments. As well-off, privileged Westerners rage against Brazil for having the temerity to use its resources as it sees fit, and as they even flirt with the idea of sending outside forces to take charge of the Amazon, we can see the borderline imperialist mindset that motors so much green thinking. In the space of a few days, greens have gone from saying ‘We care about the planet!’ to ‘How dare these spics defy our diktats?’. And it is a truly clarifying moment.

You don’t have to be a fan of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, and spiked certainly isn’t, to feel deeply uncomfortable with the Western outrage over his policy on the rainforest. Observers claim the Amazon is experiencing its highest number of fires since records began. That those records only began in 2013 should give the Western hysterics pause for thought – this isn’t the historically unprecedented End of Days event they claim it is. There are always fires in the Amazon, some started by nature, others by human beings logging or clearing land for farming. Some of the current fires were started by people who need wood or land – how dare they! – while others are just part of the natural cycle.

More tellingly, NASA has attempted to counter the hysteria. Its data suggests that, while the number of fires might be larger than in the past few years, ‘overall fire activity’ in the Amazon is ‘slightly below average this year’. How striking that the people who wave around NASA reports when making their case that mankind has had a terrible impact on the planet are ignoring NASA’s reports that there is less fire in the Amazon this year in comparison with the past 15 years.

The Brazil-bashers will not be convinced by reason. To them, the fact that there have been 74,000 fires in the Amazon between January and August is proof that human beings – well, stupid Brazilians – are plunging the planet into a fiery doom that will make Revelations look like a fairy story in comparison. The earth is ‘being killed’, greens wail. ‘Our house is burning. Literally’, says French president Emmanuel Macron, committing the grammar crime of saying ‘literally’ when he surely means ‘virtually’. Unless the Elysée Palace really is on fire?

Leonardo DiCaprio says ‘if the Amazon goes, we the humans will go’. So Brazil is killing us all. Bolsonaro, by giving a green light to development in the rainforest, is holding a gun to mankind’s head, apparently. No wonder Macron has suggested holding an international conference on how to save the rainforest, while some greens have said we need to intervene. Westerners going overseas to rescue natural resources from the ignorant natives? Yes, that went so well in the past.

The discussion about the rainforest is not only unhinged, using Biblical language to describe fairly routine events. It is also riddled with a colonialist view in which people in the developing world are presented as irresponsible and destructive, while Westerners, like the leader of France, are held up as the saviours of nature and mankind. This expresses one of the key ideas in the environmentalist movement – that the developing world cannot possibly industrialise and modernise as much as the West has, because if it does the planet will die. Hence eco-Westerners’ fury with ‘filthy’ China, their loathing of Modi’s promises of modernity in India, and now their rage against Bolsonaro for elevating economic development over natural conservation. They cannot believe these idiot foreigners are defying green ideology and seeking the kind of progress we Westerners already enjoy.

Indeed, the current fuming over Bolsonaro and the rainforest fires has been a long time coming. When he spoke at Davos in January, one headline summed up the response: ‘Bolsonaro alarms climate activists with pro-business speech.’ Environmentalists were horrified, the Guardian reported, that Bolsonaro ‘stressed that protecting his country’s unique ecosystem has to be consistent with growing the economy’. That is, Bolsonaro had the gall to suggest that the eco-sanctification of the entire rainforest ran counter to Brazil’s own need to develop – via agriculture, logging, urban expansion, and so on – and therefore a better balance would have to be struck between protecting ecosystems and achieving economic growth.

During the presidential campaign last year, Bolsonaro often argued that Brazil’s economic development was being stymied by ‘the world’s affection for the Amazon’. He said that companies interested in clearing parts of the rainforest would be allowed to do so. That he won the presidency suggests many Brazilians share his view that the Amazon has been sanctified at the expense of Brazilian growth and Brazilian sovereignty. And on this they are right, and the rich Western greens telling them to stop being so dumb and irrational are wrong.

For years, green-leaning NGOs have been swarming Latin America and using their clout to demonise and even try to reverse economic development. And Latin Americans rightly experience this as an assault on their sovereignty and aspirations. As early as 1972, UNESCO and WWF were writing to the Brazilian president, Emílio Garrastazu Médici, and warning him to halt economic activities in the rainforest. In the 1980s, there was an intensification of efforts by NGOs and outside forces to keep the rainforest as sacred ground that Brazilians shouldn’t interfere with. French president Francois Mitterrand even suggested Brazil should accept relative sovereignty, where a significant part of its territory – the rainforest areas – would be subject to international oversight. As one account describes it, many in Brazil came to see NGOs and others as ‘collaborating with foreign powers against Brazilian economic interests’. And it wasn’t only Brazil. Ecuador and Peru have both expelled foreign-funded NGOs over their agitation against development in forest areas and other natural areas.

