The Corruption of Climate Science

“We need to criticize the people who got us here,” says Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress and author of Fossil Future. “We can’t keep treating these designated experts as real experts. They are not real experts, they are destroyers. They are anti-energy, non-experts. And that needs to be made clear.”

Epstein is right, and his advice has never been more urgent—or as difficult to make people understand. It is no exaggeration that every major institution in America has now committed itself to the elimination of affordable and abundant energy. If it isn’t stopped, this commitment, motivated by misguided concern for the planet but also by a lust for power and money and enabled by moral cowardice and intellectual negligence, will destroy Western civilization.

For over 50 years, with increasing frequency, corrupted, careerist scientists have produced biased studies that, amplified by agenda-driven corporate and political special interests, constitute a “consensus” that is supposedly “beyond debate.” We are in a “climate crisis.” To cope with this climate emergency, all measures are justifiable.

This is overblown, one-sided, distorted, and manipulative propaganda. It is the language of authoritarians and corporatists bent on achieving even more centralized political power and economic wealth. It is a scam, perhaps the most audacious, all-encompassing fraud in human history. It is a scam that explicitly targets and crushes the middle class in developed nations and the entire aspiring populations in developing nations, at the same time as its messaging is designed to secure their fervent acquiescence.

What is actually beyond debate is not that we are in a climate crisis but that if we don’t stop destroying our conventional energy economy, we are going to be in a civilizational crisis.

Energy is the foundation of everything—prosperity, freedom, upward mobility, national wealth, individual economic independence, functional water and transportation infrastructure, commercial-scale agriculture, mining, and industry. Without energy, it all goes dark. And “renewables” are not even remotely capable of replacing oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric power. It’s impossible.

The only people who think renewables are capable of replacing conventional energy either are uninformed, innumerate, or corrupt. Period.

But to cope with the apocalyptic messaging of climate catastrophists, it isn’t enough to debunk the potential of renewables. It is also necessary to challenge the underlying climate “science.” The biased, corrupt, unceasing avalanche of expert “studies” serving up paid-for ideas to special interests that use them as bludgeons to beat into the desired shape every relevant public policy and popular narrative. So here goes.

A new study, released May 16, deserves far more criticism than it’s going to get. Authored by seven ridiculously credentialed experts and primarily affiliated with the leftist Union of Concerned Scientists, this study has the rather innocuous title: “Quantifying the contribution of major carbon producers to increases in vapor pressure deficit and burned area in western US and southwestern Canadian forests.” Bursting with charts and equations, and too many links to corroborating sources to count, the study has all the accouterments of intimidating credibility. But serious questions may be raised as to its logic as well as its objectivity.

Biased, Flawed Studies

For starters, this study doesn’t restrict itself to “Quantifying the contribution of major carbon producers to increases in vapor pressure deficit.” The authors can’t resist attacking these “major carbon producers.” In this revealing paragraph, the study’s true intent becomes apparent: it is fodder for litigation.

“With the impacts of climate change growing increasingly severe, questions of who is responsible for climate change, how much responsibility each entity bears, and the obligations of those entities to mitigate future climate change and assist financially with climate adaptation are more present than ever in policy negotiations and in courtrooms around the world. These questions are deepened by the fact that the fossil fuel industry was aware of the climate-related risks of their products as early as the mid-1960s (Franta 2018) and, instead of shifting business practices, invested in campaigns and tactics to mislead the public and generate doubt about climate science.”

That paragraph has nothing to do with the stated goal of the study. It just shows the political and legal context in which this study is designed to play a useful part. But what about the logic?

Here is where this study falls apart. It’s always fascinating to wade through intellectual efforts that are the product of extraordinary diligence and rarified expertise, only to discover the absence of fundamental variables and realize that by leaving them out, the entire argument disintegrates.

To explain what the authors got wrong, it is first necessary to summarize what they did. In plain English, the authors claim that hotter summers in recent years have caused more severe forest fires in the western United States, and fossil fuel emissions are causing the hotter summers.

That’s it.

To make their case, the authors have relied on a scientific term that imparts gravitas to the discussion, “vapor pressure deficit.” This is a big phrase that simply means “dry air.” The point they’re making is that it isn’t merely heat itself, but the fact that moisture is absent from the air, which causes trees to dry out faster and therefore become easier to ignite and burn. So far, so good. But there are at least two gaping holes in this reasoning. Both should be obvious.

First, the heat waves afflicting western forests in recent years are not unique. Even in modern history, the hottest temperature ever recorded in California was in 2013, when it hit 134 degrees in Death Valley. As for whipsawing extremes, during the 1930s, a decade when hot temperatures rivaled if not exceeded those we experience today, the coldest temperature ever measured in California, negative 45 degrees, was recorded in Nevada County. But the last few centuries are a mere heartbeat in the meteorological history of California.

Last year the San Jose Mercury breathlessly reported that the drought—over now, by the way—was the “worst in 1,200 years.” This raises the obvious question, what about that even bigger drought that occurred 1,200 years ago? This same newspaper in 2014 reported that “past dry periods lasted more than 200 years.” And so what about these multi-century droughts? Do we have temperature data for them? Was it hot? What was the vapor pressure deficit during these prehistoric, 200-year droughts? Such questions are not asked, much less answered.

One can go on. Prehistoric Sequoias, the predecessors of redwood trees, first appeared in the fossil record 200 million years ago, when dinosaurs still walked the earth. In their current form, redwoods have thrived in California for over 20 million years. For most of that period, the average global temperatures were considerably higher than they are today.

But what if it isn’t just heat, but dry heat, that is unprecedented today? What if the “vapor pressure deficit” is worse today than it has been at any time in 20 million years? That is a huge assumption, probably impossible to verify. Even if it’s true, it doesn’t make up for the study’s other flaw, which is the density of forests in California today, which is truly unprecedented. The study’s authors acknowledge they don’t take this variable into account, writing:

“Our results highlight the roles of major carbon producers in driving forest fire extent by enhancing fuel aridity, but do not explicitly account for effects from non-climatic factors such as the prohibition of Indigenous burning, legacies of fire suppression, or changing human ignitions.”

The authors go on to contend this omission has “not modified the climate-BA [burned area] relationship at the scale of this study.”

They’re wrong.

In California, wildlife biologists and forest ecologists who spend their lives studying and managing these timberlands unanimously agree that tree density has increased, thanks to “non-climatic factors such as the prohibition of Indigenous burning, and legacies of fire suppression.” The increase is not subtle. Without small, naturally occurring fires that clear underbrush and smaller trees, forests become overgrown. Controlled burns and responsible logging are absolutely necessary to maintain forest health. According to a study conducted in 2020 by UC Davis and USDA, California’s mid-elevation Ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests used to average 60 trees per acre, and now they average 170 trees per acre according to conservative estimates.

This is not an isolated finding. Observations of excessive tree density are corroborated by numerous studies, testimony, and journalistic investigations. Unlike the subjectively defined algorithms plugged into a climate model, excessive tree density is an objective fact, verified repeatedly by people on the ground. To imply by omission that more than tripling the density of trees across millions of acres of forest would not leave them stressed and starved for soil nutrients, sunlight, and water from rain and atmospheric moisture is scientific malpractice.

Without taking these additional factors into account, it is deceptive to indict fossil fuel emissions for causing wildfires. Perhaps some indirect connection can be established of debatable relevance, but for this study to assign specific percentages and acreages suggests a premeditated purpose: creating material for expert testimony for litigation against oil companies.

The Real Reason for Catastrophic Wildfires

California’s forests are tinderboxes because environmentalists made it nearly impossible to get permits to do controlled burns and because environmentalists decimated the timber industry. In the face of relentless regulatory and litigious harassment, California’s timber industry has shrunk from harvesting 6 billion board feet per year as recently as the 1990s to less than 2 billion board feet in recent years. Meanwhile, California’s fire suppression industrial complex has grown to gargantuan proportions, pouring billions of dollars into putting fires out before they can spread.

The result is predictable and doesn’t require a climate scientist to explain it. We have mismanaged our forests for decades, mostly thanks to the misguided influence of environmentalist pressure groups on the state legislature. California’s forests are now overcrowded with trees that are stressed, dried out, and ready to burst into flames, with or without a “vapor pressure deficit.”

The solution, according to climate catastrophists, is to empty the dangerous, flammable “urban/wildland interface” of human habitation, mandate electric vehicles, and sue oil companies. This will accomplish nothing for the forests, even if every apocalyptic climate scenario were to come true. A rational solution would be to bring back the timber industry, deregulate controlled burns and mechanical thinning, revive responsible grazing of cattle, goats, and sheep to remove excessive foliage, and watch the forests again thrive.

If mismanagement is what’s really causing forest superfires, media misinformation is what’s preventing policy reform. A Sacramento Bee headline, for example, says, “Fossil fuel companies to blame for share of California wildfires . . . ” From The Hill: “Scientists blame fossil fuel production for more than a third of Western wildfires.” From “Pulitzer Prize-winning” Inside Climate News: “Fossil Fuel Companies and Cement Manufacturers Could Be to Blame for a More Than a Third of West’s Wildfires.” None of these media reports mention tree density.

The monolithic alignment of the scientific and journalistic community in support of an authoritarian, utterly impractical “climate” agenda reveals a misunderstanding if not outright betrayal of scientific and journalistic core values. Both disciplines are founded on the bedrock of skepticism and debate. Without nurturing those values, the integrity of these disciplines is undermined. When it comes to issues of climate and energy policy in America, science and journalism are compromised.

Fossil Fuel Industry Failures

Let’s suppose that back in the mid-1960s, oil companies were presented with a theory that fossil fuel emissions would cause the climate to warm. Wouldn’t their first rational response be to question this theory? Why would questioning a theory constitute “misleading the public”? Even if some of the executives in these companies believed these theories, it would be absurd to suggest all of them did. In any boardroom discussion, and this is amusingly ironic, the economic interests of an oil corporation would compel their directors to be intellectually honest and not simply accept the theory that their product was going to warm the planet. Good luck proving that oil companies intentionally misled the public.

But so what? Were America’s oil and gas companies simply supposed to believe all these nascent theories and shut down? What exactly should they have done, back in the mid-1960s, to cope with this allegedly looming climate emergency? Were solar panels and wind turbines ready for rapid deployment back then? Of course not, especially since solar panels from China, and wind turbines from Germany, are still not capable of providing more than a small fraction of the energy we need.

The real crime, if you want to call it that, isn’t that oil and gas companies questioned climate change theories back in the 1960s or ’70s. It’s that they’re accepting them now.

Oil and gas companies today are not willing to challenge the climate crisis orthodoxy, or the myth of cost-effective renewables at scale. They aren’t willing to devote their substantial financial resources to debunking this agenda-driven madness that is on the verge of taking down our entire civilization. The fact that America’s oil and gas companies have adopted a strategy of appeasement is a crime against humanity. The fact that these companies are failing to make long-term investments to develop new oil and gas fields, and instead are reaping windfall profits as they sell existing production at politically inflated prices, that, too, is a crime against civilization.

