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Covid-19 Shows There Won’t Be Global Action on Climate Change

 

Pretty much Jason Bordoff’s headline in Foreign Policy magazine today, except I left out the “Sorry”. And that’s because I’m not.

Sorry, but the Virus Shows Why There Won’t Be Global Action on Climate Change

Bordoff believes in what is laughably called the scientific consensus on climate change but he seems, to his credit, to be an honest policy wonk. Here are some highlights.

To slow the spread of COVID-19, governments are clamping down to force collective action when individuals fail to follow guidelines. Cities across the world are shutting down businesses and events, at great cost. Yet the effectiveness of any one government’s action is limited if there are weak links in the global effort to curb the pandemic—such as from states with conflict or poor governance—even if the world is in agreement that eradicating a pandemic is in every country’s best interest. Climate change is even harder to solve because it results from the sum of all greenhouse gas emissions and thus requires aggregate effort, a problem particularly vulnerable to free-riding, as my Columbia University colleague Scott Barrett explains in his excellent book Why Cooperate? The Incentive to Supply Global Public Goods. And whereas governments can force people to stay home, there is no global institution with the enforcement power to require that nations curb emissions.

While public concern with climate change is rising, there remains a long way to go. Only half of Americans believe climate change should be a top priority for the federal government, and the figure is far lower on the Republican side of the aisle.

Indeed, COVID-19 itself may actually erode public support for stronger climate action, as the pace of climate ambition wanes during times of economic hardship.

A huge hit to economic growth would likely mean carbon emissions will fall in 2020 for the first time since the Great Recession of 2008.

That may seem like good news, but it is not. First of all, economic contractions are not a desirable or sustainable way to curb emissions; emissions rebounded sharply after 2009. More importantly, the fact that it takes severe economic slowdowns like the Great Recession or COVID-19 to bring emissions down serves as a reminder of just how strongly tied emissions remain to economic growth—and thus how hard it is to lower them.

That is why energy from renewable sources can grow as rapidly as it has over the past decade and yet fossil fuel use can keep rising at the same time as total energy use rises around the world, especially in fast-growing economies like China and India.

Policymakers have spent trillions of dollars and passed countless regulations, standards, and mandates to spur clean energy. That it takes a pandemic-induced economic standstill to actually bring emissions down should be a sobering reminder of just how hard addressing climate change will be.

COVID-19 may deliver some short-term climate benefits by curbing energy use, or even longer-term benefits if economic stimulus is linked to climate goals—or if people get used to telecommuting and thus use less oil in the future.

Yet any climate benefits from the COVID-19 crisis are likely to be fleeting and negligible. Rather, the pandemic is a reminder of just how wicked a problem climate change is because it requires collective action, public understanding and buy-in, and decarbonizing the energy mix while supporting economic growth and energy use around the world.

On his penultimate paragraph

COVID-19 may deliver some short-term climate benefits by curbing energy use, or even longer-term benefits if economic stimulus is linked to climate goals—or if people get used to telecommuting and thus use less oil in the future.

the Democrat attempt for the “economic stimulus [to be] linked to climate goals” was blown out of the water, quite rightly, by President Trump. But people getting used to telecommuting is definitely one possible positive, for all of us. Especially for those climate scientists and activists who up to now have had to do massive conferences all together in places like Bali. It so went against everything they believed. And the answer for their uneasy consciences is now being made clear.

But it’s bigger even than that. Much bigger.

58 thoughts on “Covid-19 Shows There Won’t Be Global Action on Climate Change

  1. The idea that telecommuting (working from home to you and me) will solve the energy problem is going to be one of the Climate Mafia’s Big Ideas resulting from the Virus Panic, so it’s worth looking at in detail.

    The last British TV programme I watched was The Office about 20 years ago. It was about the kind of people doing the kind of jobs that reasonably educated English people could aspire to be doing in 2001, and it was a joke, and a very good one. These jobs could certainly be done at home – or not at all – with no adverse effect on the economy.

    In the last few days, the telly-watching population has suddenly become aware that Boris Johnson and David Brent can work from home, but not the Polish nurse and the Lithuanian strawberry picker.

    (Actually, I suppose you don’t have strawberries yet. I do, in my garden, and very nice too. Our missing pickers are Portuguese, but the principle’s the same.)

    People need people. The cold, reserved English seem to understand this, despite their 2 metre safe distance, twice the European norm (do the English spit further?) And they need epidemiologists, supermarket check out girls, lorry drivers, nurses, and dustbin men more than they need prime ministers and – dare I say it? – bloggers.

