COP21 climate conference kicks off Paris, France this weekend. World leaders are gathering and several activist groups are holding rallies around the world, but mostly in France, to show their support for the proposed emission regulations.
This is a tough topic for me to write about because while I agree with the premise that the world is too dirty and we would all benefit from a concerted effort to clean it up, I think we are going about it in an ill-conceived way. Our current approach to fixing the environment will first and foremost, not change anything of importance. Instead, it will empower governments to install more powerful regulations, as well as enable them new avenues and stronger justifications for levying new taxes upon us. This is not about cleaning up the world, this is about making a handful of rich people even richer, about giving governments more power, and creating a narrative that a supranational organization is essential to bring about change. The public at large is foolishly and unwittingly cheering for the arrival of these things despite the obvious fact that the unelected climate commission seeks to impose its laws on sovereign nations.
First things first, some terms to sort out. There are different kinds of pollution; we have green house gases and fine particulate matter. The fine particulate is the bad stuff. In the early 1800’s during the British Industrial Revolution it was this stuff that turned British cities black, stained stone structures, caused naturally selection of black moths, and caused respiratory infections and diseases. This is the stuff you see in the Chinese smog clouds that are a mix of dust from the Mongolian desert combined with particulate from coal and wood power-plants. Fine particulate goes in your lungs when you breathe and it doesn’t leave unless you cough it out, or it gets broken down and absorbed by your body. However, particulate matter, responsible for the degradation of air quality and human health is absent from the COP21 climate negotiations, it was absent from the COP15 negotiations, and it was absent from the original Kyoto Protocol. This is what I mean when I say our current “climate strategy” will not change anything.
Green house gases come in a variety of flavors. First, let’s define our atmosphere by volume (dry air), 21% Oxygen, 78% Nitrogen, 0.933% Argon by volume for dry air. This leaves the remaining 0.027% of the atmosphere as a primarily CO2 (carbon dioxide). The planetary poster child of the effects of green house gas is the 2nd rock from the Sun, hottest planet in the solar system, Venus, where 96.5% of the atmosphere is CO2, a very different atmosphere from Earth’s atmosphere. That said, there are a multiple green house gases. The 3 biggest are CO2, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide.
Nitrous Oxide is bad mojo, it’s primarily released into the air from agricultural use in fertilizer. It breaks down Ozone, it has an atmospheric lifetime of 110 years, and 1 ton of it is said to have the same warming effect as 298 tons of CO2. Methane is not quite as bad as Nitrous Oxide, but 1 ton of Methane is equivalent to 34 tons of CO2 in terms of warming effect. Pretend we have 100 tons of emissions and combine that information with the Wikipedia chart above and we get…
- 72 tons of CO2 = 72 tons of CO2
- 18 tons of Methane = 612 tons of CO2
- 9 tons of Nitrous Oxide = 2682 tons of CO2
As you can see, CO2 is not necessarily the biggest or most dangerous emission. CO2 has a atmospheric life of 5 years, it does not harm the Ozone, plants eat CO2 and we eat plants and cut down trees. I should also not forget to mention that water vapor, clouds, have the biggest green house effect of all.
Now that we’ve identified the real cause behind dirty air and health problems, and taken a look at green house gases and their effect; let’s see what this current COP21 conference hopes to accomplish, where others have failed.
COP21 is an evolution of the Kyoto protocol, which originally set voluntary emission standards between signatory nations. The emission caps were largely ignored by the international community as a whole and people who invested in green energy in 1997 after the first protocol was adopted all lost their shirts. Over the next 18 years the UN and other supranational commissions continued to meet in an attempt to get legally binding and enforceable caps on emissions. But that’s not the whole story, ever since the original Kyoto Protocol there have been talks of setting up a trading system; “cap and trade”, “carbon credits”, “emission reduction units”, “removal units”, “assigned amount units”, “certified emission reductions” are all new terms, manufactured by people with the goal of creating a commodity that can be traded on a “carbon market”.
