Goodbye, Farewell … and Thanks.

Author’s Note:  When Cameron Elementary School Principal George Towery retired in 2010, I wrote the following column about his accomplishments and his leadership.  In a world in which many seem to define themselves by their politics, it’s hard to imagine a principal combining the instructional ideas of the Heritage Foundation with the bleeding-heart compassion of Barack Obama.  

But that was George.  The things he did to improve student academics and make children’s lives better didn’t require massive new programs or funding – they simply demanded leadership, innovation and the willingness to respond to the specific needs of the students he served.

Returning from a grandson’s baptism in Alaska recently, I opened the paper to find that George Towery had passed away last month.  And in re-reading that seven-year-old column, it seemed to define his epitaph as well now as it did then … although his legacy will remain in the thousands of children for whom he made a difference.


To George Towery,

Goodbye, Farewell … and Thanks.

By Chris Braunlich

At a school gathering last week honoring George Towery, the retiring principal of Cameron Elementary School in Fairfax County, a poster invited students to answer the question: “What Will Mr. Towery Do With All His Free Time?” One girl wrote, “He should sit on the beach, where the sand meets the water, and build beautiful sand castles.”

Good advice for someone who has worked hard, but its difficult to think that George Towery could build a more beautiful castle than he did at Cameron.

For some, Cameron would be a candidate for a “challenged school.” Today, the school is 50 percent Hispanic, 20 percent black, 15 percent white and the remaining 15 percent a mix of other heritages. Nearly 63 percent of its children are on free and reduced meals; more than 70 percent speak a language other than English at home.

Yet, the school’s reading and math pass rates regularly equal or exceed the county and state passing rates.

Ninety percent of the schools’ Hispanic students passed the third grade state reading exam – five points higher than Hispanic students in the county; seven points higher than those in the rest of Virginia. Nor does it stop there: In 2009, every Hispanic student passed their state reading exams – and the gap between what Cameron accomplishes and what similar cohorts in the state and county accomplish carries through to nearly every subject.

That kind of accomplishment doesn’t come from going “by the book.” Towery and his leadership team at Cameron are anything but –

  • Cameron has its own “barnyard” – a suburban courtyard with chickens and goats.  Caring for the animals is a privilege and a reward, and has become a way to reinforce good behavior, and teach responsibility and cooperation.
  • When the growing number of immigrant parents asked if they could have school uniforms like they had in their home country, Towery realized the county at the time had no policy.  Rather than say “No” because there was no policy, Towery just started doing it. Today, 90% of the students come in the school “uniform”:  white shirt and tie (or polo) and khakis for boys, white blouse (or polo) and dark skirt for girls – a system that reduced competition for expensive clothes and recaptured focus on learning.
  • One year he bought each teacher a copy of a “No Excuses” book about successful schools in challenging urban environments as a “summer reading assignment,” telling them:  “If these schools can do it, we can.  Come back in September and let’s make it happen here.”
  • He introduced the school to “Direct Instruction” — a rigorous and scripted method of teaching that’s often unpopular with teachers who prefer “doing their own thing.”  But Towery recognized that the students now populating his school needed greater and consistent academic guidance.  “After a few months,” he would recall later, “all the teachers realized that suddenly these children were learning.  What they were doing was working.”  The school supplements that now with a program from William & Mary for gifted and talented students:  At Cameron, no student is left behind – or unable to move ahead.
  • At Thanksgiving, Towery and his Assistant Principal, Steve Hillyard (who succeeds Towery) deliver turkeys and food baskets to families that can’t afford them. He’s gone with a student to the coroner’s to identify a dead parent, and helped students whose parents had ended up in jail or have been evicted or are drug dealers  “because there was no one else to do it.”   He started camping trips so students would learn about nature, and trips to Colonial Williamsburg so they could learn the nation’s past.  And, recognizing that genuinely bad and dangerous behavior was easier to correct at age eight than at age 13, Towery created an “alternative school” for elementary children with behavior problems, and invited other nearby FCPS schools to send him those children.

Towery notes “It’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission,” and much of what he started he started without asking permission. One suspects he frequently begged forgiveness.

It’s tempting to say “this isn’t your grandfather’s principal” … but in a way it is – a throwback to a time when leaders did whatever it took and focused on education, but knew their community, and who was having problems, and went out of their way to lend a hand for the children they loved.

