Philip Johnston gets it wrong


I normally have a great deal of time for Philip Johnston, a columnist with the Daily Telegraph.  But his piece on December 1st, “The climate argument may never be won, but we can’t ignore it” is wrong on so many levels that I have to respond.

He starts out well enough, reflecting that the lefty eco-warriors who turned out in London on the last weekend in November to demand climate action and the closure of coal mines are (to a large extent) the very same lefty agitators who thirty years ago marched against mine closures.  He goes on to recall Margaret Thatcher’s brief flirtation with climate alarmism – but failing to add that if she was one of the first to recognise the warmist argument, she was also one of the first to see through it.

Johnston goes on to cite the failure of successive Global Climate Jamborees – Rio 1992; Kyoto 1997; Copenhagen 2009.  He asks why the alarmist predictions have failed.  They said there would be more hurricanes in the Caribbean (in fact there are fewer).  Pacific islands would drown (they haven’t).

But he then falls into perhaps the worst possible mistake: the argument from authority: “The vast majority of climate academics subscribe to the idea that global warming is man-made, and every political leader in the world accepts this idea”.  I think that Nigel Farage might be a little surprised by that proposition.

“We are going” (he says) “to move to a lower-carbon future whether it is needed or not, because 150 countries have pledged… etc etc…”.  Behold the triumph of hope over experience!  And he has listed the previous failures, so he has no excuse for this blind faith in Paris and 150 pledges.  First, many of these pledges are conditional on Western funding.  Second, many of the pledges fall far short of the UN’s demands.  Third, the pledges might not be there come the end of the Conference.  Finally, even if the pledges and the funding are agreed (a big IF), they will certainly not be delivered.  China, India and other developing countries are not going to sacrifice the dream of economic progress on the altar of speculative theories and aspirations.

Mr. Johnston maybe needs to study the projections of the International Energy Agency.  Fossil fuel use and CO2emissions will increase for the foreseeable future, Paris or no Paris.  Under the IEA’s “New Policies Scenario” (incorporating the mitigation measures currently envisaged), global coal use grows at an annual rate of 0.4% until 2040.  Under its much more probable “Current Policies Scenario”, coal use grows at 1.3% per annum (no link – you have to buy the report).  “The direction of travel is clear and irreversible”, says Johnston.  And he’s right – but not in the way he thinks.

Then he claims, bizarrely, that it is  “actually a good thing” (in moral terms) “to stop burning fossil fuels.  “Not only is it wrong to dig a finite resource from the earth and expect our grandchildren to do without”, he says, “It is also daft”.  Yet later he answers his own point: “If capitalism is the problem, it is also the solution”.  It will find the best response to future resource issues.

For Johnston to fret over leaving our grandchildren short of fossil fuels is rather like a 17th century charcoal-burner worrying about how we shall keep the home fires burning when we’ve used up all the trees – oblivious of new technologies: coal, gas, oil, and eventually nuclear.  The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.  It ended when we developed better technologies.

His other “moral” argument against fossil fuels is that we shouldn’t leave our children dependent on politically unstable areas like Russia or the Middle East.  Has he entirely forgotten that Britain is an island founded on coal – and that we also have massive gas (and possibly oil) resources underfoot that we have hardly started to exploit?

“Nuclear and solar are much more sustainable”, he says, implying the horrible newspeak meaning of “sustainable”.  Currently solar and wind are unsustainable in economic terms, though I accept that solar will become price competitive (even allowing for back-up and distribution and storage costs) in perhaps a decade or so.  But it will not be sufficient.  Johnston is right that capitalism provides the answer – and when “renewables” are truly competitive, the market will adopt them.  But they will not fully replace fossil fuels for many decades.

Johnston’s final (and very grave) error is the old canard that “On the insurance risk principle, there is sufficient worry to mean that mitigation is a rational, even a necessary, response”.  Not if the insurance premium exceeds the cost of foreseeable damage, Philip.  And pace Stern, most economic analyses are clear that mitigation, with its massive up-front costs, is a more expensive option that “wait-and-see and adaptation”.  Especially when we finally realise that climate alarmism was so much nonsense to start with.






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18 Responses to Philip Johnston gets it wrong

  1. Ex-expat Colin says:

    I don’t mind the term mitigation (risk reduction) but the use of the term by fools (a lot really) means that money is severely wasted and the weak deprived. Naturally, the fools themselves are untouched. Lunch abundant!

    WUWT has a piece today showing precisely the stupidity of Obama as driven by his Science Advisor John Holdren:

    Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing “Climate Change: It’s Happening Now” on 18 July 2013

    See the colossal errors in Holdren’s rebuttal to what was said (testimony) by Roger Pielke Jr. It can be seen quite quickly in para 5. Hyperlinks in the sentence at “rebuttal” and “demolishes”.

    (our parliamentary select committees have a little way to go yet)

    There is no signal showing (detected) that man has triggered (triggers) temperature change….its not been physically detected. Software manipulating raw validated data does not detect it and neither does software gaming. The latter does not operate in the real world and can only track past events and that is by adjustments. Such adjustments invalidate the game and its future use as a useful tool.

  2. catalanbrian says:

    More head in the sand denialist lunacy from Helmer, who repeats the same old drivel on every occasion that he writes about climate (charcoal burners running out of trees; running out of stones and the like) Mind you what else should I expect?