Ultimately, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the major oil companies are complicit in the destruction of America’s energy economy. Because rather than declaring total war on these paid-for, flawed scientific studies and the special interests that fund them, oil companies will engage in theatrical litigation, knowing that the cost of settlements won’t even come close to the short-term profits to be had by slowly asset stripping their companies while selling diminishing quantities of fuel at punitive rates.

Epstein is right that we must criticize the “experts” that want to destroy human civilization with climate alarmism. But we must also recognize and criticize the institutions targeted for destruction. Instead of fighting this lunacy, they are taking their money off the table, along with their life-affirming affordable fuel, and heading for the hills.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

Designing New Cities in the 21st Century

Although it was thoroughly lost amid his travails as the most prosecuted ex-president in American history, on March 4, in a video released on his campaign website, Donald Trump proposed a national contest for urban developers to submit designs for new “Freedom Cities,” with 10 winning designs to be allocated federal land for their construction.

Whatever else that many will say of him, with this, Trump is on to something. Why shouldn’t the federal government allow for the privatization of a mere 0.5 percent of federal land in the United States? That would be roughly 5,000 square miles. If split evenly and allocated as squares, this would result in 10 new cities, each 22 miles on a side.

There’s something intriguing about this proposal that is at its core a libertarian notion – turning public land back over to the private sector. Digging deeper, it invites Americans to create 10 futuristic scenarios for urban development on a blank slate. The mix of public and private funding could be left up to the individual participating states.

How these cities planned to manage their transportation, energy, water, food and waste-management challenges could differ greatly, and the various outcomes would offer instructive examples for urban revitalization all over America. Red states might strike a balance between innovation and sticking with more cost-effective conventional building codes and enabling infrastructure, whereas in blue states, one might expect designs that aspire to become models of sustainability, hopefully in sufficiently practical applications.

Plenty of new and transformative innovations are at our disposal today, including using laminated timber for construction of high-rise and mid-rise structures; innovative ways to reuse water and harvest nutrients from wastewater and indoor agriculture; and a radical expansion of transportation conduits, both underground and in the air.

Cities from scratch, yesterday and today

Creating a completely new city on raw land is an opportunity that has intoxicated architects and urban planners since the dawn of civilization. The first urban planners, otherwise known to history as pharaohs and kings, built the earliest cities on the confluences of navigable rivers. The patterns formed by the transportation arteries of these first cities would be recognizable today – a linear city along a single main road, a rectangular or square grid, or a radial pattern. And as wood gave way to stone, the ruins offer timeless monuments to help us imagine the cultures of these earliest builders.

With the harnessing of water, then wind, then coal and oil, and as stone gave way to steel, cities reached for the sky. Within a few decades, the grand cathedrals of Medieval Europe, most of them built in the 16th century and towering up to 500 feet, were dwarfed by high rises built with steel superstructures and electric elevators. Measured against the preceding centuries, the transition upward using these new materials has been breathtakingly swift.

The Eiffel Tower, completed in 1889, rose 984 feet over Paris and for 41 years held the record as the world’s tallest structure. It was dethroned for only one year by the Chrysler Building in 1930 at 1,046 feet high. The next claimant to world’s tallest building was the Empire State Building, at 1,250 feet. It wasn’t until 1971, 40 years later, that the World Trade Center made its debut at 1,368 feet, surpassed only a year later with Chicago’s Sears Tower at 1,450 feet.

The tallest buildings since then constitute a surprisingly short list, and in all cases, the victory torch has left the United States. In 1998, the Petronas Towers in Malaysia were completed, setting a new record at 1,483 feet. Six years later in Taiwan, Taipei 101 was built at 1,671 feet. And in 2009, defying gravity and perhaps practicality as well, the Burj Khalifa was opened for business, rising an astonishing 2,717 feet over the petrostate of Dubai. Clad in shining steel, sparkling glass and polished granite, these high rises are a testament to the technology, wealth, ambition and pride of a confident people.

If the great epochs of cities gave rise to wonders such as the Pyramids and the Acropolis in ancient times, magnificent cathedrals in the Middle Ages, and spectacular skyscrapers during the industrial era, what’s next? With everything we’ve learned, and all the materials at our disposal, what will the information age bring? We can go higher than ever and build as dense as we wish.

We can only guess how many ways we can further enhance our digital connections. We will have air mobility and autonomous vehicles. Presumably, we will aspire to carbon-neutrality, with cradle-to-cradle recycling, and every gadget more complex than a coffee cup wired into the Panopticon.

Unsurprisingly, there is no shortage of planners, spanning the continuum from visionaries to despots, who have been busily thinking about what’s next, many of them imagining a new city on raw land. In what may be the most notorious of plans, the prospective site is a massive stretch of empty desert in Saudi Arabia, where the government proposes a linear city named The Line.

As currently designed, this megastructure will be just over 100 miles long, 1,600-feet tall, and 650-feet wide. Renderings of The Line show a climate-controlled interior atrium with tall trees on the base and countless aerial catwalks overflowing with greenery. In the middle of a burning desert, The Line plans to house nine-million people. What could possibly go wrong?

Understanding the prerequisites leading up to and inspiring concepts such as The Line offers a useful glimpse into modern architectural megalomania. All the elements are present in this scheme: an autocratic regime, access to stupefying amounts of wealth, and a coterie of willing acolytes and experts that rationalize this bizarre megalith as a hallmark of environmental sustainability and the epitome of inclusive, equitable urbanism. Where the skeptic sees an elongated Borg cube, an elaborate zoo with alluring pens for the animals, the idealist sees utopia. If U.S. planner Robert Moses and Nazi architect Albert Speer could procreate, their child would be The Line.

Imagining successful future cities

The material and technology available today may translate into an unprecedented range of options for the urban environment, but the fundamental logistics haven’t changed in 5,000 years. To be inhabitable, cities must deliver adequate energy, water, food, waste management and transportation conduits. For much of the federal land in America, an immediate concern would be water, since most of it is in the parched Western states. But while the federal government only owns 4 percent of the land east of the Mississippi, that still translates into an awful lot of land.

In fact, if a federal land allocation for a new city were a square 10 miles on a side, which is plenty of space to work with, the only states that wouldn’t have enough federal land to make that grant possible would be Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

But what about the wild west? What about a new city rising out of the sagebrush with a futuristic skyline and a million inhabitants? Are there practical solutions to the logistical requirements of a large city built in an arid region where all the easily available water allocations already are claimed? If American ingenuity is going to inspire the rest of the world to build state-of-the art, environmentally sustainable new cities, while also choosing freedom and prosperity, the answer has to be yes.

If a new city is built in a parched environment, water security can be obtained through a combination of interbasin transfers and – to minimize the quantity of imported water – total recycling of wastewater. Developers can secure abundant energy using the latest modular nuclear reactors, along with other more conventional technologies. But what about new cities in the relatively populated, rain-drenched eastern United States?

Even in regions of the United States where water and energy connections are easier, it would still be interesting to site new cities in rural locations far removed from the existing grid. Not only will new technologies to manage energy and water make this more feasible, but the economic engines of these new cities, no matter where they are, will benefit because one third of all jobs can now be done remotely – from anywhere – and by the fact that decentralized air mobility is just around the corner.

These two factors, along with the burgeoning potential of indoor agriculture and the increasing feasibility of buildings that are nearly self-sufficient in generating and reusing water and energy, enormously reduce the amount of transportation and utility conduits needed within cities and to connect cities to the grid.

The economics of infrastructure

There is a perennial trade-off at work in the development of urban infrastructure. To the extent payments to finance its construction place an unaffordable burden on ratepayers, the government has to step in with subsidies. But before subsidizing anything, governments have to explore the potential of deregulation to lower private-sector capital costs.

In the United States, and California in particular, most of the excess costs for construction are the product of excessive regulation. In Israel, the Sorek desalination plant’s capital cost per unit of freshwater output is one-fifth what the capital cost was to build the Carlsbad desalination plant north of San Diego on the California coast. In most parts of California, private developers cannot build affordable single-family homes while still making a profit. In these cases and others, California’s crippling regulatory environment is the reason nothing is affordable in that state.

When new cities are developed on raw federal land, we may presume the regulatory environment will be more forgiving than what might apply when massive redevelopment investment goes into well-settled areas including the urban cores of well-established cities.

But this brings up what may be the greatest challenge of all. If the barriers to land acquisition and fundamental infrastructure logistics have been resolved, what sort of city will get built? Once the utility hookups are in place, and thousands of private parcels are ready for purchase, what sort of zoning restrictions will apply? How will the new city manage its evolution, if, for example, it is a massive success and lower-density districts face the pressure of densification, or require new transportation conduits?

To help answer this, history offers two competing extremes. We have the autocratic coercion of Robert Moses, who as a parks commissioner in New York City from 1934 through 1963 wielded influence far beyond that innocuous title. Moses presided over the construction of bridges, tunnels, highways, parks and public housing that mercilessly shoved the Big Apple into the 20th century, but his legacy is controversial. While the transportation corridors he blasted through old neighborhoods may have been necessary for a growing city, they could have been handled with more finesse. The housing projects he built demolished functioning neighborhoods and replaced them with what became crime-ridden tenements.

A writer who greatly influenced urban studies in the 20th century was Jane Jacobs, author of the 1962 book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” Jacobs observed how cities were living ecosystems, where people would independently organize into healthy, safe and economically vibrant neighborhoods that would invariably be devastated by top-down urban redevelopment. Jacobs is a pioneer of what is known today as New Urbanism, which promotes walkable neighborhoods with mixed-use development and a diverse base of local employment.

Creating a new city in the 21st century offers an opportunity to create a base infrastructure that is robust enough to never require the wholesale demolition that Robert Moses and his acolytes across the United States felt, perhaps justifiably, was necessary to restore adequate transportation corridors to cities that had outgrown their circulatory systems.

It offers the opportunity to incorporate the best new technologies, enable residents access to unprecedented communications, and achieve near self-sufficiency in energy, water and food. It is a chance to strike the optimal economic balance, whereby the appropriate level of deregulation and government investment in infrastructure lowers the ongoing cost of essentials, thus maximizing the potential for small, cost-conscious private businesses and households to thrive.

At the same time, the builders of new cities can incorporate everything we’ve learned from Jacobs and the New Urbanists to engage in mindful development, so that distinct and vibrant neighborhoods evolve organically. With thoughtful design that always prioritizes its impact on the human experience, these new cities will each come to express a next-generation cultural identity that is both authentic and unique, and entirely unpredictable.

New cities might still be a thought experiment, but it’s something worth thinking seriously about.

This article originally appeared on the website of the Pacific Research Institute.

Challenging the Premise of Our Destruction

The most powerful and destructive perception in the world today is that using fossil fuels will cause catastrophic climate change. This belief, marketed by every major government and corporate institution in the Western world, is the foundational premise underlying a policy agenda of stunning indifference to the aspirations of ordinary people.

The war on fossil fuel is a war on freedom, prosperity, pluralism, independence, national sovereignty, world peace, domestic tranquility, and, most ironically, the environment itself. It is a war of rich against poor, the privileged against the disadvantaged, corporate monopolies against competitive upstarts, Malthusians against optimists, regulators against innovators, and authoritarians against freedom-loving people everywhere.