We’ve lost an awful lot of that over the years, haven’t we?

Rumor has it that Towery is planning a book about the last 30 years.  One can only hope so.  The world needs a better blueprint for beautiful castles.

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A Better Model for Lending to the Poor

It’s time to introduce into the public lexicon a distinction between “social justice warriors” and “social justice entrepreneurs.”

Social justice warriors (or SJWs, as they are known short-hand on some conservative blogs) seek to remedy the conditions of the poor and downtrodden through political action, typically calling upon government to wield its power and money to fix some perceived institutional wrong.

Then there are social justice entrepreneurs. Instead of seeing government as the answer, they look to private action: creating new business and not-for-profit models to help the poor. The entrepreneurs don’t agitate, they don’t wave placards, and they don’t frequent protest rallies. They go out and change peoples’ lives for the better.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have no patience with SJWs, most of whose “remedies” are counter-productive, if not outright destructive. By encouraging the poor to buy houses they can’t afford, take out higher-ed loans for degree students never complete, and shutting down lenders-of-last-resort like payday lenders, SJWs have worsened the plight of the poor — all for the most noble of motives, of course.

A better model for lending to the poor

California-based LendUp Global Inc., is an example of a social justice enterprise that has the potential to help ameliorate the lives of millions of poor people — without a single dollar of government funding. The company, which has established its first East Coast office in Chesterfield County, was recently profiled by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. I base the following account upon that article.

Sasha Orloff had worked in finance, including an internship at the Grameen Foundation, a global nonprofit co-founded by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus that provides micro-financing for poor people in developing countries.  His experience there inspired him and his stepbrother Jake Rosenberg, who had worked in technology at Yahoo! and an online gaming company. They conceived the idea of tapping the emerging FinTech industry to make small loans to an estimated 100 million Americans, mostly poor with low credit ratings and income volatility, who cannot get loans from traditional banks. In early 2016, LendUp raised $150 million in venture capital with the goal of becoming a better small-loan provider.

As with payday lenders, LendUp’s interest rates are extremely high on small, short-term loans. A $250 loan repayable within a month would carry a finance charge of $44, equivalent to an annualized interest rate of 214 percent. Interest payments must cover the transaction costs of making the loans, after all. They also reflect the increased risk on non-payment by low credit-score borrowers.

As Rosenberg acknowledges, “There is a subset of the population that actually needs payday loans, and for this population, banks cannot readily serve them for a wide range of reasons.”

“Yes, payday loans are expensive. The real problem is there is no other options,” he says. “The average borrower is getting ten [payday loans] a year, and they have no pathway to a better product. The key thing is, we’ve tried to create a model where we win when the customer wins. … We do that by trying to incentivize behaviors that are constructive to the consumer’s financial life. If they do those things, they get access to more, the cost goes down, and the amount of capital they can get goes up.”

LendUp offers customers a “ladder” out of the indebtedness trap. The company provides financial, advising customers on how to improve their credit rating and qualify for lower cost debt. Borrowers can win points by paying back loans on time. As they prove themselves, they can work from payday-like loans to installment loans of up to $1,000 with lower interest rates.

Earlier this year, LendUp passed the $1 billion mark in loans provided. It has made more than 3.5 million loans.

Time will tell if LendUp has a profitable business model. But if it does, it should have no trouble attracting capital and expanding. Most likely it will attract competitors, and it will push the payday lending industry to reform itself — either develop a better business model or get dismembered by new tech-savvy, FinTech enterprises.

Interestingly, although LendUp’s East Coast operation is based in Virginia, the company does not offer loans in the Old Dominion. The article does not explain why, but don’t be surprised if there are regulatory restrictions inspired by do-gooders trying to protect the poor from predatory lending.

(This article first ran in Bacons Rebellion on September 4, 2017)

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Many Autonomous Vehicle Assumptions Need to be Questioned

As a transportation professional, I’m a bit overwhelmed by proliferating articles and technical papers dealing with autonomous vehicles. And I’m increasingly distressed by the growing disparity between what appears in the popular media and what’s in the technical literature, because the former is what seems to motivate legislators and planners. So here are five challenges to the mass-media version of our AV future.