    Bordoff regrets that the greatest non-war-related crisis to hit the world in a century won’t help action on climate change. If only it had been even worse…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Covid-19 Shows There Won’t Be Global Action on Climate Change - The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

  3. The covid19 virus is an actual legitimate crisis. What the climate alarmists are promoting 8s a contrived crisis. The distinction is obvious.
    Eugenics collapsed as a faux science driven obsession in the trenches of WWI when it was made clear that “superior” and “inferior” had the same blood gore and suffering.
    Climate has been a massive transfer of wealth from the third world poor and the middle classes of the West to corporate and government elites.
    Covid19 is hurting and killing across all social lines.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Golf Charlie: Thanks. There’s a lot of such pressure to relax climate-infected regulations.

    (Climate-infected being what came out there. I mean of course emission-obsessed-without-regard-to-rationality-or-even-basic-numeracy-let-alone-proper-cost-benefit-analysis-on-the-back-of-a-dishonest-attempt-to-pretend-there-is-solid-science-about-climate-that-is-at-all-alarming. I prefer climate-infected.)

    Like

  5. Geoff: Fair anough on telecommuting, both positive and negative. But of course Bordoff says in the very next sentence:

    Yet any climate benefits from the COVID-19 crisis are likely to be fleeting and negligible.

    He’s too honest not to say it. I entirely agree with him. Not that I see ‘climate benefits’ the same way he does. But hopefully we can all get beyond that. This is dynamite. We should be thinking very hard how we make sure that this is the way things go.

    Like

  6. As an aside on “supermarket check out girls,” yesterday in my local Morrisons the middle-aged lady in question had to come over to help because my self-checkout till, now carefully spaced from the others, decided mid-process that it no longer wanted a debit card but only cash. She pressed the necessary buttons as I backed off but the requisite two metres was unachievable. I said cheerfully as she departed “You’re having to be closer than is deemed safe” – having previously noticed her helping a very old gent with his packing and paying where he didn’t really back off at all. She seemed to appreciate my jovial concern and laughed, at least a little.

    Cue to the evening’s Newsnight which was all agog about Boris, Hancock and Whitty all self-isolating, with two tested and confirmed as having the infection. Mark Walport, ex-CSA, made the very good point that supermarket check out staff and others like them would not have been impressed to see the government fightback against the virus all coming deep from individualised underground bunkers. A balance had to be struck by Boris and co. Yep.

    Like

  7. Hunterson:

    The covid19 virus is an actual legitimate crisis. What the climate alarmists are promoting 8s a contrived crisis. The distinction is obvious.
    Eugenics collapsed as a faux science driven obsession in the trenches of WWI when it was made clear that “superior” and “inferior” had the same blood gore and suffering.
    Climate has been a massive transfer of wealth from the third world poor and the middle classes of the West to corporate and government elites.
    Covid19 is hurting and killing across all social lines.

    There’s a lot one could say! For instance, I’d say Eugenics finally collapsed when the world learned of Josef Mengele’s horrific experiments in Auschwitz, aided and abetted by his mentor Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer at the prestigious Kaiser Wilhelm Institut in Berlin.

    However, the points you make about the class-neutrality of the blood and gore in WWI and infection and death now, and how utterly different ‘climate mitigation’ measures are, favouring the rich against the poor, are very powerful, thank you.

    There again, you say “The distinction is obvious.” Well, to you and me yes. But not yet to Jason Bordoff and so many others. And what I think is important here is that, despite that blindness, as we see it, Bordoff is presenting convincing arguments that climate mitigation (as wrongly conceived and named) is a doomed enterprise. I agree with that. Covid-19 shows it means too much damage. The reality check the world needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Perhaps working from your computer is not all that energy frugal:

    “Tech companies confront an inconvenient fact,” writes Mills. “The global cloud uses more energy than is produced by all the planet’s wind and solar farms combined.” In fact, digital traffic has become the fastest-growing source of energy use. While nearly every tech company has pledged to transition to renewable energy sources, most data centers are physically connected to the conventional power grid, fueled by hydrocarbons. The modern economy won’t be exclusively powered by renewables any time soon.

    https://www.city-journal.org/voracious-energy-demand-of-digital-economy

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Canman: True. So “any climate benefits from the COVID-19 crisis are likely to be fleeting and negligible” as the original author said. Mark Mills is a really useful voice on energy I’ve found.

    I agree with Marc Morano here. And with Andy Revkin, except for the “sad to say”.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Just learned that if I post from my desktop computer, not only is my typing better, but I can *finally* hit “like” and have it show!! And who said there is no upside to quarantine!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The covid19 virus is an actual legitimate crisis.

