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« Allen a'tale | Main | The descent of broadcasting »

Carbon criminals

The Commons Environmental Audit Committee has been holding an inquiry into "sustainability in the Home Office". I kid you not. There were hearings at the end of last month that somehow eluded my attention, but thanks to the transcription service at the Palace of Westminster we can now enjoy the wit and wisdom of the committee members and the witnesses they invited to enlighten them.

For example, the commitee invited Ken Pease, professor of crime science at University College London, to take part. Why professor Pease? Well, the suspicious minded among you might draw conclusions from the fact that he has been a Green Party member for 30 years. But what a witness though! Take a look at this:

If you Google climate change, then crime does not tend to come up, and if you Google crime then climate change does not come up.

No s**t Sherlock. But undeterred by this inexplicable lacuna, the good Professor has apparently been devoting his no doubt considerable grey matter to filling it:

I thought it would be nice just to change the vocabulary of crime costs so as to include carbon costs and wrote a pretty basic and crude — because I am not an economist — costing of crime in the hope that people will take up the battle...

Now you would think that the MPs would be rolling in the aisles by this point, but not a bit of it. For example, Mike Kane, the Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, seemed quite taken with the idea:

I was reading a Secured by Design report that said that a conservative estimate of the carbon cost of crime would be around about 6 million tonnes per annum. I suppose my question is: carbon costing of crime, is it in the zeitgeist of crime reduction agencies?

Are the police worrying enough about the carbon cost of crime? I know readers here have been losing sleep over this tricky little question. But fear not! As Mary Calam, the director general of the Crime and Policing Group at the Home Office made clear, the mandarinate is already hard at work:

Perhaps it would be helpful if I just pointed to the Home Office, alongside Secured by Design, we are sponsoring a research project around the carbon cost of crime, which began in April last year. This is quite a difficult issue. How far do you take the parameters when you are trying to calculate the carbon cost? We think that piece of research is really important and when it reaches its conclusions I would very much expect us to use those findings and those judgments to inform future impact assessment.

Really important eh? I can't help but wonder if some people might think that it's not actually very important at all, but it's probably just those who are on the big-oil payroll, who can safely be ignored.

Meanwhile, committee members had moved on to the nitty-gritty details of which crimes have the biggest carbon footprint. Here's Mike Kane again:

In terms of crime itself, I think what they are getting at in the carbon cost of particular crimes is that murder is by far the top of the list, serious wounding second. Serious wounding there is a lot more of so it generates a much bigger carbon footprint. Do you think we will ever get to the day, for instance, where police response times will be analysed not just on the physical and emotional nature of the crime but the carbon nature of the crime? What I am thinking is that the analysis showed that the carbon footprint of crime by non-dwelling is higher than crime by dwelling itself. Do you think we would ever make crime in a non-dwelling a higher response?

Mary Calam subsequently seemed a bit unsure about what the police might do with this information, but  suggested that it might lead to changes to operational priorities. Reading between the lines, it might be possible to give a higher priority to high-carbon crimes rather than low-carbon ones.

I think what this would mean is that if you want to get away with murder you should attack your victim in a dwelling: the lower carbon footprint would place it lower down the list of police priorities.

Alternatively you could build yourself a windfarm, of course. But that's another story.

(Tip of the hat to Chairman Al)

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Reader Comments (64)

This is the climate obsessed's version of angels dancing on the heads of pins.

May 27, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Who are Secured by Design?

May 27, 2014 at 12:04 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Therer's only one word to desribe this - lunacy. We are led by lunatics.

May 27, 2014 at 12:15 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Monty Python comes to mind for some reason.

May 27, 2014 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterTC

Prime candidates for the B Ark, the lot of them.

May 27, 2014 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce Hoult

This a piss take surely. No one could be this stupid. Ying tong yiddle I po.

May 27, 2014 at 12:27 PM | Registered CommenterGrantB

I think this means if after you rob a bank your getaway vehicle is public transport you will get a lighter sentence than if you used your own car or even better if you just strolled away on foot the bobby wouldn't even look for you.

May 27, 2014 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

If the severity of murder should take into account the carbon footprint of the crime, should we not also take into account the global warming impact of the victim? So the murder of a politician should be less severe than the murder of a non-politician, as politicians produce far more hot air.