AVs will save millions of lives. Certainly, we all hope this will prove to be the case. But it’s not as simple as many people seem to think. As Washington Post reporters Michael Laris and Ashley Halsey III explained in a long feature article (Oct. 18, 2016), how will we know how much safer AVs are? Only about half of all crashes are reported to police (as opposed to insurance companies), and some people avoid doing the latter to avoid a possible premium increase. The former head of the National Transportation Safety Board, Mark Rosekind, said that widespread use of AVs should not proceed until they were demonstrated be “much safer” than conventional vehicles, but without comprehensive data on actual accident rates, it’s difficult to make such a comparison. Also, researcher Tom Dingus of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute points out that alert, attentive, sober drivers are very low risk. It’s drunk drivers plus very young and very old drivers that drive up the averages. In addition, the most promising form of vehicle automation relies on machine learning—but even the experts in that field have no idea what or how the machine actually learns. Matthieu Roy of the National Center for Scientific Research in France says that, “You would never put [a machine learning] algorithm into an airplane because you cannot prove [to regulators] the system is correct.”

AVs Will All Be Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs). A January 3, 2017, Wall Street Journal news article called “Wiring Streets for Driverless Cars” presented this conventional wisdom, which is being promoted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration with its Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) efforts. Reporter Paul Page touted new digital signs on a freeway near Washington, DC “as a first step toward what highway planners say is a future in which self-driving cars will travel on technology-aided roads lined with fiber optics, cameras, and connected signaling devices.” But unlike lower-brow media, Page went on to note that many billions of dollars would be needed to wire more than 4 million miles of paved roads and 250,000 intersections. If AVs depend on that kind of infrastructure investment, don’t bet on an AV future. Fortunately, most AV researchers don’t think anything like that is necessary. AVs, especially those with full (Level 5) autonomy, will need to be self-sufficient even in alleys, on gravel roads, and on countryside dirt roads.

Full, Level 5 Autonomy Will Be Here within a Decade. In addition to academic researchers such as UC Berkeley’s Steven Shladover who projects Level 5 (all types of roadway, all weather conditions, no driver needed ever) as a 2075 phenomenon, a number of technology-literate commentators have begun throwing out caution flags. For example, telematics blogger Michael L. Sena headlined a recent issue of his The Dispatcher: “SAE Level 5 Driverless Cars Are Not Just Around the Corner.” He took issue with recent reports claiming that Transport as a Service (requiring Level 5) will be ubiquitous by 2030 nationwide. He also cited a thoughtful analysis by The Economist, headlined “Forget hype about autonomous vehicles being around the corner—real driverless cars will take a good deal longer to arrive.” Wired’s Aarian Marshall had a piece in February explaining “Why Self-Driving Cars *Can’t Even* with Construction Zones,” discussing very real problems with machine learning. He also noted an announcement by Nissan that its current plans don’t include Level 5; instead, they assume a human occupant who can take over control when the AI cannot cope, and the human can contact a Nissan call center for help.

Fleets Are the Future, Not Owned AVs. A recent “analysis” by Governing magazine, summarized in the August issue, sounds the alarm that cities’ budgets are seriously at risk from the impacts of the transition to AVs. For the largest 25 cities, the magazine’s team collected data on parking revenues, fines and citations, traffic camera fines, gas taxes, vehicle licensing fees, etc. Many of these cities each year generate several hundred dollars per capita from these vehicular revenues, much of which could disappear in the AV future, warns the article. Except—much of the impact stems from the assumption that shared fleets of robo-taxis replace individually owned cars, thereby eliminating most urban parking requirements (and hence parking revenue). Another built-in assumption is that most or all AVs will be electric, which is hardly a given. Robotaxis and individually owned AVs that can go elsewhere after dropping the owner off require Level 5 automation, which is hardly a near-term phenomenon. So city officials should not begin losing sleep over plummeting parking revenues.

AVs Will Reduce Congestion. As I’ve pointed out in previous issues, the majority view among AV researchers is that the transition to AVs will increase vehicle miles of travel (VMT), for a variety of reasons including bringing personal vehicle autonomy to millions who are unable to drive today, as well as reducing the time cost of commuting. But a related idea remains—that due to reduced distance between AVs on roadways, existing roads will be able to handle greater volume with less congestion. But even popular media are starting to consult experts who disagree. Business Insider recently interviewed Lew Fulton, co-director of UC Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies. He expressed particular concern about zero-occupant (Level 5) vehicles being a new source of increased congestion. Such vehicles, programmed to run errands, deliver packages, etc. will lead to far more cars on the road. Fulton calls them “zombie cars.”

