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Scars of 2017 wildfire still evident in Waterton park as rebuild continues


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Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton

WATERTON, Alta. — Deb Watson returned to her family’s trail-riding business after the Waterton wildfire to find little more than a pop machine melted into a bubbly puddle with coins inside fused together.

“It wasn’t a good burn-back-the-brush kind of fire,” says Watson, sitting on a picnic bench at the temporary location of Alpine Stables in Waterton Lakes National Park.

“It was a devastating fire.”

The business has offered horseback riding excursions for about half a century in the southwestern Alberta park known for its stunning Rocky Mountain vistas, plentiful wildlife and glimmering lakes.

A fire sparked by a lightning strike in British Columbia and fuelled by dry, windy weather forced everyone out of Waterton on Sept. 8, 2017, and spread into the park three days later. The main townsite, including the historic Prince of Wales Hotel, was unscathed.

Nearly 40 per cent of the park burned, including several Parks Canada properties. All of Alpine’s 70 or so horses were taken to safety well before the business on Parks Canada land burned to the ground.

Alpine Stables has just over half as many horses this summer as it did before the fire. It’s operating out of a modest shed at a golf course across the road from its longtime location.

Watson is grateful her family has been able to keep the business open, but she’s antsy to return to its old spot, where Parks Canada aims to complete a brand new stable and staff housing this fall.

“It’s a beautiful building, but what we’re really going to miss is all the trees, the greenery in the back,” she said. “It’s not what my dad built and what he designed.”

Parks Canada has embarked on a multi-year rebuilding plan, helped along by nearly $21 million in federal funding announced in January.

Along with Alpine Stables, the park expects to reopen the popular Bear’s Hump hiking trail and scenic Red Rock parkway to motor vehicles this year. Red Rock has been fully open to foot and bike traffic since late June and most hiking trails with access from there are open.

The more complex job to restore the Akamina Parkway, the road leading to the popular Cameron Lake day-use area, is expected to be finished in 2021. The fire burned trees so deeply that rocky slopes need to be stabilized to make the road safe. Burned guardrails need replacing and new culverts are needed.

The Akamina Parkway has been open to foot and bike traffic off and on since last November, but is to close again Sept. 9 until the end of the year for construction.

“We’re taking every opportunity to offer visitors chances to get up to places as the construction allows,” said park superintendent Sal Rasheed.

The Crandell Mountain campground, levelled in the fire, won’t reopen until 2022. Where the old visitor’s centre once stood is a field of tall grass. There’s a temporary centre in town by a post office and the new complex is expected to be done in the spring of 2021.

“Working in Waterton is an interesting challenge,” said Rasheed. “It gets incredibly windy down here and in southern Alberta it can snow in any month of the year. And so we lost a bit of time early on in the season with snow and wind … But in the grand scheme of things, everything is on schedule.”

While the park has had some slow months, Rasheed figures visits are on par with pre-fire levels.

Business has been booming at Pat’s Rentals as visitors look to explore the parkways on electric bikes with the perk of not having to dodge cars.

Jordan Wammes, whose family owns the business, said it started the spring with six e-bikes and had 20 by August.

“It’s starting to bounce back,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of rejuvenation, a lot of revisitation from folks who haven’t been back since the fire.”

Lockey Craig, whose company Waymarker Hospitality owns and operates hotels and restaurants in town, said business has been slower, especially in the shoulder season.

He believes it has a lot to do with limited backcountry hiking options after the fire. He hopes that will turn around soon.

“I’m frustrated with how slow it has been,” he said of the road construction.

But he also understands why it’s important to get the work done right.

“I guess I’m prepared to be patient.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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Bjorn Lomborg shows how social media censors forgot to include the facts in their fact check

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Dr. Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. The Copenhagen Consensus Center is a think-tank that researches the smartest ways to do good. For this work, Lomborg was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. His numerous books include “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet”, “The Skeptical Environmentalist”, “Cool It”, “How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place”, “The Nobel Laureates’ Guide to the Smartest Targets for the World 2016-2030” and “Prioritizing Development: A Cost Benefit Analysis of the UN’s SDGs”.

The heresy of heat and cold deaths

A group of campaign researchers try hilariously, ineptly — and depressingly —to suppress facts

TL;DR. A blog, claiming to check facts, does not like that I cite this fact: the rising temperatures in the past two decades have caused more heat deaths, but at the same time avoided even more cold deaths. Since this inconvenient fact is true, they ignore to check it.  Instead, they fabricate an absurd quote, which is contradicted in the very article they claim to ‘fact-check’.

