Sacramento’s War on Water and Energy

After the deluges of 2022-23, and the rainfall season so far this year delivering an above normal snowpack and above normal rain, the drought in California is over. Even the situation on the dry Colorado is much improved, with Lake Powell and Lake Mead collectively at 42 percent of capacity, up from only 32 percent of capacity at this time last year. But California’s farmers are still getting squeezed. The federal allocation to to farmers in California’s vast Central Valley are still held to 35 percent of the contracted amount, and the state water project allocation is only at 30 percent. As a result, millions of acres of farmland are going to remain fallow this year.

California has historically delivered 50 percent of the total fruit and vegetables produced in the entire country. But consumers in California are increasingly finding imported food products in their grocery store aisles, including produce easily grown here: avocados from Mexico, apricots and grapes from Chile. In 2020, imports of agricultural products into California reached nearly $10 billion, against exports of $13.4 billion.

While California so far can at least claim to be a net food exporter, it lost self-sufficiency in energy decades ago. Despite impressive reserves of natural gas and crude oil, California imports 74 percent of its crude oil and over 90 percent of its natural gas. California’s annual in-state production of crude oil is less than one-third what it was in 1985.

It isn’t as if we don’t need this fuel. After decades of exhausting attempts to push renewables, in 2021 according to the US EIA the state still derives 45 percent of its energy from petroleum products and another 31 percent from natural gas. Those percentages would be even higher, but included in the denominator is another 9 percent of total energy consumption represented by electricity imported from other states.

With agriculture, Sacramento’s indifference to the plight of farmers can be explained economically. “Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting” represents a paltry 1.5 percent of California’s $3.0 trillion GDP. Not a ton of clout there, and that explains a lot.

The same argument can made for oil and gas. According to an authoritative 2019 report from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the oil and gas industry in California “generated $152.3 billion in total economic output, making up 2.1 percent of California’s overall gross state product in 2017.”

Numbers matter. Farming and logging, 1.5 percent of GDP. Oil and gas, 2.1 percent of GDP. Who cares?

This is the economic context in which to view the latest legislative and regulatory assaults on farming and fossil fuel. These industries are dwarfed in size by such heavyweights as information technology at 10.5 percent of state GDP, government at 11.6 percent, “professional services” at 14.2 percent, and the almighty financial sector at 19 percent. The attacks are unrelenting, because in California, “big ag” and “big oil” are actually not so big at all. They’re getting bullied into oblivion.

In February California’s oil and gas regulators released their plan to ban all fracking, after already having banned issuance of new fracking permits. And then in March environmental groups began pressing CalGEM (California’s state “Geologic Energy Management Division”) to also ban what is known as steam injection, a method of oil extraction that is widely used in California.

Now if wishes were megawatts, and dreams could fuel our vehicles, there would be no consequences as California’s remaining active oil wells are capped, and its natural gas power plants are decommissioned. We can continue importing solar cells and wind turbines from China, and to the extent we still require that filthy fossil fuel, we can continue to let nations in the Middle East and South America ship it to us in tankers that in 2023 spewed an estimated 1.7 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere just getting it to our shores.

Ditto for those apricots and avocados. We can export cell phone apps, movies, and “services,” and let those less finicky foreigners get their fingernails dirty growing food, extracting energy, manufacturing actual things. But California’s legislators, regulators, and smug litigators may hope there is never again a global hiccough that disrupts the imports of those necessities we are too “developed” to produce ourselves. Because you can’t eat software apps, and you can’t drink movies.

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.

Drain the Reservoirs, Return California’s Stolen Land

The destruction of dams on the Klamath River provides an encouraging precedent for progressives throughout California. As was breathlessly reported in the San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, indigenous tribes are now able to recover their sacred land and revive their ancestral villages and way of life. It is time for California’s progressive supermajority to do the right thing and return all stolen land to the first peoples. They can start by draining the rest of California’s reservoirs.

Not only is demolishing California’s dams, draining all of its reservoirs, and returning the restored riverfront property to their rightful claimants an appropriate reparatory gesture, but it will also set the rivers themselves free. Unshackled, they will again be welcoming habitats for salmon and other aquatic life, able to send torrents of nurturing fresh water into California’s Central Valley and ultimately into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The first target in this noble effort should be to blow up the O’Shaughnessy Dam and drain the Hetch Hetch Reservoir, which supplies water to the City of San Francisco. Surely the enlightened voters and elected officials in San Francisco will eagerly support this long overdue demolition. Once Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is empty, a beautiful valley, twin to Yosemite, will be exposed in all its granite grandeur once again, and the valley can be reoccupied by the Miwok, Yokuts, Washoe, Mono, and Paiute tribes, where they can recreate their ancient villages and recover their ancient ways. And why stop there?

Draining Lake Shasta will enable the Winnemem Wintu tribe to restore their villages that, for nearly a century, have been inundated, and they can again live peacefully in the upstream canyons of the Sacramento River headwaters. Similarly, blasting down the Oroville Dam will set the Feather River free again at last and empower the Maidu, Paiute, and Washoe tribes to repopulate the liberated riverbanks. Blowing up the Trinity Dam will allow the Yurok and Hoopa nations to return to their sacred river. Similarly, blasting the New Melones Dam to smithereens will set free the Stanislaus River, and the reclaimed land can be returned to the Yokuts people.

Just the removal of these five dams will free over 12 million acre feet of water to journey “unimpaired” from California’s alpine heights to its ocean estuaries. But to be true to the principles they so self-righteously seek to impose on everyone, they must not stop there. All of these dams, these arrogant monuments to European hubris, must be demolished. California has over 1,500 reservoirs on its water grid. Together, they imprison over 41 million acre feet of water each year. Destroy them all! Return the land to its proper owners, California’s first peoples, along with the fish and the waterfowl.

As California proceeds to correct the errors of previous generations of colonial usurpers, it might also reintroduce the magnificent species that were so cruelly diminished in earlier times. Wolves and grizzly bears must be reintroduced to their original habitats, starting with the Santa Cruz Mountains, overlooking one of California’s many urban abominations, the Silicon Valley. They may range freely from the peaks down to the foothills, along the verdant reclaimed creeks, and into the illegitimate suburbs, because it is their land.

In further pursuit of environmental and social justice and to ensure the restored ecosystems of California regain their rightful stewardship, Californians must abandon all of their plush and unsustainable suburbs and allow nature to reclaim these violated lands. As California’s settler colonials vacate their stolen strongholds in the Silicon Valley, from the Apple Torus to the mansions of Atherton, the Ohlone family of tribes shall take their place, to live in harmony with free-ranging wolves and grizzlies.

For the last several decades, California’s entire political leadership has been committed to dismantling the state’s economy in slow motion, but why go slow? With respect to liberating California’s rivers, why limit this magnificent display of virtue to a handful of small dams on the Klamath River? And why limit the displacement of white usurpers to the occupiers that presumptuously engage in farming and ranching on the Klamath watershed? If they must be expelled to make way for tribes and fish up there, why not everywhere? Why not expel all of California’s invading multitudes?

This is the example that California surely ought to be offering to the world. Give it all back to the First Peoples and eliminate all traces of abusive infrastructure. Why merely demolish the Copco Dam up north and drain its tiny lake when Hetch Hetchy beckons in all of its abominable infamy? Break the dams! Release the rivers!

If all of this sounds crazy, that’s because it is crazy. But it is consistent with the ideology being taught in California’s schools, the ideology informing the state legislature and state agencies, and the ideology used to justify litigation and agency harassment of productive farmers and ranchers throughout the state. The logical extension of California’s environmentalist policies is to end civilization as we know it. But California’s progressive elites are not crazy, nor are they idiots. So what is their actual motivation?

The nihilistic solutions these extreme green and extreme equity policies embrace are driven by special interests whose actual goal is to centralize power, wealth, and land ownership, putting it under the control of billionaires, mega corporations, managed wealth funds, NGOs, and compliant puppet governments, which would include these tribal nations but would also include America’s federal and state governments and all of the surrounding institutions. The tribes participating in these policies should take note: you are being played, and whatever sovereignty you still have is going to slip away before this is over.

Also being played, on a much more massive scale, are California’s tens of millions of progressive voters who still believe the narrative instead of recognizing the reality rapidly descending on them. Concerns about climate and equity are a ruse. The reality is that ordinary citizens are being deprived of any hope for financial independence and instead are becoming increasingly dependent on charity and government “entitlements.” Where will it end? Shall we submit to being reduced to the status of livestock, wearing VR goggles, living in pods, eating bugs, obediently living for curated hits of dopamine from an AI-driven Panopticon until an AI-driven death panel determines it’s time to die? Expressing this dark scenario would be nothing but paranoid drivel, except for the inconvenient fact that it’s perilously close to the path we’re on.

