Buy

Books
Click images for more details

Support

 

Twitter
Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing
  • Jun 22 - Mark Hodgson on
    COP 23
  • Jun 21 - Mark Hodgson on
    COP 23
Links

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« UK science journos talk "false balance" | Main | British science journalists on Climategate »
Monday
Jun252012

Will Hutton's Rio postmortem

Will Hutton, a stockbroker turned left-wing talking head, reviews the climate debate in the aftermath of the Rio conference. It's mostly fairly ill-informed:

The ideology driving the sceptics is most obvious in the exchanges over the impact on future generations. US Tea Party activists and their bombastic British representative, Niall Ferguson – now delivering the Reith lectures – like to terrify their audiences with how much public debt today's generation is leaving its children. Yet the same argument is not applied to the planet. At the end of his first lecture Professor Ferguson was asked if he applied the same logic on future generations to climate change: he was flummoxed, and dodged the question.

He was right to be embarrassed. Climate change is already hurting and, unchecked, will turn into a catastrophe. Economists use what is called a discount rate to compare income and welfare in the future with income and welfare today. If we forgo just a little welfare today through burning less fossil fuel, even applying a modest discount rate, we can guarantee that there will be no catastrophic loss of welfare in 2050. This is exactly the same argument that Ferguson, Osborne et al use in reverse when asking us to accept austerity today for the joy of being free of public debt in decades to come. But it is not OK to use it for climate change.

There is so much nonsense in here: the fact that the UK hasn't actually cut spending yet; the remoteness of a possibility of a catastrophic loss of welfare by 2050; the equating of spending cuts with nobbling the economy. But I'm not sure anyone is listening to the Huttons of this world any longer.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (33)

IIRC Hutton's "The State We're In" was allegedly one of Blair's favourite books. (Or at least that's what the Labia Party publicity machine said.)

No doubt he is still a hot ticket with our beloved political "elite".

I did hear Ferguson's first Reith Lecture. He didn't get drawn into a debate on Climate change (probably a wise move) but I don't recall him being "flummoxed" by the question.

Ferguson isn't particularly a hero of mine but I think he's only wrong as infrequently as Hutton is right.

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

The left listens to people like this. Hence why so many of them live in Laalaa land.

Mailman

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Another Guardian article so devoid of reality and so far from the truth that there is little wonder that the Guardians readership is falling.

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

You can rank the level of technical professional scepticism according to the job a person has or had.

The most sceptical of all are IR spectroscopists who know that the IR absorption by CO2 is minimal and self-limiting.

Economists like Hutton are on the low side because (a) it's an earnings' opportunity and (b) they change their mind at the drop of a hat when the flock changes direction.

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

Hutton:

At the end of his first lecture Professor Ferguson was asked if he applied the same logic on future generations to climate change: he was flummoxed, and dodged the question.

Brumby:

He didn't get drawn into a debate on Climate change (probably a wise move) but I don't recall him being "flummoxed" by the question.

Ha. I know which version I believe.

But even if a leading historian was flummoxed by a question about climate chnge, so what? So much of the climate 'consensus' among intellectuals has been built of such petty oneupmanship. What does Hutton understand of spatio-temporal chaos or feedbacks from water vapour and clouds? We are all pitifully ignorant and if Professor Ferguson has the sense to admit the fact, all the better for him.

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

If Hutton simply said that we should think not just about the debts we are leaving to future generations but also everything else, e.g. the state of our towns, the countryside and the environment in general then I doubt if anyone would disagree with him. If he said that we need more long term thinking in energy policy, transport, the infrastructure, health, etc. then again most people would agree in principle, provided the "long term thinking" did not take the form of the old 5-year plans of the former Soviet Union.

Where he goes wrong is in naively suggesting that we can control the climate by using up fossil fuel and some unspecified lower rate than we are doing now.

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

I listened to the Ferguson lecture and would advise all to do so - he was brilliant. He certainly was not flummoxed by anything.

As for the statement by Hutton that "Climate change is already hurting", he is correct, but not in the way he intends. It is the ridiculous climate change policy that is hurting. It is hurting the countryside, the economy and the citizens of this country. Unfortunately it is not hurting the political elite and the hangers-on who have their snouts in the trough.

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

"if he applied the same logic on future generations to climate change: he was flummoxed, and dodged the question."

I am not surprised he was flummoxed since the question was stupid. I find it incredible that Will Hutton who clearly is devoid of any understanding of CAGW or the climate, is willing to accept any old drivel.

He represents a lot of what is wrong in the 'climate debate' - too many non-scientists that do not understand the science and regurgitating incredible nonsense as though they know what they are talking about! There is a consensus out there - yeah right!

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

"If we forgo just a little welfare today through burning less fossil fuel, even applying a modest discount rate, we can guarantee that there will be no catastrophic loss of welfare in 2050. This is exactly the same argument that Ferguson, Osborne et al use in reverse when asking us to accept austerity today for the joy of being free of public debt in decades to come. But it is not OK to use it for climate change."

