Blain’s Morning Porridge – Jan 5th 2023, Climate Change: Threat, Opportunity, Ukraine and Growth!
“So where are the choirs of flower throwing schoolchildren now Comrade?”
This morning: The UK’s Met Office says it was warmest year on record – what does that mean in terms of climate change opportunities in the long-run, and how the geopolitical threat mellows now that General Winter has abandoned Putin?
Yesterday was Perihelion – the moment the Earth’s orbit is closest to the Sun at 147 mm kilometers. Come July 4th we can celebrate Aphelion when the Sun will be 152 mm miles away. At Perihelion the Sun is 7% stronger beating down on the Southern Hemisphere, and imperceptibly larger in the Sky.
Recent research into the Earth’s axial tilt, sea temperatures, wind speeds and direction, and orbital precession (yep, I had to look it up), has shown that the Earth’s orbit around the sun does have measurable climate effects, including influencing the “Pacific cold tongue” of chillier sea temperatures that drives El Nino/La Nina weather events. It also partly powers the winds behind the East-West Monsoon that dominates the Indian subcontinent.
None of the above means climate change is not real. The Earth’s elliptical orbit is a given, and shifts on a 22,000 year cycle. What the research highlights and confirms is just how complex and inter-connected the Earth’s weather mechanisms are. Tweak something and it has consequences.
What we do know is the warmer the atmosphere, the more water vapour it can carry, and the more powerful storms become when fuelled by warmer oceans. This year we’ve seen stronger and more frequent storms, and considerable global flooding. Put 1+1 together. It’s the cumulative consequences of small changes that begets a cycle where the normally fluctuating climate suddenly becomes chaotic.
What we also know is 2022 was officially the warmest year on record, according to the UK Met Office. They know their stuff. Founded by Captain Robert Fitzroy in 1854 – he also skippered Darwin’s Beagle – the Met office has been measuring the weather longer than anyone else. (Here in the UK we know the weather – it’s all we really do; blether about the weather.)
Other folk say global warming is still within norms. Try telling the palms in my back garden slaughtered by the cold snap in Dec it was a warm year.. But it was. Temps hit 40.2F for the first time ever in Blighty. Given current global warming models, that wasn’t expected to happen for another decade or so. This morning in my seaside village on the south coast of England, the bulbs are already shooting up, some trees are budding, and yesterday I spotted a bee – on Jan 4th!
Weather matters across the global economy – and weather events are increasingly less predictable and more volatile.
- Across the Alps there is a serious dearth of snow. Ski resorts are (literally) in meltdown. (I am seriously considering a trip to Whistler or Colorado rather than the Aosta Valley in Feb.)
- Drought, heat waves, landslides, firestorms, storm surges and floods are becoming more frequent and more damaging across the USA, Asia, South America, Africa and Europe.
- Permafrost is melting across Siberia and Canada.
- The amplitude of weather events is increasing – faster than the science predicts. Pakistan was devastated by monsoon floods – its notionally a desert – proof of just how more water is in the atmosphere!
There are two immediate issues with the weather.
The first is the mounting evidence of global climate change and the imperative to act to mitigate it. If you are a climate change denier, or you want further evidence – your call, but you could miss the biggest investment gold rush in financial history.
In the Medium/Long Term climate change mitigation and prevention will become the most important long-term driver of economic invention and innovation ever, spawning multiple investment opportunities. It will drive the creation of a whole new environmental sector to create carbon offsets; including areas like environmental restitution and rewilding. I sincerely believe our capacity for finding solutions will create a sustainable, better future as new renewable energy sources and environmental improvements become political imperatives rather than mere fads consumers will actively demand!
It’s an example of the millennial effect of changed political objectives. Here in the UK the established conservative party is finding it simply doesn’t appeal to younger voters who are not switching to them as they age. The old adage about a person who is not a socialist in their youth having no heart, and one who is still a socialist in middle age has no head, is no longer true. They are staying radicalised – see CapX in this morning’s Five Things.
The second effect of climate is the immediate Short-Term.. weather has become a critical component of the current geopolitical picture.
There is a pub in Musselburgh, near Edinburgh, called Stagg’s. Superb beer, and I know it rather well as my mate lives around the corner. The Stagg family has run the pub since the 1850s. Their most famous son was Group Captain James Stagg of the RAF. He was the meteorologist who advised General Eisenhower on the timing of the D-Day Landings in 1944, perhaps the most critical weather call of modern times. Stagg held back D-Day, demanding a one day delay till June 6th to catch a fleeting weather break.
Stagg called it absolutely right.
Vladmir Putin has called it wrong. His strategy to sieze Ukraine was based on Europe backing down from confrontation on the expectation a gas squeeze would crush the European economy, backed up by the implicit threat a cold winter would cause unacceptable power outages and misery across the EU and UK. It hasn’t happened. For once the cold has not favoured the bally Ruskies. With every warm day Europe is less likely to collapse this winter.
- Warmer temperature mean Gas prices are in free fall, “cooling” the energy inflation spike since Russia invaded Ukraine.
- Germany successfully opened its first floating LNG import terminal just before Christmas – cutting its future reliance on Russia. The consensus it would take years for Germany to replace its overreliance on NordStream 1&2 gas infrastructure. Wrong. It took 10 months.
- Russia’s handling of the war has gone from bad to worse. It looks increasingly ineffectual and disorganised – even panicked as they blame troops using mobile phones for the missile strike that took out a whole battalion of Samarkand conscripts.
- Long-term demographics show Russia will run out of eligible soldiers long before Europe. It’s increasingly exposed as an ageing, busted, kleptocracy.
The last time I wrote about how Russia was losing the war, I was trolled by Putin’s legions of Trumptards and Ivans telling me how it’s the Biden supporters who are lying, that Russia is winning, and every Ukrainian is a Nazi. The trolls’ position is untenable. Even if Ukraine was fighting a proxy war foisted on them by the West, its clear they are fighting willingly for their freedom and unity with skill, dedication and as patriots.
Cynically, one could argue the West is fighting a very successful economic war against Putin – spending a few billion dollars to have the Ukrainian forces do the heavy smashing of Russian combat arms. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than the trillions a real war would cost, with the advantage Nato troops are not the ones doing the dying. No wonder the West sits back and applauds Zelenskyy as Russia squanders its manpower. I’m sorry for Russian mothers, and angry for the Ukrainian dead.
All war is tragic, but Putin looks to have lost his only real ally – General Winter.
How will the war play out? I’ve read all kinds of nonsense about the imminent nuclear threat meaning the West should pull out. We can’t discount the possibility of escalation, but to pull out would be appeasement. The West’s support for Kiev should be unconditional, but will not be. The West lacks the required political will-power, and will conveniently hide behind the threat of potential nuclear escalation to hold back on unlimited support for Ukraine.
How does it end? Both sides need a victory before they agree to a peace. Ukraine needs to push Russia back. Russia needs to hold the provinces it illegally absorbed. These are mutually exclusive. That means either the West intervenes to push out Putin – which is highly unlikely, or it continues on till Putin is replaced, although his likely successors are expected to be even more hostile to the West.
Long term… Putin’s Russia has already lost. It may have resources in abundance, but the West will never accept it back, leaving it a poor, aging bullying state. Good luck having China as your best “friend”.
For 2023, Europe’s priority will be energy security, building on the success of new LNG infrastructure to secure more non-Russian energy, and for the West to mount a diplomatic offensive to rebuild a global consensus against Russia.
Five Things To Read This Morning
Out of time, and back to the day job..