It’s easy enough to dismiss the systematic destruction of the Klamath River agricultural economy as something happening to a small population in a remote area. The entire population of California’s upper Klamath River region—Siskiyou and Modoc counties—is barely 50,000 people. But although the Klamath watershed is remote, it is vast, and across America, these underpopulated but sprawling rural landscapes are being picked off, one after another.

The destruction of the Klamath River farming and ranching economy is part of a broader assault, coming from a technology-driven elite that masquerades as virtuous proponents of environmentalism and racial equity. They are confident they shall suppress the protestations of those who recognize how these virtues have devolved into nihilism, and confident they shall sustain the masquerade until they dominate the world.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

Climate Data Refutes Crisis Narrative

On September 16, with great fanfare, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced his office had filed a lawsuit against five major oil companies. Accusing them of knowingly misleading the public regarding the alleged harm that fossil fuels would inflict on the climate, Bonta’s office seeks billions in compensatory damages. But the climate change theory that Bonta’s case relies on must ultimately be validated by observational data. And the data does not support the theory.

Suing oil companies is becoming big business. Along with California, state and local government climate change lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry have been filed in Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, and Hawaii. Alleging these companies have directly caused global warming and extreme weather, they seek damages for consumer fraud, public nuisance, negligence, racketeering, erosion, flooding and fires.

These cases will take years to resolve, and even in victory, will cost oil companies hundreds of millions (or more) in legal fees, costs that will be passed on to consumers. The plaintiffs were handed a huge advantage in 2007 in the Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency case, when the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 ruling, gave the EPA authority to declare CO2 a dangerous pollutant. In 2009, the EPA did just that, paving the way for litigation.

It’s no certainty the oil industry will aggressively fight these lawsuits. If a broad settlement can be reached, that is probably their preference. Not only will a settlement avoid bad publicity, there is scant economic motive for oil companies to challenge the alleged consensus on climate change. As regulations, restrictions, and litigation disrupts oil and gas development, demand outpaces supply and prices go up much faster than production costs. A rational choice by oil and gas executives would be to collect market-driven record revenues and split the windfall profits with the government. That is a lot less messy.

That’s also a shame. By sidestepping the question of whether CO2 is indeed a dangerous pollutant, and instead leaving that decision up to a politicized EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court in the Massachusetts v. EPA case issued a deeply flawed ruling. Without CO2, life on earth as we know it would not exist. CO2 is plant food, and without it, plants die. There is evidence that more atmospheric CO2 would have a primarily beneficial impact on planetary ecosystem health. If oil and gas companies defended themselves on this basis, they might take a case all the way to the Supreme Court and force a reversal of Massachusetts v. EPA.

An aggressive defense against Bonta’s lawsuit by Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips,, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute would attack the core premise of the plaintiffs, the alleged evidence of global warming and extreme weather. Because what is being presented as “evidence” supporting a climate “crisis” is consistently misleading and often outright fraudulent.

Earlier this month in Orange County, California, at an event attended by water industry executives, a debate between two climate experts offered a revealing look into the tactics and the mentality of the climate alarmists, as well as the beleaguered integrity of climatologists still willing to challenge the narrative.

In a session with the unsubtle name “Is it fair to blame climate change for everything?,” two very divergent points of view were on display. To represent the alarmist perspective, a professor from a world-famous university – who shall remain anonymous – presented a series of maps of the U.S., with a specific focus on the Southwest and on California. The maps depicted “before climate change” and “after climate change” scenarios, using the now familiar technique of benign blue and green overlays in areas with normal cool temperatures, and scary orange and red overlays in areas suffering alarming heat. Predictably enough, without delving into the details, the “after climate change” maps were a sea of red and orange.

The only thing about this presentation that was certain was the certainty of the presenter. We are in a climate crisis, human activity has caused this crisis, and “the evidence is overwhelming.” We only later learned that the maps being displayed weren’t based on actual temperature observations, but had been produced by a computer simulation.

After this first presenter finished, Dr. John R. Christy stepped up to offer a different conclusion. With a Ph.D in Atmospheric Science and currently serving as the Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama, Christy is eminently qualified to share his views on our climate future. As a native of California, Christy assured the audience that he has been giving that state special attention his entire life. He then presented a series of slides that unequivocally contradict what we hear every day. California, to say nothing of the rest of the world, is not experiencing rapid warming, nor is it experiencing unusually violent weather.

Christy’s message might be summarized as follows: There may be some warming occurring over the past century in California, but it is not extreme, nor is it accompanied by unusually severe anything: droughts, extreme wildfires, heavy rainfall, diminished snowpacks, reduced river volumes, or drier air. Readers are encouraged to scroll through Christy’s charts, which are reposted (with permission) following this text.

The data that Dr. Christy used in his presentation did not come from hypothetical climate models, but were compiled from actual climate and weather observations gathered by weather stations and satellites and extracted from databases maintained by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and other internationally recognized official sources.

If you haven’t heard of John R. Christy despite him being one of the preeminent climate scientists in the world, that’s no accident. Along with Dr. Richard LindzenDr. Judith Curry, and hundreds of others, his work is marginalized and his press and online coverage is either nonexistent or negative. Back in 2019, back when President Trump’s regulatory reforms had the climate industrial complex fearing for its life, Dr. Curry published an expose of what she dubbed “consensus enforcement.” In it, she described how the world’s most prestigious climate journals were yielding to pressure – mostly supported by their own editorial management – to refuse to publish anything by climate “contrarians.”

As we know, suppression of unwanted facts and analysis regardless of credibility or intent is not restricted to climate contrarians. In March 2023, Michael Shellenberger – once honored in 2008 as a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” testified before the U.S. Congress on what many have joined him in calling the “Censorship Industrial Complex,” a coalition of corporate special interests, government agencies, and major online platforms that smothers honest dialog on topics of urgent national importance.

Attempting to compile information on climate that doesn’t support a crisis narrative is demonstrably challenging, as anyone attempting to use a mainstream search engine will quickly attest. For every analysis or declaration that may exist, claiming there is not a climate crisis, search engines will offer a page full of reports debunking the analysis and discrediting the source. Often it is almost impossible to even find a link to the analysis or the declaration itself. The World Climate Declaration, a petition signed (so far) by more than 1,800 experts who assert there is no climate emergency, is an example of a suppressed and unfairly stigmatized document. But with or without great numbers, the presence of scientists like Christy, Lindzen, Curry, and many others with extraordinary credentials who make this claim should put to rest the notion that the science is settled. Science is not a democracy. It is a search for truth through trial and error.

One of the saddest examples of suppression is the reluctance of conservative editors to challenge the scientific arguments used to support the climate crisis narrative. An article I recently wrote for American Spectator, “California AG Sues Big Oil for Telling the Truth About Fossil Fuels,” was refused by two conservative publications that have frequently accepted my work. Both of them have significant reach and credibility among mainstream conservatives. Rather than identify them, which is not necessary to make the point, here are verbatim excerpts from the rejection emails I received from each editor:

“We’ll pass on this, but thanks for showing it in. On the question of climate change, there’s no editorial line, but I tend to be uneasy about publishing anything directly on the science (mainly because I am not a scientist). Much more interesting to me is how climate policy is being abused (SEC, Fed) and how much of it makes no sense even by its own lights.”


“Ed—we generally avoid getting too deeply into climate science, as it is very hard for me to judge. That is different than the economic trade-offs, absurd mandates, the unavoidability of fossil fuel energy to meet the needs of a growing, ever-more technology-driven society, etc. So I think we should pass on this one, as it does contain some strong climate claims…”

Got that? “Because I’m not a scientist,” and “it is very hard for me to judge.”

But that does not stop any of the crisis mongers. Is Rob Bonta a scientist? Gavin Newsom? Joe Biden? Al Gore? Greta Thunberg? How many of the in-house editors at the Los Angeles Times are scientists, much less climate scientists? But none of these people have any reluctance to hector us with their opinions, often not even derived from those climate scientists who are part of the “consensus,” but lifted from other pundits who got their material directly from press releases that featured cherry picked “impactful” nuggets taken from abstracts and summaries which in turn were exaggerations and misrepresentations of studies that even in their totality were paid for, inherently biased exercises.

If being a scientist is not a requirement for being a climate alarmist, it should not be a requirement for anyone skeptical of climate alarmism. Our capacity as intelligent non-scientists to assess competing scientific analysis may be limited, but no more so than the Bontas, Newsoms, Bidens, Gores, and Thunbergs of the world. And it isn’t hard to see an agenda at work, when every time the climate so much as hiccoughs, every mainstream news source in the world is regurgitating precisely the same terrifying soundbites and images, and repeating the same phrases and admonitions over and over and over again. Confronting such obvious and coordinated propaganda should raise skepticism in anyone with common sense and a sense of history.