One has to ask the question, if CO2 and other emissions are so dangerous to our planet’s climate, why not simply cap them, why trade? Tie the cap to GDP or a per capita emissions cap to make it fair for the developing world. “Capping Emissions Is Not Enough: An Interview With the Creator of the Kyoto Protocol Carbon Market“. No, they insist on having a market where they can trade this made up commodity. It’s not gold, silver or oil. You can’t hold a carbon credit, it is for all intents and purposes a fabrication, created by the international community out of thin air, and markets will decide how much that fabrication is worth. Governments will sell credits to gain income, companies will be forced to buy credits at whatever the market price is (hooray speculators!), and prices will go up for consumers. This is an indirect tax on the people.
So why would they do this? Who stands to benefit? I outlined government above, but they are small potatoes. Take a trip down under to Australia, Tony Abbott’s administration begins questioning the official numbers(temperatures) released by his Bureau of Meteorology(BoM). There were questions about how the numbers were recorded, BoM was adding factors to account for shade and wind that had no real basis, and it was inflating the numbers. When Abbott’s administration pressed for an audit and investigation he was stone walled, eventually he was thrown out of office in 2015. In his place steps in Malcolm Turnbull, former head of Goldman Sach’s Australia (1997-2001) and long time supporter for carbon taxes. I guess it should come as no surprise that Goldman first conceived the carbon market and pushed cap and trade. Matt Taibbi wrote an excellent piece about Goldman’s involvement in the carbon market (Taibbi talks about 6 bubbles, but scroll down to the 6th bubble here). Excellent read, I pasted full text it below, THIS IS FROM 2009!
Fast-forward to today. it’s early June in Washington, D.C. Barack Obama, a popular young politician whose leading private campaign donor was an investment bank called Goldman Sachs – its employees paid some $981,000 to his campaign – sits in the White House. Having seamlessly navigated the political minefield of the bailout era, Goldman is once again back to its old business, scouting out loopholes in a new government-created market with the aid of a new set of alumni occupying key government jobs.
Gone are Hank Paulson and Neel Kashkari; in their place are Treasury chief of staff Mark Patterson and CFTC chief Gary Gensler, both former Goldmanites. (Gensler was the firm’s co-head of finance.) And instead of credit derivatives or oil futures or mortgage-backed CDOs, the new game in town, the next bubble, is in carbon credits – a booming trillion dollar market that barely even exists yet, but will if the Democratic Party that it gave $4,452,585 to in the last election manages to push into existence a groundbreaking new commodities bubble, disguised as an “environmental plan,” called cap-and-trade.
The new carbon-credit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that’s been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won’t even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.
Here’s how it works: If the bill passes, there will be limits for coal plants, utilities, natural-gas distributors and numerous other industries on the amount of carbon emissions (a.k.a. greenhouse gases) they can produce per year. If the companies go over their allotment, they will be able to buy “allocations” or credits from other companies that have managed to produce fewer emissions: President Obama conservatively estimates that about $646 billion worth of carbon credits will be auctioned in the first seven years; one of his top economic aides speculates that the real number might be twice or even three times that amount.
The feature of this plan that has special appeal to speculators is that the “cap” on carbon will be continually lowered by the government, which means that carbon credits will become more and more scarce with each passing year. Which means that this is a brand-new commodities market where the main commodity to be traded is guaranteed to rise in price over time. The volume of this new market will be upwards of a trillion dollars annually; for comparison’s sake, the annual combined revenues of all’ electricity suppliers in the U.S. total $320 billion.
Goldman wants this bill. The plan is (1) to get in on the ground floor of paradigm-shifting legislation, (2) make sure that they’re the profit-making slice of that paradigm and (3) make sure the slice is a big slice. Goldman started pushing hard for cap-and-trade long ago, but things really ramped up last year when the firm spent $3.5 million to lobby climate issues. (One of their lobbyists at the time was none other than Patterson, now Treasury chief ofstaff.) Back in 2005, when Hank Paulson was chief of Goldman, he personally helped author the bank’s environmental policy, a document that contains some surprising elements for a firm that in all other areas has been consistently opposed to any sort of government regulation. Paulson’s report argued that “voluntary action alone cannot solve the climate-change problem.” A few years later, the bank’s carbon chief, Ken Newcombe, insisted that cap-and-trade alone won’t be enough to fix the climate problem and called for further public investments in research and development. Which is convenient, considering that Goldman made early investments in wind power (it bought a subsidiary called Horizon Wind Energy), renewable diesel (it is an investor in a firm called Changing World Technologies) and solar power (it partnered with BP Solar), exactly the kind of deals that will prosper if the government forces energy producers to use cleaner energy. As Paulson said at the time, “We’re not making those investments to lose money.”