    Well, Covid-19 is a problem, and a reasonably serious one. But we’ve chosen in much of the West to make it a crisis. Some other places haven’t — the Swedes are much calmer about it all than everyone else, and probably a lot happier for it.

    It is the same with climate. There’s a potential problem, but it has been a choice by a lot of people to make it a crisis. And the idea that it is an imminent crisis is just peculiar.

    In both cases I maintain the West’s responses are a cure worse than the disease.

    Like

  12. I just caught Times journalist Matthew Syed on Sky News saying about the Ferguson Imperial College study something like: “Questions will be asked when this is all over about the advisability of basing policy on modelling with such uncertain parameters.” That’s not an exact quote, but it’s the kind of observation that might be made in other fields.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. “For instance, I’d say Eugenics finally collapsed when the world learned of Josef Mengele’s horrific experiments in Auschwitz…”

    Indeed. Although I’d say a big milestone of decline, rather than collapse. For instance, sterilizations in the US due to Eugenical thinking by authorities, continued right into the 1970s. And wrong-headed Eugenical thinking has likely still helped more than hindered racist movements into modern times. Cultural inertia can last way beyond what one might think would be obvious exposure that the narrative is bunkum. For instance, a big majority of the world is still religious, despite that science has pointed to the fact that it’s bunkum for at least 150 years.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Geoff: Yes, very much so.

    Chester Draws:

    It is the same with climate.

    There are also massive differences between the two areas, as alluded to by your “the idea that it is an imminent crisis is just peculiar”. It’s a small manageable risk that we have the luxury of being able to learn more about over decades. But instead that “peculiar idea” took hold:

    Policymakers have spent trillions of dollars and passed countless regulations, standards, and mandates to spur clean energy. That it takes a pandemic-induced economic standstill to actually bring emissions down should be a sobering reminder of just how hard addressing climate change will be.

    That’s a former White House energy advisor to President Obama writing. And it’s not just the trillions spent, it’s “where our collective attention has been”:

    It’s genuinely hard to find the right words to do justice to this.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. The second big issue is the absolute failure in policy preparation and response for a pandemic that was foreseen, in science, in policy and in politics

    I think this is wrong. Some countries had quite sensible policy in place, backed by science. They realised you can’t stop the inevitable, and that mitigation is required. Protect the vulnerable, but keep the country mostly going.

    Sweden does that still. The UK had the same policy, originally. So did NZ. The US mostly does, still.

    What happened was that politicians got spooked and moved to lock-downs way too early.

    All that talk about “flattening the curve” and NZ went into lock-down well before the first death. We had a sensible four-level alert system, but we basically went from two to four without bothering about three. So we aren’t flattening any curve, and when we come out of lock-down we will be back at exactly the point we were month(s) before. The majority of people won’t be immune, and the virus will still be prevalent. But we will have smashed our economy in order to achieve nothing.

    This is not a failure of science. We have known all along exactly what the problem is, and it’s approximate scale. We know how long a cure/vaccine will take, and we know that there’s no current treatment.

    It is a failure of politicians to make hard decisions. To say — we don’t do this for similar influenza diseases, so why would we do it for the cold? I know that eventually the panicky people would have demanded lock-downs, but in the UK and NZ the politicians didn’t even try to hold to their careful plans, and folded immediately.

    This is on politicians, not scientists.

    Like

  16. This was also on a politician.

    Like

  17. I strongly agree with Neil’s last sentence there. But this from Richard North in the early hours is also worth consideration, given our experience with the Climategate ‘inquiries’

    Yet, as the epidemic reaches 19,522 cases and 1,228 dead, there is by no means a consensus about shelving any criticism for the time being. Former Defra chief scientific advisor, Ian Boyd, observes that, “The middle of a crisis may not be the best time to suggest why we should learn lessons”. But, he says, “many people are more likely to listen now. Certainly, nothing should distract us from getting ahead of Covid-19. My concern is that we should come out of this much wiser”.

    He is not wrong there. Although Michael Gove asserts that, “once this dreadful epidemic is over there will be an opportunity for all of us to look back and to learn appropriate lessons in order to make sure that our public health system is as resilient as possible”, there are endless examples of government inquiries, ranging from BSE to Foot & Mouth, turning out to be useless whitewashes.

    Richard goes on to distance himself again from Peter Hitchens, despite the respect he’s had for the guy in the past. He’s especially good on the systemic weaknesses Covid-19 has exposed.

