Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Billionaire Economics of Denying Climate Change

Peering Into the Oligarchic Climate Abyss
Spending too much time with the obvious
will only leave you even more confused.
Bring a flashlight.

Now, right off the bat MeanMesa has no interest in "glossing over" a few of the difficulties we "mortals" face when we try to analyze the patterns of behavior found in the "Masters of the Universe," that is, the patterns of behavior encountered as one considers the billionaires and oligarchs who are presently in charge of almost everything. The particular "difficulty" referenced above is an important one.

Neither the lives, the actions nor the motivations which direct the oligarchs in their day to day lives are visible to those of us "down here." No reportage can penetrate the well financed opaqueness which shelters all the details which might explain this curious pattern of behavior. Of course we receive "news" concerning the largest and slowest moving of these billionaire scams, but every word we receive in such a fashion has been entirely "re-woven" on the unseen looms of the image handlers at the think tanks.

A couple of examples might clarify this.

Our first example is seen in the frantic maneuvers to coerce the government into authorizing the construction of the tar sands pipeline. Even though the environmental damage is well defined, we can still very confidently comprehend the motives behind the "narrative" as it has been woven and delivered to us. Further, the machinations, lies, extortion, bribery and the rest which were designed to "deliver" such an authorization were also generally quite visible -- especially as the tedious efforts continued year after year. The strategy was a complex one which spread out over months and years, but the inclusion of any discernible concern about what the project might mean to the future of the planet was curiously absent.

We can consider this as an economic matter, a political matter or even as an ideological matter, but it remains as shocking evidence of a complete lack of concern for the future welfare of these billionaires' own children and grandchildren.

A second example may be seen in the unrelenting Congressional call for war with Iran. Although it may seem that every cracker GOP Senator in Washington was in some sort of mindless, "genetic" lockstep, the visible unanimity was, of course, no more than a painfully orchestrated, inauthentic ruse designed for popular consumption while appearing to be "representative democracy" as usual. The priority expressed by the billionaires in charge of the Republican Party was, apparently, so intense as to effortlessly justify the recent spate of out right GOP treason in the Senate.

Their appetites had been excited by the recent disaster in Iraq, and they were smelling oil. None of the "details" -- consequences of their jingoist war mongering -- represented any reason for them to hesitate. Again, once this is "boiled down to the bones," we see evidence of deep psychopathy as we watch these billionaires disregard the prospect of their children or grandchildren fighting in [or even living in] a world ablaze with another oil war.

But now, even with these strikingly anti-democratic examples in hand, we arrive at the topic of this post. Although we are handicapped by this dark, carefully crafted, oligarchic opacity, can we "ferret out" the motives which have driven these billionaires to such an awkwardly visible romance with the climate change deniers?

When Billionaires Look at Climate Change,
 What Do They See?
Is there an explanation?
It's time for the BIG ONE, the final money game.

This hand of the planet's poker game has already been dealt.

At this moment the "Masters of the Universe" are humming the old gambling tune in their Wall Street hedge fund bunkers: 

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done
Kenny Rogers, THE GAMBLER
[For the complete lyrics, link here.]

For a start we must understand the stakes. The planetary market consumes 90 million barrels of crude oil per year these days [INDEXMUNDI-crude oil], and the planetary collection of generation plants consumes 8.5 billion short tons of coal [INDEXMUNDI-coal]. This means that those "best positioned" [wealthy enough to own a significant stake] in these industries are "earning" hundreds of millions of dollars per day running these production and marketing corporations.

Every day.

On the opposite side of this picture we see the economic model of the alternatives -- and, importantly, that model's future. The world will, without any doubt, permanently dislodge the existing energy cycle when the "cost" of maintaining it has risen to such an extreme height that it is no longer tolerable. At that point the "value" of the industrial capacity to provide this kind of energy, not to mention the "value" of the crude oil and coal reserves themselves, will plummet rapidly.

The "old economics of energy" will be transformed into the "new economics of energy." The only real question left on the table concerns the rate of that transformation.

Now, while viewing this in such sterile terms may offer a bit of "positivism" for those comfortable with accepting "planetary responsibilities," the view from the country club veranda is running down a quite different track. The billionaires are threading through these future prospects in search of the last opportunities to make "just a little more money."

[MeanMesa offers a chilling, possible explanation of what they might intend to do with this money at the end of the post.]

Perhaps quite naively, MeanMesa has long suspected that -- at least through the first decades of the "modern rational period" when the world was becoming convinced that climate change and energy transformation were unavoidable -- these billionaires were continuing to "cling to the fleeting hope that something else would happen instead." In the situation surrounding us now, even these short sighted types have finally disabused themselves of such fantasies in favor of doing what billionaires do best: "recklessly exploiting every possible, momentary opportunity to become even richer regardless of the consequences for everyone else."

[An excellent book on this topic is Thom Hartmann's "Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. Link: HARTMANN]

An "additional complicating factor" emerges when we consider the likely prospect of this "transformation" not occurring everywhere at once. It turns out that one of the "every possible opportunities of the moment" surfaces not only from delaying the inevitable change wherever possible, but also by cleverly "scheduling" the sequence and timing when major markets of the "old energy economics" would finally be forced to "transform" themselves to the "new" one.