But this war cannot be won unless the perception is maintained. If fossil fuel is allowed to compete against other energy alternatives for customers as a vital and growing part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy, this authoritarian political agenda falls apart.

It is reasonable to question the assertion that eliminating fossil fuels will inevitably result in an impoverished society subject to punitive restrictions on individual behavior. But the numbers are compelling and can be distilled to two indisputable facts: First, fossil fuel continues to provide over 80 percent of all energy consumed worldwide. Second, if every person living on planet Earth were to consume half as much energy per year as the average American currently consumes, global energy production would need to double.

Several inescapable conclusions derive from these two facts, if one assumes that energy is the driver of prosperity. Just in case that is not obvious, imagine Americans living with half as much energy as they use today. Where would the cuts occur? Would they drive their cars half as much? Heat their homes half as much? Operate manufacturing, farming, and mining equipment half as much? They would need to do all those things and more. The economy would collapse.

These consequences don’t escape the intelligentsia who promote “net zero” policies. These consequences explain the policies they advocate. The recent promotion of “15-minute cities” that will inform rezoning and redevelopment to put all essential services within a 15-minute walk of every residence. The rise of “congestion pricing” to charge automobiles special tolls if they drive into an expanding footprint of urban neighborhoods. “Smart growth.” “Infill.” “Urban Service Boundaries.” Bike lanes. “Smart buildings,” “smart meters,” and “smart cities.”

These innovations, all in progress, only begin to describe what is coming. By restricting new development and systematically reducing the use of fossil fuels, the global middle class will shrink instead of grow. The wealthiest elites will buy their way out of the smart slums. Everyone else will be locked down. This is how energy poverty will play out in the modern era. It cannot be emphasized enough: If energy production is restricted, this will happen. It’s algebra. It is objective fact.

Hardly less speculative is the reaction outside the Western world. What are our elites thinking? Do they intend to start World War III? Perhaps they do. Because nothing short of war is going to stop the Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Brazilians, Nigerians, or Bangladeshis from developing every source of energy they possibly can. Just those seven nations account for half the world’s population. That’s 4 billion people. Will they stop developing energy until they at least achieve half the per capita energy consumption that Americans currently enjoy? Not a chance. Will they get there by relying exclusively on wind and solar? Dream on.

Sadly, the seductive pitch America’s climate crisis lobby lobs at the elites running the aspiring nations of the world may find the strike zone. It goes like this: Let us help you keep your people in poverty and misery because we will make sure you stay rich while our military helps you stamp out insurrections. And as we prevent your nations from achieving food and energy security, we will drown you in debt to pay for imported food aid and “renewables” projects. But as one of us, you will not suffer with your people. You will have a Swiss bank account and a mansion in Malibu, where you will be feted by stars who honor you for helping prevent a climate catastrophe.

Fossil Fuel Will Not Cause a Climate Catastrophe

If you only believe half of the preceding arguments, you must realize that Americans have been backed into a corner. If anyone calls for abundant energy—or abundant anything, since energy, and fossil fuel in particular, is the prerequisite for virtually all goods and services—they are shouted down as “climate deniers.” And the way to upset the entire edifice is not to merely argue that fossil fuel is essential to the survival of civilization. Because the counterargument is that eliminating fossil fuel is essential to the survival of the planet.

That is an unwinnable argument. It is not possible to reason with an opponent of fossil fuel if you concede their fundamental premise: that burning fossil fuel will cause catastrophic climate change. You either become a “denier,” or you submit to energy poverty.

This is the tough decision facing Americans. And it’s accurate to also say it is a decision facing Republicans since literally every prominent, mainstream, housebroken, accommodating establishment Republican will not challenge the assertion that we’re experiencing a “climate crisis,” even though most of them know better. But this should be a bipartisan issue. For Republicans, this is an opportunity to show some backbone by rejecting the most destructive and fraudulent premise of our time. In so doing, they would unify their party, attract independent voters, and realign the nation.

Claiming that climate change is not catastrophic and unprecedented, or that fossil fuel is necessary to power civilization, remains today the territory of outliers. Tagged as contrarians at best, more often as eccentrics, lunatics, fanatics, shills, dupes, and morons, the “denier” community remains on the fringes. Joining this community risks losing personal credibility and the ability to work with every self-styled moderate, serious activist that just wants to recognize the political and commercial reality in America and get along.

And then there’s Donald Trump.

Alone among major politicians in America, Trump openly proclaims that anthropogenic carbon dioxide causing a climate catastrophe is a poorly supported theory, not a fact that is supposedly beyond debate. He’s right, but he’s given the climate crisis crowd another label with which to stigmatize deniers with guilt by association. Now they’re MAGA Nazis, part of the terrifying plot to engineer a fascist coup and plunge America into a dark age.

The irony is stupefying. Without fossil fuel, America will enter dark age, and the only way to control a restive population that’s seen its standard of living plummet will be through the establishment of a technology-driven police state. They are the fascists. The so-called climate deniers are fighting for prosperity and freedom.

Matching the irony here in its shocking, stupefying absurdity is the arrogance and certainty of the climate alarmists. From the brainwashed ignoramuses pouring out of public education year after year, to pseudointellectuals marinated for decades in NPR newspeak, to brilliant scientists who spend their entire careerist careers bouncing around in a brilliant echo chamber without ever considering opposing scientific viewpoints, listening to these minions recite the approved narrative is reminiscent of a cult. The climate cult. The useful, smothering, sanctimonious, intolerant, indignant, self-righteous, energized, pacified, out-of-control but controlled and manipulated, Kool-Aid guzzling climate cult, driving humanity off the cliff.

If you want to save civilization, be a denier. Say it loud and without reservations, and say it every chance you get. Demand that politicians publicly refute climate alarmism. It isn’t necessary to claim that the powers behind the climate cult want to enslave the world. We don’t know what motivates them. Some just want to get rich on renewables. Some want to use climate change to advance American global hegemony. But all of them rely on a fundamental moral justification: By eliminating fossil fuel, we are saving the planet from certain destruction. Focusing on the possible ulterior motives of climate alarmist leaders without first challenging their core moral argument is a fool’s errand.

The scientific body of evidence against climate alarmism is robust, but you won’t find much if you search Google. You have to dig it up piece by piece. One good denier database can be found here. Organizations and individuals posting useful climate contrarian material and links on Twitter include Climate Dispatch, Patrick Moore, Climate Realist, Steve Milloy, and Pierre Gosselin, and many, many more. Like all movements, the climate contrarian movement has its share of hacks and hyperbole. So be careful and diligent, but be resolute. Examine the data. Check and recheck sources. Make up your own mind. And make yourself heard.

There are plenty of environmental challenges. Being an environmentalist is a good thing. But there has to be balance, and there has to be debate. Claiming that anthropogenic CO2 will not cause catastrophic climate change is a credible, necessary point of view, backed up by scientific evidence. If more people make that claim, the climate cult can be broken, and civilization can be rescued from oblivion.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

How Climate Alarm Killed Real Environmentalism

The environmentalist movement is a political weapon. It unites the most powerful special interests in the world behind an agenda that will further centralize power and wealth, eliminate any hope of financial independence for the vast majority of people, and transition previously free and independent nations into managed, sham democracies that have lost their sovereign agency.

The overwhelming theme of environmentalism today, designed to obscure its true agenda, is the alleged “climate crisis.”

Americans may or may not eventually muster the impertinence to successfully challenge the political power grab masquerading as environmentalism today. But either way, its centerpiece, the “climate crisis,” is responsible for devastating harm both to what was once a legitimate environmentalist movement, as well as to the environment itself.

Policies ostensibly designed to manage the planet’s climate are taking attention and resources away from genuine environmental threats. At the same time, a growing percentage of people are recognizing the fraudulent essence of the “climate crisis” agenda and, as a result, are becoming indifferent to legitimate environmental concerns.

This is a tragedy. While crooked billionaires bleat incessantly about how “the planet has a fever” and grasp additional billions for their cronies in the businesses of renewable energy and “carbon credits,” we fail to address truly important environmental problems. Compared to “overheating oceans” and “burning continents,” however, these problems lack sex appeal.

Here are just a few of the environmental disasters in progress that nobody talks about either because they’re making too much money pushing the climate change scam, or because they’re thoroughly disgusted with the climate change scam and disregard all environmentalist concerns.

1) Loss of Insect Population: By some estimates, and for reasons we don’t yet adequately understand, the total insect mass on Earth is dropping by an estimated 2.5 percent per year, faster than any other endangered species. This is an existential threat. Insects pollinate many vital food crops. They play a critical role in consuming decomposing animals and plants. They are an essential link in the food chain, the glue that connects microorganisms to smaller predators. Wind turbine blades are a mass killer of insects. Whatever else is killing insects, it won’t stop because we banned fossil fuels.

2) Aquatic Dead Zones: While criticism has been appropriately directed at unjustifiable attempts to shut down farms that use fertilizers derived from nitrogen and phosphorus, the problems posed by these compounds cannot be ignored. But the consequences of overloading waterways with nutrient runoff, either from flood irrigation, dairy and cattle manure, or insufficiently treated urban wastewater, have relatively little to do with “climate change.” Instead, the problem is that nutrient-rich waterways nourish overgrowth of algae, which produce deadly toxins that kill fish en masse and create massive aquatic dead zones. A rational approach to this challenge would be to stop connecting it to climate change, which is a stretch at best, and instead develop precision irrigation and fertilizing methods, as well as adaptive reuse of effluent from livestock and humans.

3) Overfishing: The overfishing of the oceans is another environmental catastrophe in the making that has nothing to do with climate change. Banning incandescent light bulbs will do nothing to stop illegal fishing trawlers from strip-mining the oceans with drift nets that can be over 30 miles long. Cramming humanity into small apartments will not prevent factory ships from clearcutting the floor of the continental shelf with weighted nets that scoop up every living organism. Anyone who thinks humanity hasn’t by now acquired the capacity to extract every scrap of living protein out of the oceans isn’t paying attention. Rational solutions are to enforce fishing quotas, and encourage industrial aquaculture onshore and in coastal waters.

4) Energy Security in Developing Nations: One of the many ironic results of the climate alarmist war on fossil fuel is the inability of equatorial African nations to achieve energy security, which is a prerequisite to prosperity, which, in turn, causes population stabilization. Instead of having energy security, these burgeoning, desperately poor populations are stripping the forests of wood for fuel and wildlife for food. The primary threat to wilderness and wildlife on Earth today is not “climate change.” It is that climate alarm has inspired the international community to do everything in its power to deny prosperity to the poverty-stricken populations living in proximity to the world’s great tropical forests.

5) The Biofuel Disaster: Which brings us to biofuel, an example not only of an environmental catastrophe that is ignored in favor of climate alarm, but an environmental catastrophe explicitly caused by climate alarm. Over 500,000 square miles are now given over to biofuel monocultures, most of them saturated in chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, most of them replacing what previously were tropical rainforests. In exchange for this devastation, biofuel produces less than 2 percent of global transportation fuel.

6) Massive Oceanic Garbage Patches: In the Central Pacific Ocean, a body of water larger in area than every continent on Earth put together, there is a concentration of floating garbage spread over nearly 8 million square miles. It is the largest of several massive concentrations of plastic waste, contaminating literally every living oceanic organism from plankton to whales.

