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Costs exceed benefits

A new book on the history of the UK's relationship with climate change by Rupert Darwall is published today. I hope to have a review in due course. In the meantime Darwall has an article in the Telegraph to launch the book. I don't think there's much that will be new to the BH reader, but it's important to keep reiterating the lunacy of the policies of successive governments.

One reason Britain has gone so far down the green path is that politicians have not been honest about its economic implications. During the passage of the Climate Change Act in 2008, which commits Britain to cutting net carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, the energy minister Phil Woolas rejected his own department’s estimate that the costs could exceed the benefits by £95 billion. The House of Commons never debated the costs and the Bill was passed, with only five MPs voting against.

An even more egregious example is provided by Ed Miliband, when he was climate change secretary. The Tory MP Peter Lilley had written to Mr Miliband to say that, based on his department’s own impact statement, the Climate Change Act would cost households an average of between £16,000 and £20,000. The future Labour leader replied that the statement showed that the benefits to British society of successful action on climate change would be far higher than the cost. Mr Miliband should have known this was untrue; if he didn’t, he had no business certifying that he’d read the impact statement, which he’d signed just six weeks earlier. The statement only estimated the benefits of slightly cooler temperatures for the world as a whole, not for the UK.

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Reader Comments (19)

The Peter Principle in action (tho there are exceptions). Miliband, Davey, Cameron, Clegg etc etc have all risen to their level of incompetence - or is it wilful ignorance.

Mar 6, 2013 at 9:01 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Isn't a performance audit of some of the UK's energy policies overdue? We could start with the wind industry. There's now a substantial installed windmill system that's been operating for several years. Let's have a look at that . . .

Oh dear, it's been done already by Prof Gordon Hughes and they didn't come out very well.

Mar 6, 2013 at 9:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Sounds like an important documentation of how, in part, the Great Delusion took hold. I imagine it will be an important reference text for future studies of the psychopathology of crowds (once the current insanity is just a memory).

Mar 6, 2013 at 9:13 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

We must insist that the energy companies publish their energy production statistics like is done in Ireland. Then we can work out as Fred Udo did whether there is any saving of fossil fuel use by the windmills.

The quid pro quo is that DECC and the carbon traders have to work on the real data rather than the assumption, with absolutely no evidence, hat 1 kWhr of wind energy 'saves' 1 kWh of notional fossil fuel use, a blatant lie but one which is overcome by them all having a Nelsonian telescope.

Mar 6, 2013 at 9:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

"One reason Britain has gone so far down the green path is that politicians have not been honest about its economic implications."

Those being that the "green path" is a route by which they line their pockets and those of their cronies, at the expense of ours.

Mar 6, 2013 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

... Phil Woolas rejected his own department’s estimate that the costs could exceed the benefits by £95 billion. The House of Commons never debated the costs and the Bill was passed, with only five MPs voting against.

What a wonderful advertisement for democracy! What on earth are our MPs for?

Next time MPs start wingeing about their salaries or their expenses or their working conditions they should be reminded of things like the failure to debate the costs of the climate change policies they are imposing on us with little or no consultation.

When the Chattering Classes in this country talk about the need to make parliament or other institutions more representative of the country they simply talk about the proportions of women, ethnic minorities, gays etc. They are interested solely in the make up of such institutions, not on whether the members actually defend the interests of the British people or not.

Mar 6, 2013 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Don, it's not just that. The recent discussion about 'categorical' thinking is instructive. They know our green policies are rubbish, but they go purely on direction to their satisfaction. To then, they are in the 'right ideological direction' even if they are useless and that is all that matters to touchy-feely people.

It also explains why there are so many engineers in the sceptic camp. We are the people who NEED to know 'how much' and 'what side effects' and 'cost benefit' and all those nasty brutish questions that touchy-feely people hate because it dilutes the 'direction' idea. Direction is all that matters to them, which is why they continually miss the relevance of our critcisms of green policy.

