An Investing Prophet Takes on Climate Change
The guy above and below is good evidence that a stockmarket guru can be a bit of a nit. And his ideas about population control reveal him as a great steaming nit. He is aware of the drastic decline in fertility in developed countries but still thinks "we" have a problem of overpopulation. How does he square that circle?
He even repeats the old Malthus/Ehrlich scare about running out of food. That the whole trajectory of history is towards greater and greater abundance of food obviously does not move him. And he clearly knows nothing about agricultural economics or agricultural science generally if he thinks that the soil will one day stop growing things.
To be less colloquial about it, he is yet another example of the perils of hubris. Icarus lives! Hubris is very common among people who are good in some area of intellectual endeavour. Because they know a lot about one thing, they tend to think they know it all. They ovegeneralize. Understanding stockmarkets is a long way from understanding climate statistics.
And there is nothing in the article to show that he knows anything about detailed climate statistics. He would be pretty rattled if he did. The long hiatus is a pretty comprehensive refutation of the whole global warming theory. He relies, no doubt, on the profitable musings of a small group of climate scientists in influential positions. He bases his beliefs on an appeal to authority, one of the informal fallacies of logic and something which history would warn anyone about
In the end, I suppose he is just another virtue signaller. He uses his money to buy praise: He is getting old (80) and wants to fix his image as a humanitarian before he dies.
I reproduce just the first half of the article below. That tells you plenty. The whole article is available at the link, if you have got time to waste
Terrifying an audience is one of Jeremy Grantham’s specialties. The legendary investor, co-founder of Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo (GMO), is famous for predicting doom. And he’s famous for being right, with a remarkable record of spotting investment bubbles before they pop, notably the 2000 tech crash and 2008 financial crisis.
These days, the topic of Grantham’s warnings is not financial markets but the environment. At universities and investor conferences, gardening clubs and local environmental groups, he gives a talk titled “Race of Our Lives” —the one between the Earth’s rapidly warming temperature and the human beings coming up with ways to fight and adapt to climate change.
Green technologies, like batteries and solar and wind power, are improving far faster than many realize, he says. Decarbonizing the economy will be an investing bonanza for those who know it’s coming—“the biggest reshuffling of the economy since the Industrial Revolution.” Despite these gains, people are losing the race: Climate change is also accelerating, with consequences so dire that they’re almost impossible to imagine.
Grantham says he’ll devote 98 percent of his net worth, or about $1 billion, to help humans win the race. Currently he and his wife, Hanne, are giving more than $30 million a year to eight large nonprofits and about 30 smaller ones. Beneficiaries include three academic institutes in the U.K. named after him, at Imperial College London, the London School of Economics, and his alma mater, the University of Sheffield.
While the donations fund a variety of climate research and policy projects, Grantham focuses his presentations on overpopulation. Forget the flooding of oceanfront cities such as Miami or his adopted hometown of Boston. “Agriculture is in fact the real underlying problem produced by climate change,” he says. With topsoil disappearing at a rate of 1 percent a year and “only 30 to 70 good harvest years left depending on your location,” he says, farmers will struggle to feed the planet. Higher sea levels will inundate the world’s great rice-producing river deltas.
“Even without climate change,” he says, “it would be somewhere between hard and impossible to feed 11.2 billion” people, the United Nations’ median population estimate for 2100. Every other animal species on Earth lives with “recurrent waves of famine,” Grantham says, with population rising and falling based on their food supply. Why not us? He brings up a chart showing the tripling of the world’s population since he was born, more than 80 years ago. “If that’s the curve in the stock market,” he says, “you know what to do: panic and go short.” Translation: When something goes up that far for that long, it’s almost certain to plummet. The only question is when. The next bubble, he seems to be implying, is humans. “The presentation is so severe and raw,” says Morningstar Inc. Chief Marketing Officer Rob Pinkerton, who watched almost 1,300 financial advisers take in Grantham’s keynote speech at the Morningstar Investment Conference in Chicago in May. “It really rattled them.”