Before leaving these points, I want to recommend a more thoughtful article. Despite its misleading title, “The Road Ahead for Connected Vehicles” (when the article actually discusses AVs, not CAVs), is a sober discussion by industry experts—established auto industry people, high-tech AV pioneers, and consultants. It’s a product of Wharton’s Program on Vehicle and Mobility Innovation, which has absorbed the former MIT International Motor Vehicle Program. If you have time to read just one article to get a more balanced view of this challenging area, this one is hard to beat. (http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/road-ahead-connected-vehicles)

(This article first ran in the August issue of Surface Transportation Innovations)

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In the end, there is truth.

One of America’s founding principles is the public’s right to know what their government is doing. The framers of the Constitution mentioned no exceptions, not even for national security, but a free press was permanently enshrined in the First Amendment, because a vigilant citizenry was – and is – the only sure long-term guardian of our liberties.

That is why Americans often make heroes of those who expose wrong-doing, like Senator Thomas Walsh, who outed the bribery scandal at Teapot Dome that sent an Interior Secretary to prison, or Peter Buxton, the brave young health official who exposed horrific Tuskegee experiments that injected black men with horrible diseases. Journalism students will always study the exploits of Woodward and Bernstein in uncovering Watergate, and of Gary Webb, the San Jose writer whose “Dark Alliance” articles revealed CIA complicity in the 1990s California drug trade. Literary historians will always honor Emile Zola, who went to prison for libel but was ultimately vindicated for exposing the truth about the Dreyfus Affair in 1890’s France.

Last week saw another text-book example of such cover-ups with the release of an Inspector General’s “final” report on EPA actions that resulted in poisoning the Animas River in 2015 with toxic sludge from the Gold King Mine above Silverton. Two years of government investigations and reports have been increasingly implausible, revealing government officials determined to blame someone else for their incompetence. The IG’s office may label their report “final,” but it is far from the last word on this. The truth will not be brushed under the rug forever.

My friend Rob Gordon ran a year-long investigation of the disaster as staff director of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. His comprehensive analysis, in the June 14 Daily Signal, shows both a shocking level of incompetence, and an obfuscation by EPA officials trying to deny, hide, and transfer blame. It is fascinating reading for those with calm tempers, and it reveals a golden opportunity for the new Administration.

Administrator Scott Pruitt is committed to refocusing the EPA on its core mission, shifting from a reliance on punitive enforcement toward more positive environmental partnerships, and ending the secrecy surrounding many agency practices. As Gordon says, the Gold King Mine cover-up provides Mr. Pruitt and his team a chance to demonstrate a new and improved EPA. Thanks to Gordon’s report, it is served up on a silver platter, much of the investigative work already done.

That means ending this cover-up would not be difficult. All the documents needed to get at the truth are already in the government’s possession. Clearly, EPA officials knew the old mine had a collapsed tunnel, behind which water had accumulated, as is common in many mines. Fine clay and soil eventually filled the gap and formed a natural plug, and the pool of water behind it had built up considerable pressure. EPA knew this, as did the State, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the EPA’s contractor. Their own report says they were onsite trying to relieve hydrologic pressure, so later claims that they didn’t expect the blowout are disingenuous. Yet the EPA’s contractor, working to drain that water in accordance with the agency’s plan, went way beyond inserting a drainpipe, and actually dug away the plug, which blew out under the pressure, flooding the river for hundreds of miles, jeopardizing important water supplies in Colorado and New Mexico. Anyone else would have paid millions in fines, and probably gone to jail.

EPA’s internal report called the disaster an “incident,” asserting that its crew was just clearing a bedrock face, not touching the plug. Somehow, they claim, the bedrock just crumbled and the mine plug blew. The Interior Department produced an independent report, also using the term “incident,” and saying EPA had discussed a different plan, but the Interior report was nebulous about why the contractor excavated the plug, contrary to that plan. The Corps of Engineers, asked to peer-review Interior’s report, questioned why it was considered urgent to dig out the plug, rather than wait for Reclamation’s technical guidance, as planned.