The plastic-spewing superpower these days is the Philippines. With less than 2 percent of the world’s population, this island nation produces nearly one-third of the estimated 1 million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean every year. The solution is to develop more sanitary landfills, implement new and more effective methods to reprocess plastic waste, and where possible, invent substitutes to plastic. But “climate change” has nothing to do with this problem.

7) Population Crash: The population crash currently afflicting every developed nation on earth may be good news for those environmentalists who have succumbed to misanthropic nihilism, but for the rest of us, it’s possibly the biggest catastrophe of all.

The crash is usually attributed to cultural and economic causes, but environmental factors may play a direct and indirect role. Humans today ingest increasing levels of chemical endocrine disruptors unknown a century ago, present in everything from the air, water, and food, to fabrics and cosmetics, harming health and fertility. They are not only a direct physical cause of declining birth rates through lowered fertility, they may also cause behavioral changes that indirectly lower birth rates. Endocrine disruptors should be removed from the environment and avoided in the meantime. But carbon dioxide, the climate alarmist boogeyman, has nothing to do with endocrine disruption.

These are just some of the environmental problems confronting humanity and the planet that have nothing to do with CO2 emissions and, in many cases, are worsened by misguided steps being taken to curb CO2 emissions. By now, the fraudulent reality of “renewables” that aren’t renewable is well documented, even if that fact receives scant attention in the mainstream press. But this additional fact—that the climate alarmist focus on achieving “net zero” is discrediting environmentalism at large, and taking attention away from other serious environmental threats—is perhaps the saddest chapter in the story of a movement that has lost its way.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

DeSantis, Newsom, and the Algae Apocalypse

It would not be surprising if the final candidates for the U.S. presidency in November 2024 are Joe Biden and Donald Trump. But if a younger generation of candidates prevail in their respective primaries, an equally unsurprising outcome would be Gavin Newsom pitted against Ron DeSantis.

While purists on both sides may find Newsom and DeSantis to be far from perfect embodiments of their ideals, a contest between these two governors would nonetheless be a contest between two very different visions for the future of America, insofar as they govern two big states that diverge on almost every policy of consequence.

The prevailing perception of a hypothetical race between Newsom and DeSantis focuses on cultural issues, with both of them claiming their state is a beacon of freedom. But a comparison of equal consequence could be based on their response to environmental challenges.

Genuine Environmental Threats vs Environmentalism Inc.

One of the many tragic outcomes of overhyping the “climate crisis” is that for millions of skeptics, the entire environmentalist movement has lost credibility. In many cases, it is deserved. Organizations that used to have specific and relatively unassailable missions, such as Greenpeace back in the days when all they existed for was to save endangered whales, have now morphed into politicized caricatures that their founders wouldn’t recognize.

The environmentalist movement in the world, and in America in particular, has used the rhetorical bludgeon of an imminent “climate catastrophe” to terrify every child, intimidate every politician, and coopt every major corporation on earth – although to be fair, monopolistic corporations have easily exploited the climate agenda to blaze a profitable pathway to even more market dominance and captive profits. Meanwhile, genuine environmental threats, lacking the sex appeal of surging seas and flaming forests, are not getting the attention they deserve. Examples of this are plentiful, and and California is ground zero.

Instead of working with the timber industry to resume responsible logging in California, the business model of Environmentalism Inc. is to blame superfires on climate change and force grotesquely expensive (and profitable) electrification on consumers. Instead of recognizing that introduced predators and untreated urban wastewater are the primary threats to native salmon in California, Environmentalism Inc. blames climate change and litigates to stop new water infrastructure or water withdrawals for farm irrigation, forcing the price of water up which enriches hedge funds that buy up distressed farm properties for the water rights. Wherever there’s “climate change,” follow the money.

Which brings us to a challenge for Newsom and DeSantis: Which one of these governors will take effective action to eliminate the causes of the nutrient fed algae blooms that threaten to degrade, possibly fatally, major aquatic ecosystems in their states?

The Real Threat vs the Fake Threat Posed by Nitrogen and Phosphorus

There has been justifiable pushback by farmers around the world against environmentalist inspired regulations that claim nitrogen fertilizer will cause climate change. Fertilizer will not cause climate change. It’s a fake threat. But the problems caused by introducing nitrogen and phosphorus into lakes and estuaries are nonetheless not trivial. These nutrients feed algae blooms; the more nutrients, the more algae. Not only are high concentrations of algae potentially toxic to humans and marine life, but when the algae dies its decay consumes all the oxygen in the water, creating a so-called dead zone.

Here again, the corruption of the environmentalist movement has made it impossible to reliably assess the seriousness of any threat to the environment. But whether excessive levels of nutrient runoff in the waterways of the world will eventually feed an apocalyptic bloom of algae, or just nourish an assortment of regional blights that ought to get cleaned up, it turns out that Newsom and DeSantis both face the challenge of nutrient pollution in their states.

Two major examples of nutrient pollution causing toxic blooms of algae followed by dead zones are California’s San Francisco Bay, and Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. In both cases, nutrient rich runoff has nourished toxic algae blooms and consequent dead zones. In the California, the primary culprit are three dozen urban wastewater treatment plants situated along the shore of the bay. In Florida, most of the problem is caused by agricultural runoff.

Which state, and which governor, will be the first to fix this problem? In Florida, within days of taking office, Governor DeSantis signed an executive order initiating water quality reforms. It was designed to remediate the immediate problem by researching and deploying products to remove algae, while also expediting long-term efforts to address the root causes of algae blooms.

What, by contrast, have the Californians done? What has Governor Newsom done? Not so much. In explaining the cause of the unusually severe 2022 algae bloom in the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Area Clean Water Agencies – while acknowledging the role of nutrients in feeding algae – had this to say: “During Summer 2022, there were two unusual conditions in the SF Bay – less fog and clearer water than usual. These two factors are linked to climate change and increased the amount of sunlight available to the algae, potentially contributing to the start of and growth of the bloom.”

“Less fog and clearer water,” which is “linked to climate change.” The link isn’t explained.

The environmentalist approved response to nutrient pollution in the San Francisco Bay has driven the state’s water policy for years. It calls for maximizing flows out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to dilute the nitrogen pollution in the San Francisco Bay. This “solution,” because it dovetails with the environmentalist agenda to leave as much water as possible – all of it if they could get away with it – in California’s rivers for the fish, has been the default recourse and has reduced the urgency to upgrade wastewater treatment.

Newsom, to his credit, defied the environmentalists during the recent heavy rains and authorized a higher rate of pumping from the Delta into the California Aqueduct to store more runoff for California’s farms and cities, leaving slightly less flow available to flush out the San Francisco Bay. But if Newsom hopes to decisively address nutrient pollution, he would issue an executive order that immediately tightens the standards for treatment of urban wastewater in the San Francisco Bay, and declare a state of emergency to obtain the $10-15 billion necessary to design and build those upgrades.

At the same time, Newsom could use the power of his office to force the California Department of Water Resources to allocate more diversions from the Delta during storm events, and to fast-track construction of environmentally friendly diversion technologies. During major storms, California squanders millions of acre feet of runoff, because they lack the necessary infrastructure to capture and store that water, and because they lack the regulatory framework to decisively make use of what infrastructure they do have.

One does not get the impression that Ron DeSantis would waste time appeasing environmentalist activists who aren’t even willing to admit the primary threat to salmon in California are nutrient pollution (also affecting salmon health in coastal waters) and introduced alien predators. He would get those wastewater treatment plants upgraded, and it would take years, not decades. And the environment would benefit, even as Environmentalism Inc. would have to take a quarterly loss.

Environmental Solutions Matter More Than Exposing Environmentalism Inc.

The conservative response to the reality of nutrient pollution has been to debunk the climate change explanation for the problem. Perhaps the most dignified analysis of the San Francisco Bay’s recent “dead zone” was recently published by the National Review, in an article titled “Wastewater, Not Climate, Fueled Massive Algae Bloom in ‘Epicenter of Supposed Environmentalism’.”

It’s important to expose the hidden agendas and false explanations promoted by Environmentalism Inc., because it helps everyone realize that mainstream environmentalism has been hijacked and is more focused on resetting the political economy of the world than in protecting the environment. Read “Renewables Aren’t Renewable” for a tedious but diligent recitation, yet again, of just how misguided environmentalist dogma has become. But it’s not enough to criticize. Conservatives need to identify and support practical solutions to genuine environmental concerns.

If the nutrient loads that foul marine environments come from fertilizer, along with runoff from feedlots and inadequately treated human waste, then identify ways to recover and reuse the nutrients. What’s food for algae – nitrogen and phosphorus, is also an essential soil nutrient. Without industrial quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus, modern agriculture would not exist. From Saskatchewan to Sri Lanka, we have seen the consequences of denying fertilizer to farmers, and it’s the wrong approach.

The so-called circular economy, like every other environmentalist concept, has as many valid applications as it has versions that are abused. Navigating the gauntlet of innovators that promise solutions to challenges like recycling and reusing nutrients means differentiating between companies whose substance is limited to a press release and a PowerPoint file, and those with technical and commercial viability. Conservatives can help by looking for these companies, applying the skepticism that activist journalists no longer display, but also with the faith that within the herd of pretenders there are also contenders for breakthroughs that will disrupt everything.

When it comes to nutrient recapture, new entrants include companies selling more efficient phosphate fertilizer, or offering ways to recover phosphorus from sewage sludge. There are emerging technologies offering improvements in electrochemical removal of nitrogen from waste, as well as removal through advanced filtration. Every year, improvements in anaerobic digestion systems make large scale harvesting and reusing nutrients found in animal waste more commercially viable. We can make fun, as we should, of the pilot project wherein cattle had inflatable bags surgically connected to their stomachs so they could fill up with methane, which would presumably be harvested several times a day to be used as a green energy source – yes, they’re really doing this – but we might also identify and support commercially viable ways to extract ammonia, phosphorus, and nitrogen from feedlot dung, so it can be reused to fertilize fields instead of running off into the river.

Ultimately what Newsom represents, even if he has modified his rhetoric, is a state suffering from bureaucratic paralysis, the fatal distraction of identity politics intruding into every aspect of governance, and a litigious environmentalist community that exercises almost absolute veto power over every policy initiative that involves so much as a scratch in the ground. DeSantis, for his part, deals with a bureaucracy that retains its capacity to move fast when pushed hard, and he is willing to stare down and right-size the agenda of environmentalist extremists.

For America’s conservatives, vanquishing woke extremists is only half the battle. Right sizing the environmentalist movement down to an appropriate level of influence in the affairs of civilization is equally important, and may be a harder battle. Between now and November 2024, what happens in Lake Okeechobee, and in the San Francisco Bay, bears close watching.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

Over the Skyline and Under the Streets – The Ongoing Vertical Expansion of Cities

Every since humans invented the built environment, and cities developed along major crossroads and on the forks of navigable rivers, meeting the challenge of providing adequate transportation has been a nonnegotiable prerequisite to continued growth and prosperity.

