A few climate change tidbits

There was good news, bad news and ludicrous news that occurred this week. Here is a Friday rundown.

On the good news front, The Charlotte Observer did an excellent editorial called “Federal disaster relief: Tossing cash in the ocean in NC.” The gist is the US Army Corps of Engineers is spending “$237 million to rebuild dunes and widen the beach on 10 miles of Topsail Island shoreline.” The sad part is the rebuild is occurring only a year after an earlier rebuild. Per Orrin Pilkey a Duke emeritus professor of geology and an expert on coastal erosion, “‘These projects can only be characterized as madness. The sea-level rise is clearly accelerating, increasing intense storms are expected as has happened in the last four years, and the amounts of money spent on these beaches will need to be expended again and again for years into the future.'” Per the Observer, “piling cash into the sand won’t stop that for long.” Ten years ago, the largest global pension trustees did a study that noted the cost of addressing climate change was in the multiple tens of trillions of US dollars.

On the ludicrous front, US Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin decided to follow his boss’ lead and pick on Greta Thunberg. In essence, Mnuchin said she needs to go back and get an economic degree and then explain why we should fight climate change. OK, Mr. Mnuchin, please tell me how spending cash to rebuild sand dunes over and over again makes financial sense? Help explain why the present value cost of renewable energy such as wind and solar, which includes the cost of acquisition, transportation, environmental degradation, production, maintenance of byproduct, and litigation is far cheaper than the present value cost of coal energy? And, while your at it, why did a Mayor, with an accounting background, in a Texas town choose a 100% renewable energy proposal over a fossil fuel one due to cost and guaranteed pricing for twenty-five years? What this shows to me is grown people are trying to denigrate a young girl as if they do, then climate change is not an issue.

On the bad news front, the courts threw out the climate change inaction case against the US by twenty-one children and now young adults. The case had merit and moved up to a district courts where it was dismissed by a 2 to 1 vote. The courts did agree with the plea to do more about climate change, but did not feel the case warranted further action. It has spawned other cases in other cities and helped fuel an advocacy to do something about climate change. What the plaintiffs will do next is uncertain at this point. It should be noted the suit against Exxon Mobil by three states is still pending. Using Exxon’s own data, the lead state New York Attorney General, is arguing that Exxon Mobil misled its shareholders and possible investors on the impact of climate change on its financials. That is securities fraud under the guise of the SEC.

The takeaways from the above are clear in my mind. Dealing with climate change is a “pay me now or pay me later” proposition. A key is we cannot put the climate back together again if we wait too long to act more aggressively. I have quoted Pilkey before, but one message bears repeating. People would be foolish to buy property on the shore and should think about selling what they have now. That cuts to the chase.

The other takeaway is the young people get it. The older people in positions of power either don’t get it or cannot say that they do, as they take so much funding from the fossil fuel industry. Coal is in the demise and more coal plants have been closed under this president than under his predecessors. That would be a good question for Messers. Mnuchin and Trump that Ms. Thunberg might want to ask. She might also want to ask why the Trump Organization petitioned, in writing, the Irish government to build a sea wall at a Trump golf course to hold back the rising ocean due to climate change. It does not take an economist to call BS on that one.

17 thoughts on “A few climate change tidbits

    • Mellow, so very true. Mnuchin and others would be advised to not argue with someone who is not afraid to push back. It is especially true when the criticism is flippant and denigrating and not fact-based. Keith

    • Holly, what does it say about someone who denigrates a sixteen year old? Rather than use facts, he ridiculed her. She can handle herself, which he will learn the hard way. Keith

      • It’s very typical of what we’ve come to expect from this administration under Trump. Harsh cruelty, juvenile behavior, and worse bullying a young girl who has legitimate concerns and the courage to defend those concerns. Where is Melania who declared as part of her duties as First Lady that bullying must stop?

      • Holly, on your last point, I believe that the anti-bullying stance was forced on her as a means of projection of his trait on others, a standard narcissist ploy. In other words, a narcissist who bullies projects bullying onto others as a defense mechanism – think Lying Ted and Corrupt Hillary.

        The Black Rock CEO told investors they will continue to invest in less risky, more sustainable renewable energy. My guess is this CEO has a good understanding of economics. Keith

  1. Weirdly, whenever I see Mnuchin’s name, my brain reads ‘Munchkin.’ Perhaps because compared to Greta Thunberg, Mnuchin is a very small person with a tiny brain!
    Greta is not afraid of him or any of her detractors. She faces her enemies square on. Perhaps it is the naivety of youth, but I suspect that Greta has a lion heart. She will not show her vulnerabilities in public. Her intelligence could wrap rings around most of the adults in the room!

    • Thanks Hugh. We need as many champions as possible given the likes of Trump, Mnuchin and EPA leadership. What is interesting is Trump equates climate change with clean air and water. While it impacts these things, the latter are separate issues. He then talks of how clean our air and waterways are while stripping environmental protections on both as he did this very week. Simply, taking Donald Trump at his word is a fool’s errand. Keith

  2. Note to Readers: Check out Jill’s post which includes references to Mnuchin’s comments, Thunberg’s response, and the thoughts of the CEO of Blackrock, a major investment firm. The latter is big on investing in sustainable, less risky renewable energy and challenging the fossil fuel companies to be better stewards. I think the CEO has an economic background, Mr. Mnuchin.


  3. I do not recall greater displays of ignorance by government officers than from Mnuchin and Trump. You cannot help but feel deep down they know they are wrong but hope by lashing out in these undignified ways they can make everything right.
    If either said the Earth was round I would at least visit The International Flat Earth Research Society to see what they had to say on the subject.

    • Roger, it is dismaying. One thing about Trump is his narcissistic bent. If more and more people call his climate change stance out as foolish, he will will bend some. He has to be forced to change – either you butter him up or call his wisdom into question. There is a reason he searches all press.

      As for Mnuchin, he is slow to realize being a Trump sycophant will eventually haunt you. What I like about Thunberg is she well educated on the topic and is not beholden to funders, so she can cut loose. People who don’t argue facts and denigrate her, do so at their own peril. Mnuchin will reap what he sowed.


      • I fear in an election year he will fall back upon his voter base and pander to their views. In this respect his attendance at an anti-abortion rally does not bode well.
        As you predict, this will be Mnuchin’s reward.

      • Roger, Trump and his sycophants will stretch truth in this election like no other to win. He will take far more credit than any president should claim for a good economy not highlighting it was 91 consecutive months of growth strong when he took office. He will call this fake news, but it is basic arithmetic. Keith

  4. I have never understood these beach projects. They don’t WORK and that was before climate change. They actually produce additional erosion. Moreover, it encourages people to build fancy houses where they absolutely should NOT be building anything. Spending milliions of dollars to do it IS madness. It is also stupid AND counter-productive.

    • Marilyn, you are on the money. Every few years and at great cost, beaches have to rebuilt. On Bald Head Island, insurers will no longer insure the full value of the house on the shore. Buying a house on or near the shore is a fool’s errand. Thanks for your historical comment. Keith

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