It’s the holiday season. So a web-site called “Science2.0” has come up with a helpful list of twelve ways to respond to those infuriating climate change deniers that you’re likely to meet in the bar while on holiday. Not the top holiday problem on everyone’s list, but I guess they’re trying to help. Even though I’ve yet to meet anyone who denies that the climate changes.
There is all the usual tendentious stuff about junk science and tabloid slogans. They recycle the old “97% of scientists” myth that has been comprehensively rebutted. But they come up with one point that perhaps justifies a response. Author Will Grant suggests: Ask them this: “What’s worse, the majority of climate change scientists being wrong but we act anyway, or climate change deniers being wrong and we don’t?”
Well, Will, there is a powerful case that even if the IPCC is right, which looks increasingly unlikely, the actions which are proposed in response are futile, counter-productive and economically damaging.
This is for a variety of reasons. Of course insurance is a good thing. But if the premiums cost more than the risk involved, insurance makes no sense. Now of course we have the Stern report – insisting that “the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of mitigation”, but the Stern report is shot through with schoolboy howlers that a first-year economics student could rip apart. Most serious studies of the economic impact of climate change (even assuming there might be a problem) indicate that the costs of mitigation greatly exceed any realistic potential cost of inaction.
The other problem with (attempts at) mitigation is that it requires massive front-loaded investment, before confirmation of the problem has time to come through. Apply discounted cash flow, and the effective cost in fifty or a hundred years time (when according to the orthodoxy we might need it) is astronomic. That is why there is such a cogent case for a wait-and-see policy accompanied by adaptation as-and-when, rather than futile attempts at up-front mitigation. This is the case so cogently put by Lord Lawson in his 2008 book “An Appeal to Reason”.
The next problem for Mr. Grant is that the “renewables” which are a large part of the “solution” proposed by the Warmists actually reduce emissions much less than widely believed, especially when you take account of inefficiencies in the necessary conventional back-up (run intermittently) and the layers of subsidy needed not only for land-owners and operators, but also to make an economic case for back-up run inefficiently.
In the UK, over-dependence on renewables is threatening security of supply, and forcing the government to contract with commercial enterprises which have diesel generators, to make those generators available as needed to fill in the gaps. This is perversity on a grand scale — to reduce CO2 emissions, we are forced to depend on diesel generators!
Meantime there are reportedly 1200 new coal-fired power stations in the global pipeline. Emissions will continue rising for the foreseeable future no matter what we in the UK (or the EU) do. And successive climate conferences utterly fail to find the Holy Grail of a global agreement.
But there is a more fundamental reason why our efforts are fruitless (and arguably counter-productive). In Brussels, they call it “carbon leakage”, and it results directly from the eye-watering energy prices that are undermining European competitiveness. This is a polite euphemism for driving energy-intensive businesses off-shore — often to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards, where emissions per unit of production may be much higher. Steel industry insiders tell me that a ton of steel made in China is likely to generate twice the emissions as the same ton made in Germany, for example.
We are driving these businesses out of the UK, and of the EU, altogether, taking their jobs and their investment with them. And we may well be increasing emissions in the process. We are destroying our economies, mortgaging our grandchildren, driving households and pensioners into fuel poverty, merely for the sake of green gestures and modish posturing. And if the IPCC is right about global warming, we may well be making matters worse rather than better.