166,000 avoided deaths

Cold deaths vastly outweigh heat deaths. This is common knowledge in the academic literature and for instance the Lancet finds that each year, almost 600,000 people die globally from heat but 4.5 million from cold.

Moreover, when the researchers include increasing temperatures of 0.26°C/decade (0.47°F/decade), they find heat deaths increase, but cold deaths decrease more than twice as much:

Or here from the article:

The total impact of more than 116,000 more heat deaths each year and almost 283,000 fewer cold deaths year is that by now, the temperature rise since 2000 means that for temperature-related mortality we are seeing 166,000 fewer deaths each year.

Climate Feedback

However, this is obviously heretical information, so the self-appointed blog, Climate Feedback, wants it purged. Now, if they were just green campaigning academics writing on the internet, that might not matter much. But unfortunately, this group has gained the opportunity to censor information on Facebook, so I have to spend some time showing you their inept, often hilarious, and mostly nefarious arguments. The group regularly makes these sorts of bad-faith arguments, and apparently appealing their Facebook inditements simply goes back to the same group. It is rarely swayed by any argument.

They never test the claim

Climate Feedback seemingly wants to test my central claim from the Lancet article that global warming now saves 166,000 people each year, from my oped in New York Post:

But notice what is happening right after the quote “Global warming saves 166,000 lives each year”. They append it with something that is not in the New York Post. You have to read much further to realize that they are actually trying — and failing — to paste in an entirely separate Facebook post, which addressed a different scientific article.

It turns out, Climate Feedback never addresses the 166,000 people saved in their main text. “166” only occurs three times in the article: twice stating my claim and once after their main text in a diatribe by an ocean-physics professor, complete with personal insults. In it, the professor doesn’t contest the 166,000 avoided deaths. Instead, he falsely claims that I am presenting the 166,000 as the overall mortality impact of climate change, which is absurd: anyone reading my piece understand that I’m talking about the impact of temperature-related mortality.

Perhaps most tellingly, Climate Feedback has asked one of the co-authors of the 166,000 Lancet study (as they also very proudly declare in their text). And this professor, Antonio Gasparrini, does not only not challenge but doesn’t even discuss my analysis of the 166,000 avoided deaths.

Climate Feedback not only doesn’t present any reasonable argument against the 166,000 avoided deaths. It has actually asked one of the main authors of the study to comment and they have nothing.

In conclusion, Climate Feedback simply has no good arguments against the 166,000 people saved, and yet they pillory my work publicly in an attempt to censor data they deem inconvenient. . That academics play along in this charade of an inquisition dressed up ‘fact-check’ is despicable.

Rest of Climate Feedback’s claim is ludicrously wrong

So, beyond the claim of 166,000, Climate Feedback is alleging that I say the following: “those claiming that climate change is causing heat-related deaths are wrong because they ignore that the population is growing and becoming older.”

This is a fabricated quote. I never say this. Climate Feedback has simply made up a false statement, dressing it as a quote of mine, even though I never claimed anything like this. This is incredibly deceptive: it is ludicrous to insist that I should argue that it is wrong to claim “climate change is causing heat-related deaths.” I simply do not argue that “climate change is not causing heat-related deaths”

Up above I exactly argued that climate change causes more heat deaths. My graph shows that climate change causes more heat deaths.

And I even point out exactly that the temperature increases cause heat deaths in my New York Post piece:

“As temperatures have increased over the past two decades, that has caused an extra 116,000 heat deaths each year.” Sorry, Climate Feedback, but the rest of your claim is straight-out, full-on stupid.

Evaluation of Climate Feedback’s review

So Climate Feedback is simply wrong in asserting that I somehow say climate change is not causing heat-related deaths — because I do say that, even in my New York Post article:

Climate Feedback doesn’t show anywhere in their main text how the 166,000 avoided deaths are wrong. They even ask one of the main authors of the study, and that professor says nothing.


Climate Feedback’s deceptive hit job is long on innuendo and bad arguments (see a few, further examples below). But the proof really is in the pudding.