May 27, 2014 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Christ! These people are barking - maybe they live in Barking. Maybe they could do some experimentation and research in Barking. A perfect place I reckon.

May 27, 2014 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterClegg is an Idiot

The UK is still comfortably rich enough that stupid (in the commonsense, reality-based aspect of the word) people are able to survive.

But maybe that will change in the not-too-distant future.

May 27, 2014 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

There is actually a great deal of similarity between the Crime Economy and the Green Economy, both essentially multi billion pound protection rackets. Italy knows this, and has added Crime to its GDP.

Crime is largely funded via insurance premiums and the higher prices we all pay in shops.
Climate is largely funded via taxes and the higher prices we all pay for energy.

Crime operates with the consent of govt - allow us to make a good living from mostly low-level crime and we won't murder you.
Climate operates with the consent of govt - allow us to make a good living by building windmills and we won't picket/close-down power stations.

May 27, 2014 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

If you dig deep enough you can prove that by their logic committing a crime is a criminal offence additional to any actual crime you may have committed. On that basis they have invented a sort of forensic perpetual motion machine!
It's no dafter an idea than what they are talking about there.

May 27, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Admittedly at first glance it seems a little silly. It's only later you realise it is completely uncompromisingly daft.

May 27, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda


"the global warming impact of the victim"

But what about the consumption spared by their premature demise? Bumping someone off might create a momentary carbon blip, but it will surely save far more in the long term...

May 27, 2014 at 1:01 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Carbon crime, eh? That means that arsonists will go down for life then.

And Martyn, up thread, beat me to the idea that bank robbery will get a lower tariff if the perps used a Prius rather than the old reliable (?) Mk II Jaguar as a getaway car.

May 27, 2014 at 1:03 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

Let's have another look at the emissions impact of murder.

After one 'offs' a person, the victim's carbon footprint is gone - surely a good thing. Reduced sentences for killing young people is a logical conclusion in this thought process.

May 27, 2014 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad"

May 27, 2014 at 1:08 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

You can just imagine the Defence plea now: "But M'lud, please show extra leniency, he was only a cyber criminal, so his carbon footprint was very low".

May 27, 2014 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

I used to joke that anyone who needed research funding only had to link it to AGW and the obstacles would disappear. I now realise that this wasn't a joke at all.

May 27, 2014 at 1:23 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

As recommended by Judith Curry in a recent interview - I'm not a fan of the rap genre, but ...

May 27, 2014 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterVictoria Sponge

So, from now on, CC at the end of a letter has changed it's meaning......

May 27, 2014 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpartacusisfree

We should perhaps be grateful for the phrase 'Carbon Criminals'. I suspect it has wider application than first anticipated...

May 27, 2014 at 1:47 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Attendance fees are clearly too generous if they'll sit through this kind of stuff.

May 27, 2014 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

if there is a police shooting, would it be investigated by the IPCC, or the IPCC

May 27, 2014 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Ding, ding, all aboard the Loony Land express, calling at Greater Drivel, Nutters Bar, Insane Junction, Bonkers West and terminating at Barking. Please remember to take your bags with you because you clearly keep your brain in a carrier bag for special occasions and we would want to blow them up in a very small controlled explosion, even if you wouldn’t miss them.

May 27, 2014 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


Secured by Design is an attempt to eliminate crime through good design of buildings, although some of the crap being built these days is criminal

As carbon based beings does this mean, all murders, GBH etc can now be justified as trying to save the planet or does murder release the carbon embodied with us and mean a harsher sentence? Will dying be illegal? Will shooting next doors dog for crapping on my lawn be legal or illegal?

Enquiring minds need to know, before we buy a gun

May 27, 2014 at 2:07 PM | Registered Commentermangochutney

The Guardian better be careful, their main sponsors and major players in the carbon market, HSBC are quite possibly the biggest criminals on earth.

The Guardian - saving the planet, one drug deal at a time. Article sponsored by yes, HSBC

HSBC 'sorry' for aiding Mexican drugs lords, rogue states and terrorists

Executive quits in front of US Senate as bank faces massive fines for 'horrific' lapses that resulted in laundering money for drugs cartels and pariah states.

May 27, 2014 at 2:25 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

So how many arrests have there been for fraudulent trading in carbon credits?