Not surprisingly the world's largest energy markets correspond to the world's largest economies -- China and the US with the European Union a close third. If the dissolution of the old energy systems in these three markets can be delayed or "opportunistically scheduled," the billionaires stand to rake in monumental profits right up to the last minute.

Probably acting in support of delaying the inevitable climate collapse, US President Obama has managed to reach an agreement with the Peoples Republic. [Read the fact sheet here - US and China Agreement on Climate]

However, this diplomacy illuminates the "tenderness" of the "sequencing" issue. The Chinese were never particularly opposed to doing something about climate change, but they were very concerned about doing something about climate change while the US, still one of their main competitors, enjoyed all the benefits of not doing anything.

Expenses for electrical generation and manufacturing will increase [at least in the short term] while the old coal fired generation is being replaced with sustainable alternatives. Further, this period of "transformation" could easily last for years during which the "lagging partner" would enjoy a significant economic advantage, more or less, at the expense of the other competitor.

Viewed from in an even larger frame, it has been exactly these types of "concerns" which have continued to keep the US Congress [acting in the interest of US billionaires] from ratifying past climate treaties such as Kyoto. In fact, to "lace" this together a bit, these are also precisely the concerns which have motivated the billionaires into the strange behavior noted in the examples -- Keystone and war with Iran -- mentioned in the beginning of this post.

Surviving the "End of the World" in Plutocratic Style
Please pass the caviar...
Will someone please do something about that screaming?

Okay. The "End of the World" part of this title may be a bit over dramatic. The ultimate climate catastrophe approaching us now will, actually, have an end date. It won't go on forever. Previous climatic disasters have "worked themselves out" in hundreds, thousands or millions of years. Still, there remains that "awkward" interregnum during in which seven billion homo sapiens will most likely end up eating each other.

Even the most tragically short sighted and falsely ideological billionaire knows that he is going to need to breathe a lung full of atmosphere with oxygen it it within the next few minutes. Over a slightly longer term the more stable among them will acknowledge that he will need a drink of potable water and something to eat. This leaves us with the fascinating question: "What, exactly, do these fumbling billionaires intend to do should they succeed in blocking every effort to possibly salvage some still inhabitable part of the planet?"

Of course such a question invites us to indulge in the most absolutely wretched, shockingly pedestrian sort of judgmental condemnation, a festering judgment most likely reflecting our utter lack of human concern about these civilization gobbling monsters or their over fed families. Still, these well financed plutocrats, even if they, themselves, lack any particular comprehension or concern for what their avaricious greed is precipitating on the world, are quite nicely equipped with the very best possible, remarkably competent "expert staff." In other words, after being "advised" by these experts of theirs, the approaching climate catastrophe should not catch them by surprise at all.

However, we may safely presume that these dynastic families will take whatever steps might be necessary to guarantee the continuation of their current life styles.

So, if you were one of these billionaires, what are the options you might consider?

What follow is strictly a MeanMesa speculation, but as the arrival of the "big one" continues to grow nearer and nearer, we might start watching what the oligarchs are doing for signs of this type of strategy.

1. Start shopping for some rain forest.

Planetary oxygen levels are going to take a hit. The best places for avoiding this as much as possible will be in the rich, oxygen producing equatorial rain forests. Granted, these are currently being plowed under at an alarming rate -- primarily for vast palm oil plantations, but there is plenty of good real estate left, and most of it is places where a pile of US dollars will go pretty far. Think Borneo or Amazonia. At least to date, rain forests have plenty of precipitation, too, making the fresh water requirements much more manageable.

2. Plan for a crowd.

A safe little spot in "the country." 
Planning for the size of one of these relocated dynastic households will also be an important consideration. Naturally, there will be the household staff, but also included one will need to accommodate some farmers, a significant security team and a few others -- teachers, doctors and life coaches, perhaps. Of course by the time things became tense, having a lot of visible traffic in and out of such a refuge would bring out its own problems, so the plan should have room for the families of all these employees, too. Everyone in this little city will also have to eat regularly, so being self-sustaining will be important.

3. Don't forget security.

Maybe not right away, but sooner or later, rumors about the food and water to be found in this oligarchic paradise will creep into the local population. Beyond the obvious, desperate hordes of families with starving children, there could easily also be those who are simply determined to "get even," although vengeance -- at some point in the decline -- will become nothing more than an indulgent luxury.

Don't count on the government of whatever country you finally select, either. Most of the existing structures of civilization will gradually fall into anarchy or simply blow away in the century long droughts. Yes, you may have bribed your way in quite handsomely, but "things change." Count on it. The planet's population will decrease at a faster and faster rate as the climate catastrophe outlasts the depth of current surpluses, but there will always be a few survivors, and those who are left will become increasing motivated and competent as the herd is thinned.

4. Get over the idea that you are a billionaire.

Your old role as a genteel, highly respected, "Master of Society" will become quite obsolete. The value of all the cash, jewels, real estate and other "assets" which made you stand so far above everyone else in the "old days" will inevitably evaporate in favor of a much more immediate "currency of the day" -- food, water, guns, ammunition and medicine will be worth more than their corresponding weight in gold ingots.

Naturally, after a year or two you'll need to start worrying about the loyalty of all that staff, too. MeanMesa suggests that you consider adopting the new role of being a "brutal war lord."

Climate Change

We're on the train, and we're going where the tracks go. There are no stations in sight at which we might disembark.

Read more from MeanMesaManaging Global Warming Solutions

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