If you concede the science, and only challenge the policies that a biased and politicized scientific narrative is being used to justify, you’re already playing defense in your own red zone. You’re going to lose the game. Who cares if we have to enslave humanity? Our alternative is certain death from global boiling! You can’t win that argument. You must challenge the science, and you can, because scientists like John Christy and others are still available.

The following charts were presented by Dr. Christy on October 13 at a conference in Southern California:

 *   *   *

 *   *   *

 *   *   *

 *   *   *

 *   *   *

 *   *   *

 *   *   *

 *   *   *

 *   *   *

 *   *   *

 *   *   *

 *   *   *

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

California AG Sues Big Oil for Telling the Truth About Fossil Fuels

Don’t lie, don’t deceive, don’t hide from the public clean energy pathways forward, and don’t hide from the public the existential threat that fossil fuels created in terms of climate change and extreme weather and damage to the environment.
– California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Sept. 20, 2023, PBS Interview

Bonta’s statement exposes the inherent and fatal flaw in his case. You can’t lie when you’re telling the truth. And the truth is as explicit as it is heretical: the theory that fossil fuel creates an immediate and existential threat in terms of “climate change and extreme weather” is a theory. It is an increasingly discredited theory. It is not “settled science,” and it never was.

Millions of people doubt the climate crisis narrative, and the fact that nearly all of them are afraid to say so is testimony to the campaign of intimidation, censorship, brainwashing, and litigation that is condoned and often coordinated by one of the most powerful and pernicious coalitions of special interests in the history of the world. Publicly challenging the “consensus” often spells career and corporate suicide. And that, too, ought to be obvious.

The policies being put in place to supposedly mitigate the impact of CO2 and other “greenhouse gasses” are enabling a massive transfer of wealth and centralization of public and corporate power. By micromanaging energy use via “climate action plans” and “carbon accounting,” literally every human activity becomes highly regulated and more expensive. This reduces the middle class to subsistence, enlarges the dependent class, drives small and mid-sized companies out of business, allows monopolistic companies to consolidate entire industries, and expands the size and reach of government to grotesque proportions. It erases liberties taken for granted in America for over two centuries including unrestricted mobility and a reasonable chance to afford a home.

California’s attorney general Rob Bonta, for all his self-righteousness and phony demeanor, is not stupid. He understands the consequences of what he’s doing. But Rob Bonta is a puppet. He is owned by public sector unions, California’s most powerful special interest, and nothing will expand unionized government more than climate mitigation – more regulations meant to cope with the “climate crisis” means more bureaucracy, more agencies, more fees, and more taxes.

In Bonta’s run for Attorney General in 2022, he collected the maximum permissible contribution, $16,200, from 33 entities. Every one of them was a union funded small contributor committee. Every single one. Of his largest contributors, the first 52 were unions, nearly all of them public sector unions.

How public sector unions control Rob Bonta is reflected in his actions as attorney general. Does he use the power of his office to make a dent in rampant crime in California counties where District Attorney’s won’t prosecute criminals? Does he challenge court rulings that make it impossible to compel homeless addicts and alcoholics to move into safe shelters? Does he investigate the corruption that drives a homeless industrial complex of public bureaucrats, “nonprofits,” and politically connected developers who have snarfed their way through over $20 billion in taxpayer money in just the last four years, with billions more on the way, merely to make California’s homeless population bigger than ever? Has Bonta supported repeal of Prop. 47, which downgraded property and drug crimes in California? No. No. No. And no. Because if the answer to any of those questions was yes, Bonta would be defying the agenda of unionized government and their quasi-private sector cronies.

Bonta has, however, sued a courageous school board that, gasp, decided to require parental notification if their child yields to transexual propaganda, online peer pressure, and classroom indoctrination to start “identifying” as a member of the opposite sex. Because that’s none of a parent’s business, right? Let the government raise your child. More school psychologists and counselors, more administrators, more unionized public sector employees, more union dues, more union power.

Which brings us back to Bonta’s case against Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP. Let’s not kid ourselves here. This is extortion. It might be perfectly legal, but it is extortion, following what is becoming a well traveled path of “climate change litigation.” Sadly, the oil companies will probably refrain from fighting this as aggressively as they ought. The reality, which with aggressive counsel would come out in discovery, is quite likely that through the years, most oil company executives believed, with evidence, that fossil fuel would not cause extreme climate change or extreme weather.

But it doesn’t matter, because even if they did think they were being deceitful to make that assertion at the time, they weren’t. Not then, and not now.

Fossil fuel is not playing a decisive role in affecting climate, the climate is not rapidly changing in ways to which we cannot readily adapt, gradual warming will probably cause on balance more good than harm, fossil fuel has done far more to uplift humanity than to harm humanity – including generating the wealth we’ve needed to protect the environment from genuine pollution – and even today, we are still nowhere near ready to replace fossil fuel with new energy technologies.

Why doesn’t Rob Bonta sue the five biggest environmental advocacy groups in California, for their public misinformation campaigns, political lobbying and litigation that demonized loggers, ranchers, and private property owners, preventing them from performing the logging, grazing, mechanical thinning and controlled burns that up until the 1990s kept California’s forests from becoming dangerously overgrown? Why doesn’t Rob Bonta, along with Gavin Newsom, publicly acknowledge that environmentalist pressure groups regulated sensible forest management out of existence in California, that a century of fire suppression along with 2-3 decades of management neglect have left tree density in California’s forests at 5-10 times what is historically normal, and that is the reason they’re dried out, unhealthy, and burn like hell?

For that matter, why doesn’t Rob Bonta sue EV manufacturers, and the environmentalist pressure groups that demand rapid and exclusive adoption of EVs? Hasn’t this led to a catastrophic uptick in mining around the world, in nations where environmental and labor standards are nonexistent? Perhaps Rob Bonta should spend some quality time picking cobalt out of toxic slurry in West Africa, before he pretends more EVs will somehow save the planet.

All of this is willful ignorance. Bonta told a fawning PBS interviewer on 9/20 that if the fossil fuel companies had been, according to him, paragons of honesty back in the 1950s, “choices would have been different, like doubling down and investing on clean energy and phasing out of fossil fuel.” This is absurd. Even now, the materials science that may someday result in sustainable, affordable, practical batteries for EVs is still in its infancy.

Bonta is posturing. He might be forgiven for believing the alleged consensus on climate change, simply because everyone he’s surrounded himself with, including all his donors, are telling him the same story. But Bonta cannot be excused for his blithe indifference to the benefit of fossil fuel, the wealth and broadly distributed prosperity it has given people everywhere, the fact that it still provides more than 80 percent of global energy, the complete lack of scalable alternatives to fossil fuel in past decades, and the extraordinary technological challenges we still face to successfully replace it.

Rob Bonta needs to go back to prosecuting criminals. And if he wants to courageously face down opportunistic dishonesty and deception, perhaps he should look in the mirror.

An edited version of this article originally appeared in The American Spectator.

Precautionary Principle Extremism

Most people with any understanding of risk are familiar with the precautionary principle. It is defined as “the precept that an action should not be taken if the consequences are uncertain and potentially dangerous.”

The precautionary principle is an important governing concept when applied to climate change mitigation. The possibility of human CO2 emissions causing a catastrophic climate outcome is used to justify major policy shifts designed to lower or even eliminate these emissions. The impracticality of this endeavor is considered insignificant in the face of potentially terrifying consequences of doing nothing.

A recent post on X by a prominent Englishman, Ben Goldsmith, offers an excellent example of this mentality at work. Goldsmith writes:

“Climate change ‘doubters’ share one thing in common: they lack any understanding of risk. There is a not-insubstantial risk that the world’s climate scientists (and pretty much the entire scientific community) are right, and we are now facing a civilisation-ending threat. Any reasonable risk management strategy would be to do whatever it takes to mitigate that risk. Ask one of these nutters this, if they knew that there was a 10% probability of a particular aircraft crashing on its next flight, would they board it? I doubt they would, even if the risk was 1%. And how about if all the engineers responsible for that aircraft said it was *going* to crash? These people are today’s equivalent to the appeasers of the 1930s, only stupider and far more dangerous. They must be discredited and defeated.”

There’s a lot to unpack here, as there is in Goldsmith’s sarcastic response to a critical reply accusing climate alarmists of being motivated by money and power. Goldsmith writes:

“The climate scientists are the ones making the money. Right. Not the giant global fossil fuel companies and their executives, paid lobbyists and shareholders.”

Apart from his social media remarks presenting a useful summary of “whatever it takes” alarmist thinking, something that deserves far more analysis and criticism than it gets, why Goldsmith? Why else highlight his opinions? Because Goldsmith, along with his alarmist certainty and propensity to verbally abuse his critics, was born into fabulous wealth, and his words exemplify the elitist arrogance that currently threatens the freedom of the world.

