Earlier this week, Aviva Investors boss Mark Versey sent his annual letter to company ‘chairpersons’ claiming that the planet faces the “Sixth Great Extinction” and there has been an “alarming” 68% decrease in species in the 46 years to 2016. Extinctions on this scale would be truly alarming, except that the claim is untrue. Meanwhile, the so-called Sixth Great Extinction is a WWF green activist hobbyhorse, with little support among scientists – Versey linked his comments to a WWF report that in fact noted a “68% decrease in population” of various mammals, birds and fish between 1970-2016.
Easily done, mixing up population numbers and actual extinction, although warning bells should have sounded about a ridiculous suggestion that nearly seven in ten Earth species had disappeared in just over four decades. Needless to say, the BBC faithfully repeated the error. Even the alarmist UN 2019 report on biodiversity could only suggest that one million animal and plant species were “threated” with extinction at some undefined date in the future. Given that 99.9% of all species that have ever lived on Earth are extinct, this looks a more reasonable bet. On the actual extinction front, the report did find that 680 vertebrates had disappeared since the 16th century. One must hope that Mr. Versey’s due diligence is more sound when he comes to investing some of the £250 billion of investment funds under his company’s control.
It seemingly doesn’t matter what green inaccuracies are pumped into the public space since an enormous ‘green rush’ gathers pace by the day. A recent book by Dr. Susan Crockford called “Fallen Idol” revisits the notorious 2019 WWF/Netflix collaboration featuring the falling walruses episode of “Our Planet”. Filmed falling off a cliff, in slow motion for maximum effect, Sir David Attenborough attributed the horrific scenes to “climate change”, despite a pack of nearby polar bears providing a more obvious explanation.
Introducing his film, which Crockford describes as “animal tragedy porn”, to the rich and influential elites gathered at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, Sir David commented: “If people can truly understand what is at stake, I believe they will give permission to businesses and governments to get on with practical solutions”.
In the U.K., the true Net Zero cost of such “practical solutions” are starting to be understood, with energy prices set to soar and general inflation starting to rise alarmingly. Green levies on electricity alone are set to rise from £11 billion this year to around £15 billion by 2026. Renewable subsidies support the 25% of energy provided by unreliable renewables, solar and wind. Since such electricity provides only 3% of total UK energy needs, phasing out fossil fuels and replacing them largely from these sources will, at current rates of subsidy, require a majority of the tax that is currently levied on the entire British economy.
That will never happen but in the meantime the wind is set fair and the sun is shining on the financial sector. Trillions of dollars, pounds and euros are up for grabs. A recent report from McKinsey put a figure on it: £204 trillion. The new ‘green rush’, funded by vast amounts of state, institutional and individual capital, is likely to dwarf the Dotcom mania of the late 1990s. Last year the NASDAQ clean edge, green energy index shot up by around 500%. Most investment managers now run large ”green” funds. BlackRock’s Sustainable Energy Fund has nearly $8 billion at its disposal, while a healthy management fee of 1.65% ensures revenues of $12 million a year, more than enough to cover George Osborne’s recent part time salary of £650,000.
Ben Steverman in Bloomberg notes that billionaire investor Jeremy Grantham is “making lots of money” while recruiting other super wealthy people to pursue similar strategies that mix philanthropy and investing. Mr. Grantham’s “philanthropy” extends to funding three university Grantham Institutes in Sheffield, Imperial and the LSE. All three operations play a role in promoting the Net Zero political agenda.
Steverman goes on to note: “For Grantham, the capital flowing into green investing over the past couple of years reflects his warnings for more than a decade: Floods, fires and extreme weather have made warming undeniable, creating momentum for carbon taxes and other climate friendly policies that will transform the world’s economy.”
There are one or two small problems with this rosy scenario of green investing and transforming the world economy. Much of the capital is being diverted from productive uses to fund research and subsidise wind power – a 1,000 year old technology – make better batteries – a 200 year old invention – and produce hydrogen. This latter substance, while ubiquitous, requires large amounts of fuel to separate it from other compounds and has a tendency to explode unless very carefully handled. In addition, and not to be mentioned under any circumstances, small amounts of green unfriendly oxides of nitrogen are produced during the burning process.
Few of these technologies would be funded and promoted at their current levels unless the state diverted taxes to the cause, in the process driving up the cost of living for the poorest in society. Stricter societal controls, as we have seen in the Covid pandemic, would be inevitable if it becomes necessary to restrict energy, general consumption, personal transport and diet. Drafty British homes will become much colder during the winter as inefficient and expensive heat pumps struggle to extract warmth from the frozen earth or icy air.
And of course the entire edifice rests on the suggestion that humans are solely responsible for the climate changing and this has been ‘settled’ by science. In reality, it is based on an unproven hypothesis, about which scientific doubts are constantly growing, and always-wrong warming guesses over 40 years from climate computer models. As Mr. Grantham as good as suggests, his money-making has been made easier by decades of climate scare stories involving fires, floods and bad weather.
The fear-and-nudge green agenda is played out every day. Last week, the U.K. Met Office issued a report warning of armed militias roaming a country ravaged by climate change. Also last week, an American studio presenter on CNN blamed the Tonga volcano eruption on climate change. This week, Justin Rowlatt of the BBC said we were at risk of losing archaeological treasures since peat bogs were drying out due to climate change. Back in the real world, rainfall across the U.K. has been remarkably constant for at least 150 years. Writing in her recent book about “Attenborough’s walrus deception”, Dr. Crockford suggested that it showed how “manipulation of science intersected politics in a way I’d never imagine was possible”. She concluded: “I now have to assume that the walrus deception is just one example of many.”
In the U.K. and most of Europe, we are turning off the gas and hoping the elite’s gigantic green bet will pay off. Decadent, seemingly bored middle class people rebel against non-existent extinctions. Friends of the Earth activists on £40,000 a year measure unmeasurable earthquakes in low income areas of the North to turn off the gas fracking taps. Meanwhile Boris the Bear masses troops on the Ukrainian border and derides Europe as a “shopping superpower” – shopping at the moment for Russian gas.
Further east, the obliging Chinese Communist Party overseas the manufacture of many of our industrial goods, at a price likely to rise in the future as it buys up all the sources of raw materials. And China Net Zero by 2060, you ask. Maybe, although the reported remarks by former Finance Minister Lou Jiwei in the South China Post last December don’t inspire a great deal of confidence. China has said it would “strive” to reach peak carbon emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060, he noted, but there was a difference between this and “ensuring” those targets would be achieved.