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« Guilty men and guilty women | Main | A service »
Tuesday
Sep272011

In which I catch a Turner

I hardly know where to start with Lord Turner's talk, and to be frank I gave up trying to record my thoughts after a while.

He was quite good on the uncertainties in the science, going through the a series of scientific steps emphasising that we knew little about this one, this one was very unclear, there were huge uncertainties in this area and so on. He went on to describe how, based on this uncertain science, he and his colleagues had formulated a global plan for reducing greenhouse gases. This struck me as a little foolish, not to say rather hubristic.

The moment of drama came in his final slide, which was a graph from the famous work of Layard, which purports to find that above a certain level of wealth, more money does not make you happier. Turner's point was that even if the Climate Change Committee's prediction that their plans will not affect our lifestyles very much proved to be wrong and we did in fact become poorer, it would not make us less happy. There was, he said, "no doubt" about Layard's findings. The evidence, we were told was "overwhelming".

The only problem with Turner's story is that it is not true. This is of course a hotly disputed area of economics, with the so-called Easterlin paradox having been fought over for forty years or so.

I managed to get the first question and I called him on his misrepresentation. He then changed his story, declaring his full agreement that the subject was disputed. He said that he hadn't had time to go into these details.

Shameful.

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Reader Comments (70)

golfcharley (Sep 27, 2011 at 12:36 PM) asks:
"Is there a link between support for the Euro and AGW?"
The Marxist historian EP Thompson noted back in the sixties how Europhilia was linked to the middle classes’ discovery of the aubergine and green pepper, which will be popping up like weeds in Blighty if we don’t cut back on the CO2. It’s all about avoiding the plunging value of holiday homes in the Dordogne.

Sep 27, 2011 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

“Money may not buy happiness, but I'd rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus”
― Françoise Sagan

Sep 27, 2011 at 4:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte Jackson

Are the fuel poor happy? Yes, one and all.
===============

Sep 27, 2011 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

geoffchambers, agreed, all vegetables should be taken out of politics.

Should create more intelligent debate

Sep 27, 2011 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

I remember my dear old sainted Mam talking about this very topic and saying to me:

Gerry, always remember son that whether you're rich, or whether your poor, it's better to be rich."

Sep 27, 2011 at 5:08 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

ZDB,

Perhaps you will appreciate these quotes:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
H. L. Mencken,

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force."
George Washington


What is ugly and violent is someone who makes use of government to take what belongs to a person because they are convinced they know what is better for everyone and know also that they are incapable of convincing those same people to voluntarily support their point of view. That is exactly what this Lord Turner proposes to do by telling people they can stand to have less, particularly when it is for the betterment of the many.

Just curious - is this guy a Scot? Sounds like an Englishman to me. The sort we colonials sent packing 200+ years ago.

Sep 27, 2011 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

I would love to see his error budget (steps and uncertainties at each one). Can you post them or point to a URL?

Sep 27, 2011 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterAJStrata

Reminder not to feed the Troll.

Nearly there but the cracks are appearing.

Sep 27, 2011 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterbreath of fresh

I'd be happy to have Turner's wealth

Sep 27, 2011 at 5:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterColdfinger

Just to go back to the uncertainty business - what was Turner's excuse for massive upheaval despite there being now admitted substantial uncertainties in the science; a half-cocked interpretation of the precautionary principle?

I find it hard to fathom people suggesting the harm done by making people across the globe less free, poorer, less well fed, less able to trade and to make development harder to accomplish is outweighed by the harm done by carbon dioxide emissions. I am often left suspicious of their motives - is it a heartfelt belief that the world is in peril or a means to gaining authority?

Sep 27, 2011 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Crikey.

Poor Bish - you have all my sympathy, spending your time listening to such [self-deleted] pontificating.

This is another nice item for my on-going collection of evidence for the New Feudalism.

