Richard North, 10/11/2021  

A dire piece in the Telegraph yesterday is headed "Gas shortage fears and polar vortex threaten to plunge Britain into extreme cold crisis".

Written by foreign news reporter Verity Bowman, who boasts of focusing on "digital-first storytelling", it manages to combines poverty of coverage with an illustration of how basic news reporting becomes an opportunity to hector us on climate change.

It starts, though, with the very worst habit prevalent in contemporary journalism where our Verity launches into a narrative about "eleven-year-old Cristian Pavon". This is a child that Ms Bowman cannot possibly have met (and cannot have interviewed, because the poor child is dead), but she nevertheless reports that he "was thrilled to see snow for the very first time".

We also learn about this child that "he was used to rainy days and at worst occasional chills, like most of the Houston area", and only then does Bowman trouble to tell us that he is writing about February 2021 in Texas, when the state was hit by "a historic freeze".

Pavon's family, we are told, huddled together for warmth. But the cold was so bitter they put a portable generator inside to provide heat and electricity and with Christian curled up under the blankets, he died of carbon monoxide poisoning, one of dozens killed by caused by outdoor heaters, and one of 210 killed by the storm in total.

This tragic story finally gets us to the point where Bowan condescends to tell us that in Texas, heavy snow had brought chaos. Electricity and gas had been shut off, water supplies had frozen solid and Texans had been forced to leave their homes in search of shelter. The state was woefully unprepared.

But all this is simply to provide a platform for Le Xie, a professor at Texas A&M University and assistant director of energy digitization at A&M's Energy Institute. And his role is to tell us that "rising temperatures caused by climate change are pushing up the chances of this sort of extreme weather everywhere".

So here we go again: if it's hot, obviously its global warming. But, if it's cold, it becomes climate change. If it rains heavily, it's climate change. If there is a drought, it's climate change – and especially if there happen to be some photogenic wildfires around. Everything, it seems, is climate change.

By now, I've lost patience with the story, but vaguely surmise that it is a somewhat rambling attempt to cover the issues concerning the use of gas, which have been handled better and earlier in other places, not least in this blog.

Eventually, we get to the point, which is that where is a possibility of a gas shortage in the UK this winter, driven by a severe winter caused by the breakout of the polar vortex, sending "cold and snow" to the lower latitudes.

This, we actually covered in the blog at the end of last September, cross-referenced to the Observer and this report which tells us that the polar vortex effect happens every few years , to bring colder winters to Europe and the United States.

After a quick romp around the China energy situation, we then get told by a Dr Imsirovic that Climate change will bring more instability, which will keep impacting prices, and the promise that: "We're getting more and more of a weather related or climate related premium in the market, because all these extreme weather events are impacting our production quite seriously".

Then we're back to Le Xie for another homily. He tells us that countries must plan ahead for climate change. On that front, Xie says, Texas was a lesson for us all. Its gas system was unprepared to the chill that hit in February, when demand spiked and its system froze. "I always think of one of your countrymen, Winston Churchill, who said: never let a crisis go to waste", he concludes.

Now, the reason why it is worth spending the time on this dire piece of journalism is that it brings home the two points known to us – that energy prices are increasing, and that – strangely enough – when it gets cold, as it very often does during the winter – we need energy to keep warm.

Now fast forward to Cop26 and we find that the entire effort of is devoted to convincing world leaders to cut down in the usage of the cheapest and most efficient forms of energy for heating, with born-again climate worshiper Johnson in the vanguard, itching to dismantle our fossil fuel industry.

Pushing this agenda forward is a group, given huge prominence in the Guardian which wibbles away about world being "on track" for disastrous levels of global heating far in excess of the limits in the Paris climate agreement.

Temperature rises, we are told, will top 2.4ºC by the end of this century, based on the short-term goals countries have set out in Glasgow so far. That temperature would far exceed the 2ºC upper limit the Paris accord said the world needed to stay "well below", and the "much safer" 1.5ºC limit aimed for at the Cop26 talks.

And, just in case we needed any reminding of the scare potential, that level will bring us "widespread extreme weather – sea-level rises, drought, floods, heatwaves and fiercer storms", causing "devastation across the globe".

The beauty of this, from the point of view of the climate worshipers, is that the projection is completely unfalsifiable. Set at the end of this century, it is so far ahead that most people currently alive on this planet – and all the politicians at CoP 26 - will be dead.

Yet, on the basis of this projection – which relies on manipulation of some extremely dubious climate data and much tinkering with computer models – we are supposed to impoverish ourselves in the here and now, many of us suffering extreme reductions in our standards of living and comfort.

I was much taken, therefore, with Ben Pile's livestream broadcast yesterday, which featured US author Alex Epstein talking of the anti-human agenda of the modern environmental movement.

He reminds us that our very existence, and the prosperity which we enjoy, depends on the availability of cheap, plentiful energy – something desperately needed by the less developed nations if they are going to break out of their cycles of poverty. The very last thing they need is hair-shirt environmentalism.

Entirely related to this is another dose of reality from Spiegel which tells us that the world is failing to rid itself of coal. Despite all the lip service about phasing it out by world leaders, coal is experiencing a breath-taking renaissance.

Doubtless, this underpins the projections of woe just delivered to Glasgow, delivering a vast two-fingered salute to the assembled delegates. No matter what is agreed this week, the real world will continue on regardless, and that means the burning of record amounts of coal – led by China, not least to feed the factories to which many companies in the old industrialised countries have outsourced much of their production.

The point here is that, despite the growing noise level in the western media, we are not going to see any meaningful reductions in global "carbon" emissions for the foreseeable future. Mankind is simply not organised to institute the kind of global mitigation measures that the UNFCCC has in mind. Any expectation that the CoP process can have any meaningful effect is simply self-delusion.

That, of course, puts Johnson on the spot. The only credible alternative is a programme of adaptation to whatever the "climate" has to throw at us, and that requires a healthy, flexible economy to finance the necessary measures. And that, in turn, requires plentiful supplies of cheap energy.

If he was not so ineffably stupid, therefore, Johnson would be planning on abandoning the leadership role on climate change, in which the UK has mistakenly cast itself, concentrating on repairing the economy and our collective responsiveness.

Inevitably, this prime minister isn't going to do this, which makes our petition all the more important. This, however, struggled to reach 18,000 signatures by yesterday, an indication of the mountain we have to climb, in the context where most petitions fail to reach the magic 100K target.

Failure would send quite the wrong message to Johnson, to which extent our fate is largely in our own hands. They do say that people deserve the governments they get. We are, it seems, about to find out.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

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