“‘Climate denier’ and ‘tool of malign fossil fuel interests’ are epithets used to delegitimize dissent and quash diversity of opinion.” – (Rupert Darwall, Green Tyranny)
Whatever one may think of the “settled” science on which climate change is based, the issue has serious political implications, especially as it relates to governance. Issues that are either completely ignored or downplayed. Left unchecked, the Climate Leviathan is (conveniently?) leading us to the state of affairs that prompted G.K. Chesterton to write, “a despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy.” So that one of the more important questions to ponder on this issue comes from Rupert Darwall in Green Tyranny: “Are climate policies compatible with the survival of democracy?”
Mr. Darwall’s Green Tyranny should be required reading when it comes to the politics of this issue. He writes, “China and India, broke into a sprint for economic growth and dismissed environmental concerns as a Western plot to maintain the underdeveloped world in a state of economic backwardness.” Ken Baake (Petroleum Prodigals) cites Alex Epstein (The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels) who shares a similar sentiment arguing that “turning away from oil would deny people in the developing world the same gifts that built and succored the West.”
Politicians and other elites in developed nations can wax eloquent about the social cost of carbon all they want but developing nations will carbonize before they decarbonize. I therefore side with Michael Webber (Power Trip) who makes the point that, “We can’t quit using energy or deny others access as a solution for decarbonization.” The title of Mr. Webber’s book also doubles as a description of what those who most fervently preach the green gospel are on: (a) power trip. Assuming leaders want to stay the course on said trip, they should note the fate of leaders (especially those facing the polls) who bet it all on this issue.
If their fate is any indicator, then the green gospel needs tweaking. Leaders should take note of Emmanuel Macron (yellow vest protests) and Bill Shorten’s defeat at the polls in Australia. Mr. Macron and Mr. Shorten are examples of the fact that the politics of climate change is anything but “settled”. They would also do well to reflect on the Dominical utterance in Luke 14:28–30 as it relates to footing the bill for this gospel. John and Jane Public, with eco-friendly container in hand and paper straws melting in their mouths, are quickly coming to the realization that the green gospel will be accompanied by a higher cost of living.
A recent example of the silliness of unchecked climate piety and the financial implications it can have for ordinary people comes from the higher education space. According to a report, the University of California system announced that “its $13.4 billion endowment will sell all fossil-fuel assets by the end of September, and its $70 billion pension fund will soon do the same.” The university’s chief investment officer said “hanging on to fossil fuel assets is a financial risk.” But thank God for actuaries who are not bamboozled by the green gospel.
A report from the actuarial and consulting company Foster & Foster concluded, “While green tech advocates may be able to cherry pick individual years when green energy has recently outperformed fossil fuels, the long view shows the opposite.” The company found that between 2008 and 2018, fossil-fuel investments delivered an average return of 2.6 percent while the green energy funds returned negative 3.94 percent. A fool and his money (pension included) are soon parted, and as Mr. Macaron and Mr. Shorten discovered, the French and Australian public are no fools.
France’s yellow vest protests started over fuel tax increases while in Australia, Mr. Shorten’s main campaign theme was “curbing climate change”. His party promised to “cut carbon emissions nearly in half by 2030” and to subsidize wind and solar. An Australian commenting on Mr. Shorten’s loss at the polls said, “The cost of electricity in Australia has skyrocketed by 40% in the past decade of becoming ‘green.’ No surprise that the voters didn’t like, or want, what they were hearing from the Labor Party. Are Americans [replace with your nationality] also smart enough not to get taken by hype and green hysteria?”
I am not convinced about the cost-competitiveness of renewable energy. As Mr. Darwall points out, “at low levels of wind and solar PV penetration, renewables have little discernible impact on prices.” However, “as more renewables are put on the grid, prices rise.” He continues, “In 2012, thanks mainly to the headlong rush to wind and solar, Danes paid four times and Germans three and a half times what Americans did for their electricity.” As The Economist said of the situation in Spain, “sustainable energy meets unsustainable costs.” Little wonder clean energy is fast becoming a dirty word at the polls.
In Defeat in the Air at the Climate Conference, Mr. Darwall cites the chief economist of the Potsdam Institute who explained why efforts thus far have done little to curb rising emissions: “Ottmar Edenhofer, said the fundamental reality was an oversupply of fossil fuels, making it harder for renewables to be cost-competitive with coal.” Mr. Edenhofer alluded to the “underappreciated factor” of monetary policy: “Zero interest rates act as an artificial stimulus to renewable energy, which is much more capital-intensive than gas and coal.”
He continued, “As interest rates rise, renewable energy can’t compete without carbon pricing.” And therein lies the rub. During the lost decade, zero and low interest rates stimulated investment in renewables but as Jay Yoder of Altius Associates said in an interview with the Financial Times, with renewables “one is investing more in political decisions than in tangible assets.” Renewable energy is too reliant on green hype and hysteria (and, of course, tax credits and subsidies). As Mark P. Mills points out, “Using wind, solar and batteries as the primary sources of a nation’s energy supply remains far too expensive. You don’t need science or economics to know that.”
There is a reason why ordinary people (deplorables?) told Mr. Macron to stick his fuel tax increase where the sun doesn’t shine. There is a reason why the average Australian did not buy into Mr. Shorten’s green gospel. The science might be “settled” or as an op-ed in the Jamaica Gleaner put it, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” But, the political implications can be quite unsettling for leaders and the financial implications are equally unsettling for the public.
The green gospel has scant regard for the Creator (who is forever blessed, Romans 1:25) and has somehow managed to turn environmental stewardship into false worship. But, there is another gospel under the sun; it speaks to creation groaning in anticipation of what is coming (Romans 8:19-25). It speaks of scoffers in the last days, and the present heavens and earth being “… reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment” (2 Peter 3:3–10). On that Day, our eco-friendly containers and paper straws will be of little use but, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved ” (Romans 10:13).
Choose your gospel wisely.