Goldsmith accuses giant global fossil fuel companies of still having a vested interest in climate denial, but ignores the fact that fossil fuel interests, all of them, have a vested interest in making sure supplies of the fuel they control never quite catch up to exploding global demand, because that increases their profits. A politically contrived, managed cutback of their production suddenly becomes climate virtue, instead of price fixing. And it’s fair to wonder if Goldsmith’s apparent preference for non-fossil fuel solutions has anything to do with his position as CEO of Menhaden Resource Efficiency PLC, an investment company that “seeks to generate long-term shareholder returns, by investing in businesses and opportunities, delivering or benefitting from the efficient use of energy and resources.” Would that include any “renewables?”

When you’ve lived in an environment of fabulous wealth, it’s easy to sit back and call people who question your precautionary principle extremism “nutters, “stupid,” “dangerous,” and “freaks.” But as someone invested in “energy and resources,” Goldsmith is certainly aware of the BP Statistical Review of Global Energy, one of the most authoritative sources available on what fuels power the world. And with only a rudimentary aptitude for basic arithmetic, Goldsmith must know that for everyone on earth to consume only half the energy that Americans consume, per capita, global energy production will have to double. And, also reported in BP’s annual digest, “renewables” only provided 6.7 percent of total energy consumed worldwide in 2021, the most recent year for which we have data.

Goldsmith also is savvy enough to know that abundant, affordable energy is a prerequisite for prosperity, and that without it, upward mobility for low income communities in the developed world, along with entire nations in the developing world, is impossible. Goldsmith knows that barring unforeseen breakthroughs in energy technologies, achieving “net zero” by 2050 is impossible. But nonetheless, he claims we must all do “whatever it takes to mitigate that risk,” the risk, that is, of a climate catastrophe. But how much risk are we really talking about?

A few years ago, Ph.D geophysicist Judith Curry, current chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, published a report on sea level rise in which she evaluated the most recent IPCC analysis along with several other international and national assessment reports. Her conclusions, which she maintains are consistent with the evidence, include this: “In many of the most vulnerable coastal locations, the dominant causes of local sea level rise are natural oceanic and geologic processes and land use practices. Land use and engineering in the major coastal cities have brought on many of the worst problems, notably landfilling in coastal wetland areas and groundwater extraction.”

She follows up to conclude that “the appropriate range of sea level rise scenarios to consider for 2100 is 0.2–1.6 m. Values exceeding 2 feet are increasingly weakly justified. Values exceeding 1.6 m require a cascade of extremely unlikely to impossible events, the joint likelihood of which is arguably impossible.”

Arguably impossible. Does an event that is “arguably impossible” justify “any means necessary” to avoid it? What about the other possible consequences of this alleged climate crisis we face? The following series of graphs present data that contradicts the climate panic narrative. They are just a small sampling of what is known and available. In virtually every type of climate trend, the data does not back up the nonstop alarm.

To begin with, “global warming,” which has morphed into “climate change,” along with the more recent “global boiling,” is itself questionable. Using data from the U.S. EPA’s “Climate Change Indicators in the United States,” the prolific fossil fuel champion Alex Epstein has produced a chart that clearly shows far more alarming incidences of heat waves in the 1930s. Imagine what ABC’s eminent thespian masquerading as a journalist, nightly news anchor David Muir, would have said about the 1930s dust bowl. Most climate scientists agree there is a gradual worldwide warming trend that began around 1850 when earth emerged from the so-called Little Ice Age. But there is ample data indicating warming in recent decades is not accelerating or unprecedented. Yet the hype is unceasing.

For wildfires, the graph on the right shows what alarmists depict as a terrifying trend. But the graph on the left widens the timescale to put recent years into perspective. Yes, acres burned has risen since the 1980s. But if you go back to the 1930s, it is clear that the extent of fires today is a mere fraction of what burned nearly a century ago. This graph was posted on X by Tony Heller, and it corroborates with data from the US Dept of Agriculture, National Report on Sustainable Forests – 2010, pg II-48. By any reasonable historical standard, America’s forests are not burning up.

This next chart, posted on X by John Shewchuk, and originally posted by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, shows over a century of data indicating the percent of area in the U.S. that was either “very wet” or “very dry.” It is clear from this chart that if anything, precipitation is generally increasing in the U.S., and since water is life, that is a very good thing. America has not entered an era of excessive droughts.

What about tornados? For this, again using data from NOAA, the incidence of strong to violent tornadoes in the US has trended down over the past 70 years. Global “major hurricane” frequency is also flat if not slightly down. The next graphic depicts both of these trends. America is not experiencing an epidemic of tornadoes, and the world is not experiencing an epidemic of major hurricanes.

This rendering was created by John Shewchuck, but its origins are traced to compilations by Wei Zhang, using data from NOAA, the National Weather Service, and reputable studies. Wei, a climate scientist at Princeton University and research scientist with NOAA, has the following quotes pinned to the top of his profile on X:

“I call it the “climate industrial complex”. So many people now make a living off of the #ClimateCrisis that there is no way they will let the narrative die, regardless of what the data shows.”

On August 29, Wei noted that “Censorship is everywhere now. I’ve made perhaps three edits in my life to Wikipedia. I don’t remember doing anything on climate. I think I edited LPGA golf page once. But somehow, I’m on Wikipedia master censorship list for my dangerous views.”

Which brings us back to Ben Goldsmith, who in another comment he recently posted on X said that “Quite a few nutters on here claiming there is in fact *zero* risk of the scientific community being right on the climate threat. Zero, they say, with tremendous confidence. Climate doubter Twitter is a whole new level of stupid.”

Goldsmith’s annoyance over links and observations on X belatedly allowing us to find scientifically valid evidence that most scientists and government institutions don’t themselves acknowledge is because it refutes the entire climate alarm paradigm. When examining the evidence, instead of biased models, all we are left with is a remote chance that catastrophic climate change is imminent, and if so, an even more remote possibility we can actually do something about it. And on that dubious basis, instead of adapting and thriving, we are told to dismantle our civilization, consigning ourselves to poverty and tyranny.

This is an extremist application of the precautionary principle, and it violates any genuine understanding of risk, for the simple reason it exchanges one very likely catastrophe – an energy starved civilization descending into mass poverty, oppression and war – for one very unlikely catastrophe, a global climate meltdown so severe it defies any attempts by humans to adapt.

Perhaps, Mr. Goldsmith, you are the one who lacks any understanding of risk.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

Saving the Environment from Environmentalists

“The oceans director of Greenpeace told USA Today that groups attempting to link offshore wind to whale deaths are part of a “cynical disinformation campaign.”
–  “Whale carcasses on Martha’s Vineyard fuel speculation about wind turbines,” New Bedford Light, June 22, 2023

If you want to know just how far the environmentalist movement has fallen in recent years, the destruction of marine life off the coast of Massachusetts in 2023 provides a disgraceful example. Greenpeace, an organization that not only led the earliest vanguard of the modern environmental movement, but was specifically formed to save the world’s whales, is actively denying what is likely the most egregious massacre of whales by Americans in over a century.

Greenpeace is not alone. This shameful demonstration of mass deceit is on full display by all the organizations that supposedly exist to protect wilderness and wildlife, along with the media that marches in lockstep with their every whim. As usual, a Google search turns up a nearly monolithic edifice of articles decrying the “anti-renewables” lobby for their “misinformation.” From Time Magazine, “conspiracy theorists think wildlife groups are covering up whale deaths.” From, “No Evidence Offshore Wind Development Killing Whales.” From CBS News, “No known connections between wind power and whale deaths.” From the US Dept. of Energy, “Addressing Misinformation on Offshore Wind Farms and Whale Deaths.” From NPR, “Dead whales on east coast fuel misinformation about offshore wind.” And on and on it goes. The same story. The same disinformation. Everywhere.

The fact that so many so-called authoritative sources could engage in a coordinated campaign of denial is not new. But their willingness to make these assertions in the face of such compelling evidence to the contrary, and in such contradiction of the environmentalist values they all ostensibly share, indicates a new low for America’s controlled media, and the cowards it employs.

The only charitable explanation is that the urgency of the “climate crisis” has addled the minds of journalists that ought to have enough common sense, or courage, to acknowledge the obvious. When you detonate massive explosives, repeatedly drive steel piles into the ocean floor with a hydraulic hammer, and blast high decibel sonar mapping signals underwater, you’re going to harm animals that rely on sound to orient themselves in the ocean. To say it is mere coincidence that hundreds of these creatures have washed ashore, dead, all of a sudden, during precisely the same months when the blasting and pounding began, is brazen deception.

A recent and scathing set of articles published over the past few weeks by Michael Shellenberger on his substack account provide some excellent examples of how misguided environmentalism, specifically with respect to the environment, is doing far more harm than good. He is one of the only journalists in America to report honestly on the cause of whale deaths.