    Like

  18. It’s weird how things can take on a new resonance when the world changes. For example, I’ve just been listening to Roxy Music’s ‘Song For Europe’, and I think the lyrics now serve as a fitting ode to a past lost to us all. It is sung, one fancies, on a deserted Parisienne street in lockdown:

    “Here as I sit at this empty café thinking of you
    I remember all those moments lost in wonder
    That we’ll never find again

    Though the world is my oyster
    It’s only a shell full of memories
    And here by the Seine
    Notre-Dame casts a long lonely shadow

    Now – only sorrow
    No tomorrow
    There’s no today for us
    Nothing is there
    For us to share
    But yesterday

    These cities may change
    But there always remains my obsession
    Through silken waters my gondola glides
    And the bridge – it sighs

    I remember all those moments lost in wonder
    That we’ll never find again
    There’s no more time for us
    Nothing is there for us to share
    But yesterdays”

    Who knew that Bryan Ferry was such a visionary? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Barack Obama doesn’t seem to have got the memo from his old White House energy advisor.

    Eric Worrall at WUWT is suitably scathing.

    But this was bound to be the other way the climate contagion contingent would take this. Respect, still, to Jason Bordoff and his editors at Foreign Policy for facing harsh reality.

    Like

  20. Good to see the UK government and the UN confirm Jason Bordoff’s thesis:

    A key climate summit in Glasgow will be delayed until next year due to disruption caused by the coronavirus.

    The announcement was made in a joint statement from the UK and UN after a “virtual” meeting of officials.

    Dozens of world leaders were due to attend the COP26 gathering that was set to run in Glasgow from November 9 this year.

    It is expected that the conference will now take place by the middle of next year.

    Around 30,000 delegates, journalists and environmental campaigners were due in Scotland for the meeting.

    However the changing priorities that coronavirus has forced on governments can be clearly seen in Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus (SEC) which was due to host the talks.

    It is now set to become a temporary hospital to house patients affected by Covid-19.

    Like

  21. So the climate crisis is so serious that vital decisions had to be made this year in Glasgow, but not so serious that the COP can be replaced by a video conference?

    Paul Homewood (“Climate Crisis RIP”) links to an excellent article by Pierre Gosselin at NoTricksZone
    https://notrickszone.com/2020/04/01/climate-crisis-rip-people-will-be-in-no-mood-to-stay-in-panic-mode-after-covid-19-scare-ends/
    and two commenters there link to this article https://swprs.org/a-swiss-doctor-on-covid-19/
    which is being updated daily. It changed my view radically.

    A further reason that the climate crisis may be over, not mentioned by Pierre: we are in for several months of scientists disagreeing, being mistaken, correcting wildly wrong estimations, apologising. At least the idea of a scientific consensus is dead.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Geoff: Thanks for the two links. I’d not seen either. Or rather, I did see the second a while back but wasn’t aware of the daily updates. I like the deadpan style.

    Your point about consensus is a really important one. Another way to say it is that we’re having to be grown up with this new and disturbing area (new for most people – and the details of Covid-19 are new even to the experts). Hopefully that maturity will carry over. I think Pierre’s arguments are powerful too. I’m finding myself with less time at the moment though. Will try and get round some other threads tomorrow.

    Like

  23. Richard,

    The following article says it all for me. When it comes to Covid-19 projections, Guardian journalists are still in a position to pick and choose their experts and are disturbed that such a choice should exist. Thankfully, they have long-since had that dilemma removed for them when it comes to climate science expertise. And yet high stakes modelling under uncertainty is still high stakes modelling under uncertainty.

    https://uk.yahoo.com/news/wrong-coronavirus-even-worlds-best-111704694.html

    Liked by 2 people

  24. John: thanks. I really want to consider what Simon Jenkins (was and now) is saying on this one. When both he and Attenborough accepted the climate ‘consensus’ years ago it was a gloomy moment for me, given the good sense they’d both said about false scaremongering prior to that. Will read but am well behind in my reading, as alluded to in yesterday’s comment.

    I did just see this though which rather underlined the “experts will get it wrong” message in two big ways. First, the deleted tweet.

    Then the rethink.

    And on the origins of the virus, there’s this from Ryan and Barry

    All of this is hopefully a major lesson in proper risk management for policy makers.

    Like

  25. I thought the Wuhan Institute of Virology story was classic conspiracy… maybe not. But a consensus emerging…? A minute ago the consensus was dead.

    Just read that the president of the AA, Edmund King, is calling for investment in broadband rather than roads. The world has gone mad.

    Like

  26. Fair point Geoff. Ryan was pointing to someone pointing to the National Review article (which I’ve not read, like so much else) of which Steve Mc just had this to say:

    Climate dissenters take very different lines. But it’s fair I think to point already to those arguments that will become very potent against climate catastrophism when attention is able to shift from the virus.

    Like

  27. The timeline as Steve sees it.

    I have now read both the Jenkins articles. The latest I think is very fair.

