On Butterfly Derangement Syndrome™

Butterfly - R. Weihrauch, Picture-Alliance.jpg

The European variant of Butterfly Derangement Syndrome™ appears to have passed another critical threshold this summer.

Deutsche Welle (DW) yesterday reported that butterflies are "flourishing" in Europe. "With a cold winter behind us and a hot, dry summer that is still playing out in Europe now, there are more butterflies, which are able to fly around longer and feed on lots of nectar."


Exactly one year ago, the same publication asked, "Where have all the butterflies gone?" Answer: "Everyone likes butterflies. They're beautiful and they don't sting or bite us. But these colorful insects have seen a dramatic decline in the past few decades. And the reason why is even more alarming."

Here are the even-more-alarming causes of catastrophic butterfly decline cited by DW  last summer:

Plant diversity is dwindling, particularly in regions where intensive monoculture agriculture dominates, which leaves little choice for our beloved butterflies.

Crop protection products like herbicides and pesticides destroy biodiversity. Wild herbs, plants or flowers can't survive in areas with monoculture farming.

So there you have it. This year's robust seasonal temperature variations have allowed butterflies to proliferate copiously and in their fullest splendor. But a year ago industrial farming techniques had brought them to the brink of extinction—mass casualties at "the frontlines of humans' war with nature," as DW put it so memorably. Conclusion: it's not easy being green. But it's even harder keeping these competing eco-alarmist narratives churning concurrently. First the pikas, then the penguins and the polar bears, now the butterflies—who'd have thought it would be such a challenge coming up with a durable poster species for the climate apocalypse?

But not to worry. In keeping with Butterfly Derangement Syndrome™—a form of mass-psychosis characterized by the anxiety of knowing that what we see plainly before us cannot be true—the gossamer-winged beauties of Europe may yet face imminent doom, according to DW:

Sadly, due to the extreme heat, there could be problems down the line for the tiny beauties.... While many plants butterflies usually lay their eggs in have died from the heat, fewer plants means fewer eggs, fewer caterpillars—and eventually, fewer butterflies. So next summer, you might not see that many butterflies around anymore.

It's always something. If it's not monoculture farming and pesticides, it's extreme heat. Either way, according to DW, the butterflies that are thick on the ground and "flourishing" in balmy Europe this summer are looking down the barrel of a grim future, starting as early as this autumn.

Best to get out and enjoy them while you can.

Attitudes about U.S. Leadership and Alliance Solidarity will Never be the Same. Really?

Trump - Chris McGrath, Getty.jpg

Another anti-Trump screed has this morning dropped at the Globe and Mail, this one penned by two heavyweights of the Canadian foreign-policy establishment—Derek Burney, a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., and Fen Osler Hampson, director of Global Security and Politics at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Eschewing diplomatic language in favour of hyperbole—e.g. cavalcade of recent horrors, a narcissistic leader, shambolic approach to global affairs, naive flirtations, blind loyalty, mercantilist lunges, the latest frenzy—Burney and Hampson decry the president's theatrics at Charlevoix, Brussels and Helsinki; they aver that he actually believes America's traditional allies are now enemies; and they suggest that America's "more customary foes," including Russia and North Korea, are taking full advantage of him at no cost. Canadians are identified as "erstwhile allies" of the U.S., leaving them "little choice other than to sharpen their defences, hunker down against the storm and seek to dilute their dependence." All are well-rehearsed criticisms of Trump's capricious presence on the international stage, and without question the authors have the authority to give them out-sized clout.

Here's where things get interesting.

Burney and Hampson acknowledge that "no one really knows where all this is headed." Then they offer this parting volley. "The seeds of discontent in the United States that Mr. Trump is fertilizing will continue to bear fruit after he leaves the White House. Attitudes about U.S. leadership and alliance solidarity will never be the same."

Really? Never?  Loyalty to the seventy-year-old Western alliance that defeated Nazism and Communism, gave us NATO, NORAD, the U.N. and the W.T.O., and bankrolled the unprecedented prosperity and security of the twenty-first century world will not survive the Trump presidency?

What is the evidence?