Shellenberger offers additional examples of misguided environmentalism. He exposes the fraudulent essence of most plastic “recycling,” wherein the plastic, painstakingly sorted by consumers and collected at considerable extra cost by overbuilt waste management companies, ultimately ends up not being recycled. The recycler “instead ships the waste to poor nations, where it ends up in rivers and oceans.” Shellenberger also points out the sordid symbiosis between misguided environmentalism and woke ideology, using as an example perhaps one of the most infamous men in the world today, the arrogant M. Kaleo Manuel, who denied water to Maui firefighters during the hours when lives might still have been saved, because “he would be willing to consider doing so but only after he and they had ‘true conversations about equity’.”

There’s something else at work, however, bigger than climate crisis panic, and bigger than woke ideology, that has turned the environmentalist movement into a monster that often does more harm than good. The environmentalist movement has been hijacked by financial special interests. In the office towers of Boston, attorneys, developers, and politicians today are slavering with lust over the billions in fees, subsidies, and donations their firms, their companies, and their campaigns will collect as they deploy offshore wind energy atop the carcasses of humpback whales. “Offshore wind is for the greater good, because it’s going to save the planet from extreme weather,” is their unassailable public argument, as the cynics among them laugh at all the gullible suckers.

Clean technology” is a good idea, but often horrific in practice. There’s nothing remotely competitive about offshore wind energy, although you’ll have to work awfully hard to find anything but pollyanna prognostications in a Google search. But a well researched article published earlier this year by David Turner, “Exploding the Cheap Offshore Wind Fantasy,” exposes the inconvenient truths about this destructive boondoggle. The corrosive power of saltwater and salt-laden sea air make maintenance of offshore turbines an expensive proposition that only increases over time. Accessing these turbines for maintenance is impossible during heavy storm events when repairs are often most needed. Turner estimates the useful economic life for these fabulously expensive leviathans at a mere 12 years.

Equally daunting facts surround the actual productivity of these offshore wind farms. The biggest offshore turbines currently available generate 10 megawatts. They stand over 1,000 feet tall and require about one square mile each in order to maximize efficiency by not cannibalizing wind needed to drive nearby rotors. Even if the offshore wind blows 50 percent of the time, and no study however optimistic and supportive of wind energy has ever predicted a higher yield, this means each one will provide – once you’ve installed storage assets and transmission lines at stupefying additional cost – 5 megawatts of baseload power. If that sounds like a lot, it’s not.

New England’s electricity demand averages around 25 gigawatts in 2023. Bear in mind this demand will increase not by increments, but by multiples, if and when New England – along with the rest of the nation after the great green reset – electrifies much of its transportation and residential sectors. For offshore wind turbines as described to provide 25 gigawatts of baseload electricity, five thousand of them would have to be built. Imagine how these billions might be better spent. And kiss the whales goodbye.

These examples just scratch the surface of how thoroughly environmentalist extremism, represented as no vice when in defense against the climate crisis, is actually harming the environment. Ask the orangutans of Borneo, casualties along with countless other species as rainforest gives way to palm oil plantations for biodiesel. Ask the jaguars of Brazil, as rainforest on that side of the world is incinerated in order to become carpeted with sugar cane plantations to produce ethanol. As Californians import biodiesel in ships powered by bunker fuel, virgin land is seized and stripped, its ecosystems decimated with biofuel monocultures saturated with pesticide and petroleum-based fertilizer. So far over 550,000 square miles have been given over to biofuel farming, in exchange for making less than a 2.0 percent dent in the global supply of petroleum based transportation fuel.

These are the excesses of environmentalism today. To put a human face on this catastrophe, consider the trafficked and enslaved children toiling in the Chinese owned cobalt mines of West Africa, so virtue signaling dweebs can drive 6,000 pound, resource guzzling EVs on American streets that were never designed for so many heavyweight vehicles. For that matter, on a topic that only seems unrelated, consider the millions of Americans that can’t afford homes, because environmentalist policies are enforcing “greenbelts” around every major urban area, limiting supply and driving up prices.

For these and numerous other examples of greed masquerading as green, there is big money talking, right alongside big power. Environmentalism in 21st century America has very little to do anymore with environmentalism. Those millions of Americans who can remember when Greenpeace actually cared about saving the whales need to realize that brand equity was squandered and discarded, a long, long time ago.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

CEQA Needs to Die

The proposed Tejon Ranch development would deliver new housing for an estimated 57,000 Californians. Located along Interstate 5 about 60 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, the development plan has something for everyone. A significant percentage of units are designated for low income residents. Over 90 percent of the vast private parcel will be permanently set aside as open space. The homes will be “energy neutral,” with hundreds of EV charging stations. Significant funds are pledged for wildlife habitat and preservation of cultural artifacts. But nothing will ever be enough.

For over 20 years, developers have attempted to build these now desperately needed homes, reaching agreements repeatedly with environmentalist coalitions. But thanks to yet another lawsuit, in March 2023 a Los Angeles judge has ruled the entitlements process will have to start over. In a recent disclosure to investors, Tejon Ranch Company warned that it may take another 25 years before any homes are built.

The reason for these delays, which are sufficient to deter most homebuilders from even operating any longer in California, is the California Environmental Quality Act, otherwise known as CEQA.

Ronald Reagan signed CEQA into law in 1970 to ensure that state projects anticipated and mitigated “significant environmental impacts.” But this is California, so by 1972 state judges had determined that “state projects” meant any construction project that required government approval – and that means all construction in the state of California.

Since then, CEQA has morphed into a beast that would be unrecognizable to its original proponents. Swollen beyond comprehension by decades of “clarifying” legislation, amendments, court precedents, and agency interpretations, CEQA has become the bottleneck that chokes and kills the good more than the bad, making California the worst place on earth for anyone to ever attempt to build anything.

Since its creation in 1962,. But when they decided to tackle the monster called the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), they may have taken on more than they can handle.

Over the past four months, California’s Little Hoover Commission has held hearings on CEQA. Later this summer the commission intends to make recommendations to the state legislature. In over 20 hours of hearings, and with rare exceptions, what passed through the chambers was a cavalcade of special interests, almost all of them adroitly leveraging the CEQA body of law to pay themselves and their organizations.

CEQA is the reason that land, housing, water, electricity, oil and gas, lumber, aggregate, and even food costs so much in California. It’s the reason the state’s freeways are pitted, potholed, congested hellscapes, while off in the remote bowels of the San Joaquin Valley, a Stonehenge like monument to corruption rises ever so slowly, pylons to elevate the “bullet train,” consuming stupefying quantities of cement and steel, costing countless billions of dollars.

One of the rare, genuine victims to testify was Dan Dunmoyer, representing the California Building Industry Association. Because his industry hasn’t navigated a profitable workaround that transmutes litigious, bureaucratic CEQA-generated gridlock into bountiful grift, Dunmoyer can tell you the true cost of CEQA.

He told the Little Hoover Commission that the average CEQA-required environmental impact report for a 200-home subdivision in the 1970s ran two pages. Now it’s over 1,000 pages for the same scope of work and, best case, will cost at least $1 million to prepare. More likely, after the inevitable litigation and bureaucratic micromanagement, the entire CEQA process will cost many times that, and consume years if not decades.

An honest attorney, Jennifer Hernandez, told the commission that her advocacy on behalf of hapless builders, whose crime is trying to build homes so people can live with a roof over their head, has been remunerative. Most of the good guys aren’t so candid, as anyone will attest who has ever shared a conference room with a $1,600 per hour consultant who regretfully explains just how hard the fight is going to be, thanks to horrible CEQA.

But CEQA, like the natural world it has evolved to ostensibly protect, nourishes a robust ecosystem, with each species carving out a lucrative niche in a fantastic jungle of specialized and indispensable experts, academics, scientists, administrators, bureaucrats, judges, court personnel, professional activists, legislative staff, agency staff, accountants, carbon accountants, CPAs, attorneys, litigators, and tens of thousands of tradesmen who don’t care if they’re adding a desperately needed lane to Interstate 405, or reconstructing Stonehenge. For them, work is work. CEQA is a multi-billion-dollar industry, sucking the life out of California’s economy.

A common refrain before the commission was that CEQA doesn’t go far enough. One member of the public, useful to the professionals insofar as her unremunerated passion made their more calculated comments reasonable by comparison, claimed that without CEQA the genocidal assault against California’s disadvantaged would continue. Another volunteer, who wanted the commission to know that her bedtime reading was environmental impact reports, was embarrassingly explicit. CEQA is a weapon to stop projects, and that’s why we need it.

But the sharks and bloodsuckers who feed on CEQA have no shame. A social justice – or was it environmental justice – advocate, an attorney representing yet another “nonprofit,” not only demanded CEQA proceedings be transcribed and posted online, but transcribed into several languages besides English. Grow the industry. Feed the beast.