A short while ago I read an answer by Richard Landes on one of his DT blogs. He wrote that we overlook that our government politicians, the EU ones, bankers, NGO chiefs etc all have more in common with each other than with us, regardless of nationality, just as it was during the feudal reigns in the Middle Ages.
That was like a blindfold had dropped off my eyes - and I've been looking for evidence for this ever since - finding it, just like now: Turner being an example.

Of course, the corollary is that we, not belonging to this class, are what the people were then: serfs. And we're being treated in just that way, like being told that more money doesn't make us more happy ... Yeah, verily, who needs more than one shirt, one pair of trousers and a pair of shoes ... for cold and rain there's always more sacking ... and give more money to us, so your environmental sins will be forgiven. ...

Sep 27, 2011 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

Bish writes:

"I managed to get the first question and I called him on his misrepresentation. He then changed his story, declaring his full agreement that the subject was disputed. He said that he hadn't had time to go into these details.

Shameful."

Hoorah! Hoorah! Hoorah!

Every last one of them is bluffing. Bluffing - Bluffing -Bluffing. Call them on their bluff and they will stand down every time. Climate science is in its infancy. Climate Policy Planning is inchoate and admits any proposal however absurd.

Sep 27, 2011 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

I wonder if he has seen the price of sack-cloth of late? Sackcloth clothing

Sep 27, 2011 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

@timg56

Just curious - is this guy a Scot? Sounds like an Englishman to me. The sort we colonials sent packing 200+ years ago.

No, he's Scottish alright - and of course the Scots were - and remain, in the form of Blair, Brown, et al. - committed colonialists - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_colonization_of_the_Americas - but as clearly shown at Darien, were far more dangerous to their own kind than to native peoples...

Sep 27, 2011 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

When you perchance hear people say "at a certain level of wealth, more money does not make you happier" you can be sure they are advocating wealth transfer away from you, and they really don't care if you are happy about it or not.

John

Sep 27, 2011 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

The idea that happiness is related to per capita income might be true for growing economies. However, dig deeper into the statistics and you will find where economies decline, that happiness does also. The most extreme example is Russia in the 1990s. The USSR it was already an unhappy nation shown by high smoking and alcoholism. Post communism as the economy declined, alcoholism increased, whilst life expectancy and the birth rate decreased. Study Argentina in the 1980s and you will find a similar story as GDP declined by 30%.

So what will happen if we continue to implement "climate change" policies. Growth will stagnate. So what?
The opportunities for advancement in careers will be dependent on people retiring, or getting demoted. There will be no annual increment. The young and ambitious will not be able to contribute to the general good (adding to output), but only by pushing aside others. On the demand side of the economy, people will only see a higher and higher portion of their income spent on heating their homes, and travelling to work. The alternative will be to have dimly lit and colder homes in winter and to spend more time travelling to and from work on public transport rather than cosy cars.
It does not stop there. We have an escalating deficit. Without strong economic growth it will not whither, with the consequence that the national debt will continue to rise. We face ever decreasing living standards and declining public services as debt servicing escalates.
So combating climate change is likely to lead to a fiscal tipping point,as Greece is experiencing. I would think that the happiness index in Greece is declining faster than its GDP. We are reducing growth, the major means that the deficit will be reduced - tax rising or trivial tax cuts - are inconsequential compared to this.
It is time we got some perspective on what really matters. Happiness (for those living in advanced nations) is closely linked to hope and expectancy. It is about believing that we can make a positive difference in the world. For the emerging nations, it is seeing living standards increase year-on-year. Climate change policies will diminish growth and therefore happiness.

Sep 28, 2011 at 12:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

sayno

Up to this point I've been equally proud of my Scottish heritage and Slovene heritage. I'm wondering if I have to downplay the first one.

Naw, I'm not going to let a few idiots tar the many.

Sep 28, 2011 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

Just before I go....I find you all admirable today for sticking to the new rule and ignoring it ;-) Clap clap all!

I know! Can't believe it.

A historical moment has transpired.

Sep 30, 2011 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Sounds like "Red" Adair at his best - Yuck!

Oct 1, 2011 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterPFM

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