Climate Politics

The Name of the Game

All domestic, commercial and industrial facilities obtain their energy services (e.g. electricity, heating and cooling) primarily from the nationwide electric and natural gas utility grids. These grids are maintained by state-franchised monopolies, an invention of the same inventor as the incandescent light bulb, Thomas Edison no less. It was Edison and his business head (Samuel Insull) who persuaded states and municipalities to single-source the matrices of wires and pipes to traverse the countryside, towns and cities across state and private property lines to supply electricity and fuel to consumers. Built countrywide during the past century, these grids have become marvels of the modern industrial age. They provide virtually universal access to effective, clean, abundant, convenient and inexpensive energy with no more effort than the flick of a switch. Indeed, these energy grids are the very essence of productivity, security and prosperity in the modern world. What’s more, they give the impression that progress requires a partnership of private enterprise and politics.

Modernity is the result of capitalistic industrialization, entrepreneurial initiative and free-market socialization. The results of this social paradigm are eagerly sought everywhere but its methods are just as eagerly misrepresented and misconstrued. The idea that politics is essential and instrumental is one example.

Modernity has also bred concerns that man’s appetite for energy is unsustainable and has grown to the point where it is damaging the environment and climate in which he lives. It is generally believed that a lazy political authority has allowed profit-seeking private enterprise industry to run amuck and spoil the environment while wasting resources. An energized federal environmental protection bureaucracy is called for.

Whether or not these concerns are scientifically supportable, they have been exploited to produce an emotional public response resulting in some vindictive public policies. Such policies have spawned legislation aimed at curtailing the utilization of natural resources and enterprises that might change the environment. The implementation of such legislation has brought about industrial regulation that is tantamount to de-industrialization. Among other things, these policies have more than doubled the cost of obtaining electricity from its grid in less than a decade, even as energy supplies have increased and fuel prices dropped. Such arbitrary charges now burden the economy and raise the cost of operating the utilities such that, during this time, the grid has begun to deny service on random occasions. Higher cost, less service, bad omen.

The greater part of this escalation of electricity cost and unreliability is largely due to environmental protection legislation for the ostensible purpose of preventing climate change. This policy objective intersects with energy supply and consumption curtailment objectives that conflict with economic activity.

The proxy for this political objective is stringent control of “greenhouse gas” emissions. A familiar analogy is the shrinking of man’s carbon footprint.  This objective is being sought out of fear of inadvertent Earth warming caused by continued fuel-burning by humans that will increase the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere to the point where enough sunshine will be trapped to overheat the planet and plunge its climate into an irreversible warming trend with catastrophic consequences for mankind. But a “sensitive” faction has come to the rescue. Accusing man of being his own worst enemy, they are urging his government rein in industrial practices and correct a supposed imbalance in the political-industrial system.

But why pick on man-generated CO2? There are other significant sources of CO2 in the environment as well as other significant greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Some of these gases have even greater solar interaction than CO2 and none is more essential in the environment as CO2 for continued plant life.

The answer to this question is an example of the streetlight effect:

A policeman sees a drunk searching for something under a streetlight. He asks the drunk, “What have you lost?” The drunk replies, “I lost my keys.” While they both proceed to look under the streetlight together, the policeman asks the drunk if he is sure he lost them here. The drunk replies, “No, I lost them in the park.” The policeman asks, if that’s the case, why are you searching here?” The drunk replies, “This is where the light is.”

The moral [RL1] of this story is: you might not find what you are missing but you will find what you shine a light on.


Government funding supplies the searchlights to illuminate the factors affecting its policy preferences. Such funding buys a lot of candlepower, which generally comes with the preset azimuth and elevation of the area of common concern.  Nothing highlights a research topic and inspires the industry of unemployed scientists like the offer of a government grant.

The flashlight in the illustration represents government funding announcements. Motivated by the relatively easy money of government grants, climate scientists flock to the bidders and bidders concentrate on the topics of concern to the government, most notably lately the alleged effects of the greenhouse gases emitted by humans. That is where the government shines the light, on the research objectives that qualify for grant funding. By connecting with the government’s enlightened social welfare policies and currying favor with the administrators of such, credentialed scientists can not only obtain comfortable stipends but earn legitimacy and public recognition. As Ben Franklin would have said, “They are doing well by doing good.”