The night before a congressional hearing, EPA issued an addendum, explaining that a vacationing supervisor had given written instructions to his substitute, outlining steps to remove part of the plug. The report nevertheless claims he verbally told the crew not to do so. Now the final Inspector General’s report repeats the same company line: that the crew was digging high above the plug, preparing the site for the experts to examine, when the mine inexplicably burst open. However, as Gordon points out, the congressional committee now has the written internal memos, emails, and photographs proving otherwise. The IG’s report also continues the earlier explanation that EPA assumed the mine floor was lower, so the water would not be pressurized, though photographs taken throughout the process prove all those assumptions are false, and the agency either knew it, or should have known it.

At a minimum, the “incident” shows the most blatant incompetence and negligence, which resulted in environmental damage for which there are very severe penalties in the law. There is no chance whatsoever that the EPA would ignore such an “accident” committed by anyone else in the country, nor conclude that there just isn’t anything further to be said about it. In this case, the reaction was to seek Superfund designation for 30 more old mines in the vicinity, so EPA can continue its work there forever, with untold millions of tax dollars coming their way. It is the last thing Congress should allow. EPA is clearly the last organization in the country that should be in charge of such projects – at least until it is clear what will be done about this disaster and the even-worse cover-up.
EPA’s new leadership should uncover the truth, tell the public exactly what happened, rid the payroll of those responsible, and implement measures to see that it never happens again.

Some government secrets remain forever enshrouded in mystery: the rabbit that attacked Jimmy Carter, the Philadelphia Experiment, and the Roswell UFO incident, to name a few. But the Gold King Mine disaster is not a mystery. It is time for this EPA cover-up to end; thanks to the work of Rob Gordon and others, the truth will come out anyway. As Churchill said “Truth is incontrovertible; ignorance can deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but in the end, there it is.”

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Shameless fear-mongering – versus reality

Before I could enjoy a movie last week, I was forced to endure five minutes of climate and weather fear-mongering, when the theater previewed Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Sequel.” His attempt to pin every weather disaster of the past decade on humanity’s fossil fuel use felt like fifty minutes of water boarding.

Mr. Gore has made tens of millions of dollars pedaling this nonsense and his demand that modern society undergo a “wrenching transformation” from oil, natural gas and coal to a utopian make-believe world powered by biofuels, wind and solar power, electric vehicles and batteries.

Every alarmist prediction has been falsified by actual events: from soaring temperatures to an ice-free Arctic to monstrous hurricanes that have not hit the USA since 2005. His attempt to blame New York City floods during Superstorm Sandy ignored inconvenient truths like construction that narrowed the Hudson River by hundreds of feet, forcing any incoming water to rise higher … and flood Manhattan. Mr. Gore conveniently ignores even well known climate change and weather events of past centuries. No wonder this devotee of SUVs, private jets and multiple homes doesn’t have the spine to debate anyone over these issues. When he lectures us, he won’t even take questions that he has not preapproved.

Thankfully, those seeking an antidote or healthy dose of reality have alternatives. The Climate Hustle documentary film debunks scores of whacky predictions that never came true and presents solid evidence-based science from dozens of scientists who don’t accept “manmade climate crisis” claims. A new Australian book presents detailed and expert but fast-paced, readable material on key climate issues.

Climate Change: The Facts 2017 is the third in a series. Dedicated to the memory of the late, eminent Aussie geologist and climate scientist Bob Carter, its 22 chapters cover climate changes through the ages, the multiple natural forces that primarily drive climate and weather fluctuations, devious tricks that alarmist researchers have used to modify and “homogenize” actual temperature data, attempts to silence experts who focus on natural causes of climate change or on adaptation rather than costly “prevention,’ the historic context behind climate debates, and coral reef resilience amid alleged ocean “acidification.”

Assumed coral, shellfish and other asserted disasters from even slight changes in ocean pH are based on computer simulations that often extrapolate from laboratory experiments. John Abbott, Peter Ridd and Jennifer Marohasy point out that some of those experiments actually added hydrochloric acid to fish tanks to simulate acidification presumed to result from slight increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide!

Carbon dioxide has been demonized because it is a byproduct of fossil fuel use, and many activists want to eliminate the oil, natural gas and coal that provide over 80% of US and global energy. Moreover, while it helps trap solar heat and keep Earth inhabitable, CO2 is the polar opposite of a “dangerous pollutant.”