Brazil is either a sovereign nation or it isn’t. If it is a sovereign nation, then it has every right to pursue economic growth as it sees fit. The rainforest belongs to Brazilians. A Brazilian approach that boosts economic development while keeping a close eye on the natural environment sounds like a good one. But it horrifies Western greens who are allergic to any kind of meaningful economic development. Under the guise of environmentalism they are pursuing the ugly old colonial goal of subjugating non-Western nations to their rules and diktats. And that’s far more horrifying than a few fires in the Amazon.


BBC climate lies now invading music programs

When buying tickets for a classical music concert based on the lost words of nature, parents may have expected a simple, poetic celebration of bluebells, conkers and otters.

Families who attended the BBC Proms this weekend were instead confronted with catastrophic warnings from climate change campaigners.

BBC Proms, a celebration of classical music intended to be non-political, opened its 49th Prom of the season with a new composition based on the words of Greta Thunberg warning: “We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction.”

Intended as a “unique event for all the family” and including painting, poetry, dancing and birdsong, the concert was based on illustrated book The Lost Words, which aims to revive little-used or disappearing words that describe the natural world.

A spokesman for the BBC said the Proms team believed music should "amplify discussion", saying it should “react to the times in which we live”, so that it is “not divorced from reality”.

Ivan Hewett, Telegraph reviewer, said the concert was instead a “statement of the most extreme form of eco-catastrophism, designed to terrify and intimidate the mostly young audience, who clearly lacked the maturity to challenge it”.

“It’s unfortunate that the supposedly impartial BBC turned a promising event into an opportunity for eco-propaganda,” he said, in a two-star review, accusing the BBC of the “blatant politicising of an event aimed at children”.

The concert opened with the voice of Miss Thunberg, who has become the face of youth climate change activism, on a loop with excerpts from her speech to the EU Parliament in Strasbourg declaring: “You need to listen to us, we who cannot vote. What we are doing now can soon no longer be undone.”

Robert Macfarlane, author of The Lost Words, said he was “so thrilled” when he heard Miss Thunberg’s words would be used in the Prom, praising her “voice ringing with force and need and urgency but also breaking” and calling her a “figurehead” for the young.

The concert was said to have received a rapturous response from some members of the audience, a handful of whom tweeted to say they had been moved to tears.

A spokesman for the BBC said this year’s Proms were celebrating 50 years of the moon landings, the earth and the influence nature has had on composers past and present.

“It’s important for art to reflect topical debate and to bring this so the attention of the audience,” it said. 

“The three major new works focussing on our planet this year (Hans Zimmer’s world premiere ‘Earth’ at the CBeebies Prom, the Lost Words Prom and John Luther Adam’s ‘In the Name of the Earth’) are specifically aimed at families.

“It’s important to reflect that music reacts to the times in which we live, and is not divorced from reality, but can amplify discussion.”

In July, the Guardian described how this year's Proms is "sounding the alarm for a planet in peril”, interviewing director David Pickard about what it called “this year’s theme, nature, and our part in destroying it”.

Pickard said: “When you ask someone to write about nature now, they are not necessarily writing about it in a romantic way, in the way Beethoven did. They’re writing about the danger of loss."

Jocelyn Pook, the composer of the piece which set Thunberg’s words to music, told the newspaper: “Her voice, a lone teenager, making such a difference is very heartening."

The Proms have faced increasing criticism about becoming politicised in recent years, with an ongoing battle between those waving EU flags and Union flags on the Last Night.

Conductors have used their platform to speak on issues including women’s rights, music education and European unity, with Daniel Barenboim using a 2017 appearance to warn about the dangers of nationalism after the Brexit vote.


‘Green’ Cities: Higher Costs, Lower Electricity Reliability

A number of Texas cities have jumped on the bandwagon of renewable energy initiatives in recent years leading to higher costs and reduced the reliability for their residents.

Among the many places jumping on the bandwagon of renewable energy initiatives in recent years are the Texas cities of Austin, Georgetown, and now San Antonio, each of which maintains a monopolistic, municipally owned electricity provider from which residents are forced to purchase electricity.
All these cities have pursued highly publicized “green” initiatives to increase the amount of renewable energy they provide to their captive electric power customers.

