The Hard Truth About The Energy Crisis And Climate Change

The Hard Truth About The Energy Crisis And Climate Change

The data docket is relatively sparse in the US this week. Housing figures, claims and Markit PMIs aren’t likely to move any needles, leaving traders to parse a crowded roster of Fed speakers for potentially actionable soundbites.

Or something. That’s the boilerplate copy. No sense in calling it anything other than what it is.

An update on the Chinese economy is doubtlessly the marquee macro event. Or at least the marquee scheduled macro event. Crucial data out Monday will validate expectations for a sharp deceleration amid overlapping and proliferating crises, not least of which is an acute power shortage emblematic of a worsening global energy crunch.

The figure (above) speaks for itself. Beijing is working to ameliorate the situation, but efforts to combat surging prices clash with climate priorities.

In the US, the growth outlook has deteriorated too, albeit not as dramatically as it has in China. Americans are losing faith in the government’s economic policies amid Democratic infighting, which is arguably doing more to undermine confidence than wholly predictable GOP recalcitrance.

Joe Manchin’s opposition to the White House’s fiscal agenda has all but torpedoed hopes of transformational socioeconomic change. And it may also be another nail in the coffin for the nascent green energy push.

It’s hardly surprising that Manchin, who hails from coal country, single-handedly compelled Democrats to abandon a sweeping plan to replace coal and gas with wind, solar and nuclear energy. “The $150 billion clean electricity program was the muscle behind Biden’s ambitious climate agenda,” The New York Times wrote, adding that “experts have said that the policy over the next decade would drastically reduce the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet and that it would be the strongest climate change policy ever enacted by the United States.”

I think it’s important we come to terms with our own demons and otherwise acknowledge why so many of us are obtuse about this issue. This is especially topical now that opponents of a rapid transition away from fossil fuels can point to soaring energy costs as evidence that we’re simply not prepared.

The figure on the left (above) shows how absurd the situation was in Europe earlier this month, while the simple chart of Brent (on the right) illustrates, in part anyway, the knock-on effect (i.e., gas-to-oil switching).

The worsening global energy crunch currently manifesting in surging prices lays bare the peril inherent in a rushed, haphazard transition to green energy, especially at a time when pandemic distortions are playing havoc with supply/demand forecasts.

However (and this is a big “however”), it’s not as if humanity hasn’t had ample time to execute this transition. We’ve known for decades that the planet faces an ecological disaster. We procrastinated, as we’re wont to do. Now we’re paying the price. At the pump and on our heating bills, yes, but also in flooded basements, inundated towns and scorched forests, where we’re suffocating, drowning and burning alive, along with our families, relatives and pets.

Although this is likely to irk a few people, the fact is, some folks really don’t care about their children and grandchildren. That’s not an emotional appeal or some kind of bleeding heart petition. I have no children which, in all likelihood, means I’ll have no grandchildren. So, if you’re inclined to be sarcastically callous by claiming it matters little to you how hot or cold it is in the year 2170, just note that it matters not at all to me.

In addition to having no children, I have no friends to speak of, which in turn means I have no friends with children. In short, no one connected to me will be alive in 2170. If you can’t say that too, you can spare me the pretensions to being less interested in the future than me. My assessment is objective by definition — unbiased not because I’ve endeavored to be even-handed, but unbiased because it couldn’t be otherwise.

We’re teetering precariously on the brink of an ecological catastrophe and it seems highly likely that large parts of the planet will be totally uninhabitable within 150 years. It strikes as me as wildly disingenuous that critics of “expensive” green transition policies cite the debt burden of future generations as an excuse for not taking action to stabilize the biome for their children and grandchildren.

Even if you believe the (manifestly false) claim that developed nations with sufficient monetary sovereignty are budget constrained, debt and deficits become less and less relevant the closer we get to outright ecological meltdown.

