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Gravitas

Apr 6, 2022

Burdened by a Mississippi public school education, my vocabulary has never been particularly deep. As a high school senior, we had a six-week course study in Literature named Thirty Days to a Stronger Vocabulary. We learned a new word every day. However, a short fifty years later I can’t remember a single one.

I tell you that to explain how I learned “gravitas.” I heard gravitas the first time, I recall, from my friend, Ted Jackson, who at that time was our General Counsel. A couple of us looked at each other and asked Ted what the word meant. He explained in his calm way that gravitas meant deep seriousness, dignity and a weighty consideration. 

As I hear more from climate change activists on the Net-Zero-by-2050 proposition, I think back to Ted’s explanation. I do so because the Net-Zero campaign and most of the climate change proposals are completely devoid of any gravitas.

To start, thousands of leaders of the climate change movement gather at far-away places like Kyoto, Paris, Lima, Madrid, and this year in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, as well as other exotic destinations. They attend to propose how we – those who don’t attend – should have to live. Some of those proposals are drastic; for instance, all of us immediately changing our modes of transportation from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles (that supposedly have a smaller carbon footprint and will help alleviate climate change). According to these proposals, we must also immediately retire all coal-fired electric generation plants, change how we raise food, reduce how often we travel, and radically adjust the food we eat – all to supposedly reduce our carbon footprints and control our carbon emissions. In short, we will have to change our lives in almost every way as a sacrifice to the Net-Zero gods.

The Net-Zero advocates completely ignore the huge costs of their ambitions. No cost or inconvenience is too high to meet Net-Zero by 2050. Last month I referenced a McKinsey and Company study that indicates a successful Net-Zero campaign would cost $275 trillion to implement. To put the cost into context, it is three times the entire world’s 2021 total gross domestic product of $94 trillion. Spending three years of the world’s GDP in hopes of making some difference has no gravitas.

The Net-Zero advocates also have little advice on solving Net-Zero other than using nothing but renewable energy. They have no defined plan to manage the intermittency of renewables or manage an electric grid that rotates at 60 cycles per second with solar and batteries that do not spin at all. They seem to be completely oblivious to the physics of the questions about energy production.

The declarations of the leaders also lack credibility. How many times do we need to hear things like the North Pole will be ice-free by the summer of 2013, glaciers will disappear by 2016, or the world as we know it will end in 12 years if the New Green Deal is not adopted?

The Net-Zero advocates also place unserious people at the front of the arguments. For instance, Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, has become a leading spokesperson for Net-Zero. She has written a book in which she states, “Around 2030 we will be in a position to set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.” I’m not sure in which high school class she learned about climate science, but I doubt she has sufficient expertise in the subject (or knowledge of the physics of obtaining Net-Zero) to write a serious book.

Finally, just last week, former Secretary of State and current U.S. Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, warned of “massive emission consequences from a Russian war against Ukraine which will be a distraction from work on climate change.” He also stated, “I hope President Putin will help us stay on track with respect to what we need to do for the climate. I hope Mr. Putin realizes Northern Russia is thawing and his infrastructure is at risk, and the people of Russia are at risk.” All that was directed at a dictator who is killing civilians in their homes and threatening nuclear action. Mr. Kerry is talking utter nonsense.

The entire Net-Zero movement lacks depth, seriousness, logic or gravitas. It is time the whole group either gets serious about what can practically be done and how we can live with whatever climate change occurs, or moves on to the next existential threat of our time.

I am prepared for all the comments of “What does this have to do with my electric utility?” and “Why do you pick on teenagers?”. It is about your electric utility because you will pay much of the increased costs of Net-Zero in your electric bills, and I will temper my feelings of teenagers’ opinions until they have learned enough about life to tell me how I am ruining theirs.

I hope you have a good month.       

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