In simpler times, dramatic and destructive solutions to relieving congestion in growing metropolises were a matter of course. History provides ample evidence of this, from powerful Popes during the high renaissance leveling ancient Roman temples and palaces to build new avenues for commerce, to Robert Moses blasting away tenement neighborhoods to build expressways in New York City in the last century. As we move further into the 21st century, thankfully, less disruptive transportation solutions are emerging. They’re coming none too soon.

As the worldwide urban population rises from an estimated 4.5 billion people today to peak at over 7 billion by 2050, cities are challenged to increase the density of buildings through infill – replacing lower density neighborhoods especially in the urban core with multi-story and high rise residential towers. This expansion also must be achieved as sustainably as possible, which new construction materials such as “green” concrete and cross-laminated timber, among others, promise to deliver.

But how will cities remain inviting, if most transportation conduits remain on surface streets and railways, at the same time as the suburban and urban population density is rising from 2,000 or 3,000 per square mile to 20,000 or 30,000 per square mile? How will these cities retain the ability to offer sufficient pedestrian space and park space, if the surface transportation arteries are required to handle an order of magnitude increase in traffic?

A well functioning city cannot merely fulfill the transportation requirements for people and commerce. The health and future of cities also relies on fulfilling four basic needs – fresh water, food, energy, and waste management. In turn, to the extent these four essentials cannot be produced and processed within a densely populated city, they must rely on transportation corridors to swiftly move them in and out.

As the population density and absolute size of cities increases, the need for commensurate growth in transportation capacity will not be proportional. Some some of the burden that might have traditionally required transportation capacity in past decades will go away. Growing percentages of workers who might traditionally have commuted into the urban core from their residences on the periphery will be working from home. For better or for worse, additional millions of residents who might have used road and rail to travel to recreational destinations will be finding their tourism and social entertainment using stay-at-home video and virtual reality devices.

An equally significant way that transportation capacity will not have to completely keep pace with the growth in urban populations is through rapid advances in ways cities, on-site will be able to harvest rainwater and recycle wastewater, grow food, generate and store energy, and process garbage. High rise residential and commercial buildings will be designed to harvest rainwater, reuse their wastewater, and generate energy from the sun and wind. Innovations, for example, in photovoltaic technology will allow buildings to use their windows as solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. Indoor agriculture will include aquaponic, hydroponic and aeroponic systems. Presumably the emerging technologies of factory produced high-protein products will also be sited within high density urban neighborhoods. Cities will not become entirely self-sufficient, but they will become far more so than ever before in history.

Nonetheless, as megacities grow, building new infrastructure and refining existing infrastructure, their need for rapid and uncongested transportation conduits will grow well beyond what exists today. But to solve this by relying solely on ground based road and rail is no longer necessary. Precious and limited surface space can be preserved for human enjoyment by finding transportation solutions in the air and underground. This may sound fanciful, but it’s nothing of the sort. At this moment, and for many years, virtually every major automotive and aerospace company, along with dozens of high-tech companies, have been developing prototype passenger drones.

Already we are seeing freight drones being used by Amazon in two small U.S. cities, one in Northern California, one in Texas. The company intends to roll out delivery drone service – to be called “Prime Air,” nationwide by 2024. Amazon’s not alone. At least 12 companies are developing drone delivery vehicles.

But that’s just the beginning of a revolution in air transportation.

As reported last year by Air Mobility News, there are five passenger drone companies now listed with a market value over $1.0 billion: AeroVironment, Joby, Vertical Aerospace, Archer Aviation and Lilium. An additional seven companies are publicly listed with a market cap over $100 million: Ehang, ACSL, Parrot, AgEagle, Drone Delivery Canada, ONDAS and Red Cat.

Joby Aviation’s “eVTOL” (electronic vertical takeoff and landing) “taxi drone” prototype has demonstrated a range of over 150 miles. Their drone’s range is extended because while it takes off like a helicopter, in level flight it has a wing that provides lift. The six rotors on Joby’s eVTOL point straight up to provide vertical lift during takeoff, then rotate 90 degrees to function as conventional propellers during flight. What the V-12 Osprey does for the military with turbojet powered rotors, Joby does with electric motors and a battery.

But most passenger drone duty cycles will not require a range in excess of 20 miles, which is the range of the Ehang 216, a fully autonomous taxi drone that can transport two passengers and has already carried out over 1,000 test flights. Dozens of emerging companies are testing passenger drone prototypes, one of them, based in Sweden, is leaning into the novelty of it all by naming their company Jetson Aero. But the biggest companies on earth are also involved in the race to make drone transportation ubiquitous.

Among aerospace companies, these would include Boeing, Airbus, and Raytheon. Every major airline is investing in passenger drone service, including Delta, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Lufthansa. Major automakers are deeply involved in the race to the air; entrants include Volkswagon, Honda, Toyota, and, of course, Tesla. Not to be outdone, Apple is rumored to be working on a flying car, as is Microsoft in partnership with Hyundai.

When it comes to taxis roving the airways of big cities like a scene out of the Sci Fi movie Fifth Element, however, the flood of investors and entrants in the space doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Google just shut down their flying car startup, Kitty Hawk, after 12 years, although research will continue in partnership with Boeing. And while the FAA is working closely with civil aviation authorities to regulate the dawn of advanced air mobility, it is a process that will happen gradually.

If, sooner or later, urban residents may count on seeing delivery drones, then passenger drones, making the skyline more interesting, a parallel revolution is happening out of sight. The revolution in underground tunneling technology has been quietly advancing for several years.

The global leader in tunneling systems is Herrenknecht AG, founded in 1975 and lead contractor on thousands of tunnel boring projects around the world. The company’s projects range from digging underground metro-systems in cities on every continent, to the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, which at 35 miles is the longest tunnel in the world. Leave it to the Germans to design machines several hundred feet long, and up to 60 feet in diameter, engineered to delve through the earth like a Sandworm out of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune.

But where the Germans lead, innovators nip at their heels. The Boring Company, founded by (who else) Elon Musk, claims the field of tunneling has not taken advantage of new technologies. They propose to lower the cost of tunneling by a factor of between 4 and 10 by: (1) Tripling the power output of the tunnel boring machine’s cutting unit, (2) Continuously tunneling instead of alternating between boring and installing supporting walls, (3) Automating the tunnel boring machine, eliminating most human operators, and (4) Replacing diesel motors with electric.

Musk has said “the construction industry is one of the only sectors in our economy that has not improved its productivity in the last 50 years.” The Boring Company has already begun construction on the “Vegas Loop,” underground service extensions that will deliver passengers from Las Vegas Airport to destinations on the famed Vegas strip in 3 minutes instead of the typical 30 minutes required using aboveground transportation. Beneath Los Angeles, The Boring Company has already completed and is testing a prototype tunnel, which is 1.14 miles long and they claim was built at a cost of only $10 million. If the Boring company revolutionizes tunneling the way SpaceX revolutionized access to low earth orbit, the functions of the vertical city will indeed expand down into the earth as well as up into the sky.

As the Herrenknecht website puts it, “Our high-tech machines enable high advance rates in any geology with maximum safety for buildings, infrastructures and personnel… modern, integrated tunnel systems for metro, road, railway, passenger, supply and disposal tunnels are the result.”

The technologies needed deliver flying cars are arriving fast, as are cost-effective tools – ok, gargantuan tools – to build bigger and upgraded underground transportation conduits. Above the skyline and under the streets, expect cities in the future to expand vertically, relieving congestion at the same time as more people live better lives on the same footprint of land.

An edited version of this article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

The Population Crash

In 1968,  Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, a book extrapolating global population growth data to predict a catastrophe as humanity’s demand for resources outstripped supply. The book became a bestseller and catapulted Ehrlich to worldwide fame. But today, just over a half-century later, humanity faces a different challenge. We are in the early stages of a population crash.

Ehrlich’s basic math wasn’t necessarily flawed. In 1968, the world population was 3.5 billion, and today the total number of humans has more than doubled to just over 8 billion. Anyone with a basic understanding of exponential growth can appreciate that if human population doubles every 50 years, within only a few millennia, an unchecked ball of human flesh would be expanding in all directions into the universe at the speed of light. Which means, at some point, Malthusian checks will apply.

But where extrapolation yielded panic, reality has delivered something completely different. Today population growth is leveling off almost everywhere on earth, and the cause of that decline started, ironically, back in the 1960s when Ehrlich wrote his book. The reasons for this are subtle, because the only ultimate determinant of population growth is the average number of children a generation of women are having, and the impact of that and other variables take decades to play out.

In the late 1960s, the United States, along with most Western nations, had just moved out of its baby boom years, that period from 1946 through 1964, when women were still having lots of babies. Having grown up during the Great Depression, followed by a world war, the choice to have large families may have been a response to the adversity these women and men experienced as they came of age. That theory is borne out by subsequent history.

Over the past 50 years, in a pattern that has been repeated around the world, as prosperity increased, the average number of children per woman of childbearing age has decreased. The chart below provides hard evidence of this correlation. Tracking data per nation, the vertical axis is the average number of children per woman. The horizontal axis is the median income. A clear pattern emerges. In extremely poor nations, birth rates remain at Ehrlichesque levels. But once a nation’s median income rises barely above poverty, at around $5,000 per year, the average number of children per woman drops below replacement level.

One may view this chart and conclude that if an average of 2.1 children per woman is necessary to keep a population stable, this cluster of nations averaging around 1.5 children per woman can’t be that bad. But that reasoning ignores basic math. At a replacement rate of 1.5 per woman, for every 1 million people of childbearing age living in a nation today, there will only be 420,000 great-grandchildren. This means that nation’s population will drop to 42 percent of what it is today in less than a century. And the numbers get worse very fast.

South Korea’s current fertility per woman, for example, is a dismal 0.81, and those are extinction-level numbers. At that rate of reproduction, for every 1 million Koreans of childbearing age today, there will only be 66,000 great-grandchildren. South Korea is on track to disappear in less than a century.

This collapse is just now becoming apparent in overall population numbers because it is only when a numerically superior older generation, the product of fecundity, begins to die that absolute totals begin to drop. As baby boomers, known to demographers as the “pig in the python,” reach the end of their lifespans, the consequences of the decade decline in birth rates will finally be reflected in dramatic downward shifts in total population. That process is already underway.

In China, a nation that enforced a “one child” policy from 1979 until 2015, absolute population decline has begun. With a current fertility rate of 1.3 (possibly lower, estimates vary), China’s population peaked in 2021 at 1.4 billion and is projected to decline to possibly as low as 488 million by the end of this century. This decline is exacerbated by the fact that among China’s youth, men outnumber women by about 120 to 100, thanks to “illegal gender selection” that was widespread during the one-child era.

In the United States and most Western nations, the solution to collapsing birth rates has been to import people. To pursue this policy to its ultimate conclusion is to replace Americans of European descent—along with Asian Americans and Latino Americans—with African migrants, insofar as the Sub-Saharan nations of Africa remain in desperate poverty and hence retain skyrocketing, youthful populations. And to be clear, this is merely a statement of demographic fact based on current data.