We live on a rock which fortuitously doubles as a giant biome. The rock is fine (I think), but the biome is dying. And no God or gods (lowercase, plural) are going to intervene to save it. Either humans fix it or, eventually, the rock will be all that’s left. It’s just that simple.

That we cite manmade constraints for our purported inability to address an existential crisis isn’t a testament to shortsightedness or even ignorance. It’s a testament to greed and the fact that, ultimately, most people care first and foremost about themselves and thereby place a premium on the here and now.

When faced with the prospect of financially ruinous heating bills, expensive gas for dump truck-sized SUVs, the loss of campaign contributions and/or the mental distress that goes along with admitting that your political philosophy is endangering not just your species, but all species, people simply look out for their own physical, economic and psychological interests. Regardless of what that implies about their lack of concern for ecological stability and, in turn, the lives of their own children and grandchildren.

You could argue that if hyperinflation ensues or if surging energy costs bankrupt your family or if fiscal and monetary largesse aimed at facilitating green transitions in advanced economies ends up exacerbating hunger in emerging markets by pushing up food costs, the longer run doesn’t matter.

But that’s wholly disingenuous. There’s no threat of hyperinflation in advanced economies. No serious person believes that. And fiscal policies (e.g., transfers and subsidies either unfunded or “paid for” by a small tax on corporations and the wealthy) can ameliorate higher energy costs for middle- and lower-income families over the course of the transition. As for food costs, what’s more likely to trigger widespread famine over the next several decades: Monetary policy or climate shifts that render it impossible to grow food in key locales?

Finally, I’d note that anyone who tells you this is a liberal versus conservative debate doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Most people can’t even define “liberalism” mostly because there’s no set definition.

This might come as something of a shock, but we’re all liberals. Every politician on the planet espouses some tenet that can be attributed to liberalism. If you make an exhaustive list of those tenets and try to imagine what life would be like if you reject all of them, you’ll find that you too are a liberal. What do you think got us here in the first place? Below, find a hint from “21 Lessons for the 21st Century“:

Liberalism reconciled the proletariat with the bourgeoisie, the faithful with atheists, natives with immigrants, and Europeans with Asians by promising everybody a larger slice of the pie. With a constantly growing pie, that was possible. However, economic growth will not save the global ecosystem — just the opposite, it is the cause of the ecological crisis.


17 thoughts on “The Hard Truth About The Energy Crisis And Climate Change

  1. Sir, I read what you write because no one is stopping you from telling the truth. In this post you got to the heart of the truth perfectly. By the way, there is research to back up just about everything you said. Me, I’m alone, even though I have a child and a grandchild in the same place where I live I rarely hear from them and they wouldn’t agree with your truth. They think their s**t don’t stink and they get to ignore me and everyone else they don’t wish to deal with. Not too worried about that uninhabitable part of Earth we have coming because there will be far fewer people to accommodate… by the end of this century. I care about my grandson because he is bright and has the potential for an interesting life, but I wouldn’t want to be him when he’s my age. In 2088 I don’t see a world we will want to be in and Mars will not be the answer. Physics, politics, and resources preclude our dreams for that barren world.

  2. Like some random kleptocrat on a beach with a lab (poor dog) who believes that anyone who isn’t a moral reprobate must be a “liberal”. How dare “we” limit her ability for unlimited profit?

  3. Manchin not only hails from coal country, he owns a big chunk of its worst polluters. Google “manchin coal company” and read about the worst corruption since the teapot dome scandal. The way he has gotten away with using his government offices to line his pockets illustrates the root cause of our climate and economic problems.

  4. The girl with the black lab aint gonna like this column. I am curious why you chose the east coast of Florida for your escape from New York. The Southeast Coast of Florida might as well be another NYC borough. I seent 40 years working for asset management firms, mostly Wall Street companies. I moved to the New South to get away but now Wall Street is moving to my state of choice. As Alan Jackson said, it’s not as backwards as it used to be. And even if it’s still backwards, the taxes are much lower. You might wander away from Florida for a while and venture to the heartlands. In spite of what you might have heard there is hope and a belief in the future in the hinterlands lying
    between the coasts.