Hutton is talking shite.
This is _precisely_ what the Stern report was about.

Except that:
- he had to use a derisorily low - almost zero - discount rate to get the scary numbers he wanted
- all we have to do is apply a revenue neutral carbon tax at $80/tonne and that's it. We will have brought forward the costs of damage to future generations to be reflected in costs today. So even assuming Stern was right WE HAVE ALREADY DONE ENOUGH: Petrol taxes are far far higher than this level.

Hutton is talking shite.

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Pedant-General

You can read Ferguson’s first Reith lecture at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01jmx0p/features/transcript
The questioner is Ros Kelly, ex-Environment Minister in Australia. Ferguson agrees with her.

KELLY: Do you think if we’re going to be fair to next generations, do we have to put a proper price on environmental pollution and carbon taxes, etcetera?
NIALL FERGUSON: There’s no question that any serious system of public financial accounting, and indeed private financial accounting, needs to take into account the kinds of depreciation that are associated with environmental degradation..

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:59 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

To me this guy suffers the same problems as Myles Allen. Exciting as climate change is to them they know they are hamstrung by having to refer to the global problem. So even after claiming effects that are so local that “festival goers” can see them, this can never be enough to convince non-festival goers about Will's solutions because they see that once you believe the problem is global then logically political solutions can only work at the international level.

Yet international solutions keep failing.

Yet Myles and Will still keep framing the solutions it in the same old statist parochial manner. Anyone can see they just serve themselves by trying to deploy a “a more agile, intelligent state.”
With themselves as the drivers in a tin-pot elite at the head.

Maybe he really is that dumb and doesn’t understand why scepticism is rising?

Jun 25, 2012 at 9:10 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Economics is today a branch of politics mixed with media. Hutton is of an age at which he has whipper-snappers at his heels so is hyping up his presentations to keep the contracts coming in.

Essentially, he is developing into a waste of space. Indeed, you can probably tell how to identify such people by their continued support for the absurdly-exaggerated IPCC claims of high CO2 climate sensitivity. They have nowhere else to go.

Jun 25, 2012 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

Will Hutton is definitely the guy you'd turn to for advice on your future indebtedness.

Having tried finance, journalism and writing books with limited success - he tried his hand with surely the simplest business model ever invented - the "think tank".

Basically, rich people & institutions shovel money at you to spread bullshit on their behalf - simples eh?

Not for Will - in a few years, he bankrupted The Work Foundation with debts of around £30m (including all the pensions owed to current & past employees).

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/22/work-foundation-thinktank-bought

Yes, Will's the man around whose feet our leaders need to gather for economic advice.

Jun 25, 2012 at 9:24 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Using a "modest" discount rate is part of the problem. Stern used 0.1% in his infamous report. Nordhaus suggests that 3%, declining to 1% is more realistic.

Regardless of the discount rate, and still using Sterns numbers, does it make sense to take 2% or so of todays $7000 per capita per annum, to save our great grand children from paying 3%-4% of $94,000?

It is a regressive tax, in the sense that low income taxes are to benefit high income earners. And the left supports this lunacy....

Jun 25, 2012 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterLes Johnson

How the heck did Niall Ferguson get past the gatekeepers onto the Reith lecturer's podium? I thought we'd be hearing the usual leftist drivel so didn't bother tuning in.

Jun 25, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

Nice article by Hutton! it shows that barely confined anger and hatred of it's targets that is becoming so prevalent on the thermosexual's side of this non debate !

Jun 25, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered Commentermat

Read Hutton to the end, and you’ll see that it’s a call for revenge on the right for the fact that the left was “forced” by experience to discard all its values and adopt Blairism. Faced with economic catastrophe, due in part to the impotence of the left over the past 30 years, Hutton is saying: “We were forced by events to sacrifice all our ideals, now it’s the turn of the right”. Catastrophic climate change is simply enrolled as the “reality” which will do his dirty work.
In constructing his argument, he uses pure 2007-vintage big-girl’s-blouse catastrophism of the sort which a Hickman or a Monbiot would blush to recall.

A month's rain fell in a day last week in parts of Britain...This is part of a wider pattern. It is not just that world temperatures are on average steadily rising, the weather everywhere is becoming more extreme.... more turbulent ... more unpredictable...Climate change is already hurting and, unchecked, will turn into a catastrophe. There is climate change. No gardener, farmer, sailor, festival-goer or refugee from floods doubts it – let alone the scientific community....
and his killer argument:
Reality put the left on the defensive for a generation before it came to its senses. The same is about to happen to the right. Lived experience is about to show how wrong it is – and Britain and the world cannot afford the mistake.
Yup. This is the new left wing argument, straight out of Genesis: the right will be proved wrong when the floods come and punish their sins. This is where the Third Way has led us - up the proverbial creek with Will waving his paddle.