The bank owns a 10 percent stake in the Chicago Climate Exchange, where the carbon credits will be traded. Moreover, Goldman owns a minority stake in Blue Source LLC, a Utah-based firm that sells carbon credits of the type that will be in great demand if the bill passes. Nobel Prize winner Al Gore, who is intimately involved with the planning of cap-and-trade, started up a company called Generation Investment Management with three former bigwigs from Goldman Sachs Asset Management, David Blood, Mark Ferguson and Peter Hanis. Their business? Investing in carbon offsets, There’s also a $500 million Green Growth Fund set up by a Goldmanite to invest in green-tech … the list goes on and on. Goldman is ahead of the headlines again, just waiting for someone to make it rain in the right spot. Will this market be bigger than the energy-futures market?
“Oh, it’ll dwarf it,” says a former staffer on the House energy committee.
Well, you might say, who cares? If cap-and-trade succeeds, won’t we all be saved from the catastrophe of global warming?Maybe – but cap-and-trade, as envisioned by Goldman, is really just a carbon tax structured so that private interests collect the revenues. Instead of simply imposing a fixed government levy on carbon pollution and forcing unclean energy producers to pay for the mess they make, cap-and-trade will allow a small tribe of greedy-as-hell Wall Street swine to turn yet another commodities market into a private tax-collection scheme. This is worse than the bailout: It allows the bank to seize taxpayer money before it’s even collected.
“If it’s going to be a tax, I would prefer that Washington set the tax and collect it,” says Michael Masters, the hedgefund director who’ spoke out against oil-futures speculation. “But we’re saying that Wall Street can set the tax, and Wall Street can collect the tax. That’s the last thing in the world I want, It’s just asinine.”
Cap-and-trade is going to happen. Or, if it doesn’t, something like it will. The moral is the same as for all the other bubbles that Goldman helped create, from 1929 to 2009. In almost every case, the very same bank that behaved recklessly for years, weighing down the system with toxic loans and predatory debt, and accomplishing nothing but massive bonuses for a few bosses, has been rewarded with mountains of virtually free money and government guarantees – while the actual victims in this mess, ordinary taxpayers, are the ones paying for it.
It’s not always easy to accept the reality of what we now routinely allow these people to get away with; there’s a kind of collective denial that kicks in when a country goes through what America has gone through lately, when a people lose as much prestige and status as we have in the past few years. You can’t really register the fact that you’re no longer a citizen of a thriving first-world democracy, that you’re no longer above getting robbed in broad daylight, because like an amputee, you can still sort of feel things tbat are no longer there.
But this is it. This is the world we live in now. And in this world, some of us have to play by the rules, while others get a note from the principal excusing them from homework till the end of time, plus 10 billion free dollars in a paper bag to buy lunch. It’s a gangster state, running on gangster economics, and even prices can’t be trusted anymore; there are hidden taxes in every buck you pay. And maybe we can’t stop it, but we should at least know where it’s all going.
So essentially we are fucked. I’m not writing this as a call to arms, I’m writing to organize my thoughts and let people know what is going on. I see people protesting against climate change and they absolutely have their heart in the right place, but in this corrupt world their parades and hashtags are just manifestations of “group-think” and indoctrination. The propaganda says our salvation lies in granting more power to international government bodies and to allow them to enshrine laws that will force us to pay their bankers forever, for nothing.
When researching the COP21 I came across a video of COP21 members explaining their goals. In the video, Ernesto Zedillo, former 54th president of Mexico had this to say, “Unless we succeed in Paris, then by 2030 we will be toasting.” Zedillo is also an economist and is on the board of directors at Citigroup. Hyperbole is their favorite weapon, from outlandish statements like, “Earth’s Rate Of Global Warming Is 400,000 Hiroshima Bombs A Day”, to “the maps of the world will have to be redrawn.” Our old buddy Al Gore, who produced the alarmist climate change movie, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, has for a long time, been investing and profiteering in carbon trading schemes and you can read about it here.
Due to the COP21, several French climate activists been placed under house arrest as a precaution, in addition, public gatherings and protests have been banned, free speech is dead in France. Because of the Paris terrorist attacks, a state of emergency has been declared, and extended, which will give police even more powers to arrest and ban demonstrations while the climate conference takes place.