    Like

  28. @Geoff, from the ever-reliable Wiki, “It has been contested whether or not the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, suspected as having ties with the COVID-19 outbreak, sold bat meat, where the meat is reportedly not a frequent food source in the city of Wuhan.”

    Interesting way of putting it. If I was trying to deflect claims of cannibalism in my home city, I would not put “human is reportedly not a frequent food source in the city of Norwich.”

    The recent Mail article on the re-opening of the wet markets included a photo of an A-board with a “menu” of available animals, one of them a bat. (Perhaps they are sold for mumbo-jumbo reasons.) The same article had a pic of a cage full of cats. Now, I am a mild-mannered man, and I can forgive a lot. Pangolins, whatever. BUT THIS TIME THEY CROSSED A LINE!

    In better news for our feline friends, the eating of cats has been banned in the city of Shenzen.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. JIT

    “human is reportedly not a frequent food source in the city of Norwich.”

    I’ll believe you, though it’s not easy to prove a negative. I’ve only ever eaten once in Norwich, and that was in the Castle Museum cafeteria. Good collection of stuffed animals. Sandwiches a bit sawdusty.

    The thing is, the videos circulating showing Chinese girls tucking into bat were filmed in Indonesia, on holiday. You can see the signs behind them, and even identify the name of the restaurant. Which is not to say no-one in Wu Han ever ate a bat.

    Like

  30. I can understand people wanting to eat flying foxes, but I wouldn’t have thought yer actual pipistrelle would have enough meat on it to make eating them worthwhile.

    Like

  31. Not sure about the headphones, but now you mention “bone” I remember “Bone Marrow Soup”
    my mum made many years ago, it was the best (ohh for good old days when the family/local butcher was the only place to go)!!!

    under the lockdown they are making a comeback (hope it lasts into the future)

    Like

  32. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #405 -

  33. A wake-up call? The covid-19 virus has accomplished what the climate alarmists have been protesting and demanding we do. It has rapidly lowered CO2 emissions… and primarily those from world-wide transportation. The results have been devastating. If they demand we continue to lower emissions once the virus is contained the results will still be devastating, socially and economically. And, because lowering emissions does nothing to lower what we have already added, the climate will not be affected anyhow.

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  34. Guess who said:

    Coronavirus exposes the problems and pitfalls of modelling. Models based on assumptions in the absence of data can be over-speculative and ‘open to gross over-interpretation’

    Ian Sample, science editor of the Guardian, that’s who.
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/25/coronavirus-exposes-the-problems-and-pitfalls-of-modelling

    and here’s the Health Editor of the same paper on predictions by the Seattle-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation:

    How can coronavirus models get it so wrong?
    The margins for the organisation’s predictions of daily deaths in the UK are big – a tenfold variation from 800 to 8,000 near the peak which, it predicts, will happen around 17 April.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/07/how-can-coronavirus-models-get-it-so-wrong

    Though the very next day she changes her mind, and reports that UK deaths will peak at 2,932 on 17th of April. (She doesn’t say what time of day that will happen.)

    I’m looking forward to the next announcement of climate change projections.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Not sure the activist and activist historian are helping the cause here

    I thought this was telling:

    Climate alarmism is proving a hard sell. Who’d have thunk it?

    Like

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  38. Hi Richard (Drake),

    As I guess you fully appreciate, it’s impossible to predict what, if any, significant long-term changes will be caused by the Covid19 pandemic. It certainly is providing a useful case study in coercion techniques for anyone who has an interest in social manipulation (see Footnote 1).

    You say that ” .. Bordoff believes in what is laughably called the scientific consensus on climate change but he seems, to his credit, to be an honest policy wonk .. “.
    Being a sceptic, I’m not convinced about his “belief” in the CACC hypothesis or “honest” about energy policy.

    Although Bordoff appears to have no education, training or experience in any of the hard scientific disciplines relevant to CACC, energy or environment, he is no ones fool (see Footnote 2). As for honesty, he did study politics and law and was active in politics as energy advisor to Obama.

    FOOTNOTES

    1) A prime example is Extinction Rebellion founding member Roger Hallam, who appears to have the ambition of a Kings College PhD ” .. in how to cause trouble effectively .. ” (see sub-section 3.1.2 of https://globalpoliticalshenanigans.blogspot.com/2019/04/spotlighton-extinction-rebellion.html).

    2) Jason Eric Bordoff graduated from Brown University in Political Science, earned a M.Litt (Politics) from Oxford and a JD from Harvard (https://sipa.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/documents/Bordoff%20CV_updated%20July%202017.pdf).

    Liked by 1 person

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