Leaving children with a $240 trillion debt pile should be a hell of a lot more disturbing than theoretically slightly warmer air
There sure are a lot of things to worry about. Getting old. Saving for retirement. That growth on your neck. What the kids are doing when you turn your back.
If we are ever able to drag our weary gaze above the annoyances and frustrations of daily life, we are handed the mother of all things to worry about by a relentless news stream – the climate. As the defining and omnipresent narrative goes, without immediate action, right now, we are all doomed to a looming hell of (marginally) higher temperatures that will possibly but without a doubt (their logic, not mine) destroy life as we know it. “I want you to panic,” advises a 16-year-old Swedish school girl to the world’s economic elite, and the world does just that. There is no doubting the sincerity of the child, and that her fears are real, because the youth of the world have been hoisted by the ankles and dunked into vats of liquid terror for years now.
The fear they are feeling is no different than most that inflict humankind, in which theoretical fears seem to crush real ones. We are far all deathly afraid of murderers, even though we will almost never encounter one (unless active in the drug trade/mafia), yet we show little fear of texting in traffic (or even texting while walking right into traffic – a new pastime downtown). Each are deadly but we fear the scarier one. With climate change, we are terrified of the change, even without knowing what it will be, because climate change is the new murder. A warming climate will have consequences, but almost all are speculative and only bad ones are brought forward. On the other hand, the way our world is living is creating some very bad things that are extremely real, and with consequences that are a whole lot more clear.
Debt is a curious and global and near-universal example. At every level from the individual to the mega-corp, from rural municipalities to superpowers, borrowing is no longer an item of concern.
That’s not quite true; a few weirdos seem to have a problem with it. The Bank of Canada’s Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Wilkins recently mused that $240 trillion of global debt is “a headwind to growth and makes us vulnerable to another period of financial instability.” It’s also a freaking disaster waiting to happen. Few realize how close the world was to an economic meltdown in 2008, one that could have seriously disrupted food and energy supplies and caused incalculable harm. We averted disaster by creation of much of this debt. We may not be able to do that next time.
What makes this all so very weird is that he world is now fixated on climate change, yet day in and day out refuses to do anything about it in any material way. In this regard, the Swedish school girl is exactly right. As a case in point, the UK has been at the forefront of the push to electric vehicles for more than a decade. For example, a company named Pod Point begin installing EV charging stations in 2009, and has developed hundreds of charging stations. Chargemaster is another, having gone into business in 2008, again with hundreds of charging stations. There are many others. The UK government has committed hundreds of millions of pounds to subsidizing the buildout of this infrastructure.
What has the market had to say about this? Well, there is a shocking disparity between what market commentators flap their arms about (“Since 2012 the EV stock has grown at nearly 100% compound annual growth rate”) and what the market has actually done – in 2018, out of 2,367,147 UK new car registrations, 15,474 were pure EVs (non-hybrids, the ones requiring the plug-ins) were purchased in the UK. More than a decade after the “big push” started, fewer than one out of 150 new vehicles is an all-electric one.
And what does this have to do with anything? The situation is a roundabout way of illustrating the near comical way in which economics and debt are ignored, all in a very strange way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and no matter the cost incurred or incentives produced, GHG emissions are not falling. The logic behind the push for EVs and charging stations is that a “tipping point” will be reached, when EVs are cost competitive with non-EVs, and that may happen – but when it does, if sales take off like proponents say, the problem will then shift to the massive overhaul that the electrical grid will require to handle the new load.
The Swedish school girl has won the battle to set the global agenda – all around we see nothing but panic. In every facet of life, we know that panic kills, yet on the global plane, we subscribe instantly. Evolution shmevolution.