One disturbing takeaway from these hearings was its staid normalcy. From the tone of the remarks, mostly coming from attorneys representing environmental organizations or labor organizations, you wouldn’t get the impression that CEQA is tearing the life out of California’s economy. And when the discussion turned to serious recommendations for reform, most called for more exemptions instead of reforming the law for everyone. Make exemptions for low income housing permanent! Enact permanent exemptions for renewable energy projects! Favor us, we’re the good guys.

But can CEQA be fixed? Can the process be streamlined, so, for example, last minute lawsuits are no longer allowed, or agencies and courts can no longer slow walk applications and cases, killing projects merely due to delaying tactics?

There are plenty of incremental ways to make CEQA less of a beast, but most of them involve picking winners or introducing new complexity that will spawn as many challenges as it will alleviate. The best thing the Little Hoover Commission can do is recommend CEQA be scrapped in its entirety. The pros need not despair. California, and the federal government, have plenty of other laws and regulations guaranteed to ensure projects designed to lower the cost-of-living, which is genuine social justice, will never see the light of day. Let CEQA die.

An edited version of this appeared in the Orange County Register.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like CEQA?

The California Environmental Quality Act, universally known by its serendipitously phonetic acronym “SEE-kwa,” was passed by the state legislature in 1971. At that time, it was the first legislation of its kind in the nation, if not the world. Its original intent was to “inform government decisionmakers and the public about the potential environmental effects of proposed activities and to prevent significant, avoidable environmental damage.”

Over the past half-century, however, CEQA has acquired layers of legislative updates and precedent setting court rulings, warping it into a beast that denies clarity to developers and derails projects. When projects do make it through the CEQA gauntlet, the price of passage adds punitive costs in time and money. Knowing this will happen deters countless investors and developers from even trying to complete a project in the state.

Starting earlier this year, California’s nonpartisan Little Hoover Commission began studying the impact of CEQA and soliciting suggestions from the public. They have held four public hearings so far, on 3/16, 4/13, 4/27, and 5/11. The live hearings, lasting in total over 12 hours, in all four cases were attended by almost nobody apart from the commissioners and the people invited to testify. Altogether, so far on YouTube these four hearings have attracted just over 1,000 online views. Not much, considering CEQA’s impact.

Anyone who has waded through all 12 hours of these hearings may agree that certain themes came up again and again, and will doubtless factor significantly in determining what the commission ultimately recommends. The remainder of this report will summarize some of the recurrent or noteworthy observations and recommendations from these hearings, along with ideas solicited elsewhere from Californians that have had to deal with CEQA either as attorneys, judges, developers, or activists. To be clear, and in the interests of full disclosure, this report is not intended to offer a neutral perspective on CEQA. It is rather an attempt to further expose how problematic CEQA has become, and offer alternatives.

While CEQA is most often associated with housing, and is often cited as a major obstacle to building more housing in California, it affects any project that has potential environmental impacts. Along with housing development, this includes commercial development, sports facilities, and all types of infrastructure including dams, aqueducts, wastewater treatment plants, desalination plants, power plants, power transmission lines, pipelines, ports and port upgrades, rail, road, mines, quarries, logging, land management; anything that changes land use and may cause “significant” environmental damage. And in every case, the influence of CEQA has its champions and its detractors.

What may inform CEQA judgments has changed over the decades. In one of the first of the Little Hoover Commission’s hearings, a panelist informed the group, speaking with almost reverent certainty, that five of California’s major airports “would be underwater by 2050.” Such remarks and sentiments now pervade CEQA proceedings. Climate change impact, which was absent from CEQA cases in the 1970s, has become one of the dominant concerns brought in CEQA cases today.

The Labyrinth Called CEQA

The concept of CEQA is unassailable. If a project may cause “significant impact” to the environment, the CEQA process will ensure that either the impact is appropriately mitigated, or the project is stopped. The chart depicted below, courtesy of the California Department of Conservation, depicts the CEQA process. If anything, this elaborate flow chart understates what a project developer is up against thanks to CEQA. There is rarely just one “responsible agency.” If any of these agencies determine there are any flaws or omissions in the required “Environmental Impact Report” (EIR), the process often has to be restarted. The delays between inter-agency responses can consume months if not years. The “public review period” leaves room for a 3rd party to file a time consuming lawsuit right up to the last minute before a project is finally approved.

If the complexity of CEQA as depicted in this flowchart makes obvious the difficulties facing anyone who develops property or manages land, it also explains why exemptions have become the shortcut taken for politically favored projects. Exemption from CEQA has been the default remedy pursued by the state legislature whenever they decide it is important to prioritize any project, or category of projects. But carving out one exemption after another does not fix CEQA. Even if the state legislature were capable of correctly prioritizing projects, which is an absurd reach, it remains an absolute process without gradation. Anointed projects skip through the exemption portal and are fast-tracked, even though many of them may cause environmental impacts that are significant. Meanwhile, all other projects, many of which are just as urgently required, must go through the labyrinth called CEQA.

Would True Environmental Justice Include More “Greenfield” Development?

Along with the relatively new and central role of climate change impact in the CEQA process, another major new concern now considered in CEQA cases is “environmental justice,” that is, the alleged disproportionate effect development projects may have in low income neighborhoods. This allegation is not unfounded, although the causes predictably attributed to this – a legacy of systemic racism – are more nuanced than conventional wisdom may acknowledge. Residential areas that are situated in close proximity to a network of freeways, industrial parks, airports, seaports, and warehouse districts, for example, are going to have more noise and more air pollution than residential areas that are in the foothills peripheral to a major urban center. Homes and apartment rentals in less desirable neighborhoods will be more affordable, so it is natural that on average, residents with lower household incomes will be living there. Campaigns for environmental justice can be based solely on economics without sacrificing credibility or moral worth.

Regardless of the underlying causes, it is valid to argue that yet another industrial project in a neighborhood that already has a high density of industrial development is going to add its incremental contribution of noise and pollution to a place already saturated with noise and pollution, whereas putting that same project in a pristine affluent suburb will not. It is also valid to argue that the residents and elected officials in wealthy neighborhoods have the economic wherewithal to hire attorneys to litigate against industrial projects and high density housing in their neighborhoods, whereas these same projects can be directed into lower income neighborhoods where the residents do not have the resources to resist.

This gives rise to a criticism of CEQA that is double edged. On one hand, CEQA offers people in low income communities one of the only legal tools available to fight high density housing and industrial or warehouse development that will create more noise, more congestion, more of a service burden, and more pollution in their communities. But at the same time, while residents in these low income communities have to find an attorney willing to carry their objections, often pro bono, into a legal battle, CEQA is an off-the-shelf, potent weapon in the hands of wealthy residents across town, who deploy it at will to keep high density housing and unwanted commercial development out of their communities.

One solution to this conundrum which some would consider a win-win would be to develop entire new cities on open land in California. Doing this would preserve the ambiance of existing neighborhoods, regardless of their average household income, and might even facilitate de-densification. It would lower the price of housing everywhere, making it easier for low-income residents to afford to either improve their neighborhoods or migrate to new communities. Doing this, however, would require massive state investment in enabling energy, water, and transportation infrastructure. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, building enabling infrastructure was something the state made a budget priority and performed remarkably well. Today, California’s state government has not made infrastructure investment a sufficient priority, and this failure to maintain and expand California’s infrastructure is frequently blamed on the roadblocks thrown up by CEQA.

Should densification and rationing be the only answer to environmentalist concerns? This question should be faced honestly. Is it impossible to construct new infrastructure to enable suburban growth? Why? California is a big state, with thousands of square miles of land that seems to be ripe for carpeting over with sprawling wind and solar farms, while new homes and new roads remain anathema. There’s room for both. California’s urban footprint consumes about 8,000 square miles, which is only about 5 percent of its area. You could build new cities housing 10 million people on raw open land, in four person households in single family dwellings on quarter-acre lots, with an equal amount of space allocated for roads, schools, parks, and commercial and industrial space, and it would only require 2,000 square miles. In the geography of vast California, that is an insignificant amount of land. Why not?

It is ironic that CEQA and related laws have made it almost impossible to build on “greenfields,” that is, on raw undeveloped land on the periphery of cities, and yet the laws are streamlined to fast-track infill development in relatively toxic and already densely populated urban environments. Perhaps in the interest of environmental justice, low income communities should be supporting laws to permit the expansion of California’s urban footprint.

The Tentacles of CEQA Intersect with Other Regulatory Beasts

It’s easy to digress into a discussion of urban planning, and ask why a green straightjacket has been thrown around every major urban center in California, but at the center of such a tangent one still finds omnipresent CEQA. And CEQA, for all of its regulatory tentacles, is only part of a consortium of similar regulatory creatures. The Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32, passed by the state legislature in 2006), and seemingly infinite laws, executive orders, agency regulations, and court rulings pursuant to these and others, along with CEQA, have combined to make development in California nearly impossible.