Data also indicates that once migrants arrive in America and other prosperous nations within a generation, they too experience crashing fertility rates. This means that importing people into prosperous nations does not solve a nation’s demographic challenges, it only postpones that reckoning. Meanwhile, a new problem arises as these developed countries can only maintain economic stability if they ensure the African countries they are using as human “farms” never escape desperate poverty (e.g. their average income never rises above $5,000 a year).

These are the challenges posed by post-prosperity population collapse in any nation that successfully rises out of poverty. There are three choices: Either go extinct within the next century, buy some time by replacing your own citizens with foreigners from poverty-stricken nations, or figure out how to convince women in prosperous societies to have more children.

Lifeboats to Survive a Post-Crash World

While the severity of the looming population collapse in developed nations is plain to see and beyond serious debate among demographers, it remains virtually ignored by politicians and the media. This doesn’t mean there aren’t private citizens who have decided to do something about it. Earlier this month, I spoke with Malcolm Collins. He and his wife Simone are using a fortune they earned as technology entrepreneurs to help support people who want larger families. His observations help illuminate the underlying reasons why prosperity correlates with low fertility, and he begins to offer strategies to reverse the trend.

American Greatness:  When did you first become aware of population collapse?

Malcolm Collins: Back in 2015, I was working as a [venture capitalist] in South Korea and modeling their economic conditions. I realized that they were facing a 95 percent drop in population within the next century. There was no 50-year timeline to predict for the South Korean economy, because there won’t be a country in 50 to 60 years.

Coming back to the U.S. was like coming back in time to bring two messages from the future. One, it will not fix itself. Nobody has systemically reversed the decline. And two, even when it is incredibly severe, nobody panics because it isn’t immediately obvious. Fertility collapse leads to more fertility collapse, and then you have population collapse. China is within 10 years of getting crazy; they could go full Handmaid’s Tale to cope.

AG:  What do you mean when you say the leveraged growth economic model that nations have relied upon for the last 75 years is dead?

MC:  Let’s say you make a $10 investment, and $2 is equity and $8 is debt. If that investment’s value grows by 20 percent, you have doubled your money. But if the investment just shrinks by 10 percent, you have lost half your money. The reason why our economy has grown is that worker quantity has gone up exponentially and productivity has gone up arithmetically. If the population declines exponentially then we will deal with an economy that is declining on average with brief moments of uptick, which is the exact opposite of what we’ve had for the last 75 years.

AG:  Can artificial intelligence make up for the loss of an expanding workforce?

MC:  A.I. is as likely to kill us as solve all our problems. Most of the people familiar with A.I. developments are A.I. apocalypticists. Best case, A.I. will replace units in the economy. It might allow us to add units the same way the Fed adds dollars.

AG:  So when we discuss demographics, A.I. is the elephant in the room?

MC:  There are a lot of elephants in the room. We could talk all day about endocrine disruptors and their impact on fertility.

AG:  In Peter Ziehan’s recent bookThe End of the World is Just the Beginning, he claims North America will escape most of the problems coming to the rest of the world. Do you agree?

MC:  North America will come out differentially well, but it will still be much worse off than it is today. America will have more power and will consolidate power, but the average American will have a quarter of what they did. Globalization was amazing for us, we bought cell phones that were manufactured overseas by workers making 10 cents per hour. What is essentially slavery all over the world has enabled us to live well for the last 50 years. It’s going to be like Byzantium when Rome fell. The Byzantines were better off than the Romans, but they were still worse off than they’d been.

AG:  What are the primary causes of a post-prosperity population crash?

MC:  It is most correlated to wealth and gender equality. In earlier eras, another kid was another hand in the factory or helper on the farm. Today, especially in urban environments, every individual kid no longer adds incrementally to a person’s quality of life. Today you need an exogenous motivator to have kids, such as religion or ethnic pride.

The other core reason is we have structured our economy to organically milk every individual worker for the maximum productivity they can provide, and we don’t think long-term. A free market economy organically determines what it needs to pay someone to get them to not spend time with their family or their spouse; it naturally selects the minimum amount to pay to get the maximum amount of time.

When we look at the data, there is no intrinsic reason to have two kids or more, only exogenous reasons. What is relevant to us as pronatalists is the people that want to have big families. If you have one-third of the population having no kids, which is about typical in developed nations, and one-third only having two kids, then the final one-third has to have four kids or more for the population to stay stable.

AG: Can you describe the process whereby nations (mostly African) in poverty may lower their birth rates?

MC: If you look at the African immigrant community, you see what you see in the rest of the world. Once they arrive in prosperous nations, their birth rates drop. As for the remaining high-fertility African nations, either they become prosperous and begin rapidly depopulating, or they will remain in poverty and become irrelevant as the developed world begins collapsing and no longer invests in them in order to extract resources. To the extent Africans come to the U.S. and do keep a high birth rate, they will be conservative Christians. They may become the biggest defenders of Christianity.

AG:  Coming back then to the developed world,  you have used the term “sterilizing mimetic packages.” What does that mean?

MC:  Mimetics is how we look at ideas and concepts as evolving entities. Mimetic packages coevolved with humans and became symbiotic. They positively modified human fitness. For example, across religious traditions, you see arbitrary denial rituals such as Lent. Every culture has an immune system to protect people from sterilizing mimetic viruses, but when you go out today and look at the modern Unitarian Universalists, Progressive Reform Jews, or feminists—scratch beneath the surface, they all hold the same views and values about the world. This was not true 30 years ago. They have been hollowed out by the virus.

AG:  What do you mean by “the virus.”

MC:  What happened is our culture, in academia and social media, now confronts an alliance of movements that are all the same religion beneath the surface. Some call it wokeism, but that understates the scale of the forces arrayed against us. It is difficult to fight. This alliance of movements has created what is analogous to a hospital that has evolved a superbug, a mimetic virus that infects humans and convinces them that all they should do with their lives is spread the mimetic virus of wokeism, and signal to others how infected they are. People may think of the virus as wokeism although the sterilizing effect it has is more complicated than that.

In the past mimetic sects used to just burn heretics at the stake, but the presence of wokeism is so pervasive that if it is stopped in one place, the virus starts rerouting itself to the remaining nodes within a network. If one node falls prey to an antivirus, the other nodes just disconnect. To stop the superbug we face today, you have to cut once and cut deep, everywhere.

AG:  How will some people and groups escape this and how do we avoid what you have referred to as “authoritarian population clusters” being a consequence of that?

MC:  People who are resistant to sterilizing mimetic packages are usually people who have more of a propensity to dehumanize people different from themselves and outside beliefs they don’t immediately share. They have an intrinsic disgust reaction to people who aren’t part of their cultural unit. This prevents them from being deconverted, i.e., infected with values that contradict their belief—typically either faith-based or tribal—in traditional families and childbearing. Our challenge is to help communities and cultures develop an immunity to the woke supervirus without having to rely on the dehumanizing extremes that have evolved over millennia as a survival mechanism.

AG: What are you doing to create clusters of above replacement communities?

MC: We have to create a new culture. Our goal is to experiment with this. Can it be done? The answer is maybe. So far, nobody has ever created a birth rate stable multicultural system in a post-prosperity world.

Ways to Increase Birth Rates

The concept of exponential growth easily quantifies just how decisively a single cluster of high-birth-rate individuals can change the population trajectory of the world. With three children already born, and dozens of healthy frozen embryos waiting for activation, Malcolm and Simon Collins intend to have a large family. A very large family. And the math works, as he pointed out. If one family with eight children can spawn descendants that themselves all have eight children, after 11 generations—in less than 300 years—they would number 8.5 billion.

For this reason, Collins believes that over time, religious communities will again become the dominant demographic group in America and around the world. White evangelical Christians, an endangered and embattled minority in present-day America, will outbreed their progressive antagonists. This could be reflected in voting results within a generation. Within a century or two, based on current trends, devout Christians, along with devout Jews, may inherit the earth.

Collins was emphatic, however, that the message they are attempting to spread was not exclusionary. Their goal is to help people overcome the barriers to having children to preserve all cultures. South Korea is only one obvious example of population collapse. Within the United States, much smaller subcultures—for example, the many tribes of Native Americans already small in number—face population collapse.

The pronatalist organization the Malcolm and Simone Collins have established, with the unsubtle URL “,” is devoted to making it easier for people to have children. The organization, still in its early stages of development, aims to offer resources on several fronts. They are working with partners to make reproductive technology more widely available, as well as egg and sperm donation and surrogacy. At the same time, they are engaging in fertility planning advocacy based on a concern that most women aren’t aware of how soon they should either bear children or freeze their eggs. is also working to develop urban daycare programs based not only on a shortage of affordable daycare services but also the lack of high-trust institutions in cities. They are developing a “full stack” education system that will help rescue children from the sterilizing effects of public school indoctrination while building high-trust urban communities of like-minded parents. Finally, they are partnering with a dating application that focuses on matching people who are mutually interested in long-term relationships, including children.

Criticism of pronatalism is predictable and consistent with the sterilizing mimetic packages of wokeism that have compounded the already existential problem of post-prosperity population collapse. Reports on what the Collins are doing range from bemused: “New kids on the block: geeky, wealthy, entrepreneurial pro-natalism activists,” published on, to an overtly hostile report, “Why Wealthy Tech Elites Believe It’s Their Mission to Repopulate Earth,” which makes an unwarranted accusation that pronatalism is synonymous with “the return of eugenics.”

Preemptive strikes aside, a fervent and effective pronatalist movement may be the only hope if humanity is to avoid total demographic collapse. Contrary to Paul Ehrlich’s predictions, the late 21st century will bring with it unavoidable turmoil as nation after nation confronts not too many people, but instead, an aged dependent population dying en masse, with almost no youth left to replace them.

The demographic Titanic is going to hit the iceberg. We may be thankful that some people on the ship are building lifeboats while there is still time.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

The Environmentalist Assault on Civilization

No reasonable person should deny the importance of protecting the environment. The accomplishments of the environmental movement over the past 50 years are undeniable; cleaner air and water, protected wildernesses, more efficient use of resources; the list is endless and illustrious. Environmentalist values are an integral part of any responsible public policy agenda. But the pendulum has swung too far.

In an illuminating video posted earlier this month, Jordan Peterson interviewed Dr. Richard Lindzen on the topic of climate science. Lindzen, whose credentials on the topic of climate science are almost ridiculously germane and comprehensive, offered a withering perspective on contemporary environmentalism. He explained that in the 1960s there was a lot of hunting around for an issue that would give environmentalists power over the energy industry. In the 1960s environmentalists started tracking atmospheric CO2 and determined it was increasing.

These CO2 measurements, initially begun out of mere scientific curiosity, gave environmentalists the issue they’d been looking for. As Lindzen put it, “If you wanted to control the energy sector, CO2 was the one pollutant that no matter how clean you make it, there will still be CO2. You can’t get rid of that if you burn fossil fuel.”

This is the essence of environmentalism today. Control and ration the energy supply on which human civilization depends. Since every amenity of civilization uses energy, this control and rationing extends to every human activity. It is a recipe for total control over every individual and every organization in the world.

It’s easy enough to speculate as to who the ultimate puppeteers are who have unleashed this grandiose plot on the world. It’s even easier to identify the most likely hidden agenda; power and profit. Micromanage the world, and only the biggest or the most anointed players survive. It’s a gigantic trickle up economic scheme, robbing from the poor and giving to the rich.