They make two central arguments. First, that my claim of “Global warming saves 166,000 lives each year” is incorrect. Yet, they never address this in their main text. And while they get information from one of the main authors of the Lancet study that is the basis for the 166,000 lives saved, they get no criticism of the argument.

Second, they assert that I somehow say that it is wrong to claim climate change is causing more heat-related deaths, which is just ludicrous because I make that very point, even in my New York Post article:

Verdict: Climate Feedback is fundamentally wrong in both their two main claims.

Additional point: It really shouldn’t be necessary to say, but you can’t make a ‘fact-check’ page, write page after page of diatribe, ignore the first main point and bungle the other main point, and then hope at the end nobody notices, and call my arguments wrong. Or, at least, you shouldn’t be able to get away with such nonsense.

Two examples of the inadequate arguments in the rest of Climatefeedback

Lomborg doesn’t have a time machine

Climate Feedback asks professor Gasparrini, co-author of the Lancet study above. He doesn’t cover anything on the 166,000 deaths avoided. Instead, his text entirely discusses a 2016 WSJ article where I used his 2015-article but he criticizes me for not citing his 2017 article:

The reason I didn’t cite his 2017-article is of course that I didn’t have access to a time machine when I wrote my article in 2016.

Indeed, I have corresponded with Professor Gasparrini several times later about his 2017-article. And yes, his 2017-study indeed shows that at very high emissions, additional heat deaths will likely outweigh avoided cold deaths towards the end of the century. But his study also shows that all regions see additional heat deaths vastly exceeded by extra avoided cold deaths from the 1990s to the 2010s — the exact point I’ve made here.

Serious academics take into account population growth and aging

In a refreshing comment, Climate Feedback asks Philip Staddon, Principal Lecturer in Environment and Sustainability from the University of Gloucestershire to chime in. He says, that I’m wrong to criticize the lack of standardization from population growth and aging, because clearly “all serious academic research already takes account of population growth, demographics and ageing”:

I, of course, entirely agree with Staddon, that all serious academic research should do that. But the research that I have criticized has exactly not done so, resulting in unsupported claims. So, for instance, in the Facebook post that Climate Feedback discusses, I show how CNN believes that a study shows a 74% increase caused by the climate crisis:

This is based on not adjusting for population and age, and is actually from the press release of the paper (and in table S6 in the paper).

Likewise, Staddon might have noticed that a very high-profile editorial in the world’s top medical journals made that very amateurish mistake. They argue that temperature increases over the past 20 years have increased deaths among people 65 and older:

But they cite numbers that are not adjusted for age or population — indeed the world’s population of people above age 65 has increased almost as much:

I absolutely agree with Principal Lecturer Philip Staddon on the necessity of making sure that good arguments in the public sphere are adjusted for population and aging before blaming climate. Unfortunately, they often aren’t

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Happy Birthday, Global Warming: Climate Change at 33

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Monday, August 9, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) will release its sixth assessment report to the public.   The IPCC says “the report will provide the latest assessment of scientific knowledge about the warming of the planet and projections for future warming, and assess its impacts on the climate system.”

In the lead up to this much anticipated report, analyst Rupert Darwall published an article outlining the history of global warming science and the associated political / environmental movement.   

From  Google Books: “Rupert Darwall is strategy consultant and policy analyst. He read economics and history at Cambridge University and subsequently worked in finance as an investment analyst and in corporate finance before becoming a special adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has written extensively for publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Wall Street Journal, National Review, the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator and is the author of widely praised The Age of Global Warming: A History (2013).”

This article was originally published by

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Please click here to read the original article

On June 23, 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen testified that the greenhouse effect had been detected. “Global Warming Has Begun,” The New York Times declared the next day. Indeed, it had. A year older than Alexander the Great when he died, climate change took less than one-third of a century to conquer the West.

Four days earlier, the Toronto G7 had agreed that global climate change required “priority attention.” Before the month was out, the Toronto climate conference declared that humanity was conducting an uncontrolled experiment “whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.” In September, Margaret Thatcher gave her famous speech to the Royal Society, warning of a global heat trap. “We are told,” although she didn’t say by whom, “that a warming of one degree centigrade per decade would greatly exceed the capacity of our natural habitat to cope,” an estimate that turned out to be a wild exaggeration. Observed warming since then has been closer to one-tenth of one degree centigrade per decade. Two months later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held its inaugural meeting in Geneva.

