Climate Economic Apocalypse

I’ve been making bets with people that if the warnings about catastrophic global warming and sea level rise come true in the next twelve years, I’ll buy them a holiday in the Maldives. But in fact, though I fully expect the Maldives will still be a tropical paradise destination then, the aim of the UK government to make us unilaterally “carbon neutral” by 2050 will probably put such holidays beyond the reach of all but renewable energy billionaires in their private jets.

The government spokeman on the radio today said that it will cost only 1-2% of GDP annually (which is still £10-20 billion of £2 trillion, meaning £350-£700 annually extra for every fuel-bill payer in the country), and it’s just another way of saying the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s estimate of £1 trillion in total. It will inevitably come at the expense of other things, like health, defence, education – everything we pay the government for, in fact.

There are huge problems with this, given the results of ten plus years of our unilateral energy policy so far, courtesy of the Blair government, which you can read about in detail here and, if you are abroad, compare to your own green energy policies.

The first problem is in the assumption that our example will shame the rest of the world into following suit, thus making worthwhile the huge cost of cutting our mere 1% contribution to world CO2 emissions (we’ve already, on paper at least, achieved more than most other countries apart from the USA). But the fact that nobody whatosever has followed us in the last ten years proves that this is a foolish hope, and the reasons are not hard to find: our extra costs make other countries more economically competitive, and they’re not about to lose that advantage.

Another, related, problem is that carbon trading was written into EU law before Mr Blair’s policy (as the paper I linked to explains), and so had to be enshrined in our law. The net result is that, so far, vitually all the emissions we have saved have been taken up by other EU countries: we are in effect producing expensive energy to subsidise cheap, fossil fuel, energy for countries like Poland. It is such countries that, alone in the EU, are able to manufacture the solar panels we buy, at a competitive cost.

That leads on to the unvalidated assumptions in the plan. It is assumed that green technology will make many more jobs. And the experience so far is that it has – but mainly in China, which is busy pumping coal-combustion products and CFCs into the atmosphere at an increasing rate – and largely because they can do the dirty manufacture of clean energy sources cheaper than the west can.

Germany’s promised wealth of new jobs failed to materialise for just such reasons, but our government chooses to ignore that and, I suppose, pictures an army of people being employed fitting solar panels and wind-turbines and then dismantling and transporting them to the ports where they will be exported to Indonesia (in electric ships?) to contaminate their rivers whilst we celebrate the re-introduction of beavers into ours as a triumph of our enlightened environmentalism.

The plan also assumes the future development of actually non-existent technology – such as carbon capture from the atmosphere, economic small-scale fuel cells, and some kind of effective storage for intermittent solar and wind energy (as one Canadian expert said, using the kind of batteries proposed for that by Elon Musk would require land equivalent to all our cities).

When one listens to those who understand electricity grids, the problems with restricting energy to intermittent sources like wind and sun are insurmountable even in theory. Without baseline generators like coal, and controllable peak sources like gas (both of them rendered uneconomic by current policies even if they weren’t regarded as evil), power becomes both hugely expensive and unreliable. Sometimes it is not there, sometimes it causes huge power surges, and it’s at its most available when it’s not needed.

There will be, as there already have been in every country moving in this direction, shutdowns and grid-failures as the norm. The new network of diesel generators in the UK is helping prevent this here, but it doesn’t get much publicity, perhaps because Joe Public is already being ficiancially penalized for the diesel car he bought because that was the green thing to do a few years ago, and he might inconveneiently ask why the national grid is becoming diesel-dependent at the same time.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts how the old Drax coal plant is now run on biofuels – in the form of wood chips from unsustainable American hardwoods shipped across the world by trucks, trains and ships powered by diesel. Apart from shipping and loss of forestry, the wood is less efficient than coal, and no less polluting in CO2 terms. Its theoretical “renewability” in terms of replacing trees (a strong pillar of the new policy) benefits the atmosphere only long after the supposed “tipping point” for irreversible catastrophe. We could, I suppose, change to palm oil from the Philippines or Borneo, but David Attenborough would not be pleased at the biodiversity cost.

Nuclear power is an excellent answer to the problem of intermittency, but of course it is opposed by most environmentalists (and it is that lobby the government appears to heed most). Our stalled nuclear programme was, last week, given a suggested boost by our French suppliers, in the form of a proposed £6 annual levy on every electricity bill – in addition, of course to what is already planned. Nobody from the government seemed to respond, so probably the nuclear can has been kicked down the road again.

The net result of all this (based on the collective experience of ourselves, Germany, Canada, Australia and so on), is that there is little or no net saving in carbon emissions across the world from any of this, and certainly not even a blip in the atmospheric CO2 measurements. But its cost, as in all those countries, and in green US states like California, is that the already serious 11% fuel poverty in this country – acknowledged by the government but somehow never associated with the massive increases in prices that our green energy policy has caused – will become even more acute.