For example, development proponents who testified in the Little Hoover Commission hearings repeatedly brought up a relatively recent regulation pursuant to AB 32, the requirement that any new housing development calculate the projected annual “vehicle miles traveled” (VMT) the residents will generate. Taking effect in 2018, this new analysis must be done in order to determine how much mitigating fees the developer will be assessed in order to fund mass transit or otherwise offset the anticipated greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles owned by residents of a new community.

But in the meantime, developers whose projects have been mired in the CEQA process since well before 2018 are now required to supplement the portions of their EIR that evaluated traffic impacts based on congestion with a new evaluation that estimates vehicle miles traveled. And while this VMT analysis is meant to supersede the traffic congestion as “the new lens for assessing transportation impacts,” potential congestion remains grounds for 3rd parties use CEQA to sue developers to stop their projects.

More generally, critics of CEQA have made clear that the law, in combination with other environmentalist inspired laws, have created a web of regulatory hurdles that are so unclear and so costly that only a small handful of housing developers, government agencies, or civil engineering contractors are big enough to navigate them. As one person testifying said, CEQA will turn a $1.0 billion project into a $1.5 billion project simply because when it takes ten years to go through the typical rounds of CEQA reviews, then debt financing taken out at 5 percent interest after 10 years will have ballooned up to a sum more than 50 percent higher than at the start.

Another compounding problem with CEQA and related laws designed to protect the environment is because so many years are required to get approval, by the time the design of a project is approved, the design has become obsolete.

Changing the rules in midstream, conflicting rules depending on the agency, an approval process that takes years if not decades, financing that dries up or is driven up to punitive levels, excessive, unreasonable fees, projects that take so long that if and when they finally get the green light, either the market or the technology has left them far behind. Start over. This is life with CEQA. This is California. For all its virtues, and there are plenty of them, environmentalism run amok is destroying economic opportunities for all Californians, and CEQA is the beating heart of the beast.

The Exemptions Cop Out

One solution to CEQA’s hurdles is to declare exemptions, and California’s state legislature has done this again and again. Sports stadiums. Low income housing. Transportation projects. But what if other projects – vital public infrastructure projects and major private developments – are just as legitimately in need of relief from CEQA and are just as vital to the economic health of California and its people?

At one point the Hoover Commission panelists seemed to agree that instead of revising CEQA, they might just agree on what sorts of project categories should be exempt. This mentality was evident as well in the recent legislative package submitted by Governor Newsom that would have streamlined the CEQA process for vital infrastructure. Killed almost immediately in committee, Newsom’s bills in any case were picking winners. If you want 10 megawatt wind turbines floating off the northern coast, or giant solar farms in the Mojave Desert and South San Joaquin Valley, you would like Newsom’s proposals. If you want more “affordable housing,” where both the needlessly overpriced construction cost and the eventual rental payments by occupants are subsidized by taxpayers, Newsom’s proposals were great policy. Put another way, if you want to burden taxpayers with heavily subsidized, overpriced energy and housing, you may adhere to the prevailing wisdom on CEQA, which is to identify what to exempt from CEQA, favor those project categories, and let everything else continue to wither under an unreformed body of law.

Instead of carving out specific exemptions to CEQA, why not eliminate all exemptions? That might drive all the politically connected special interests back to the table, focusing their minds on what parts of CEQA can stay and what can be scrapped. According to Dan Dunmoyer, president of the California Building Industry Association, back in the 1970s a CEQA report that was only two pages is, today, going to require over 1,000 pages. Dunmoyer said that for a typical 200 home subdivision project the developer can expect to spend at least $1.0 million on CEQA reports in a process that will take 2-3 years, and that’s best case. If there is any litigation, those budgets and timelines go out the window.

One of the most articulate critics of CEQA in the Little Hoover Commission hearings was attorney Jennifer Hernandez, who offered a blistering rebuke of the “infill” mantra that streamlines the process for “tiny homes” and “accessory dwelling units.” Explaining that “welders cannot bike to work and should not have to live in a backyard cottage,” Hernandez suggested that the conversation about CEQA needs to include working people who have practical needs for affordable utility bills, practical transportation infrastructure, and good jobs. She’s right. The impact of CEQA on the price and availability of essentials – housing, water, energy, transportation – imposes direct and often crippling costs on residents. At the same time, California’s politically contrived, uncompetitive prices for land, utilities, and CEQA driven regulatory costs also deters companies from locating in California, or remaining in California, also depriving Californians of job opportunities.

While CEQA debates focus on how to streamline the process to get more renewable energy and subsidized housing, these deliberations ignore the fact that exempting renewables and low income housing actually increases the tax burden on workers who already confront a cost-of-living that is artificially elevated thanks to CEQA. As Hernandez put it, “we are expelling people from California.” Population decline for three years in a row in California, for the first time since statehood was achieved, backs up that statement. It isn’t the weather.

The Use and Abuse of CEQA

Several people addressing the Little Hoover Commission brought up the problem of abuse. Hernandez characterized CEQA as a body of law so complex that uncertainty is inherent and outcomes to litigation cannot be predicted. Lawsuits without merit often win and meritorious lawsuits often lose. Judges will often find just one unforeseeable part of a CEQA report that has fallen short of what they believe is required and send the applicant back to do it all over again. She claimed there is no area of law that has the level of uncertainty of CEQA. She claimed that almost half of California’s production of housing was sued in 2022.

For developers, the almost inevitable arrival of a lawsuit has turned CEQA, as Hernandez described it, into a “litigation defense tool.” The applicant tries to anticipate and answer in advance every conceivable objection to their project, which is, thanks to the complexity of CEQA, an impossible task. Then so-called bounty hunters pounce as soon as the application is filed. Lawyer trolls who identify a crack in the CEQA report and threaten to sue. Settling with these attorneys becomes another cost of doing business.

In CEQA lawsuits today, “significant impact on the environment” has never been defined more broadly. This opens up avenues for litigation that are available not only to environmentalists who may or may not have a legitimate concern about the project’s impact on the environment. It also invites lawsuits from parties with ulterior motives. Labor unions that want the developer to accept a project labor agreement often file CEQA lawsuits, a practice that has come to be referred to as “greenmail.” Business interests that compete with a project developer will often file CEQA lawsuits.

It’s important to recognize how CEQA is abused by special interests with an environmental concern that is indirect at best, but CEQA’s impact is abusive in ways that are explicitly environmentalist. When attorneys representing environmentalist organizations spoke to the Little Hoover Commission panel, their observations reflected what might be characterized as demanding the impossible.

In particular, one environmentalist in their testimony claimed that CEQA prevents housing from being foolishly built if there isn’t any available supply of water for those homes, and that CEQA keeps housing out of fire zones. But it is CEQA that prevents water supply infrastructure from getting built, and it is CEQA that prevents mechanical thinning, controlled burns, and responsible logging in order to prevent dangerous buildup of fuel in forest and chaparral where natural, forest thinning fires have been suppressed for decades.

Some of the environmentalist objections invited immediate rebuttal. One environmentalist explained that “uncontrolled sprawl” cuts into wildlife habitat, harming mountain lions. But only 5 percent of California’s land is urbanized, and California’s mountain lions are thriving. An analysis released by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in 2020 estimated that California’s population of mountain lions has grown from less than 600 prior to gaining protected status to over 6,000 today. But this fact is unconvincing for environmentalists who are intent on preserving and increasing mountain lion populations in every subregion of the state.

This preservationist mentality is not limited to mountain lions, of course. Environmentalist lawsuits are filed to stop projects that may threaten the habitat of any species, or subspecies, not only of animals, but also of plants. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to save mountain lions, or, for that matter, any species of animal or plant, anywhere. How environmentalists have worked to save the California Condor from extinction is an inspiring story. But the values and priorities of environmentalism must be balanced against the consequences of denying, delaying, and driving up costs for development. And it is ironic, at best, that CEQA exceptions are proliferating for solar and windfarm sprawl, while badly needed housing and vital enabling infrastructure that might consume far less of the “urban/wildland interface” remain under the debilitating scope of CEQA.

Solutions to CEQA

What was never mentioned in the Little Hoover Commission’s hearings on CEQA, but deserves consideration, is to simply repeal the entire law. Get rid of it. The idea that development projects would suddenly proliferate, out of control, if CEQA went away is ridiculous. Every other law to protect the environment would still be in place, including the Endangered Species Act, the Global Warming Solutions Act (which should also be repealed), and the National Environmental Policy Act, which is the federal counterpart to CEQA and which is more than adequate to protect the environment.