These initiatives have led to higher costs for consumers and poor investment decisions on the cities’ part, costing residents millions of dollars and reducing the reliability of the electric grid.

Behind these initiatives are government subsidies, such as the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), that have allowed renewable energy producers to charge an extremely low price for their energy—sometimes even selling power at a loss.

Although this may seem like a good deal for energy consumers, these residents are also paying huge amounts in taxes to fund the incentives. Cost estimates of taxpayer subsidies for renewables in Texas show the cost to be as high as $36 billion from 2006 through 2029, when the PTC is currently scheduled to expire.

Green Energy Burns Budgets

Residents are also footing the bill in other ways for poor investment decisions made by cities in efforts to “go green.”

The city of Georgetown, home to a mere 71,000 residents, went $32.7 million over budget for renewable energy production from 2016 through 2018, and in 2018 Georgetown spent a whopping $53.6 million on electricity—22 percent above the $44 million the city budgeted for.

Not to be outdone by its neighbor, Austin built a biomass production plant to provide renewable energy to the city. And it did—for two whole months, before the city closed it down. This green experiment cost Austin residents $838 million, including a $460 million buyout of the 20-year contract originally worth $2.3 billion.

Renewable-Induced Energy Shortages

In addition to this costly malinvestment of tax dollars, Texas residents also face heightened threats of energy shortages as the use of renewables increases.

This is because of another fundamental problem with renewables: Wind and solar generation are inherently intermittent. The wind does not always blow, and the sun does not always shine. Also, the energy from renewable sources cannot be effectively stored for use at times of peak demand. Therefore, much of the energy generated—when these plants are actually generating power—is wasted, and unavailable when it is needed most.

In addition, renewable generation plants are typically located in less-populated areas away from the greatest demand, so the electricity must be transmitted over vast distances to reach the market. Power is lost in transmission, meaning additional power must be delivered from other sources to meet demand.

Texans have also borne $14 billion in costs for the transmission lines running from unpopulated west Texas, which doesn’t need the additional electricity, to populated cities like Austin and Dallas, which do, for these renewable power schemes.

Distorting the System

Finally, the extremely low prices for renewable energy, as a direct result of subsidies, are resulting in significantly less investment in reliable and affordable generation powered by natural gas and coal, placing a huge strain on the grid.

Coal and natural gas are more efficient and reliable than their renewable counterparts. However, during periods of high wind and sunlight unhampered by clouds, electricity prices can become so low that coal and natural gas plants must sell power at a loss. As money-losing plants are closed, the reserve margin shrinks, which threatens the entire grid because providers don’t have enough “spare” generating capacity to satisfy peak demand when renewables fail to deliver. The difference between the supply and demand of electricity may be as low as 7.4 percent this summer, a record low threatening to result in intermittent power shortages across the state at the peak periods.

The Texas Legislature can and should ameliorate these problems by eliminating the preferential treatment Texas affords renewables. In addition to doing this at the state level through the Public Utility Commission, it can also take away the power of cities to impose costly, inefficient initiatives simply to support the latest environmental fads.

These steps would allow the market to provide more affordable and reliable energy for all Texans, and they would work in other states as well.


More fake five-alarm crises from the IPCC

“Mainstream” news outlets dutifully feature climate cataclysm claims that have no basis in reality

Paul Driessen

Efforts to stampede the USA and world into forsaking fossil fuels and modern farming continue apace.

UN and other scientists recently sent out news releases claiming July 2019 was the “hottest month ever recorded on Earth” – nearly about 1.2 degrees C (2.2 degrees F) “above pre-industrial levels.” That era happens to coincide with the world’s emergence from the 500-year Little Ice Age. And “ever recorded” simply means measured; it does not include multiple earlier eras when Earth was much warmer than now.

Indeed, it is simply baseless to suppose that another few tenths of a degree (to 1.5 C above post-Little Ice Age levels) would somehow bring catastrophe to people, wildlife, agriculture and planet. It is equally ridiculous to assume all recent warming has been human-caused, with none of it natural or cyclical.

Moreover, as University of Alabama-Huntsville climate scientist Dr. Roy Spencer has noted, this past July was most likely not the warmest. The claim, he notes, is based on “a limited and error-prone array of thermometers which were never intended to measure global temperature trends.”

The measurements come primarily from airports and urban areas that are artificially warmed by cars, jets, asphalt, air conditioning exhausts and other human heat sources that warm the measuring sites as much as ten degrees F above temperatures in rural areas just 10 to 25 miles away. They do not reflect satellite data or “global reanalysis estimates” that would give a much more accurate picture.