Mar 6, 2013 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

It is difficult to envisage how a warming of a few degrees would not be wholly beneficial to the UK. If our climate was to become more like that of Britany, what is ther not to like about that? It certainly would have many economic benefits such as being good for tourism and agriculture (including wine growing).
I find it difficult to envisage a downside, and I suspect that the report that the government commissioned was fundamentally flawed.

The idea that there may have been droughts is crazy given that we are a small island surrounded by sea and no matter from which direction the wind blows, there will always be a moist atmosphere which sooner or later will meet the mountains, rise and precipitate. Of course the South East may become slightly drier, but this is just a question of water management since rain would always be plentiful in Wales, the North of England and Scotland. Southern Spain (which is really dry) seems to manage quite OK.

It is difficult to envisage a serious problem with sea levels. Sea level rise, for most of the country would not be a problem (indeed for much of the country sea levels are dropping as Britain is still rebounding from the last ice age). One only has to look along the Thames to see that water levels in the Thames were higher when the Tower of London was built and used, and this is also apparent when looking at some of the 18th and 19th century docks.

The other day, a report on health and health services in developed countries was published. The UK came 14th out of 19. What was interesting was that the life expectancy in Mediterranean countries was only about 1 year longer but good health was about 3 years longer. In the UK, the average age before the onset of serious illness is about 68, in Mediterranean countries is about 71. One reason for this is the climate (not eating habits). The extra warmth is beneficial, and this extra warmth encourages out door living with more exercise which again is more healthy.

As high energy costs forces more old people into fuel poverty, it is probable that this good health age expectancy between the UK and the Mediterranean countries will widen. The UK will experience far more premature deaths. But also more general ill health as the old will succumb to more colds, flu and pneaumonia. When it is very cold, people retreat to their beds, or sit on the sofa under quilts/blankets. One becomes far less active. Even a simple cold, in an old person, makes them less active. None of this is helped by our old housing stock much of which has damp issues, and of course the damp winter climate.

I strongly suspect over the coming years we will see a noticeable increase in premature deaths and ill health in the elderly. If there are power black outs/brown outs, as seems reasonably likely, unless energy policy changes, the position will be even more dire.

When assessimng the cost consequences, I do not know whether the Government concluded that with a warmer climate, people would be living longer and this would place a strain on pensions. But one thing they should have considered is that with a warmer climate, people would be living a more healthy lifestyle for longer which would reduce costs on the NHS. In stark terms, presently for the UK, one lingers with illhealth for an average of 11 years from the age of 68 to 79, whereas in Mediterranean countries it is 9 years between 71 and 80. The strain on public finances in warmer climates is less. More importantly, people enjoy themselves more and, of course, that is why so many chose to retuire abroad. It is the lure of a better lifestyle which a warmer climate delivers.

Mar 6, 2013 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

@ richard verney

In the UK, the average age before the onset of serious illness is about 68, in Mediterranean countries is about 71. One reason for this is the climate (not eating habits). The extra warmth is beneficial, and this extra warmth encourages out door living with more exercise which again is more healthy.

Some doctors think that vitamin D levels also have an important effect on health. We cannot do anything about our country's longitude and the weakness of the sun here compared with in southern Europe but if the weather were warmer then, as you wrote, people would spend more time outdoors and would get more exposure to sunlight and have higher vitamin D levels as a consequence.

Mar 6, 2013 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

richard verney: the Liverpool Care Pathway applied to the elderly and the young disabled has been encouraged by government funding to reduce the load of population.

This is the thin end of the Eugenics' wedge.....

Mar 6, 2013 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

"[...] benefits to British society of successful action on climate change would be far higher than the cost."

What garbage. Stern, amidst any number of evaluations, has been shown to be the great swindle of our times. As their greed for absolute control knows no bounds, so their edifice must be torn down. [further tone down].

Mar 6, 2013 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid R

The shabby Woolas deservedly got his comeuppance (though not from this example). Ed has got away with it - so far.