    • ian wragg says:

      Brussels troll department up and running again I see. Peter van L still not back to blogging. Perhaps because all things are not sweet and light in the Lowlands.
      I listened to Obuma spouting in Paris. I don’t really think his heart was in it. Probably the most useless President ever and with a definite soft spot for IS.
      You are wasting your time Roger, the religion is almost as powerful as Catholicism and so much has been invested politically that they will look a right shower of twats when we have the big freeze.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      No value here, nothing to add, simply empty. Move along, nothing to see.

    • leosco says:

      If the denialists as you call us are wrong, perhaps someone as obviously well imformed as you catalabrian could explain why the IPCC model on which you intelligent alarmist depend, fails to take account of the following climatic events: The post glacial Minoan optimum which culminated the destruction of that empire with the explosion of the volcano of Thera 4500 years ago, the Roman optimum which was preceded by the destruction of Pompey and Herculanium( this important warming period allowed Roman settlers in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. to cultivate grape vines as far north as Hadrians Wall on the borders with Scotland something that under present climatic conditions could not be replicated now in the 21st century, It also fails to take account of the protracted Medaevil warming period during which much of the greenland glacier ice receeded allowing Viking settlers to set up a farming community that lasted hundreds of years until the advent of the mini ice age. All of this happened before the industrial revolution and saw ambient global temperatures fluctuating well above modern temperature levels that anyone alive today has experienced.
      The Earth is in a constant state of flux, it always has and always will be, hear in the UK we are living on a northern hemisphere island group but twenty thousand + years ago we were a contingent part of the European continent, on the border between England and Wales there is a raised hill crest called Longmynd Ridge, geologically this high rock formation is known to have once been a coral reef in a tropical sea. Nothing is constant everything is evolving, temperatures vary between + & – of a medial stting, a setting dictated by nature, like a sine wave.

      your super intelligent response to my post would be appreciated.

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        Regrettably he can’t do this, anymore than give us a viable explanation of the CO2 mechanism being a cause of heating that covers the reversal of an observable cause and its effect.

        Very few will attempt to do this, and they never address the reversal question. I gave up on Quora as the warmists just collapse any argument by down voting what they disagree with.

        I don’t think Brian’s an idiot by any means, just swallowed too much propaganda.

  3. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    And how many would die from the mitigation policies themselves? Something never factored in. Far more than from the decimation of our society to appease the fickle climate gods.

  4. Pingback: Philip Johnston gets it wrong | ajmarciniak

  5. David H. Walker says:

    “Climate change insurance” will be purchased by those betting they’ll have a problem, and will be underwritten and furnished by providers betting there won’t be a problem. The actuaries have done the calculations. Insurance companies are more than willing to take money from suckers.

    Because we live in the age of Bill Clinton (“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”) and Rahm Emanuel (“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you couldn’t do before”), anything goes. The government and its handlers are free to re-invent “is” at the drop of a hat.

    Thanks to the leftist fools who apparently think they’re the smartest animals to ever walk the earth, we’re going to have a few interesting decades before their frauds are exposed. I’m hoping the bulk of them will still be around then, so we can make ridiculous examples out of them.

  6. omanuel says:

    This AGW nonsense may be a prerequisite to completion of the scientific revolution that started with the discovery of a giant fountain of energy at the gravitational center of the solar system in 1543.

    Galieo amost lost his life for teaching this heresy and died under house arrest almost 100 years later. After another 100 years, the benefits of the scientific method became more obvious and superstitution began to lose its grip on humanity.

    The full benefits of the scientific method were announced in the last paragraph of Lord F. W. Aston’s 1922 Nobel Lecture. Careful measurements of exact masses of individual atoms had revealed in the cores of the atoms, “powers beyond the dreams of scientific fiction.”

    Twenty-three years later, in 1945, atomic bombs revealed that force as the source of energy in the Sun (the fountain of energy Copernicus had discovered in 1543), and frightened world leaders abandoned science to flee back to the Dark Ages.

    Now, 70 years later, world leaders are gathered in Paris to publicly confirm that blind superstitions again rule mankind.

  7. davidbuckingham says:

    Roger great article – I highly recommend two well-grounded campaigns that are fighting this fight – one is Alex Epstein and his book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels and his Centre for Industrial Progress. Two surprising allies came together when he interviewed Brendan O’Neil of Spiked Online – a relentlessly fascinating publication – about the mythology/religion of global warming/climate change environmentalist fascism, its miserabilist, anti-Enlightenment, anti-mankind agenda – all so refreshing – definitely worth subscribing to both. I may have said before I see a powerful parallel between anthropogenic global warming and eugenics. The latter ruled the respectable intelligentsia in the first half of the last century until Hitler gave it a bad name – hoovering up all our favourite authors like Shaw and HG Wells, politicians even Churchill etc I believe. Let’s hope we don’t need another fascist war experience to correct the wishful thinking.
    BTW Alex Epstein was once a student at the Ayn Rand Institute.

  8. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Am pleased to note: Top French Weatherman: Sacked For Skepticism; Hired By Putin

    They just don’t see it they?

  9. Ex-expat Colin says:

    UK Power Station down then up…another one:
    State aid: Commission authorises UK support to convert Lynemouth power station to biomass

  10. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Film coming up soon: Climate Hustle

    Starts with Trump saying as it is on Facebook a few days ago. He’s right!

  11. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Here’s some cherry picking..sort of.

    Cooling theory and the up and coming ice age about 40 years ago. I remember some of this.

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