Eliminating CEQA would go a long way towards restoring opportunities for low and middle income Californians, but eliminating CEQA is a fantasy. Equally impossible would be to eliminate the ability of private parties to sue developers under CEQA. This would eliminate the bounty hunters and lawyer trolls who have created a lucrative industry using CEQA to shake down developers. While it would also remove an avenue for members of low income communities to protect their neighborhoods, that benefit is overstated when developers target low income communities for high density housing, protected by laws that have exempted them from CEQA, and also permit them to circumvent local zoning restrictions. There is another path to environmental justice, which is to lower the cost-of-living, and the biggest barrier to lowering the cost-of-living is CEQA.

A solution to CEQA that might be politically viable would be to restrict 3rd party lawsuits to parties that are specifically concerned about environmental impact and reside in the affected communities. This reform, if it was properly calibrated, might reduce or eliminate greenmail, lawsuits brought by competitors to a developer, and settlement bounty hunters. Another solution, mentioned earlier, might be to eliminate all exemptions, and recognize that if CEQA is a necessary process to protect the environment, there is no justification to place any category of development outside its purview.

Here then, are some incremental, and not so incremental, solutions proposed for CEQA:

1 – Eliminate all exemptions. Anyone wanting an exemption is speaking just for their special interest.

2 – End anonymous lawsuits; require environmental standing to sue. Accept only environmental criteria for litigation. Only allow standing to people directly impacted on environmental grounds. For example, NEPA does not give standing to labor.

3 – Clarify the conditions under which if a development conforms to a county’s standing environmental impact report for that category of project, then it is not subject to further CEQA review.

4 – Allow applicants to rely on previously approved EIR. If a proposed project is consistent with the county’s specific general plan, community plan. and zoning, eliminate the requirement for additional environmental review.

5 – Make reviews of housing projects ministerial, or, make review of any project – including energy development – ministerial.

6 – Require the loser in CEQA lawsuits to pay the prevailing party’s legal fees.

7 – End duplicative lawsuits; once a plan or project is approved with CEQA it can be challenged in a lawsuit once but not multiple times for each subsequent agency approval.

8 – Do the CEQA process just once, with all involved agencies operating together, not sequentially.

9 – Change the timeline for notifying agencies of the objections to EIRs. Designate a final review step in the CEQA process after which further litigation is prohibited. This is already a provision of NEPA. As it is, objections including litigation are filed at the last possible moment, often in the final public hearing before approval of a project.

10 – For all private proposals, eliminate the requirement that the EIR include an evaluation of alternative sites for the project.

11 – Impose a maximum time limit on how long an agency has to respond to an initial or revised environmental impact report.

12 – Expedite the process so problems identified in an EIR review can be fixed right away by the developer. As it is every time the process is restarted there is potential for new claims.

13 – Match the CEQA remedy to the CEQA deficiency. Specify that while a court can order more CEQA analysis and mitigation, it cannot block a project or rescind a project approval unless there is a significant adverse health or safety impact if the project is constructed.

14 – Flaws found in EIRs are often extremely technical and it is often questionable whether or not a particular technical deficiency would prevent the project from being approved in its current form. Therefore if there is a technical flaw but it is not prejudicial and will not really make a difference, a harmless error standard should apply, such that if the project would be approved anyway notwithstanding the technical deficiency that should not be a basis for denying the EIR.

15 – Judicially enforce California Public Resources Code PRC § 21083.1. Judges should not require anything more than what is expressly required in CEQA statutes and guidelines. Doing this would make CEQA more predictable, which would improve the law and its effect on development.

16 – Replace the right to appeal with the right only to a writ of mandamus. This way if the court of appeal believes the appeal is frivolous they can deny the writ and hence avoid a full briefing, oral arguments, and having to write an opinion. A writ of mandamus can be evaluated within months. If an appellate court does think an appeal has merit, they can approve a writ of mandamus and then it becomes treated like an appeal. The reform language can include a provision that if there is a “likelihood” the petitioner is right, the appellate course must accept the writ.

17 – If a project is approved, that approval shall remain recognized for a set number of years even if rules are subsequently updated.

18 – Repeal CEQA entirely. Rely on NEPA and other environmentalist legislation to protect the environment from developments that may have a significant impact.

The Benefits of CEQA Reform

Despite objections from environmentalist organizations, environmental justice advocates, and some labor union representatives, there is a growing consensus within the State Legislature that something has to be done about CEQA. This is evident in the countless exceptions that the legislature has enacted to accelerate development of low income housing and renewable energy projects.

One of the most intriguing testimonies before the Little Hoover Commission came from Danny Curtain, representing the California Conference of Carpenters. He argued that a labor union is justified in seeking prevailing wages and a project labor agreement whenever a private developer receives public subsidies and streamlined permitting benefits. As he put it, “if you give the developer a break don’t let the developer take out profits on the backs of the workers.”

Curtain’s point is that if there is a special public benefit then you can argue the public sector now has equity in the project and therefore you can argue it is to some extent a public work and therefore should be subject to the labor laws impacting public works. This is a reasonable argument. One may object to the idea that public works should be subject to project labor agreements at all. But that is a separate debate.

The role of unions in CEQA raises a more fundamental question. How do you bring construction workers, or, for that matter, all skilled workers, back into middle class status? Do you accomplish this via union mandates or via business competition for workers in a prospering economy? As it is, there is a shortage of highly skilled workers, ready to take on more public works projects or work in California’s industrial sector. Where are the apprenticeship programs to address this shortage?

One of the last people to speak was involved with the Sierra Club, who proudly declared they “go to sleep with EIRs.” This person, and countless similarly committed activists and professionals, have become expert at using CEQA to stop projects. Whether it is housing, or critical enabling infrastructure, seemingly no major project, anywhere, is acceptable to them. CEQA is their weapon to stop California from building the physical assets to match its population. And for years, with increasing effect, it’s been working.

This is where unions, if they’re serious about seeing more workers acquire middle class status, may want to consider the upside of diminished CEQA statutes. If California’s civil engineering contractors were permitted to build practical solutions to supply the state with abundant energy and water, not only would this create tens of thousands of high paid construction jobs for highly skilled workers, it would lower the cost-of-living for every household in the state.

There are two paths to financial security for households. The traditional union solution is the path of higher wages. But an equally effective path with broader benefit is to lower the cost of life’s essentials – housing, water, energy, transportation and food. Union leadership in California should consider the impact of CEQA in this context, and if they do, realize their alliance of convenience with environmentalist extremists is not in the interests of all workers, even if it has worked to the more narrow benefit of their own memberships.

Reducing the power of CEQA may be the first of many steps necessary to rescue California from a mentality of scarcity and rationing that, to-date, has only been challenged rhetorically. Declaring more exemptions to CEQA is a terrible solution. The many steps recommended here may fall well short of a complete repeal of the law, but would all nonetheless help make California a place where working families may have a better chance to find a good job, afford to pay their bills, and begin to achieve financial security for their households.

CEQA reform, however, is only one big part of a much bigger debate. Do Californians want to develop their state again with the confidence and efficiency that defined the big projects of the 1950s and 1960s, when roads, reservoirs, and a power grid were constructed using mostly public money and for a time actually delivered an oversupply of affordable transportation, water and energy? Do Californians want to recognize that setting an example that other nations of the world find attractive and practical? Because to do that, more than CEQA will have to be revised.

For example, modern natural gas power plants employ combined cycle designs that harvest waste heat from the natural gas-fired turbine to produce steam to drive a second turbine. But new combined cycle designs replace the steam with helium, which harvests waste heat at much higher temperatures than steam can, which means less heat wasted to the atmosphere, greatly increasing efficiency. This advanced design can convert up to 80 percent of the embodied energy in natural gas fuel into electricity. Why not reclassify these new ultra-efficient natural gas solutions as renewable energy?

For that matter, why aren’t Californians at the forefront of both small modular and large next-generation nuclear reactor development, and reclassifying them as renewable energy?

Why can’t advanced, still emerging hybrid automotive technologies, which use a battery one-tenth as heavy to harvest the energy otherwise wasted from braking and downhill momentum, remain eligible for sale in California after 2035?

Why isn’t the California Water Commission required to declare “beneficial use” of water diversions to be equally applicable to urban and agricultural users as it is when allocated to preserving aquatic ecosystems?

Answering questions like these with policies that are once again designed to nurture economic growth instead of economic stagnation is a prerequisite for California to recover prosperity for every worker in the state. Unions should recognize this, as should social justice activists and progressives. The impact of CEQA in particular, and overwritten environmentalist legislation in general, only benefits special interests. It is time to restore balance between what is possible to protect the environment, and what is necessary to empower the people living here. Reforming CEQA is the first step in that process.

This article was first released in three installments in the California Globe: Part 1 “How Do You Solve a Problem Like CEQA?,” June 14, 2023, Part 2 “The Abuse of CEQA, and the Exemptions Cop Out,” June 16, 2023, and Part 3, “Solutions to CEQA,” June 21, 2023

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 1913, 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.

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.