I detest people that complain without a discussion of solutions, so if the goal is to make an economic incentive to pollute less. How about packaging that identifies the carbon footprint of products. Give consumers information to make the right choice, give them the power to hurt companies that pollute excessively by electing not to buy their products. If a similar system can work for food, then it can work for other things. We also need to have civil conversations using facts, not hyperbole. In the outdoor industry companies are constantly trying to one up each other with who can make the “green” products and use recycled materials. For 35 years Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company, has been donating 1% of their sales to environmental efforts.
The demonization of people who stand up and question the current politics around climate change is alarming. You get shouted down, silenced, you lose your job (happened to a French meteorologist). You get labeled with terms that allow people to easily disregard you, ‘Climate denier’ is a bullshit term. You can deny Jesus or Mohamed, but not climate. The more I hear people talk, the more it sounds like believing in climate change is a religion and that the 2007 IPCC report is their Bible. You have to accept it as fact because “97% of climate scientists agree”TM.
In summary, the 2009 Taibbi piece is proof that the carbon trading scheme is rigged, and that is it inevitably coming and we can’t stop it. It’s designed by bankers and investment firms, and those parties will be the ones to benefit from it at the expense of the public. It’s 2015, and just now we are about to codify this into international law, I’m surprised it took this long. When these laws pass expect the price of goods to creep up slowly, as the cap for CO2 being released will be continually revised down every 5 years, the value of carbon credits will keep increasing. Companies that produce goods will have to pay more for the credits, and everything you buy will become just a little more expensive. The laws being debated at COP21 do not put limits on dangerous pollutants like fine particulate matter, they don’t prevent pollution either, they just make polluting more costly.
Other things to explore, there is a 100 billion dollar climate slush fund the COP21 looks to fund during the conference, this will be used to buy off developing economies by supplying aid, which if you know anything about foreign aid, is more like corporate welfare. Also there are carbon removal credits, if you own several acres of an Amazon rainforest you can sell your carbon removal credits to a factory that needs to release emissions. Don’t ask how you do such a thing, because it has been made ridiculously complicated so the layman can’t make money off of his/her forested land. This is a bankers only game and we are not allowed to play.
I would be remiss if I didn’t address my opinion on warming and if man is causing it. The climate data does show the world is warming, however, it doesn’t breakdown how much warming is coming from where, because this is a nearly impossible task. We have variable solar output, multiyear weather patterns like El Nino, changes in land use, volcanic eruptions and most of these things work on cycles. We have a North Pole that moved 57km last year toward Russia, but all our weather stations are stationary. I concede the world is getting warmer, and that man may have something to do with it, but I believe it requires more investigation.
We have 100 years of climate data and 50 years of good data, our planet changes on scales of time that we can hardly imagine. Only 12,000 years ago there were 2 miles of ice above Canadian cities, glaciers extended down to Colorado. There is a lot more at play in climate, and to prove it here is an ice core sample that tracks temperature over the last 400,000 years. No one can explain for certain the cause of these temperature swings of 10C, but yet we think we’ve pinpointed the exact cause of a 0.8C increase.
Is a hotter Earth necessarily a bad thing? The times of great progress have also coincided with warm temperatures. The greatest threat is when things get cold, plants die and people starve. We’ve had “mini-ice ages” before and they are universally terrible. In the 1400’s Norse colonies lived and farmed in Greenland, then later died off due to increasingly harsh winters. In the 1650’s a wave of cold weather hit Europe bringing famine to much of Europe, the cold period lasted for several years, even freezing the Thames river solid. So I remain unconvinced that CO2 is the main factor of climate change, and I remain unconvinced that our rate of climate change is unsustainable or headed in a dangerous direction.
I think all people can agree that, yes the Earth is getting hotter and this demands further investigation and vigilance. I think we can all agree dirty air sucks and we need to find ways to measure, record, and reduce the amount of fine particulate matter released into the air. We should recognize that carbon trading schemes are a way for investment firms and bankers to get rich by levying a de facto tax on the public. Government is complicit in this action, and it benefits greatly from pushing fears of climate change. A scared public is an obedient public, plus government loves to suggest that only more government can solve your problems. This also gives more justification for tax collection which will surely come later.
Look out for a “miles driven” tax soon.