The tendency to catastrophism was present at the outset of global warming. The previous year, at a secretive meeting of scientists that included the IPCC’s first chair, it had been recognized that traditional cost-benefit analysis was inappropriate, on account of the “risk of major transformations of the world of future generations.” The logic of this argument requires that climate change be presented as potentially catastrophic—otherwise, the cure would appear worse than the putative disease.

Although catastrophism gave climate change emotive power, the most consistent feature of climate change is the failure of predictions of catastrophe to materialize. In 1990, Martin Parry, a future cochair of an IPCC working group, produced a report claiming that the world could suffer mass starvation and soaring food prices within 40 years. Yet the prevalence of undernourishment in developing countries has been on a downward trend since the 1970s and was nearly halved, from 23.3% in 1991 to 12.9% in 2015.

Although global warming conquered the West, it failed in the East. The model for international environmental cooperation was the 1987 Montreal Protocol on protecting the ozone layer. Its negotiation and ratification was led by the Reagan administration, which recognized that the U.S. would be the biggest beneficiary from having a strong treaty. Thanks to U.S. leadership, the negotiations were conducted quickly (in a matter of months) and the protocol has teeth, containing strong incentives for countries to join and the threat of trade sanctions for those that do not.

This path was quickly blocked for climate change. At the end of 1988, the Maltese government sponsored a resolution of the UN General Assembly on the conservation of the climate as mankind’s common heritage, the subtext being that rich countries shouldn’t negotiate a climate change treaty and then impose it on the rest of the world. The advantage of going down the UN route was that it led to the creation of a permanent and growing bureaucratic infrastructure with annual meetings to keep global warming’s place in public discourse. The downside is that negotiating texts must be agreed by consensus, foreclosing the possibility of a Montreal-like negotiating process and outcome. In 1990, the General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change, which produced a final text in time for the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

The most important features of the 1992 climate convention are its ground plan, carving the world in two, with the developed North listed in Annex I, and the doctrine of “common but differentiated responsibilities” (the first principle listed in the convention and arguably its governing one). The bifurcation was made concrete in 1995 at the first conference of the parties in Berlin. Presided over by Angela Merkel as Germany’s environment minister, the Berlin Mandate stipulated that Annex I parties should strengthen their commitment to decarbonize on condition that non–Annex I parties did not, preparing the way for the Kyoto Protocol two years later.

The Clinton administration hadn’t given much thought to the implications of the Berlin Mandate. The Senate did. In July 1997, by 95 votes (including those of then-senators Biden and Kerry) to zero, it adopted the Byrd-Hagel resolution: America should not sign any protocol that imposed limits on Annex I parties unless it also imposed specific, time-tabled commitments on non–Annex I countries. Although the Clinton administration signed the Kyoto Protocol, the Senate had killed U.S. participation; it was left to the incoming president, George W. Bush, to garner the opprobrium for stating the obvious. Both he and Barack Obama pursued essentially the same post-Kyoto strategy of trying to get China and other major emerging economies to make treaty commitments to decarbonization, an attempt that failed at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, when China, India, South Africa, and Brazil vetoed a new climate treaty.

In picking up the pieces, Todd Stern, President Obama’s climate negotiator, had the twin objectives of crafting something that China would accept but that didn’t require the Senate’s advice and consent. The outcome was the Paris climate agreement. It embodies the climate equivalent of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Sinatra Doctrine of allowing individual parties to the agreement to “do it their way.” Hailed as a game changer in the fight to save the planet, the reality of Paris was rather different. Just as Gorbachev’s Sinatra Doctrine was an admission that the Soviet Union had lost the Cold War, the Paris agreement signaled that the West had given up on having a global decarbonization regime, with credible sanctions against free riding.

Although the Obama administration played an essential role in its gestation, the U.S. is the biggest loser from the Paris agreement. America is to forfeit its recently won position as the world’s largest producer of hydrocarbon energy. For what?

The story of carbon dioxide emissions is acceleration in the declining share of Western emissions. The year 1981 was the last one in which the West’s energy and cement manufacture carbon dioxide emissions were greater than the rest of the world’s (the latter includes Japan—culturally non-Western, ambivalent about climate change, and the only nation to have hosted a major climate conference presided over by a foreign national). By 1988, despite the economic expansion of the 1980s, the West’s emissions had grown by only 3.8%, while the rest of the world’s had grown by 27.0%.