The “hottest month” assertions also ignore major changes in measurement technologies, especially for ocean data, over the past 100-150 years. Perhaps most important, they ignore the paucity or absence of data for millions of square miles of oceanic, Siberian, Arctic and other regions, many of which have much cooler temperatures that would drive “average planetary temperature” figures downward. (And let’s not forget the record cold temperatures recorded for February 2019 in many parts of the world.)

The news media, however, dutifully repeated the spurious hottest-ever assertion as fact – and made no effort to seek out or quote skeptical experts like Spencer. Far worse, most of the experts who developed and propagated the “overheated planet” claims know all of this. But they have a narrative, an agenda, and are not going to let inconvenient facts get in the way. The “mainstream media” behaves similarly.

Then, a few days later, the same doom-saying “experts” issued dire warnings that global agriculture is on the brink of disaster. A “landmark report” by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said our dangerously warming planet is continuing to damage lands and forests, imperiling mankind’s ability to produce food. Climate change has become a growing danger to global food supplies, it intoned.

Prolonged rains well into the 2019 Midwestern US spring season certainly delayed planting and could affect 2019 corn and other harvests. However, bumper crops elsewhere in the world cast serious doubt on this latest round of IPCC and media fear-mongering.

India’s rabi (winter) wheat crop weighed in at an official record of 101.2 million tons. Near-record corn (maize) exports and sunflower seed harvests were forecast for Ukraine. In Argentina, wheat farmers expect a record harvest. In Crimea too. The Canadian National Railway logged all-time grain movement records. The USDA’s October 2018 Crop Report showed record northern USA canola production.

Better hybrid seeds, biotech seeds, and modern fertilizers, pesticides, tractors and farming practices all played a role, as did weather that cooperated with farmers, if not with climate alarmists. However, another major factor is more carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere – which helps crop, forest and grassland plants grow faster and better, and also withstand droughts better. In fact, Dr. Craig Idso has estimated, rising CO2 levels generated some $3.2 trillion in cumulative extra global crop yields between 1961 and 2011, and another $9.8 trillion in predicted CO2-enhanced global crop harvests by 2050.

And now, in a bout of schizophrenia, the IPCC has further muddled its climate chaos message. Now it claims modern agriculture is not just a “victim of climate change.” It also causes climate chaos and must thus be part of “the solution.” Agriculture is responsible for over a quarter of total global greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide and methane), and therefore must change its practices “to save the world.”

Plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide is 0.04% of the atmosphere, and methane represents 0.00017% – of which one-third is from natural sources (termites, swamps and bogs) and two-thirds from human activities: 39% of that from fossil fuels, 16% from landfills, 9% from waste management and 27% from farms.

In other words, agricultural methane could possibly be 27% of two-thirds of 0.00017% of atmospheric methane (CH4) – and that barely detectable 0.00003% (30¢ out of $1-million) of the atmosphere is supposedly driving dangerous manmade climate change. And based on that, we must change our farming and eating habits.

Instead of beef, humans must switch to “nutritious and environmentally sound” alternatives like green pepper, soy, asparagus and squash, says the IPCC. Instead of the full package of beef, pork and poultry, we should eat buckwheat, soy, pears and kidney beans – or other “globally optimal plant replacements.” Of course, locusts, grasshoppers, grubs and other insects are also excellent protein sources, it notes.

The 20,000-some activists, bureaucrats and politicians heading to Salt Lake City for the August 26-28 UN climate change and sustainability conference will no doubt be following that sage advice. (Perhaps they’ll share their menu and Bugs Not Beef recipes.) They could also have had a global teleconference, instead of flying and driving halfway around the world – instead of spending millions of dollars, consuming millions of gallons of aviation and vehicle fuel, and emitting prodigious quantities of CO2 and CH4.

But they’re much more comfortable lecturing the hoi polloi of humanity on how we must travel, eat, and heat and cool our homes (no cooler than a comfortable 82 F in summer, say EPA-Energy Star experts) in more sustainable and climate friendly ways. UN elites much prefer to tell the poorest people on the planet how much they will be “permitted” to develop and improve their living standards.

Dangerous manmade climate change “deniers” like me were of course not invited to participate in this taxpayer-financed UN event. We never are. So the Heartland Institute organized a separate August 26 program nearby, at which alternative evidence and perspectives will be presented and live-streamed.