  5. I am always shocked when relatively intelligent people express disbelief that climate change is a problem for mankind. However, I have yet to have a conversation with someone who is thinks pollution is not a problem.
    Once again, it seems that politics is entering into what should not be a political discussion.
    All in favor of polluted air and water, raise your hand! You have just won an all expense paid visit to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (twice the size of Texas).

  6. So, the answer is staring us in the face. To save the planet that nourishes us, providing for all our needs, we have to address the elephant in the room. There are simply far too many people. For it is the ‘people’ who are the problem. It is not possible to get all of earths residents to agree to stop being polluters by choice. We could not possibly all live off the land as the Indians did. If it turns out that the corona virus did come from a lab and if it was being developed to kill off 99% of earths current inhabitants… are they just trying to save the planet for future generations? Anybody got another way to save the planet??

    1. The heavy freight of humanity this planet carries comes at a great cost. The population of my country has increased by 82% in the span of my life, threefold for the world over that time and both will continue to significantly rise. The world is less green more noise since I was small. Humans have and will continue to change the world. The fact we are increasingly hearing about and talking about the negative impact our species has is, well, better than not hearing or talking about it.

      1. Actually, demographics is a long game and many of those trends are already baked into the cake. It’s true that global population will continue to grow for a while — to about 11 billion by 2040-45 — but at that point, because fertility rates are falling to or have already fallen below replacement in most countries, it will start to decline. Most demographers think global population will be lower in 2100 than in 2040 — and might be as low as today’s 8 billion. Is that something to cheer? Probably. It is what it is, and at this point, there’s not much anyone can do about the short-term increase and the subsequent decline.

  7. I have so much to say, and there’s no point in saying any of it. It doesn’t make any difference. But I’ll say some of it. One could make a good case that the three most evil people on the face of the earth today are Mark Zuckerberg, Kristen Sinema, and Joe Manchin. They have the power to change history positively–and they choose not to, for their own selfish reasons. As for the selfishness of humans–we are clever apes, but we are not wise. Like a mouse that doesn’t perceive the danger of a snake slowly sliding towards it, too many of us are unable to perceive what we can’t see clearly with our own eyes until it is too late.

    On the plus side, I think we will gain greater insight into the nature of the Drake equation, and the Fermi paradox. It is likely that the typical value of the term L in the Drake equation, the length of time during which an advanced civilization communicates its existence through space, is probably a matter of only a few hundred years.

  8. Right now is what happens when you lower education standards for decades creating an entire populous who has no ability to discern fact from fiction. Combined with social media creating the illusion that everyone who can type characters and post videos is important and worthy of listening to, you have a society of dunces who emotionally decide their belief systems. They listen to the person who speaks to them the most and implicitly trust them as if they were somehow the equivalent to an expert in every single field. The United States society has devolved into symbolic tribalism a multi-generational effort to reverse progress to make the populous easy to control. The human species needs to undergo a severe traumatic event to reinstitute Darwinism. Technology and medicine have prevented the strongest from surviving and instead have benefited the weakest. Damaging our own biome to the point of almost being completely uninhabitable will challenge all humans to adapt to new circumstances that no technology or wealth will save them from. After a massive reduction in populous and habitable regions, humans will finally learn that they are not the gods of this planet and that respect for their biome is the only way to survive.

  9. “However, economic growth will not save the global ecosystem — just the opposite.” 🙂

    The only thing that can stop economic growth seems to be natural disasters. And they are coming. Here is what happened in 2021: https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/ and https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2021/10/video-2021-weather-extremes-outliers-or-omens-with-meteorologist-jeff-masters/ So will nature stop us before we destroy nature, and thereby ourselves? Stay tuned, we should know within the next 5-10 years.

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