After 2002, non-Western emissions grew even faster. In the 12 years before 2002, non-Western emissions grew by 21.2%; and in the subsequent 12 years, by 76.8%. By 2014, with Western emissions broadly flat over the 24-year period, Western emissions had shrunk to 26% of the total, and the share of non-Western emissions had risen to 74%. In less than a decade and a half, the increase in non-Western emissions outstripped the combined total of U.S. and E.U. emissions. In terms of affecting the physics of global warming, it doesn’t really matter what the West does any more.

William Nordhaus, the world’s preeminent climate economist, offers a brutal assessment of climate policy. “After 30 years, international policy is at a dead end,” he said in a little-noticed October 2020 presentation to the European Central Bank. “We have policies, but they have not been effective, and they’re getting us basically nowhere.” The culprit, in Nordhaus’s view? The free-rider problem. Nordhaus’s solution is to replace the current structure with a “club” whose members agree on a uniform price for carbon dioxide (he suggests $50 per ton of CO2) plus a straight 3% penalty tariff on imports from non-club members. What Nordhaus proposes, in essence, is the Montreal Protocol structure adapted for climate change.

Joe Biden campaigned to restore U.S. climate leadership and rejoin the Paris agreement. The two are contradictory. Following the Europeans down the dead end of a three-decade-old UN process hardly constitutes leadership. Heeding Nordhaus’s advice and abandoning the UN process is something that only an American president can do. But that would be to assume that the purpose of the UN is to moderate global warming.

Days before the Paris conference, Maurice Strong died. A committed environmentalist, no person did more to put environmentalism on the international agenda, leading the 1972 Stockholm UN conference on the environment and the Rio Earth summit 20 years later. A small gathering was held at the Paris conference to share reminiscences about Strong and his achievements. One of his aides at the Stockholm conference recalled asking him what the policy of the conference should be. “The process is the policy,” Strong replied.

Strong’s genius was to understand that a self-perpetuating UN process would continuously accrete money, influence, and, above all, power. Environmentalism would not have become the dominant ideology in the West without the deployment of the UN’s climate apparatus: the annual cycle of climate conferences spliced periodically with ones that are going to save the planet (Kyoto in 1997; Bali in 2007; Copenhagen in 2009; Paris in 2015; and Glasgow in 2021). Then there’s the IPCC, set up by the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization, and its five—soon to be six—generations of assessment reports.

“Embedded in the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius is the opportunity for intentional societal transformation,” the IPCC says in its scientific assessment of the 1.5°C target. All ideologies seek power. Seen in this light, global warming gave environmentalism the means for it to conquer the West and become the dominant ideology of our age. Environmentalism’s attitude toward nuclear power provides a test for this proposition. If the paramount concern of environmentalists had been to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and slow down climate change, they would campaign to keep existing nuclear power stations and build new ones. Yet viable nuclear power stations are being prematurely closed in California, New York, Germany, and Belgium. Why?

Nuclear power is a Promethean crime of humanity stealing the deepest secrets of nature to release unlimited quantities of energy, in the eyes of environmentalists—a crime far worse than global warming. Instead, humanity must live within the rhythms and constraints decreed by nature; hence environmentalists’ belief that power stations should be replaced by inefficient, weather-dependent wind and solar farms.

The growth of wind and solar generation is not a market-driven phenomenon of a superior technology displacing an obsolete one. It’s what happens when governments heavily subsidize zero-marginal cost output, flooding wholesale markets with unwanted electricity when there’s too much sun and wind and risking power failures when there’s too little. The ubiquity of wind and solar symbolizes environmentalism reversing the logic of the Industrial Revolution in transforming predominantly agrarian societies at the mercy of climate to weather-resistant ones and helps explain the contrasting fortunes of environmentalism and Marxism. Environmentalism succeeded in the West and has become part of the political mainstream, to the extent that it defines politically acceptable opinion. Marxism lost in the West but thrived in preindustrial societies, because the political priority remains economic development. In practical terms, this is synonymous with industrialization and carbonizing their economies.

The outcome has been to shift the balance of climate power from the West to the rest of the world and the major emerging economies, in particular. Yet the lopsided arithmetic of the West versus the rest’s emissions has not softened the effectiveness of global warming as an ideological weapon because it is not based on any rational calculus but derives from its threat of planetary catastrophe. The future, as it had been in Marxism, again becomes “the great category of blackmail,” as the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner writes in “The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse.”