So Many Elephants in the Green Room

Man cooling off - Akhtar Soomro, Reuters.jpg

It may be unseemly to critique the escalating hysteria of the climate doom-mongers when they are already face-down on the mat. After a winter so brutal that it finally put the issue of energy poverty on the map, not even the seasonal litany of extreme-weather alarmism appears to be having the desired propaganda impact. So up goes the ante. "Extreme weather events such as severe storms, unexpected and unpredictable floods, heat waves and unseasonable cold snaps have killed hundreds of thousands of people and injured billions more over the past 20 years," Deutsche Welle reported last week. And by golly, as if the climate maiming of billions is not disheartening enough, just this morning Tesla Model 3 owners in Ontario have awakened to find that they've been cheated out of the $14,000 "incentive" cheques they were expecting from the provincial government. It really isn't easy being green, no indeed.

Yet the climate consensus and its media messengers just keep on keeping on. Thomson Reuters is this morning running a piece entitled "Over a billion people struggle to stay cool as Earth warms," for example, which our national broadcaster has dutifully (and prominently) posted. Again, that's billion with a B. Surely that's a public service announcement serious enough to warrant scrutiny.

Here are the first two paragraphs of the Thomson Reuters article, verbatim:

More than a billion people are at risk from a lack of air conditioning and refrigeration to keep them cool and to preserve food and medicines as global warming brings more high temperatures, a study showed on Monday.

More electricity demand for fridges, fans and other appliances will add to man-made climate change unless power generators shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energies, according to the report by the non-profit Sustainable Energy for All group.

If you're still reading, odds are you're confused—and rightly so. That's because the ostensible crisis announced in the first sentence—"a billion people at risk from a lack of air conditioning and refrigeration"—is not a crisis at all, at least not in the sense that the problem is either insoluble or worsening. The real crisis is that as people in developing countries finally acquire "the fridges, fans and other appliances" that have been standard fare in the industrialized world for generations, they will "add to man-made climate change." The obvious solution to the "billion people at risk" problem, in other words—the reduction of poverty in the developing world via electrification on a mass scale—is antithetical to the decarbonization agenda of the Western climate consensus. "We have to provide cooling in a super-efficient way," Rachel Kyte of Sustainable Energy for All is quoted as saying. And given that Kyte is the only source cited for attribution in the Thomson Reuters piece, you could be forgiven for concluding that all is lost.

All is not lost.

The second biggest elephant in the green room, i.e. after the scourge of energy poverty, is "carbon imperialism," i.e the wholesale refusal of Western investment banks to fund electrification in the developing world unless it is powered by renewables. Here's how the EU Reporter—hardly a bastion of climate skepticism—has described the travesty (condensed slightly, italics added):

Many African countries, including Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, are known to have vast reserves of coal. The prospect of using these substantial resources is particularly alluring given that large swaths of these countries remain unelectrified. More than 600 million Africans still don’t have access to electricity, causing them to burn dangerous and polluting biomass and undermining their economic growth. At current rates of growth, Africa won’t achieve full electrification until 2080. Investment in coal-powered plants in these countries could mean the difference for millions of people between being able to turn on the lights at night or living in darkness. 

[The] pressure on developing nations to deploy renewable energy solutions they cannot afford is both political and financial. The UK and international organisations such as the European Investment Bank and the World Bank stopped funding coal plants in developing countries. The consequences of this overly restrictive policy? Developing countries remain in the dark, increasingly frustrated by what India’s chief economic adviser termed the west’s "carbon imperialism." They have started taking matters into their own hands.

They have indeed. A year ago, the president of the African Development Bank (ADB), Akinwumi Adesina, stated in no uncertain terms that he was fed up with the West's stubborn refusal to underwrite African electrification on Africans' own terms:

645 million people in Africa have no access to electricity; 137 years after the invention of the light bulb.  To be very frank and direct, only terrorists prosper in the dark.

Power is the overriding African priority.

Africa must develop its energy sector with what it has. Endowed with many different energy sources—both renewable and conventional—Africa needs a balanced energy mix. This must include renewable and conventional sources of power for lighting and heating homes, for cooking, for schools and hospitals, and for powering offices, manufacturing plants and factories.

Carbon imperialism, in short, provides the crucial—but virtually invisible—context for sensational headlines like "Over a billion people struggle to stay cool as Earth warms." As Akinwumi Adesina noted so poignantly, the world's poorest billion won't be suffering for long if privileged Westerners agree to supplant the fantasy goal of breakneck decarbonization with the eminently achievable goal of breakneck electrification.