Out of the spotlight are other factors that science has shown to be important in understanding climate formation. These factors are conveniently ignored for the sake of concentrating resources and clarifying purposes. These other factors may well be the ones that hold the answers. But research on non-anthropogenic factors doesn’t qualify for government funding. Why? Obviously because government is about legislation and legislation only works on people.

People do things that put CO2 in the air. It is easy to show man’s furnaces and engines chewing up coal and oil and spitting out fumes containing carbon dioxide. If scientists are willing to say that the Earth is being warmed exponentially by an atmospheric greenhouse that is being stoked by the emissions of extravagant, irresponsible and greedy humans who are only in it for the profit, legislators can happily regulate the human activity that produces the carbon emissions said to be the enemy of the planet.

Since the volcanic activity that produces the same gases in even greater quantities and a lot of heat to go with it, and man’s behavior is not readily associated with the behavior of volcanoes, volcanism is not factored into the crisis. Neither is the variation of the sunshine that is the primary driver of the Earth’s climate. So to justify a role for itself in regulating behavior allegedly disturbing the Earth’s climate, government conjures up some studies that tell a plausible story connecting human industrial activity and atmospheric CO2. After all, this is all it can control whatever the outcome. This story suffices for legislative purposes pandering as it does to expert testimony and political expediency.

By implication, analogy, extension and projection, media hype gives the impression humans are responsible for putting all of a culprit gas out there. Therefore, humans deserve to suffer the consequences, whatever the government says they are.


The Substance

As with most stories, this one about anthropogenic climate change begins with some facts. It seems some atmospheric scientists recently discovered that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere now is almost twice what it was at the beginning of the industrial age when the burning of fossil fuels began to expand along with the population of fuel burners, which caused the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere to mushroom. These scientists found the CO2 had increased from roughly 250 parts of CO2 per million parts of air (ppm) at about the time of the Declaration of Independence to about 400 ppm presently, a 60% increase in a period of nearly 250 years. They sounded an alarm.

Their alarm is heard by opportunistic politicians always trolling for a crisis to exploit for their agrandizement. The anthropogenic threat to the environment is irresistible. A chance to cure is a chance to rule. Government is about legislation and legislation only works on people.

But hold on. Geologists and meteorologists have determined that, quite coincidently as far as anyone knows, and having no apparent connection with humans, the Earth was coming out of the Little Ice Age during this same period. Just as the industrial revolution was gaining steam, literally, the Earth began returning to thermal “normality” under its own geological power. Whereupon, its great carbon reservoir, the oceans, began to gain some heat, which would drive some of their vast carbon stores into the atmosphere. Imperceptible warming began shifting the carbon equilibrium between the oceans and the atmosphere at this time in history. This shift favored an increase in atmospheric CO2. Whatever temperature changes might have been produced by the heating were moderated by the latent heat retained in the oceans to dissociate the CO2 as gas from the dissolved carbonate and also to evaporate some of the water.

One atmospheric scientist depicts the atmospheric carbon cycle as shown in the following illustration:


According to this audit, mankind accounts for 5 to 6 gigatons (Gt = a billion tons or 2 trillion pounds) of CO2 emissions per year. Natural sources account for 190 to 225 Gt per year. The natural sources vary as much as 35 Gt, which alone is 6 to 7 times as large as the total of anthropogenic emissions. Clearly, volcanic and other natural emissions of CO2 dwarf the human ones.

This observation not only raises the question as to how much of the supposedly offending CO2 in the atmosphere can be attributed to human activity but it also falsifies the notion that the human kind is predominant. Atmospheric physicists have determined that no more than a few per cent of the 0.04 % CO2 in the atmospheric could have been due to human action.  And alas, only the human contribution is subject to human control, which turns out to be minuscule in the face of nature. Obviously, even 100% government control of human action can have no more than a negligible effect on the atmospheric greenhouse, which in turn has only a minor effect on the global temperature.

Regardless of the truth of the matter, the government’s story got the jump on the public. Already, the “Chicken Little” effect has taken hold. So goes the story:

A chick called “Chicken Little” believes the sky is falling when an acorn falls on its head. The chick decides to go tell the King and on its journey meets other animals (mostly other fowl), which join it in the quest to avoid disaster.