Grantham’s discussion of overpopulation makes some people uneasy. “Population is a delicate issue,” says Jonathan Foley, a climate scientist who focuses on agriculture and is executive director of Project Drawdown, a group working on responses to climate change. On the one hand, the decision to have children is “one of the most fundamental of human rights,” he says. “Naturally it’s a sensitive topic to bring up, especially coming from the West.” Still, Foley agrees the issue needs to be discussed. “We can’t pretend there are no limits to the planet,” he says. “You need to address the seriousness of this without triggering people to become fatalistic.”
Grantham delights in being provocative, making statements that seem especially outrageous considering the source, a longtime denizen of Wall Street. The investment business is a “vastly overpaid industry,” he tells a roomful of financial advisers. He lambastes economists, the Federal Reserve, and the flaws of capitalism. “On income inequality, I am left of Karl Marx,” he declares. A father of three and grandfather of six, he applauds the falling fertility rate in most of the developed world. “We have discovered at long last that children are both expensive and incredibly inconvenient,” he says. And as for his perceived adversaries—climate skeptics, oil and chemical company executives, and politicians who fail to take climate change seriously—“perhaps they hate their grandchildren.”
Born north of London in 1938, Grantham never met his father, a major in the Royal Engineers who fought in World War II and died in North Africa in 1941. Grantham and his three older sisters were abruptly sent north to Yorkshire to live with their grandparents after a bomb landed, unexploded, dangerously near their home. After graduating from the University of Sheffield, he was frustrated to find Oxford and Cambridge graduates—“the typical, upper-class chinless wonders” —dominating the best jobs in London. Nonetheless, he says, he “talked his way” into a position at the oil company Royal Dutch Shell, then won admission to Harvard Business School.
For a billionaire, he’s comically thrifty. He and Hanne have lived in the same Beacon Hill townhouse since 1974. A rare bit of self-indulgence is his recently arrived Tesla Model 3. Colleagues tell stories of Grantham insisting on flying coach and of helping him carry luggage down into the London Tube because he didn’t want to pay for a car out to the airport. “He’s cheap, and he’s funny about it,” says Peg McGetrick, a longtime friend and a director at GMO. “He really wants to put every dime into this foundation.”
At first, Grantham and his wife were relatively conventional environmentalists. Their philanthropy was inspired by their travel, including a family trip deep into the jungles of Borneo when their children were young. By 2011, though, Grantham was protesting the Keystone XL pipeline outside the White House. His daughter was among dozens of climate change activists taken to jail. Earlier he had been “apolitical,” or, if anything, an “old, late-lamented liberal Republican,” he says. The 2000 U.S. election was a turning point. “Suddenly, politics and climate became mixed up,” he says. “I began to realize that there were major-league deficiencies in capitalism which had not been on my radar screen.” And “I had no idea how deeply the propaganda machine of the right wing went and how well-funded it was, how smart it was, and how far ahead of the curve it was. The left were ignorant in comparison.”
Climate change, politics, and capitalism became frequent topics of Grantham’s quarterly letters. In his view, the U.S. has been pushed into the grip of an unhealthy version of capitalism, one in which corporations put profits way ahead of all other considerations. “The social contract of 1964, when I arrived here, has been totally torn up,” he says. “Anything that happens to a corporation over 25 years out doesn’t exist for them. Therefore, grandchildren have no value.”
While capitalism “does a million things better than any other system,” he says, it fails completely on long-term threats such as climate change. “You must not expect unnecessary good behavior from capitalists,” he says. The answer, he adds, is strong regulations: “I’m sorry, libertarians, it is the only way.”
The election of Donald Trump was, he hopes, the “final flowering of corporatism. It seems that every conceivable advantage that you could give to corporations has been given, and every conceivable advantage has been taken away from the man in the street.” He laments that the Republican administration has led to a “lopsided” tax law, more pressure on unions and workers, and a rollback of environmental regulations. Especially galling is Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a move that he says makes the U.S. a “rogue state.”