Prior to the Olympics in Beijing, China solved a pollution problem they previously claimed they never had by banning all cars except those for communist party elites. It did little for CO2, Beijing had a PM10 (smog) problem, but it showed drastic interventions could help the air.

A new paper argues that America may have to get drastic as well, or property values will plummet. The changes will occur, they believe, due to greater risk of fires, droughts, and floods.(1) The paper uses a simulation to estimate virtual money - yet like virtual pollution (PM2.5), virtual water, and virtual diabetes, virtual money due to virtual fires is scientifically meaningless.(2)  It is instead in danger of becoming like a trial lawyer's plea or dystopian fiction.

Some of the logic is as suspect as the numerical model. “We have insurance policies, we have seat belts in cars and airbags. All of these are to mitigate the risk of getting in a car accident or having a fire burn down your house," writes Professor Bill Anderegg of the University of Utah, which is the kind of thing you'd expect an ecologist doing a computer simulation of virtual money about trees to write, if you've been in non-partisan science long enough. In the actual world, insurance policies and car safety devices do not mitigate the risk of accidents, they assume both are going to happen. Both of those only reduce harm.(3)

He then goes on to suggest that insurers are leaving California because 'the risk is too high', which you only believe if your policy insight stopped at a Think Progress blog post. Insurers leave California because it is a hostile business climate.(4) The state forbids utilities from clearing brush or removing dead trees without permission from the state government - and environmental lobbyists have gotten ridiculous restrictions like that gas-powered generators can't be used.(5) The state also caps how much insurance companies can charge even for homeowners who built houses where, due to the chronically arid climate, fires are common.

Still, you can make an estimate and that is all they are trying to do. If people owning an acre or more had insurance claims of $4 billion they can create a disaster curve and conclude it will be $45 billion by the end of the century. But if we declare a Climate Emergency and lockdowns, a la Beijing in 2006 and 2008 and certainly the Biden administration using government agencies to enact policy supposedly to help with COVID-19 beginning in 2021, then the amount might only be $11 billion. 

Yet even that makes no sense. Dollar inflation has risen over 1700 percent ($1 in 1943 is $17.67 today) in the last 80 years but it will only go up 300 percent in the next 80 years? Or wildfires will decline so much due to lockdowns that wildfire damage would plummet over 75 percent? The secret sauce of the computer simulation doesn't say but since most wildfires are today caused by nature, not humans - unless politicians refusing to let utilities trim trees near power lines counts as humans causing trees to fall or lightning to strike - then it is reasonable to instead believe that damage would at least match inflation.

Okay, ignoring the conclusion, does their conceptual model make any sense? Not really. During the COVID-19 pandemic, property values in some places doubled, and even with rampant inflation, high interest rates, and a stagnant economy, property 'values' have not gone down yet. Attributing a magical drop that would occur if there are more fires is a fantastic leap, not one warranted by evidence. In California, where the government limits water and keeps housing costs high, the cheapest land is in remote areas where there is no water. No one is selling their house cheap in Frisco because there are fires near Nevada.

Values only go up or down if people are willing to buy or sell. A whole lot of people in Maui now want to get out of there while the values are still high - government is not going to suddenly get smarter about fire mitigation when they claim that peasants had holy ground 12,000 feet in the air where telescopes are - but government is banning sales they don't approve. Values can't really go down if no one is allowed to sell but value is zero.

Climates have shifted for millennia, archaeologists have gotten tremendous insight into ancient lands by uncovering lost cities under sand that once were lush farmland, but banning cars back then would not have changed a thing. We still know little about climate, so little that some models seem like cargo cult science rather than a way to be trusted guides for the public, we only recently discovered that the sun is putting out 1 trillion electron-volts of radiation we didn't know about. We have time to solve emissions, Jane Goodall nonsense about culling the population back to where it was 500 years ago - "Voluntary Population Optimization" but who is volunteering? Not white elites  - and Al Gore, wealthy plutocrat of carbon credits, whose hedge fund invested in BP on its way to paying him $2 million per month - hysteria aside. We have time to mitigate emissions responsibly. James Hansen, the father of global warming, said the only change we'd need to make is Clean Coal. Nuclear would have done it already.

Instead, we have squandered $4 trillion on solar and wind, and countries in Europe pretending those worked while buying Russian gas to power their homes had to ignore that solar and wind mandates and subsidies only caused conventional energy to change by 0.1%.

Papers like this are a decent discussion point. Unfortunately, too often politicians embrace them and call them back, but only because they say what politicians want to have said - that more government is the answer.


(1) The authors try to use the recent fire in Maui as an example, but that was caused by a tree falling on a power line. Trees fell a long time before now, and Hawaii, like California, forbids utilities from engaging in routine brush or dead tree clearance without government permission first.

(2) Using virtual money, government claims for every dollar it spends on science, it creates 1.4 - which means all social security funding should be dumped into the NIH budget for investment right now. Except people who can do math knows that the money is coming from the 50% many people pay in taxes, then half of that is lost to waste, then the remainder goes to people who then pay 50 percent of that in taxes. Government evangelists ignore math - because they can.

(2) As are citizens. The state lost an entire Congressional seat in population, which Governor Gavin Newsom tried to blame on coronavrus - but they had COVID-19 in Texas, which gained a seat.

(3) Usually only epidemiologists working at goofy organizations like IARC, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the taxpayer-funded NIEHS aren't aware hazard and risk are not the same thing. Apparently we can include at least one ecologist. 

(3) If you don't think a 200-mile extension cord with energy from solar panels will work, you will never get a job as an environmentalist or politician in California. If you think government is ridiculous and not a force for public good, you will enjoy the decade-long story of a mandated restoration of a trout in California, which could not be done due to another law forbidding a gas-powered augur. Lawyers working for government went through the motion of suing each other in court, levying fines on each other, all being forced to note that federal law said they were right. The sad part is, they were both right. That is how poorly managed the federal government is when it comes to the environment. And still is, but some administrations relish trampling on the rights of the public too, and if you read the new ways EPA is trying to violate the Constitution. you will wonder how the Biden appointees can call themselves "public servants."