Here’s a scenario worth considering. It’s not a conversation one would have with Your Survival Guy, because I’d hang up after 15 seconds, but look around the web and all these financial firms are promoting feel-good products like ESG that have nothing to do with return on investment. It’s about vacuuming up money.
The phone rings and it’s Mr. Billionaire. He’s calling to check on his money and lamenting about the crime, the pollution, and the impoverishment. He says, “I want to invest in companies that do good and make the world better. I can afford it. What’s that guy over at that big company doing, ESP?”
“Let me know about this ESP investing, I have a feeling it’s going to be big.” Click.
Mr. Billionaire is talking about BlackRock, and ESG, but those details don’t matter to him as long as he can tell everyone he’s “saving the world” with his investments.
In The Wall Street Journal, Holman W. Jenkins explains the attitudes of those like my fictional “Mr. Billionaire,” above, via his own character, Alvin Muffley, based on a real architect from Manhattan who wrote to him. Jenkins writes:
Mr. Muffley is a perfect example of something I’ve been telling readers about for a decade. Every politician has a picture of Alvin Muffley in his head by now: Alvin is “passionate” on the subject of climate change to the point of name-calling but doesn’t actually know anything about it. He votes for politicians who give him a tax rebate for his Tesla and pretends that’s doing something. He’s sanctimonious around the house but AWOL when the hurly-burly begins. For 30 years, every economist of note has explained why a carbon tax is the efficient way to moderate emissions, but politicians know Alvin Muffley isn’t there for the compromises and horse trading. Alvin’s investment in the issue is superficial. Result: Michael Moore and Donald Trump can both be right about something—climate politics devolves into a corporate welfare scam.
And yet, for all that, it’s hard to have high expectations of even well-educated New Yorkers when news coverage of this wickedly complex subject is so consistently atrocious. When that pseudo-sophisticated news repackager, Axios, tells its readers that the way to “be smart” about climate change is to see it only as a battle of science vs. deniers.
Or when that relentless propagandizer for electric vehicles, Bloomberg News, suggests that, by taking your Tesla out and driving it around the block 40 times, you’re reducing emissions, displacing X many barrels of oil. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. A subsidy to consume electricity is not the same as a tax to discourage consumption of fossil fuel. At best, subsidizing me to consume green energy frees up fossil energy for somebody else to consume at a lower price.
Those giddily reporting that $6 gasoline is a fillip to EV adoption miss a similar point. High gasoline prices are not a carbon tax and will have the opposite effect in the long run, spurring investment and technological progress to bring new resources of fossil energy into production.
Emailers like Mr. Muffley might make the campaign for climate realism appear futile. Then again, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Sixth Assessment Report last year did revise its climate sensitivity estimates and future emissions projections—the two most important quantities in climate science—in exactly the way this column had been plumping for. This week an excellent article in Foreign Policy magazine by Ted Nordhaus made arguments similar to those I made last Saturday about a post-Ukraine climate realism.
On Wednesday a headline at the liberal site Vox.com invited readers to “stop telling kids that climate change will destroy their world.” The consensus science championed by the IPCC, writer Kelsey Piper points out, does not “add up to an uninhabitable Earth, or even one that’d be an awful place to live . . . Because of progress on many fronts in addressing extreme poverty and disease, as well as general economic growth, our kids’ lives will be better than our parents’ lives were” notwithstanding a warming planet.
The greatest imbecility of all is not drawing the obvious lesson from political failure. Doom-mongering and demonization have not produced rational or effective climate policy. Advocates might claim some progress in producing neurotic reactions in teenage Swedish girls and 60-something New York architects. Most of all, though, they’ve succeeded in convincing millions of voters that climate activism is a bigger threat to their future well-being than climate change is.
Action Line: ESG, green taxes, doom-mongering, they’re all ways people use “the science” to scare or bribe you into doing what they want you to do. Lots of people like Mr. Muffley just go along because it’s the course of action approved by society, but does that make it right? No, it’s just another instance where you invest, and they win. They use your money to achieve their goals, with no real benefit to you whatsoever. If you think that doesn’t sound fair, and that you don’t want your money used like that, let’s talk. We should get to know each other. If you want a better idea of who I am before we talk, click here to subscribe to my free monthly Survive & Thrive letter.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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