In a rare example of common sense finally busting through on climate, Stuart Kirk, the head of responsible investing at HSBC Asset Management, decided he’d had enough of it all and gave a public talk “Why investors need not worry about climate risk” to a Financial Times Moral Money conference (whatever that is) including such priceless lines as “there’s always some nut job telling me about the end of the world.” Having approved his talk the cowardly bigwigs at HSBC have now suspended him. But the cat is out of the bag. Even at the BBC, which a few weeks earlier admitted their climate editor was a wacky zealot who makes things up. As Britain’s Daily Mail put it, the introduction to a Justin Rowlatt-edited propaganda piece “Wild Weather” aired to whip up support for the UN’s COP26 last November claimed “the death toll is rising around the world and the forecast is that worse is to come.” But the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit, a horrible name but a useful entity if done right, “said this risked giving the impression the rate of deaths from extreme weather-related events was increasing.” Which even the Beeb admits just ain’t so. Can sanity be intruding on the climate debate at long last?
Old habits die hard. In response to being busted, the BBC did the usual government thing of saying it was wrong but right. It “accepted the wording in the programme was not as clear as it should have been and a public acknowledgement was put on the BBC’s Corrections and Clarifications website before the complaint reached the ECU”. But, the Mail felt obliged to add, “The ECU said this was appropriate but ‘an oversight meant the programme was still available on BBC iPlayer without a link or reference to the published correction, and for that reason the complaint was upheld’.” An oversight. Like the one where the program also hyped the world’s first climate-induced famine in Madagascar whereas in fact a lot else was going on there too.
Of course one swallow does not make a summer. As Paul Homewood put it with even less tact than we usually manage, “More BBC Lies About Extreme Weather”. And backs it up by citing the IPCC’s own AR6 to refute the one about extreme rainfall. But there is reason to think that the parade of nonsense (we continue to insist that it is not a question of deliberate lies despite Homewood’s own reference to “the increasingly desperate and fraudulent attempts to spread lies about extreme weather”) may be coming to a halt.
Here we give Stuart Kirk pride of place in honour both of his courage and his clarity. At one point in his talk he commented to the audience that another speaker “said ‘we are not going to survive’ and indeed no one ran from the room. In fact, most of you barely looked up from your mobile phones at the prospect of non-survival. It’s become so hyperbolic that no one really knows how to get anyone’s attention anymore.” Especially when they know it’s not true, as these people mostly do.
It's not clear what will happen to Kirk himself. But his talk is on YouTube and there’s no stuffing it back into the bag. (Plus we downloaded it in case HSBC somehow gets it yanked.) As a story on ZeroHedge put it, “it wasn’t that Kirk denounced climate science. In fact, he agreed with it”. Such as it is, we add. But you could see that his patience was exhausted, that his private frustration with nonsensical exaggeration had finally boiled over. And we know he is far from alone.
Kirk listed current problems from cryptocurrency to overregulation to China to a housing crisis, rising interest rates and inflation and said “the proportionality is completely out of whack.” And what’s completely in whack is that the audience did not boo, throw things or walk out. He was expressing their own frustration, including a chart matching media articles using the phrase “climate catastrophe” against the MSCI World index of over 1,500 companies worldwide.
Observing their tendency to rise in tandem, he said “The more we’re doomed, the higher prices go” and asked pointedly “How is that possible?” Which is not a question that anyone with basic economic understanding can ignore, and he challenged Mark Carney by name to explain it. He then went on: “there’s really only three answers that are possible to old purists like me. Either the risk is negligible, which for investors is great” or “Maybe it’s in the price” already, that is, shares are discounted for the supposedly looming disaster. “In which case, if we solve climate risk, markets are gonna boom, and that’s also fantastic for investors.” Finally, possibility three: “the Mark Carneys of this world have to convince us all, including me, that every single one of us, on climate risk, is wrong. Every one of us. That’s possible. But it’s a big call to make.”
Indeed, since these are the people who make a living understanding risk and informing clients of it. And so they understand explicitly and implicitly things like Kirk’s subsequent point that, for instance, warnings of a 5% drop in global GDP by 2100 due to climate change are mathematically contemptible since the economy is projected to grow between 450% and 1000% by then. And his reproach of “the Marks and Sharons” (the former being Carney, the latter, referred to elsewhere as “Sharon from Deloitte” appears to be Sharon Thorne, chair of their Global Board) for “confusion between volume and value”, again saying out loud what the audience knows privately, that the pontificating alarmists commit basic errors in one field after another. He even said “central banks are particularly annoying, because they haven’t spent enough time worrying about inflation and growth and why it’s going out of control, and spent way too much time on climate risk”, before trashing the way they model the impact of climate change. Which thoroughly deserves trashing.
Kirk’s speech is great stuff, and much of the audience must have been privately cheering at finally hearing it said. For the rest of it, the key economic point is that either everybody who has skin in the game is wrong about the real scale of climate risk, or the trendy pundits whose livelihood depends on maintaining the panic are wrong. And now that Kirk has lost patience and told his audience out loud what they all know anyway, it is asking a lot of their patience, and very little of their honesty, to think they will pretend it never happened.
If HSBC gives Kirk the final heave-ho, we doubt he will be ruined. He may well be snapped up by one of the non-woke funds proliferating out there. Or he may, as others have done, continue to travel the route of increasing doubt about the supposedly settled science and become a much-sought repentant sinner on the climate skeptic circuit. But what really matters is that he has nudged, or kicked, the debate a great distance in a desirable direction by taking a brave stand for what he knows is right.