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International man of misery

18 Mar 2020 | News Roundup

In Maclean’s, Leah McLaren fawned over Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of Canada and England, “beaming and vigorous, a man who looks born to inhabit the slimmest, silkiest Savile Row suit that sterling can buy. (With a much-publicized pay packet of $1.7 million, he can well afford it.)” It seems that Carney’s “environmental remit… is (broadly speaking) to seduce big business into developing concrete plans to reduce its carbon footprint. His sell, in essence, is that companies that ignore climate risks will suffer losses and ‘fortunes will be made’ by those who get in early and invest in renewables.” Then why don’t they? In fact why doesn’t he? Oh yeah, because they’re money-losing sinkholes.

Climate Home News is also big on Carney. “Setting out strategies to mobilise private finance ahead of the UN climate talks in Glasgow, or Cop26, Carney said such investments “could become the greatest commercial opportunity of our time”. But actually what he describes sounds like the greatest commercial disaster of our time. “Achieving net zero emissions will require a whole economy transition – every company, every bank, every insurer and investor will have to adjust their business models.”

To what? If it’s true you’d think they’d already be pursuing it unless they’re as stupid as they are covetous. But what exactly is the opportunity, other than not to buy stuff that’s about to be washed away, burned up or both, which seems obvious but more defensive than positive? Once again it gets nebulous. “Carney said that achieving a whole economy transition wasn’t ‘about funding only deep green activities or blacklisting dark brown ones’. ‘We need fifty shades of green to catalyse and support all companies toward net zero,’ he said.” And you can not take that to the bank.

Indeed, if taken seriously you can take it to the bankruptcy. As Alan Livsey warned in The Financial Times, if you really meant to cut emissions to the levels that would supposedly keep the temperature increase since Adam Smith’s day to 1.5C by 2100, it would mean ditching about $900 billion in capital equipment, roughly 1/3 the value of the world’s big oil and gas companies. Which may be amusing, even peanuts, to Mark Carney. But it’s a huge loss for companies. And for what? Remember, if we’re not going to freeze in the dark (and if it doesn’t get warmer we’re going to need furnaces) then we need to build some other form of energy. But we can’t convert that $900 billion in equipment, or sell it to raise money. Nope. It just goes into the ditch and we start over. Now there’s a way to do something with a fortune. Just not make one.

2 comments on “International man of misery”

  1. Perhaps the business model Carney has in mind is the Elon Musk model, but with the scope of the proposed changes governments will eventually run out of taxpayers' money.

  2. The federal government thinks they can authorize banks to loan the money to various other levels of government, plus new immigrants, plus environmental projects (huge money sinks)….. to make up the shortfall….as long as everyone believes they will get paid back, Modern Economic Theory says it works just fine….However, so far all countries that have tried this ended up facing monetary crises that caused collapse into a black market economy, loss of peoples’ retirement savings, and social upheaval. Germany in the 1920’s, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Iceland, Venezuela……but this time it will be different.

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