Climate change does represent an existential threat to Western civilization, although not in the way environmentalists say. Net-zero climate policies threaten to undermine the internal cohesiveness of Western societies and drain them of economic vitality. Externally, they will accelerate the redistribution of power away from the West to those nations that decide not to decarbonize, especially to China. Decarbonization will see the progressive elimination of high-paying, high-productivity blue-collar employment such as coal mining, oil and gas, steelmaking, and energy-intensive manufacturing. The aristocracy of labor will become an extinct social class; instead, as social mobility stagnates and class stratifications solidify, social geographer Joel Kotkin foresees the coming of neo-feudalism.

Accompanying these regressive social developments is the atrophying of democratic politics. Net-zero climate policies require reorganizing society around the principle of decarbonization—not through a couple of election cycles but over the next three decades. Net-zero must therefore be put beyond the reach of democratic politics so that voters cannot reverse a decision that was taken for them. This provides a better fit for a post-democratic polity such as the European Union. Britain has a statutory climate change committee to hold the government to account for meeting decarbonization targets.

Although the Biden administration has adopted a target of net-zero by 2050 and of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, Congress has not passed—and is unlikely to pass—climate legislation mandating these targets. Nonetheless, American corporations in droves are pledging their own net-zero targets. Wall Street and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing and climate disclosures, which the SEC intends to mandate, have opened an alternative route on the basis of what gets measured gets managed.

Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, candidly admits that forcing companies to disclose their emissions isn’t transparency for transparency’s sake: “disclosure should be a means to achieving a more sustainable and inclusive capitalism.” This collusion between the administrative state and climate activists to bypass Congress has been condemned by Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee. “Activists with no fiduciary duty to the company or its shareholders are trying to impose their progressive political views on publicly traded companies, and the country at large, having failed to enact change via the elected government,” Senator Toomey and his colleagues wrote in a letter to SEC chair Gary Gensler earlier this month.

In addition to this usurpation of the political prerogatives of democratic government, forcing business to take on governmental functions to address societal problems will see them, over time, acquire the modes and culture of government bureaucracies. This subtracts from the core economic function of the business corporation in a capitalist economy. “The capitalist economy,” in the words of the growth economist William Baumol, “can usefully be viewed as a machine whose primary product is economic growth.” What distinguishes it most sharply from all other economic systems are free-market pressures that force firms to engage in a continuous, competitive process of innovation. “This does not happen fortuitously,” writes Baumol, “but occurs when the structure of payoffs in an economy is such as to make unproductive activities such as rent-seeking (or worse) more profitable than activities that are productive.”

If CEO remuneration is aligned with ESG objectives and decarbonization targets and if directors risk being voted off boards for not having them, businesses will increasingly focus their efforts on meeting these non-business objectives. As this incurs costs and impairs business performance, businesses will turn to politicians to seek protection from their antisocial competitors that refrain from doing the government’s work. Capitalism’s legitimacy rests on its record of raising living standards through its prodigious capacity to generate productive wealth. Should that slow down to a trickle, capitalism becomes hard to justify, even though the explanation is that the system is no longer a capitalistic, free-market one.

Global warming flourished during a period when the world had taken a holiday from geopolitics. It had entered the world as geopolitical tensions were easing. Six months earlier, in December 1987, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF treaty, eliminating intermediate nuclear missiles. By the time of the Rio Earth Summit, the Soviet Union was gone. Geopolitics is now back. There is a broad consensus in Washington that President Xi’s China is a strategic rival to the U.S. Yet the new strategic realism ceases when it comes to climate change.

According to the IPCC, net-zero requires “transformative systemic change” that involves “unprecedented policy and geopolitical challenges.” The International Energy Agency calls decarbonizing the energy sector “perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has faced.” The West embarking on this process when China does not is akin to signing a strategic arms-control treaty binding on only one side: it can only be to China’s strategic advantage. So far, the grip of environmentalism on Western policymakers lulls them into the belief that global warming operates in a strategic vacuum, insulated from the factors that constitute geopolitical weight and ambition. It is in that sense that climate change constitutes an existential threat to the West.

Rupert Darwall is a senior fellow of the RealClear Foundation and author of Capitalism, Socialism and ESG.

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