Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Betting On Public Investors To Rescue Humans From The Ravages Of Climate Change? A Bad Bet

Image result for images of Puerto Rico damageTim Holmes

Truth be told, I didn't even need to read the WaPo account of the latest climate science conference at Katowice, Poland, to know it was abject failure. Oh, the mainstream media did as good a job as they could to 'gussie' up the PR but any non-Mensan could easily read between the lines, e.g. that "the agreement fell well short of the breakthrough that scientists say is needed to avoid the cataclysmic impacts of a warming world" (WaPo, Dec. 15). 

Or, from the WSJ (p. A8, yesterday) that the U.S. -Trump contingent essentially sabotaged the thrust of the talks and the extent of any worthwhile progress, i.e. "The U.S. hosted an event on the sidelines to promote fossil fuels including coal"  and "joined Saudi Arabia to weaken a motion to   introduce a UN report warning of irreversible changes in 12 years if warming isn't limited."

So now,  after 26 years of climate conferences, this is where we are at -  almost at the starting point with precious little to show for all the bloviation and bejabber.  Is it any wonder the hoi polloi in the streets aren't buying in given the extent to which the elites can't agree on which way to solve the  Venusian-style warming planet approaching?

Whether in fact the French discover the Russians are at the root of the recent mass "yellow vest" protests against higher fuel taxes (WSJ, Dec. 15-16, p. A6) , one fact remains:  It is going to be bloody near impossible to get the current crop of Earth's human inhabitants to do a damned thing to control greenhouse warming enough to avoid the oncoming runaway cataclysm.

Again, to reiterate, the worst rioting to hit Paris in years  - including the past fifth consecutive weekend-  was sparked by Emmanuel Macron's proposal to raise fuel taxes to reduce pollution as well as limit the CO2 inputs.  Even as Macron dropped his higher tax proposal in the face of furious public opposition,  see e.g.  Macron scraps fuel tax rise in face of gilets jaunes protests
plans are afoot to recruit public investors (sovereign wealth funds  and government  employee pension systems)  to pitch in with investor money and thereby remove the need for "trillions in new taxes"  across the OECD nations..  But can this really work?

The WSJ's Business & Investing guru James Mackintosh isn't convinced ('Betting on Climate  Change ',  p. B1, Dec. 14), writing in response to Emmanuel Jaclot's comment to the Milken Institute ("It's good for the planet and you end up with a stranded asset otherwise."). Mackintosh countering with:

"However,  surveys  (in western Europe)  showed strong public support for the violent  gilets jaunes protests against higher fuel taxes that brought the country to a halt, forcing the government to scrap the tax increase and raise wages for the low paid."

This unwillingness to offer any sacrifice is not just confined to France, but widespread in all the OECD countries.  This applies to the home front as well, where I already noted (Dec. 3rd post)  Janice's stout refusal to yield her independence (via our Buick Encore) one iota.  But obviously if every voter takes this attitude then the worst effects of climate change will soon be upon us, including the runaway greenhouse effect - accompanied by ferocious firestorms, as well as an invasion of tropical pests and diseases the likes of which have never before been seen - or imagined.

Worse, as Mr. Mackintosh notes:

"European voters are resisting changes that are relatively small compared with the wholesale economic transformation needed to avoid drastic climate change."

There is no reason at all to believe this can be changed via public green investment, i.e. using sovereign wealth funds or public pension funds to generate the trillions needed - which can't be raised in taxes.  The reason? ALL investment vehicles - even public green funds- rely on share holders getting something for their investments.  They are not going to plow money in and expect nada in return. Hence, Mackintosh's argument that there is no salvation with any public green funds. I agree totally.  We can't rely on shareholder capitalism but must count on the citizens of the planet to see that a shared sacrifice is required.  We either agree to share in the economic sacrifice or all go down in flames together.

The  resistance of voters to such (admittedly) wrenching economic change indicates to me they are unable to imagine the radical form of earthly Hell that awaits them and their children and grandchildren. This includes massive power grid collapse as millions try desperately to stay cool in weeks of 115-120F high thermature  (high temperature  + humidity) conditions, as well as lack of potable water (which requires power to pump) and disease pandemics - including of cholera and dengue fever.    Do they really want their offspring and grand kids to suffer in such hellish ways,  including parasites infesting their brains?

And Asian longhorned ticks bringing hemorrhagic fever....

Causing victims to bleed to death via every orifice?  Then there is the dengue fever bearing mosquito,
Image result for bleeding from dengue fever, images

Which can spread dengue hemorrhagic fever, i.e.
Image result for bleeding from dengue fever, images

Do the  planet's adult, car- driving humans really want such atrocities visited upon their descendants? Maybe not. But the refusal to make any economic sacrifice now - even relatively minor as Mr. Mackintosh notes -  is not a sanguine indicator for the future.  Nor is it any indication of even minimal human rationality.  It is almost as if we won't get any positive response from Earth's denizens unless we are able to project images from the future of all their kids and grand kids in the throes of the climate apocalypse which is only barely hinted at thus far.

Ultimately then, one can only conclude that humans - the vast mass of them owning CO2- spewing  automobiles - are in a state of intransigent denial.  Also, there is no conscious connection whatsoever between this denial and the absolute calamity attendant upon it. It is as if the most egregious  CO2 outputs anywhere can be blithely accepted and there will be no payback from the planet.   This evoked the words of a letter writer to The  Sunday Denver Post (p. 3D):

"When an organism becomes sick with infection, its defense is to produce a fever to kill the invading organism. So, too, Earth's rising temperatures will destroy the organism which threatens it. "


"Humanity has an uncanny ability to place short -term gain over the long term health of our planet."

I won't quibble over the writer's analogy of  a human body's response to microbial invaders with Earth's response to "invading" humans and their industrial activities. Whatever the flaws, he's nevertheless making as visceral a point as feasible that we continue our greedhead,  exploitative ways at our own peril.  It is clear therefore to me that the core problem in the reluctance to give up fossil fuel impacts, is that capitalism itself has failed to give us any viable alternatives.  There are no affordable solar autos, for example, that can get those French teachers and other workers to their jobs - without bankrupting them.

One can justifiably argue here that -  if at the time of the first (Rio) climate conference back in 1992-  shareholders had pushed companies away from fossil fuel -dependent SUVs and low mileage monstrosities we'd not be having to despair now.   But they didn't do that, so there's no reason to expect they will suddenly push now for "green cars" and new, massive solar energy development. Hell, they aren't even pushing for a nuclear alternative for energy generation - which at least is a step away from the continued fossil fuel generation, see e.g.


Naomi Klein in her book   'This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. Climate Change' ,    also showed convincingly why we can't stake the planet's future on any form of capitalism, including the "green" shareholder variety. Basically, capitalism is unable to affect or alter  the course of climate change due to its dependence on fossil fuels and need for continuous growth. Also,  the time for marginal fixes has expired, thus forcing us to now make radical changes in how we live. We simply don't have the luxury of using all the carbon that lies in the Earth. Yet capitalism's never ending growth engine would demand we do so to support the expansion of new markets for exploitation - or what Klein calls "extractivism".  Grabbing every last remaining source of carbon to fuel ever greater growth.

Therein lies the conversion of the Earth as we know it, to another Venus.  And a recipe for the ultimate extinction of the human species with no chance of any "adaptation", e.g.

See also:

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