Perhaps the most widely promoted idea of all time insinuates that human-generated CO2 is flooding the atmosphere and strengthening the greenhouse effect without bounds leading to a runaway warming of the climate. On reflection, which is comparatively rare, we find this idea is based on the tacit assumptions that

    1. the greenhouse effect is the principal determinant of the Earth’s temperature
    2. the strength of the greenhouse effect is proportional to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere
    3. humans are responsible for the presence the offending gas (CO2), which is called pollution (i.e. people are the polluters)

Every one of these assumptions is questionable if not outright fallacious. That they stand without sincere debate is only because no one challenges them in the face of media bias in favor of official policy. Everyone assumes that the media audience is ignorant of the physics involved and will accept the official story as the truth ipse dixit (on the authority of the one in charge).

The End Game

Now riding on the bandwagon of an alleged world-wide consensus of scientists, the officials and their sycophants are impervious or oblivious (as the case may be) to the obvious questions raised by the skeptics. Many people are convinced the story of anthropogenic climate change is the gospel truth; that a monster heat wave and tidal inundation is imminent unless a ‘promiscuous’ humanity can be appropriately brought to heel by a dutiful and determined government. No typical natural disaster, this public safety crisis-in-the-making is Apocalyptic and it is attributable to human gluttony. It is a moral failing befalling those susceptible to a belief in original sin, who naturally call for the government to assume the role of God and rein in the offending behavior with broader and more stringent regulation of behavior and changes in selected life styles.

Mankind is, therefore, treated to yet another scheme for political conquest, courtesy of the most honorable environmentalists. Is this conquest any different from those anticipated by the master? The Prince is Machiavelli’s generic term for political government, which is an institution hell-bent toward conquest. The following is a more modern description of the process (Theodore J. Lowi, Incomplete Conquest: Governing America, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1981, p.25.):

“Political participation is an instrument of conquest because it encourages people to give their consent to being governed. And even when voting does not itself produce a clear sense of public willingness, the purpose of participation is nevertheless fulfilled because deeply embedded in the people’s sense of fair play is the principle that those who play the game must accept the outcome even if they are consistently on the losing side. Why do politicians plead with everyone to get out and vote? It is because voting is the simplest and easiest form of participation by masses of people. Even though it is minimal participation, it is sufficient to commit all voters to being governed, regardless of who wins.”

Thus, political participation enables a few to rule many. The official motto of the United States — E Pluribus Unum – is appropriate.

To participate in politics is to submit to conquest and collaborate in the conquest of others. Chicken Little, her cohorts and kind were unwittingly catering to the sinister genius of would-be political rulers whose method consists in an ideological coup d’état by means of which sufficient numbers of people volunteer for servitude.  Curiously, the specter of insecurity persuades people in numbers to abandon their inherited autonomy in favor of a promise of protection from the forces of nature without effort on their part. The promise is wholly without merit and price exorbitant, but as history proves, the prospect is nonetheless enchanting, to say the least. But perhaps the politician is not so much the genius as the opportunist. Masses of people are pretty gullible. As such, they don’t rate much social superiority over masses of cattle.

Conquest by plebiscite and cooptation differ from military conquest only in the sense that the former are bloodless and volitional. The result is the same. The victims sanction their own servitude and then cooperate in their own regimentation and exploitation. Ideally, the only violence that occurs in politics in the normal course of affairs is to truth and logic. Physical violence is concealed under the rubric of “rule of law” administered by the so-called criminal justice system.

Experience has shown that the criminal justice becomes preoccupied in the political system with victimless crimes. For example, who is victimized by industry that operates economically on electricity and mobility from hydrocarbon fuel combustion? Most people alive owe their very existence to the productivity of such an order. Who creates the largest carbon footprint per unit of production? The head of the environmentalistic regulatory state (POTUS) has no peer. Criminals have their way with the political system as if it was their very own institution. Perhaps it is. If crime did not always exist, politicians would have to invent it forthwith.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H. L. Mencken


[RL1]I absolutely LOVE this story and the accompanying illustration! Great analogy.