Regardless of who pulls the strings behind the scenes, however, the marionettes are in plain sight. The entire state legislature in California, where nearly every “representative” is wholly owned by an alliance of public sector unions and tech billionaires, offers a perfect example. With every regulation, another unionized public bureaucracy is created and another tech company finds new captive consumers.

The result is a soft fascism, a soul-destroying tyranny masquerading as an enlightened green utopia. California, sprawling across 165,000 square miles, has vast resources of farmland, timber, oil and gas, direct access to ocean fisheries, and valuable mineral resources. With only 40 million people, the state is sparsely populated compared with most developed nations, and ought to be delivering the most affordable cost-of-living in the world to its residents. The opposite is true.

In the name of protecting the environment and fighting climate change, California has declared war on its own people. The state’s policymakers have neglected a once remarkable water infrastructure and as a result, millions of acres of the most productive farmland on earth are being turned into a dust bowl, driving thousands of farm operations out of business and destroying the livelihoods that sustained millions of people. They have reduced the timber industry to a less than one-quarter of the size it was as recently as the 1990s. They have declared war on oil and gas, banning new exploration and tightening restrictions on existing wells.

Critics of California’s authoritarian progressives often focus on the so-called woke policies. Using education as but one example, its impact is impossible to ignore. K-12 public education devolves into biased political indoctrination instead of practical instruction, proportional representation by ethnicity now governs college admissions, and college tuition has become too expensive because administrators now outnumber faculty.

This is all ridiculous, destructive folly, and barely scratches the surface. But the highly visible depredations of the woke brigades are a dangerous distraction from the encroachment of green policies into every detail of individual private lives. The impact of green policies are equally incessant, and in many ways far more substantial and comprehensive.

The Upside of Green Policies for Big Business

When California, and then the entire nation, bans the production of incandescent light bulbs, that is an obvious intrusion into the market and into the quality of life for everyday Californians. But less obvious is the inversion of incentives that drive the push for energy efficiency at the expense of health or affordability. As Californians pay exorbitant prices to bathe themselves in high wavelength light, disrupting their circadian rhythms, and as Californians endure the unhealthy micro-flickers of LEDs hooked to inadequate transformers, manufacturers gain new customers and sell higher priced goods.

A more subtle green inversion of economic incentives, but just as contrary to the public interest, is when electric utilities convert to “renewables,” i.e., wind farms, solar farms, and battery farms, at staggering cost, while decommissioning fully paid for nuclear power plants, hydroelectric dams, and natural gas power plants. As the electricity price to the consumer soars, the regulated public utilities earn more profit, since their pricing and hence their profits are based on a percentage markup over their costs. If your profit is limited to 9 percent, you’ll make a lot more money if you’re billing $.30 per kilowatt-hour than if you’re billing $.03 per kilowatt-hour. That’s an easy business decision.

It is obvious when dams are removed instead of new ones being built, that farmers get less water. But less obvious are the ripple effects. Without a guaranteed water supply, new housing construction can’t get approved, limiting the supply of new homes and driving up the price for all housing. Then again, housing in California is too expensive anyway, thanks to green policies that limit where new homes can get built, absurdly overwritten building codes requiring “energy neutrality,” obscenely expensive costs for building permits, a capricious approval process that can literally take decades to navigate, and the constant threat of litigation by environmentalists to stop any new construction.

For every fundamental necessity, gasoline, natural gas, water, electricity, and housing, California’s green policies have created artificial scarcity. Everything costs more. The poor have lost all hope of achieving private financial independence, the middle class shrinks, and the rich get richer. A frustrated lobbyist in Sacramento recently summed it up as follows: “Most environmentalists don’t care about people,” he said, “the old democratic party wanted to use government to make people’s lives better, but today their solution is to use government to make life harder then hook them to make them dependent on government. They want to use government to destroy the incentive to be productive. But if you kill off all the productive people, eventually society collapses.”

What’s Happening in California is Happening Everywhere

It’s one thing to impose green scarcity on California, a state that can still coast a while longer on the infrastructure investments made 50 years ago, and rely on tapping the stupefying accumulation of wealth concentrated in its high tech industry. But the marionettes that are implementing the green assault on civilization are everywhere. One of the most recent fronts in their widening war on prosperity is the farming sector, from Canada to Spain to the Netherlands to Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Based on the contention that farm fertilizer is a factor in causing climate change, policymakers have decided to shut down huge sectors of commercial agriculture. The new regulations that will permit continued operations, of course, will be far too expensive for all but the largest global agribusiness concerns.

It’s not hard to see what’s happening here. There is no economic activity, anywhere, that doesn’t create greenhouse gas. Make it impossible for all but the wealthiest corporations to comply with the new edicts, and you roll up the world.

Unfortunately, when a rare thunderstorm delivers atomic scale sonic blasts to uninitiated Californians whose only previous experiences with sound that kinetic were the occasional punk driving by with his subwoofer turned up, they’re ready to believe the storm porn that pours out of every establishment news source. “Bomb cyclone.” “Polar vortex.” It’s all part of the “new normal,” as we allegedly encounter more and more “extreme weather events.” Except we aren’t.

Old timers can remember the 1960s, when storms pulverized California, causing floods and freezes, but back then we didn’t listen to agenda driven news. Storms were “storms.” And there weren’t ubiquitous high-resolution satellite images and video editing tools to allow every local weatherman to splash on to our screens terrifying images of cloud formations that covered half the Pacific Ocean. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t.

Around the world, the same game is played. Pakistan’s floods, despite the doomsday spin from PBS, were not abnormal because of “climate change.” They were an abnormal catastrophe because in just 50 years, the population of that nation has grown from 35 million to 270 million people. They’ve channelized their rivers, built dense new settlements onto what were once floodplains and other marginal land, they’ve denuded their forests which took away the capacity to absorb runoff, and they’ve paved thousands of square miles creating impervious surfaces where water can’t percolate. Of course a big storm made a mess. The weather didn’t change. The nation changed.

The story repeats everywhere. Bigger tsunamis? You drained your coastal aquifers which caused land subsidence, you settled tidelands because your population quintupled in less than two generations, and you killed your coastal mangrove forests which used to attenuate big waves. Deforestation? These nations have been denied the ability to develop natural gas and hydroelectric power, so they’re burning the forests to cook their food. In some cases, they’re burning their forests to plant biofuel plantations, in towering display of irony and corruption.

The Biggest Big Lie in the World

And behind it all is a big lie: The “Climate Emergency.” It’s not true. It’s a lie. Dr. Lindzen, who is only one preeminent member among thousands of highly qualified scientists who have spent the last 20-30 years patiently attempting to explain the myriad holes in what is far from “settled science,” offered this cautionary reminder in his interview. He quoted Joseph Goebbels, a repugnant master of propaganda, who famously said “if you tell a big lie often enough it will become truth.”

Anyone hoping to stop the environmentalist assault on civilization must realize that it isn’t enough to challenge the individual policies that are supposedly designed to save the climate. It isn’t even enough to expose the preposterous absurdity of them – as if it is possible to transition to nothing but biofuel, wind, and solar energy and still deliver prosperity to 8 billion people within a decade or two.

What could work, however, would be to challenge the core premise of the climate alarmist movement. Learn the facts, listen to the contrarian experts, and make up your own mind. If you no longer believe we actually face a climate emergency, say so, without reservations, in every venue and to every person and institution you possibly can.

Doing this may be deemed antisocial, and it may be suppressed, but it is a healthy expression of sanity. It used to be that when someone ran about claiming the world is about to end, they were considered the lunatics. Let’s go back to those days. Human civilization could be entering a golden age of progress and prosperity, but it cannot get there without producing CO2.

With prosperity we can adapt, as we always have. With tyranny, we can do nothing. Climate alarmism is tyranny, with green wrapping, delivered with terror.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

Reforming the California Environmental Quality Act

Environmentalism became a national priority in the 1970s, and not a moment too soon. In California, for example, the legendary smog of the Los Angeles Basin was matched by barely breathable air in the Santa Clara Valley up north, the entire southern end of the San Francisco Bay was on track to be filled in to build homes and industrial parks, and the magnificent California Condor was about to go extinct. On land, over water, and in the air, the footprint of civilization was stomping away, heedless of its environmental impact. Something had to be done.

In parallel with a national response, in 1970 the California State Legislature passed the CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act. Initially requiring the government to consider and mitigate the environmental impact of public projects, in 1972 CEQA was amended to include any private project that required a permit from a public agency.

Today CEQA has become a monster. If a public agency determines a project will have a “significant” effect on the environment, it will require an Environmental Impact Report, or “EIR,” to be prepared. The original guidelines for an EIR were ten pages. Today, the checklist consumes 489 pages. Needless to say there are legions of environmental professionals available to consult with project developers to prepare these EIRs. And the complexity and ambiguity of the standards required to determine what constitutes “significant environmental impact,” along with a similar lack of clarity over what constitutes appropriate mitigation, makes successfully preparing an EIR extremely expensive and time consuming.

If the bureaucratic process weren’t enough, typically requiring involvement by multiple government agencies (one of which is designated the lead agency), the CEQA process for any significant project is almost always mired in litigation. It is common for opponents to file a lawsuit to either force a developer to prepare an EIR even if the lead agency deemed that unnecessary, or to challenge the findings in an EIR. If one lawsuit is settled, there is nothing preventing successive lawsuits on different grounds by other parties.

Criticism of CEQA has become of bipartisan concern in California. Various ways to reform CEQA are being proposed. The most common reform is to increase the number of projects that are exempt from CEQA. The flaw in this approach should be obvious: it takes an act of the state legislature to define exempt categories, and meanwhile, CEQA continues to stall badly needed housing and infrastructure projects that don’t meet the favored criteria.

Another proposed reform is to attempt to clarify what remain CEQA’s “extensive and unclear requirements.” Even “CEQA professionals” admit they are uncertain about requirements that even they find inconsistent, flexible, vague, confusing, and subjective. To address this, some reform proposals have recommended adding more specific language to CEQA. That, however, is something that might define CEQA’s evolution over the past 52 years. And the more verbiage that has been added to the statute and it guidelines, the more territory has been created in which to search for ambiguity. That translates into even longer EIRs, and even more pretexts for lawsuits.

One interesting proposal is to categorically exclude any project that already meets regional planning guidelines. Conceptually this makes a lot of sense, since CEQA is applied per project, which fails to take into account the regional context in which any residential, commercial, industrial, or infrastructure development may be situated. By granting “ministerial” approval, i.e., by automatically waiving the CEQA process if a project conforms to regional planning guidelines, the development process can escape the current gridlock. The problem, of course, is the possibility that the statewide mandates pursuant to CEQA are ignored by a particular county or regional planning authority, thus circumventing original purpose.

None of these proposed reforms are likely tame the monster that CEQA has become. Carve-outs leave the monster largely intact. It is impossible to create additional clarity on something as intrinsically complex as the environmental impact of construction projects. And while there is probably room for some useful reforms in terms of integrating the CEQA process with regional planning objectives, that probably won’t offer relief to every project proponent that deserves relief.