I'd like to see him paraded around with a placard hanging from his neck saying something like

Climate hypocrite. Making people poorer

But I'm sure there are better ideas.

Mar 6, 2013 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Page

@TheBigYinJames- that "warm feeling" of doing "what you know is right", is also helped by regular injections of other people's money.

Mar 6, 2013 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

It's not only households which have been affected by our Climate Policy.

The 2003 "Merton Rule" adopted the first prescriptive planning policy that required new commercial buildings over 1,000 square meters to generate at least 10% of their energy needs using on site renewable energy equipment.

New factories, warehouse and offices had to spend fortunes on Solar Panels & Windmills simply to be given permission to build.

Many decided not to take their employment opportunity to that Borough.

Sadly, Merton aggressively exported their policy to other Councils.

Mar 6, 2013 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

And somewhere lurking inside all this is the fact that our MPs are just Brussels puppets. So whether a particular policy is 'good for Britain' is not actually anywhere near the hearts of the policymakers. What puzzles me about our 'political elite' hahaha is the extent to which they cover up their subordination to Brussels. Do they think we do not know? Whats the point of their pretending they have had a bright idea all on their own when they're simply carrying out orders? Surely it would be smarter to say 'terribly sorry, Brussels is making us do this (stupid) thing'? Or are they so sold on the 'benefits' of EU membership that making Brussels look stupid or wicked is the last thing they want to do? Too hard for me.

Mar 6, 2013 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

John Page,

Don't forget Elliot Morley and, of course, Chris Huhne.

Mar 6, 2013 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

I do try to, David :)

Mar 6, 2013 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Page

I was at the launch event in Mayfair this evening, after one had been held at the House of Commons this morning. Crispin Odey (a well-known fund manager) hosted the event, having clearly encouraged the author from the start, which was before Climategate. He gave a thought-provoking synopsis. The subject matter, including the people, is mostly deadly dull, he admitted, but the author succeeds in bringing it to life. I hope that's true. Rupert Darwall spoke of how much he owed to David Henderson as well as to Crispin. He's tried to be dispassionate about the history and let the reader make up their own mind. David believes the result is very valuable.

There were a number of well-known journalists present, plus Lord Lamont and various other faces that I no doubt should have recognised but didn't. It was good once again to pick up that sensible (and scholarly) scepticism is making real strides convincing waverers of different kinds.

Mar 6, 2013 at 9:29 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

The Merton Rule. If it only encouraged squandering of money on solar and wind it would be bad.

But its worse.

“As for wood, consider the effect of a simple rule passed by the London borough of Merton in 2003 and slavishly emulated by planners all over the country. The Merton rule requires all developers who build a building of more than 1,000 square metres to generate 10% of energy `renewably’ on site. The effect has been to make it worth my while to thin my woods in Northumberland for the first time in decades.

How so? Faced with the need to find an energy source sufficiently dense to fit on site, developers have turned en masse to wood (or biomass as they prefer to call it). This has led to convoys of diesel lorries chugging through the streets of London to deliver wood to buildings – how very thirteenth century! Delivering, drying and burning this wood produces far more carbon dioxide than delivering gas would.

And lo, by bidding up the price of wood, the effect has been to cause landowners to harvest their timber younger than before, which increases carbon emissions. Thus enriched by having lost less money in managing woods, people like me take a holiday – on a jet. So as policy own goals go, the Merton rule is a quintuple whammy. According to one estimate, Britain is producing about six million extra tonnes of carbon dioxide each year as a result of redirecting its wood supply from current use by the wood-panel and other related industries into energy supply.

The neo-medieval policy of picking winners – or rather losers – creates a salivating lobby for subsidies (even the RSPB takes money from wind farms to shut it up about their eagle killing). But it is saddling ordinary Britons with uncompetitive energy prices, lost jobs, rising fuel poverty, spoiled landscapes – and higher carbon emissions too.”

Mar 6, 2013 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

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