Jun 25, 2012 at 9:47 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

... their bombastic British representative, Niall Ferguson – now delivering the Reith lectures
Oooh! you bitch! Do I detect just a wee smidgin of ...er ... envy, here?

Jun 25, 2012 at 9:50 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

If the Government removed its subsidies from the "sustainable" energy market (Windmills) two things would happen;
1) We would see just how "sustainable" windmills are
2) We would have alot more money to invest in the real economy.

Jun 25, 2012 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Don: the windmills aren't there to save CO2, which they can't, their purpose was and is to establish political dominance over the countryside, in effect a version of the swastika but some might compare them with Easter Island statues. The immigration scandal was a similar tactic.

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

Warmists. A large group, usually on the left of politics. Wearing ear plugs and blindfolds. Confusing weather and climate. Still failing to believe that the globe is no longer warming. Clearly Hutton is in this category.

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

Ferguson's lecture started with the cogent remark that the MSM demand certainties from science. That is where the (climate) trouble started!

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Geoff

"No gardener, farmer, sailor, festival-goer.."

Well, he's up-to-date, at least, although I have to tell him that the weather in the Isle of Wight is currently dry and the festival-goers are trooping home in the sunshine. A normal British summer, in other words, although not a barbecue one, so far.. :-)

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The Daily Fail is still at the top but it has gone really pro CAGW recently so the propaganda is not stopping.

http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=49526&c=1

Jun 25, 2012 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

The left's world view has had be reinvented – necessitated by lived experience. Capitalism is not going away: the task is to reform it deploying a more agile, intelligent state.

Now it is the right's turn. There *is* climate change.

This is the key to the whole thing. I wonder where Ben Pile is, and if he is looking at this.

We tried to smother and kill all of capitalism. It didn't work and we realised we have to live with it (and reform it LOL). Now we have climate change to stick up yours.

Jun 25, 2012 at 11:34 AM | Registered Commentershub

@ les johnson

It is a regressive tax, in the sense that low income taxes are to benefit high income earners. And the left supports this lunacy....

The left plans to tax the poor now and to tax the high income earners in the future anyway. It's not an either/or, it's both.

Jun 25, 2012 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Ros Kelly?!? - talk about an unwelcome blast from the past!

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/close-keating-ally-resigns-in-grants-scandal-1426241.html

Amazing how the social democrat elites can so easily reinvent themselves after a less than stellar parliamentary career. Her husband David Morgan, ex-CEO of Westpac bank, is a doyen of noble corporate sustainability concern, it seems:

'While David was CEO of Westpac, it was assessed as the global sustainability leader for the banking sector in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index from 2004–2007.[2]' [Wikipedia]

"All large corporations face sustainability challenges in regard to climate change, social and other environmental areas. This requires all of us to play our part in tackling these challenges head-on so that we leave a better world for future generations," Dr Morgan concluded.

http://www.westpac.com.au/about-westpac/media/media-releases/2007/10sep2007/

I shall leave you all to draw your own conclusions ... *shakes head and walks away*

Jun 25, 2012 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

@Spartacusisfree.
Of course they are not there to save CO2. Their modus operandii ensures that.
They are simply expensive monuments to flawed leftist/liberal/green ideolology.
All the above philosophies have at their heart the concept that they can spend other
peoples' money better than the person they extort it from.

Jun 25, 2012 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Typical attitude from a former Communist now turned Corporate Nazi Will Hutton, anything to save Gordon Brown's and now Cameron's Welfare State for the Stock Market Parasites !

http://nollyprott.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/green-holocaust-2/

Jun 25, 2012 at 5:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterGordon Pye

Philip Bratby wrote: Unfortunately it is not hurting the political elite and the hangers-on who have their snouts in the trough.

Thank you for that wonderful imagery, Mr. Bratby.

Some animals are more equal than others. - George Orwell

Jun 25, 2012 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMickey Reno

(Or at least that's what the Labia Party publicity machine said.)
----------------------------------
I won't name the poster, but I hope your scrotum shrivels to a walnut as emus kick down your dunny door. Ho, ho, that was hilarious, right? Look out, Footlights.

Back on topic, this person is an economic illiterate who doesn't understand discount rates, and I can only hope that he is in charge of his own superannuation fund, and no-one else's.

Mind you, the enshowered with awards Lord Stern doesn't understand discount rates either. Somehow, all these people seemed to have been absent during the whole of the first year of their economics studies. I guess they were helping blind pensioners across the street or saving rainforests, and got a credit for life experience, or something.

Jun 26, 2012 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

While going through several articles on this issue I also found another great one on Fair Observer. They argue similarly but still offer a fresh new perspective (I think)

Rio Aftermath: Is There Room for Optimism?

Jul 3, 2012 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered Commentermelanie123

I like Will Hutton. I think he's cuddly. And I like the 20x salary rule. That's cuddly too. I might review it when I'm at the top.

Jul 6, 2012 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterAngus Bearn

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>