Oh, Goody—A New IPCC Report

Did you hear the news: the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is out with a big new report on climate change, and you’ll never believe what it says! The headline is that scientists say we have only ten years left to save the planet! It’s Green Groundhog Day! Again. Or deja vu all over again, as that famous climate scientist Yogi Berra once put it. (Or was that the porn novelist and charter member of the #MeToo Club former head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri? I can’t recall, though last I heard he had a new career helping Al Gore release his inner chakra or something.) Haven’t we been hearing that we only have 10 years left to save the planet since 1970? Yes, in fact 1970 is the first instance I have on record of the head of the UN (U Thant in those days) saying we only have ten years left. I only wish we just had ten years left till we stopped having to hear how we only have ten years left. Can “Ten Years After” get back together and please do a reunion tour?

I actually used to slog through these periodic IPCC reports, which deserves combat pay since they’re typically over 3,000 pages long (which means zero journalists ever read anything beyond the short politicized summary), but this time I’m going to heed George W. Bush’s wise counsel: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice. . . Won’t get fooled again.” (I probably will try to get through the chapter on the computer climate models, as it usually makes for amusing reading.) But seriously, climate change is an issue that is pining for the fjords, as I wrote to immense outrage in the Wall Street Journal in June.

I was about to move on to something more interesting when this tweet from Eric Holthaus, a writer for the deep greenie site Grist, caught my eye:

Amazing how you can always count on supposed physical scientists to turn out to be political scientists (and economists, too). Anyway, I wondered what passage of the IPCC report Holthaus grabbed on to for “dismantling capitalism.” He offers this, from chapter 4:

Increasing evidence suggests that a climate-sensitive realignment of savings and expenditure towards low-emission, climate-resilient infrastructure and services requires an evolution of global and national financial systems. Estimates suggest that, in addition to climate-friendly allocation of public investments, a potential redirection of 5% to 10% of the annual capital revenues is necessary. This could be facilitated by a change of incentives for private day-to-day expenditure and the redirection of savings from speculative and precautionary investments, towards long-term productive low-emission assets and services. This implies the mobilisation of institutional investors and mainstreaming of climate finance within financial and banking system regulation. Access by developing countries to low-risk and low-interest finance through multilateral and national development banks would have to be facilitated (medium evidence, high agreement). New forms of public-private partnerships may be needed with multilateral, sovereign and sub-sovereign guarantees to de-risk climate-friendly investments, support new business models for small-scale enterprises and help households with limited access to capital. Ultimately, the aim is to promote a portfolio shift towards long-term low-emission assets, that would help redirect capital away from potential stranded assets (medium evidence, medium agreement).

Decoded from that gobbledygook is a straightforward ratification of what I’ve always said: the solution for every environmental problem is always massively more government control of people and resources. Just 5 to 10 percent of total capital investment is all we want! Sure: just like the income tax was only supposed to be no more than 10 percent on the highest incomes only when it was adopted back in 1913.

Actually this passage is useful not only for revealing what the climate campaign really wants, but it inadvertently admits that all of the supposedly slam-dunk renewable energy technologies that are supposed to make us all rich are in fact massive money-losers. Why else would you call for “guarantees to de-risk climate-friendly investments”?