And this will be augmented by the indirect increases in basic commodities because of extra energy costs. Does nobody even suspect a link between the increasing dependance on food banks by the poor in this country, and the costly energy policies we’ve had for the last ten years because of prophecies of doom in the future?

In other words, our ordinary people will become poorer (and many more than the present 9,000 annually will die in cold weather), and the country as a whole will fare that much worse in economic competitiveness, all because of the government’s desire to do virtue signalling to the rest of the world over the climate change problem… to say nothing of how real that problem is compared to the unvalidated models that have predicted, and keep predicting, ever more drastic, but unfulfilled, disasters every decade for the last fifty years.

As the Yellow Vest protesters in France say (and remember, that unrest started over a green fuel surcharge), “The élite is worried about the end of the world: we are worried about the end of the month.”

The bloke from the Government this morning – from the Minstry of Power, I believe – said, “My subject is Tudor History, but I don’t want to take us back to that time.” His policies may well do just that, but one also has to ask what qualifies a Tudor Historian to understand the economics of power generation and fuels for transport, or to understand the science of climate change. Voting pressures from below, EU directives from above and Greenpeace and the WWF shooting from the sidelines are not likely to hone his critical expertise. To me the policy seems a mixture of wishful thinking, lack of critical reflection and green flag-waving. At a cost of a trillion pounds, locked (it would seem) into our legal framework to prevent future governments backing out, it could be an error that ruins the nation. The only comfort is that most of the rest of the western world will be following behind.

The upside may be that the same kind of voices that make such optimistic predictions about the assured success of our unilateral human sacrifice on the altar of Green also, with equal assurance, speak about the economic disaster that would ensue from Britain’s exiting the EU on WTO terms. You get to the stage of concluding that, if our government says something, the opposite is almost certainly true.

Here are a couple of fun videos on the economics and practical results of renewable energy policy, from Canada and Australia.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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4 Responses to Climate Economic Apocalypse

  1. Avatar photo Edward Robinson says:

    Thanks for this column, Jon. It’s filled with sober common sense. One can care about the environment without being an idiot when it comes to political, economic, and social policy. You’ve rightly stressed the complexity of the tradeoffs involved in policy in this area. But of course, to the purist ideologue, “tradeoffs” are never necessary. They think that what you call “virtue signalling” regarding CO2 is so important that nothing else matters.

    Aristotle talked about the need in government for people with good judgment, based on experience of practical affairs. Such people tend not to be theoretical purists; they tend to think in terms of arrangements that can provide for a variety of competing ends, and do justice to as many of those ends as possible. The more extreme AGW people are quite different; they would rather see government policy written by enviro-ideologues whose entire life has been spent in academia. Little details like the loss of thousands of jobs, or increased hardship for the poor, due to ill-advised policies don’t enter their pure theoretical considerations (after all, it’s not the job of a climatologist to worry about things like that, but only to tell us the doom awaiting the planet if we don’t halt CO2 emissions). Your more sober Aristotelian approach to the task of governing is greatly appreciated.

    • Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

      they would rather see government policy written by enviro-ideologues whose entire life has been spent in academia.

      Though some have spent their entire life in the echo chamber of NGOs. I don’t know which concerns me more, the environmental fanatics or the left ideologues backed by capitalist billions using the bogey of climate change as one more tool to bring in the new utopia.

  2. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Anther thing that is really quite serious is that trillion pound policies are built on claims that don’t even match the official IPCC science, shoddy though that often is.

    For example, the IPCC got round the long “pause” in temperature rise by tweaking data to match, almost, the lowest bound of their model predictions. But policy is still being made on the highest projections. Where’s any logic in that?

    Likewise, numerous IPCC sources say that there has been no trend in extreme weather events over the last century, and yet even governments point to heatwaves, cold snaps, floods, tornadoes and even widlfires (many less common than before) as incontrovertible evidence that they must impose carbon taxes. And the documentary makers, supposedly selling us science, do the same. Since this is transparently dishonest, or pig ignorant, why would anyone have confidence in the policies themselves?

  3. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    It seems that the “carbon neutral by 2050” policy has been pushed to a footnote of an EU summit this Thursday because of opposition from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

    Two things to note here with reference to UK – first that these are the countries that benefit from our carbon offsets, owing to the odd rules the EU put in place. They get to use the cheap fossil energy we replace with expensive green energy (which is why they are the places in Europe manufacturing the solar panels).

    Secondly, Mrs May’s unilateral declaration of commitment to this goal (echoing Mr Blair’s similar commitment a decade ago) was based on its being an example for the rest of the world to follow. But even the EU has responded by kicking the can down the road. Come Brexit, then, we will have tied ourselves to a disadvantageous energy policy reducing our competitiveness with, and in, Europe. Unless some true rebel ends up running the country and blowing the gaff on the nonsense.

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