CO2 is vital plant food and fertilizer, essential for photosynthesis. Without it, life on Earth would cease to exist. In conjunction with slightly warmer global temperatures since the Little Ice Age ended (and modern industrial era began), rising atmospheric CO2 levels are helping to “green” the planet, by spurring crop, forest and grassland plants to grow faster and better, Craig Idso and Matt Ridley explain. 25-50% of vegetated parts of our planet have gotten greener over the past 33 years, from the tropics to the Arctic, and 70% of that greening is due to higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Only 4% has gotten browner.

Ian Plimer, Ken Ring and Nicola Scafetta discuss natural climate cycles and the long planetary and human experience with major climate changes and weather events. Nothing seen today is unprecedented, and most is far more benign than in the past, they note. Bjorn Lomborg and other authors explain why we must end our obsession with the “climate crisis” and other exaggerated threats, and with false solutions to fabricated climate disasters. We need to spend our limited time, money and resources on the many real, pressing problems that confront mankind in developed and developing nations alike.

My chapter in The Facts addresses those pressing humanity problems, largely in the context of Pope Francis’s Laudato Si encyclical. For countless millennia, I note, humans endured brutal, backbreaking lives cut short by malnutrition and starvation, wretched cold and poverty, foul air, filthy water, myriad diseases, absent sanitary practices, and simple wounds that brought gangrene, amputation and death.

Then, in just two centuries, via discovery and progress powered by fossil fuels, billions of people doubled their life spans and became healthy, well fed, prosperous, increasingly mobile, and able to afford wondrous medical and other technologies, foods, services, luxuries and leisure-time activities that previous generations could not even imagine.

Mechanized agriculture – coupled with modern fertilizers, hybrid and GMO seeds, irrigation and other advances – enable smaller numbers of farmers to produce bumper crops that feed billions, using less land, water and insecticides. Improved buildings keep out cold, heat, and disease-carrying rodents and insects, and better survive earthquakes and extreme weather. Electricity transformed every aspect of our lives.

“How can we not feel gratitude and appreciation for this progress, especially in the fields of medicine, engineering and communications?” His Holiness asks. Unfortunately, he then presents romanticized references to consistently mild climates, benevolent natural worlds and idyllic pastoral lives that never existed. He insists that Earth’s poorest people will soon face “grave existential risks” from planetary warming, if we do not quickly and significantly reduce fossil fuel use.

He ignores the absence of Real World evidence that greenhouse gases are causing climate chaos – and the compelling evidence that fossil fuels continue to bring enormous benefits.

Over the past three decades, oil, gas and especially coal have helped 1.3 billion more people get electricity and escape energy and economic destitution. China connected 99% of its population to the grid, mostly with coal. Average Chinese are now ten times richer and live 32 years longer than their predecessors did barely five decades previously. India is building numerous coal power plants to electrify its vast regions.

But more than 1.2 billion people (more than the USA, Canada, Mexico and Europe combined) still do not have electricity; another 2 billion have electrical power only sporadically and unpredictably. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 700 million still cook and heat with “renewable” wood, charcoal and animal dung.

Hundreds of millions get horribly sick – and five million die – every year from lung and intestinal diseases, due to breathing smoke from open fires and not having refrigeration, clean water and safe food. Hundreds of millions are starving or malnourished. Nearly 3 billion survive on a few dollars per day.

These destitute masses simply want to take their rightful, God-given places among Earth’s healthy and prosperous people. Instead, they are being told that “wouldn’t be sustainable.” They’re being told that improving their health, living standards and life spans is less important than avoiding the “looming climate cataclysm” that “threatens the very survival” of our wildlife, civilization and planet.

These claims – and the false solutions being offered to dire problems that exist only in alarmist movies, press releases and computer models – examine only far-fetched risks that fossil fuels supposedly might cause. They never consider the numerous dangers and damages those fuels reduce, prevent or eliminate. These attitudes are anti-science, anti-human, unjust, unethical – and genocidal.

Noted observer of popular culture Clive James wraps up this fascinating book. Proponents of man-made climate catastrophe asked us for so many leaps of faith that they were bound to run out of credibility in the end, he says. And yet it would be unwise to think mankind’s capacity to believe in fashionable nonsense can be cured anytime soon. When this “threat” collapses, it will be replaced with another.

Al Gore, the IPCC, alarmist modelers and researchers, and EPA’s “social cost of carbon” scheme and carbon dioxide “endangerment” decision have all depended on the climate bogeyman. Eternal vigilance, education and pushback by the rest of us will be needed for years to come.

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