So how can California preserve CEQA as a meaningful check on environmentally irresponsible development, while taking away its ability to be used as a crude bludgeon by which litigants and bureaucrats can deny projects a fair and expedited process?

In 2017, a guest column in the Los Angeles Times by Ron De Arakal, who at the time served on the Costa Mesa Planning Commission, proposed five CEQA reforms. His work remains one of the best available summaries of additional reform suggestions that deserve serious legislative consideration. To paraphrase from Arakal’s work:

(1) Put an end to the interminable, costly legal process by disallowing serial, duplicative lawsuits challenging projects that have completed the CEQA process, have been previously litigated and have fulfilled any mitigation orders.

(2) Require all entities that file CEQA lawsuits to fully disclose their identities and their environmental or, increasingly, non-environmental interest.

(3) California law already sets goals of wrapping up CEQA lawsuits — including appeals — in nine months, but other court rules still leave room for procedural gamesmanship that push CEQA proceedings past a year and beyond. Without harming the ability of all sides to prepare their cases, those delaying tactics could be outlawed.

(4) Judges can toss out an entire project based on a few deficiencies in environmental impact report. Add restraints to the law to make fix-it remedies the norm, not the exception.

(5) The losing party in most California civil actions pays the tab for court costs and attorney’s fees, but that’s not always the case with CEQA lawsuits. Those who bring CEQA actions should pay the prevailing party’s attorney’s fees.

There’s more. In an attempt, unsuccessful, to qualify a ballot initiative for the November 2022 ballot that would have funded water projects, the proponents included a CEQA reform that applies Arakal’s recommendation #3. It is startling in its simplicity. To summarize, it read, “any challenge to an eligible project is to be resolved (e.g., decided by a court) within 270 days after the certified administrative record is filed with the court.”

Imagine that. Housing developments and other badly needed projects getting approved and breaking ground in under one year, instead of taking decades. Everyone agrees California needs CEQA reform. Let’s hope the reforms are universally applied, and have teeth.

This article originally appeared in Epoch Times.

Revitalizing the Los Angeles River

“And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.”
Ezekiel 47:9

From the dawn of recorded history, humans built cities along rivers. Over 6,000 years ago, Sumerian city-states grew along the fertile banks of the Tigris-Euphrates rivers system, relying on these rivers for irrigation and transportation, water to drink and fish to eat. And in the millennia to follow, from the Yangtze to the Mississippi, across the continents, rivers have been the enabling arteries of civilization.

With the arrival of the industrial revolution came rapid population growth and an explosion of new technology. In 1800 the earth and its rivers sustained 990 million people; today, that number approaches 8 billion. As cities expanded along their rivers, to prevent winter floods, dams and levees at an unprecedented scale were constructed to contain them. And at the same time as many urban rivers were transformed into gigantic drainage culverts, their waters were fouled by contaminated runoff, poorly treated sewage, and outfall from industry.

The turning point in the desecration of urban rivers was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the modern environmental movement began in reaction to polluted air and water. A defining event of this era came in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland was so polluted it literally caught fire. The Cleveland Press at the time reported the Cuyahoga as a river so polluted that it “oozes rather than flows.”

Since then, significant progress has been made cleaning up urban rivers in America and around the world, although in nations that are still rapidly industrializing, progress has been more aspirational than actual. But concurrent with this progress, another trend emerged, starting in the 1980s, which is not only to clean up urban rivers, but to revitalize them. From Philadelphia to Portland, cities across America are rediscovering their rivers not only as waterways to be purified, but as aesthetic treasures to be restored.

Nowhere is the potential and complexity of urban river revitalization more evident than in the multifaceted, continuously evolving efforts to restore the Los Angeles River. It encompasses all the highlights of a universal story. In the beginning the river ran unobstructed from its headwaters in the San Gabriel Mountains into the Pacific. With many peaks in excess of 9,000 feet, and the crest barely 30 miles from the ocean, when clouds dumped rain against these ramparts the runoff dumped rich silt onto a broad floodplain.

Early settlers believed they were living in an Arcadian paradise, and as the city grew from a small pueblo into a bustling town, the Los Angeles River provided ample water for people and farms. But with the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913, which tripled the available water for the growing city, the value of water from the Los Angeles River became less appreciated, at the same time as its propensity to overflow its banks became a liability.

After two massive storms hit Los Angeles in early 1938, generating floods that caused massive damage and killed over 100 people, the citizens overwhelmingly supported a solution that would finally tame the volatile river. The 1930s was a decade characterized by big engineering projects in America, and into Los Angeles came the Army Corps of Engineers to channelize the entire 51 miles of urban waterway.

By 1960, with its transformation complete, the Los Angeles River had acquired its now iconic look. A gigantic culvert. Surrounded by high voltage power lines, industrial depots, sweatshops and prisons, it became a dystopian wasteland, its natural splendor erased. Apart from serving as the biggest prop in movie history, an often post-apocalyptic backdrop for hundreds of movies and television shows, the Los Angeles River was forgotten.

The national awakening to environmentalism in the 1970s brought renewed awareness by local residents to the Los Angeles River as an example of industrial disregard, and also, increasingly, as a neglected amenity with spectacular potential. Over the past 20 years, serious efforts have begun to transform the river into a glorious connective centerpiece of a great city. It’s not going to be easy.

Revitalizing an urban river is an undertaking that requires incorporating and balancing several potentially conflicting objectives. For starters, whatever transformation is ultimately realized must still fulfill the function offered by the giant culvert: major storms must not cause major flooding. To do that, either the flood channel needs to be left mostly intact, or diversions have to be created along the entire 51 mile length to buffer the runoff during extreme weather. Fortunately, those buffers also serve to accomplish other important objectives.

For example, “daylighting” the many smaller tributaries of the Los Angeles River, which means opening up below ground storm drains and turning them into above ground streams, permits rewilding sections of the urban watershed, percolation in the unlined new channels, diversion to additional storage ponds and spreading basins, and primary filtration of toxic runoff as it flows through vegetation. Daylighting, as described, also reduces the volume and velocity of runoff during storms.

Among the goals for the future of the Los Angeles River, the preservation of flood control cannot be overemphasized. In December 2021, in one day, 2.3 inches of rain fell in downtown Los Angeles. The downpour was that much or more across the Los Angeles River’s 823 square mile watershed, but even at that rate, 108,000 acre feet of rainwater fell from the sky, and most of it came down that river because it fell too fast to soak in upstream, and ran right off the paved surfaces in the urban area.

For comparison, 108,000 acre feet in one day is equal to 35 billion gallons per day, whereas wastewater treatment plants on the Los Angeles River which have restored a placid flow to middle portions of the urban river discharge 30 million gallons per day, one-thousand times less. Clearly to whatever extent revitalization reduces the river’s capacity to handle storms, diversions and storage must make up the difference.

An April 2022 study released by the Pacific Institute claims urban storm water capture could add as much as 3 million acre feet to the urban water supply. Doing that would require removing a laundry list of pollutants that are swept into runoff before it hits urban storm drains including nitrogen, phosphorus, copper, zinc, hydrocarbons, synthetic organics, pathogens; the list is long. But treating and storing runoff, while expensive, solves several problems simultaneously – it stores water for urban use, it prevents flooding, and the water that is released into the river is less contaminated.

Along with fulfilling its primary role as an actual river, however, comes the myriad demands of a massive city. The opportunities and challenges of lining its beautified banks with people friendly amenities. Accommodating the dreams of local politicians and investors. Respecting environmentalist concerns. Welcoming and coordinating participation from thousands of agencies and private interests. And then, somehow, weaving all of this into a coherent vision for a revitalized river and finding the money to pay for it all.

To this end, countless detailed proposals have been produced, of which at least three are influential planning resources. In 2007, the City of Los Angeles produced its “Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan.” In 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a “Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Integrated Feasibility Report.” and in June 2022, the County of Los Angeles published the “LA River Master Plan.” All of these lengthy reports, each with predecessors and subsequent updates, constitute a blueprint for turning the Los Angeles River back into a river.

An encouraging theme shared by these documents is the recognition that no one entity will be able to fund all of the work or perform all of the work. To that end, for example, in the City of Los Angeles document, a “river management area” is defined, and a community planning framework is established to coordinate a relatively decentralized development effort involving government, entrepreneurial, and philanthropic sources of funding and implementation.

Along the entire river corridor, shared goals include restoring water quality, runoff capture and flood storage, and where possible restore a functioning ecosystem. Also, if possible, construct an unbroken river greenway complete with public access points, bike and walking paths, parks and wetlands, along the entire 51 mile stretch urban river from Canoga Park upstream all the way down to the estuary in Long Beach.

Nothing about this is going to be easy. Ironically, water quality and flow in the river began to improve when three wastewater treatment plants began discharging over 30,000 acre feet per year of clean, treated water into the LA River. This flow, which has created a perennial stream in the downtown section of the LA River, is now jeopardized as the cities operating these treatment plants make plans to upgrade the treatment to direct potable reuse. If those plans come to fruition, all that wastewater will no longer go into the river, but instead will go right back into the water mains to be reused.

This possibility highlights a reality facing any attempt to revitalize an urban ecosystem, which is that whatever vitality is created will not be the same as what was once there, and to the extent a perennial flow can be preserved in the river, it will require more money and face questions of sustainability. Should water be imported hundreds of miles into the LA Basin merely to maintain year-round flows in the Los Angeles River? Can treated water continue to be discharged into the LA River, but then be recaptured in downstream aquifers to minimize waste?

Another difficult paradox that revitalizing the river corridor brings is the impact of gentrification. By creating desirable green space along what had previously been a bleak concrete culvert, property values soar. As posh restaurants suddenly line the banks of an urban canyon where kayakers frolic below in whitewater rapids, riparian land values soar, and multigenerational families get priced out of their homes and apartments. How to redevelop a place without driving away the people who could only afford to live there before it became prime real estate is a classic riddle. The river in Los Angeles is no exception.

In what is perhaps the most thorough recent discussion of how the Los Angeles River may reinvent itself, in the journal Places, USC Professor of Landscape Architecture Alexander Robinson wrote “There remains an urgent need for further exploration of ambitious strategies.” That’s not easy, for at least two reasons. First, of course, because of the extraordinary complexity of the undertaking, with many goals inherently in conflict with each other that must be balanced.

But also because the world has changed. For better or worse, ambitious strategies to alter the urban canvas, however inspiring, encounter resistance that didn’t exist a century ago. More stakeholders. More litigation. Imperatives that perhaps should have been attended to in the old days, but we either didn’t know any better or didn’t care. Taking everything into account, the idea that a 21st century version of the urban planning autocrat Robert Moses could achieve his vision for the river in a few short years is laughable, however ambitious it might be.

On the other hand, the forces working to revitalize the Los Angeles River have steadily grown stronger and the broad consensus to make it clean and beautiful again will only build in the coming years. It will take several decades before the Los Angeles River has fully realized its new incarnation. The process will be painstakingly slow, but the tide has turned. Where for a time there was only an indifferent metropolis of concrete and steel, a ribbon of life will again nurture wild creatures and human souls.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.