At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, where billionaires and corporate titans rubbed shoulders with the politicians they have bought or for whom they have provided succor, the “very stable genius” known as 73-year-old President Donald Trump aimed his ire at a 17-year-old young woman named Greta Thunberg.
Those who offer warnings about climate change, said Trump, are the “heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, a mass starvation in the 70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s.”
“This is not a time for pessimism,” said the president who frequently has sung the praises of “beautiful, clean coal.” He then went on to say, “Fear and doubt is not a good thought process.”
The president’s ironic reference to “thought process” triggered guffaws around the world. This is the same President Trump who is widely believed to operate on instinct alone. “Trump has no policy on any issue, because his mental impairment means he cannot think strategically or in abstract terms,” John M. Talmadge, MD, a physician and clinical professor of psychiatry at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center has Tweeted.
Later, Thunberg spoke. As The New York Times reports, she rebuked leaders for failing to act on the obvious problem of climate change. She, also offered remarks similar to those she made at the United Nations last year – remarks that have sparked outrage and condescension among climate science deniers and applause and support among those who believe in the overwhelming consensus of, for instance, 18 scientific association: “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”
Those associations include the American Medical Association, the American Meteorological Society, the U.S. National Academy of Science, and the American Geophysical Union. Yes, a staggering number and array of great minds have concluded that the evidence points to a growing climate crisis driven in large measure by human activity.
That does not bring pause to the deniers who like to trot out Judith Curry. She’s the former head at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech. She has credentials.
Unfortunately, she’s less well known for her scientific work than for being known as, one wagged noted, “the most debunked person on the science blogosphere” – and also the source of whoppers and perhaps even libelous statements about those who sound dire warnings about climate change.
The back-and-forth between Trump and Thunberg brought to life the usual suspects. Some who oppose Trump on almost everything else, shockingly stepped up to say that this time the stable genius has a point. Trump’s own secretary of the treasury suggested that Thunberg keep quiet until she has a degree in economics – as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin does from Yale.
At the same time, those who prefer real science and provable facts have long stood up for and with Thunberg. Former First Lady Michelle Obama, for instance, has told Thunberg via Tweet to “ignore the doubters” and “don’t let anyone dim your light.”
The Trump versus Thunberg kerfuffle, however, is really nothing more than an entertaining sideshow largely driven by social media (the world of things negative and insulting) and cable news (stuffed with bias). The reality is that decision-makers who matter most have already embraced the climate science and are busy taking action rather than posturing.
Microsoft Corporation, for instance, has promised to aim for being carbon negative by 2030. Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, with $7 trillion (US) under management, noted in his annual letter to investors: “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.” Climate change, he added, is the top concern investors raise with BlackRock. Expect a “significant reallocation of capital” into investments that address the real problem of climate change, noted Fink.
Canada’s own Mark Carney, outgoing governor of the Bank of England (and who steered the Bank of Canada through the financial crisis), is soon to take up a new post as United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance. He has warned of potential catastrophe for markets that ignore Minsky risks related to climate change.
Minsky risks? As The Globe and Mail notes, “a Minsky Moment happens when asset values collapse with little or no warning.” Radial climate change, Carney has warned in The Globe and elsewhere, poses massive risks to banks, insurers and companies big and small.
Politicians such as Trump mock climate science, but serious investors and whole industries need to be more sensible and responsible. Which brings us to the car business.
Starting now and going forward, car companies around the world will be rolling out dozens of electrified vehicles designed to mitigate the effects of emissions from vehicles. Bloomberg predicts that annual electric vehicle sales will go from 10 million by 2025 to 28 million by 2030 and 56 million by 2040. Tesla, the world’s No. 1 EV maker, now has a market cap of more than $100 billion (US). Investors see massive opportunity in Tesla. And legacy car companies from Volkswagen to Ford plan to launch a string of electrified models in the coming months and years or face what looks like a marketplace collapse — their own Minsky Moment.
The President of the United States may love his “clean coal,” but the warnings of climate warrior Greta Thunberg dovetail nicely with the investment theses of the smartest bankers, business people and investment experts in this world.
I’m with Thunberg, Carney and the smart money.