Heartland speakers will explain why climate change is some 97% natural, not manmade (contrary to that phony 97% consensus that says otherwise); and why real-world evidence does not support IPCC claims about dangerously rising seas, increasingly violent storms or worsening droughts. My talk will focus on why biofuel, wind, solar and battery technologies are not clean, green, renewable or sustainable.

I will point out for example that replacing 100% of US gasoline with ethanol would require some 360 million acres of corn – seven times the land area of Utah. Replacing the more than 25 billion megawatt-hours of electricity the world consumed in 2018 would require some 100 million 400-foot-tall 1.8-MW bird and bat-butchering wind turbines that would actually generate electricity only about 20% of the time.

Assuming just 15 acres apiece, those monster turbines would require some 1.5 billion acres – nearly 80% of the entire Lower 48 United States! And those wind turbines would need some 200 times more raw materials per megawatt than combined-cycle gas turbine power plants. Building and installing them would require massive increases in mining and quarrying all across the globe.

The UN and IPCC delegations and Green New Dealers absolutely do not want to talk about any of this – much less about slave and child labor for cobalt, rare earth and other metals that are the foundation for their make-believe “renewable, sustainable, no-fossil-fuel” future. No wonder they don’t invite us.

These are vitally important issues. They demand robust, evidence-based debates – with all interested and affected parties participating – including the world’s poor and manmade climate chaos skeptics.

Via email

“Planting Trees” Disrupts the Carbon Tax Narrative
It's possible to plant enough trees to get atmospheric CO2 levels down

A recent article in The Guardian trumpeted the findings of a new study published in Science that found massive tree planting would be—by far—the cheapest and most effective approach to mitigating climate change. Ironically, the new thinking shows the pitfalls of political approaches to combating so-called “negative externalities.” The good news about tree planting disrupts the familiar narrative about carbon taxes that even professional economists have been feeding the public for years. The whole episode is an example of what Ronald Coase warned about, in his classic 1960 article showing the danger in the traditional approach of using taxes to fix alleged market failures.

Ronald Coase vs. A. C. Pigou on “Externalities”

Coase’s “The Problem of Social Cost” is one of the most frequently cited economics articles of all time, but it can be difficult for a newcomer to absorb its lessons. In this revolutionary piece, Coase challenged the standard approach to externalities that had been developed by economist A. C. Pigou.

According to Pigou, the market economy works fine in allocating resources efficiently under most circumstances. However, when third parties experience benefits or harms because of particular market transactions, the Invisible Hand fails. For example, if a factory dumps waste into a river as a by-product of making TVs, then the factory owner is making “too many” TVs because the owner isn’t taking into account the harm his business is imposing on the people living downstream. The profit-and-loss system presumes that consumers and firms are receiving feedback from the impact of their actions, and so (Pigou argued) a case of pollution leads to inefficiency.

Pigou suggested that in a case like this, the government should impose a tax on the TV factory, corresponding to the harm that additional output causes to the people living downstream. The tax would then lead the owner of the factory to scale back production, to the point at which the “marginal” TV produced would bestow roughly equal benefits and costs to society, taking everything into account. (Without the Pigovian tax, the factory owner would produce additional TV sets for which their marginal cost to society exceeded their marginal benefit, meaning society would be worse off because of these additional units.)

For the purpose of this IER post, I’ll have to be brief, but here is the quick and dirty version of how Ronald Coase came along and completely upended this traditional Pigovian analysis: First, Coase told his readers to stop thinking of these situations in terms of the good guys and bad guys. In my hypothetical TV factory case—which is my example, not Coase’s—we shouldn’t view the factory owner as someone violating the downstream homeowners. Rather, Coase urged his readers to consider, what he called, the “reciprocal nature” of the problem.

Specifically, Coase would say in our example that the real problem is one of scarcity and competing uses for the river water. The factory owner would like to use the river as a place to dump his waste after producing TVs, while the homeowners would like to use the river for their kids to play in or to wash their clothes. The two uses are incompatible, and the issue is: To which party should the use of the river be allocated? Coase warns us that if the government installs a TV tax on the factory, the politicians are simply assuming that the most efficient solution to the conflict is for the factory to scale back TV production.

But we can imagine better outcomes, depending on the specifics. Suppose, for example, that there are only a few households who live downstream from the factory, and are harmed by its waste products. In this situation, rather than the owner greatly scaling back TV production—and depriving consumers around the country of having cheap TVs—maybe the least-cost solution is for the factory owner to buy the properties from the few families and pay them to move somewhere else. Note that we are talking about voluntary exchanges here; the people aren’t being evicted by the sheriff. Rather, just suppose for the sake of argument that for (say) $2 million, the factory owner could buy out the families living downstream, and everybody would be much happier than the outcome that would result under a TV tax.

Now that we’ve worked through this hypothetical example to illustrate the out-of-the-box thinking Coase developed in his 1960 paper, I’ll demonstrate its relevance to the new study about trees and climate change.

Tree Option Might Greatly Reduce the “Social Cost of Carbon”

As The Guardian piece explains, the new study is far more optimistic about the scale of tree planting available on Earth than had been earlier believed. This is why the scientists involved in the study think a massive campaign of planting trees is now the single best approach to mitigating climate change. Here are some key excerpts from The Guardian article:

Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas.

"As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”.


“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zurich, who led the research. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”

Citing a figure that planting a new tree costs roughly 30 cents, Prof. Crowther remarked that we could plant the target of 1 trillion trees by spending about $300 billion. Sure, that’s a big number, but its nowhere close to the economic cost of imposing a worldwide carbon tax, the “solution” that many economists have been promoting for years as a no-brainer. (William Nordhaus’ model in its 2007 calibration estimated that even his modest carbon tax would cause several trillion dollars [in today’s dollars] in economic compliance costs, while the more aggressive proposals would cause more than $20 trillion in economic costs.)

This episode is a specific example of the type of problem Ronald Coase warned about. Specifically, the carbon tax logic assumed that the problem was, “People are emitting too much carbon dioxide and we need to coerce them into scaling back.” But what if instead the problem was, “People aren’t planting enough trees, and we need to coax them into planting more”?

To give some quick numbers: By some estimates, a single healthy tree can sequester up to a ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old, and we also read that a silver maple tree will absorb 400 pounds of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 25 years old.

So consider a coal-fired power plant that is going to emit a ton of carbon dioxide in order to produce some additional electricity. If the pro-tax economists had gotten their way, there would be a $42 tax levied on the power plant, since the Obama EPA estimated that that was the “social cost of carbon” for the year 2020.

Yet if there is room on Earth for more trees—given the plans of everybody else—that Obama-era estimate greatly overstates the harm of the emission. Rather than imposing $42 in damages as the EPA calculations suggested, the power plant owner could spend a mere $3 to plant 10 trees, meaning that over the next two decades the trees would have absorbed more than the additional emissions, and would in fact continue reducing CO2 in the atmosphere for decades beyond.

As this simple example illustrates, a carbon tax of $42 would have been a gross overkill. It would have led power plants and other firms to scale back their emissions in very costly ways that stifled economic growth, when—apparently—there was a much cheaper solution available. And notice throughout all of this discussion, I am stipulating the basic externality framework for the sake of argument, and am merely showing the problems that Ronald Coase demonstrated with this one-size-fits-all way of thinking.

A Theater Analogy

Consider a movie theater. It’s a problem that people sometimes drop popcorn and other litter on the floor. Now there are two ways the theater could respond: (1) It could install cameras and personnel to monitor the customers and heavily fine anybody caught dropping stuff on the floor. This would be a huge inconvenience and make movie-going far less pleasant. Or (2) the theater could hire personnel to clean up the floor after a show. And notice that even if some combination were used—maybe the theater calls the police on somebody who just runs up and down the aisles dumping soda on the floor—there is no reason that the “fine” imposed on litterers should be used to pay the salary of the employees who pick up popcorn with a broom. Those are two totally different considerations.

When it comes to carbon taxes, the conventional logic has simply assumed that penalizing emissions is the appropriate solution to the ostensible problem of harmful climate change. But maybe that is totally wrong. Perhaps it would make far more sense to pay people to plant trees.

And while it’s true that some carbon tax proposals contain (mild) provisions for reforestation, there is no reason at all for those programs to be linked. In general, taxing carbon is a very inefficient way to raise government revenue. If tree planting is truly superior, then it would make more economic sense to use general tax funds for the subsidies. There is no reason at all to earmark carbon tax revenues for reforestation; this would be as silly as insisting that movie theaters only pay the clean-up employees out of their “litter tax” rather than the general revenues from ticket sales.


New developments in the scientific literature show that tree-planting might be the single best way to reduce the human contribution to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The whole episode shows the folly of top-down political solutions to social challenges. Even if we stipulate the standard framework of “market failure,” it does not follow that a carbon tax set to the “social cost of carbon” is the way to restore efficiency. The case for a carbon tax is much weaker than the so-called experts have been assuring us.



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