May 27, 2014 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

It doesn't add up

Lots of stuff on carbon corruption. Iceberg, tip of ..

Here's the Guardian page in a jpeg

May 27, 2014 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

"Ding, ding, all aboard the Loony Land express"

The proper vernacular is "Dagenham nuts" it being 3 stops the other side of barking on the central line....

May 27, 2014 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Ozanne

So the only acceptable murder would have to be: stabbed by a wooden spear and bury the victim yourself, plant a tree for the carbon offset then escape on a bamboo bicycle whilst holding your breath for the duration of the crime. Time to shut down the Universities, clear out the dross and start again methinks.

May 27, 2014 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

Could you mitigate the carbon cost of your crime by buying offsets?

If you bought an offset in advance, would that be premeditation (bad) or caring for the environment (good).

May 27, 2014 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterHK

But I thought the crime trend was currently pointing down whilst the temperature trend points up.

May 27, 2014 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterTDK

Has anybody at Westminster been "sectioned" yet or are they just putting guards around the place to stop the inmates running away?

May 27, 2014 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernd Felsche

Next discussion topic: Should we build prisons out of wood to improve their sustainability?

May 27, 2014 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Clearly, the righteous approach is not so much by the police but by the judiciary - as Martyn pointed out, some crimes have an intrinsically greater carbon footprint than others. So a carbon cost loading onto the sentence seems only reasonable and a carbon cost discount could be afforded the criminal for taking conscious efforts to mitigate his carbon footprint during the committing of the crime - perhaps he used some fuel with ethanol in it for the get away car ? This could be formalised by a set of tables outlining rates of appropriate sentence reductions and a day being set aside before sentencing for various defence and Crown experts to make commentaries to assist Your Honour making a judgement.

May 27, 2014 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterGerry

CAGW causes a rise in crime and now a rise in crime causes CAGW.

"Between 2010 and 2099, climate change will cause an additional 30,000 murders, 200,000 cases of rape, 1.4 million aggravated assaults, 2.2 million simple assaults, 400,000 robberies, 3.2 million burglaries, 3.0 million cases of larceny, and 1.3 million cases of vehicle theft in the United States."

Perhaps another hockey stick. In ice hockey terms the smaller the angle between the shaft and the blade of the stick the greater the lie.

May 27, 2014 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered Commenter52

What about the Crime of Costing Carbon?
Aphids, millions of the little green things, everywhere, sucking away.

May 27, 2014 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterBetapug

I am not British so I don't know how to use a lot of the lingo but one does pop into my head about how this feels to me and I hope it's appropriate: gobsmacked.

May 27, 2014 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

I have a great idea to save the planet. Take the organic elements of the Home Office, drop them down a mineshaft and fill it in. Carbon Capture! Can't be a crime can it?

May 27, 2014 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

So would a capital crime be stealing a windmill or solar panel?

May 27, 2014 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered Commenteroeman50

I'm having trouble determining what the hell they are talking about. Is it the CO2 emissions of the actual crime by the actual perp or the CO2 emissions related to investigating crimes? For example, do they mean a crime of arson which emits loads of CO2 or do they mean a murder investigation that takes a lot of people, time, travel and energy to investigate?

In either case the teeny, tiny hurdle of innocent until proven guilty must bugger up their plans as you can have big CO2 emissions that don't result in a conviction.

May 27, 2014 at 7:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

The point is, and the models prove this, that when 'normal' crime meets with CAGW it changes its frequency and starts the almost lethal step of back-radiating crime-waves over the tipping points, thus causing the biggest criminal catastrope since the Great Train Robbery. The crime will cause such a rise in CO2 as the airwaves overheat with rightful indignation, inducing a criminal rise in body temperatures whilst producing accelerating heating in the deep oceans, and cooking our golden goose. The up-shot being more fog and less light, therefore more crime.
The only thing that can cool this situation is to mobilize more windmills, powered by Big Greenie Propaganda Service (aka great-antie-BBC).

Soon your children will not know what a normal crime-wave is!


May 27, 2014 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason

@tom0mason: so, is this 'crime wave' theory of climate a bit like Judith Curry's 'Mexican wave' version of the same?

The Public must know.

May 27, 2014 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpartacusisfree

Fascinating insights from Professor Pease:

The big problem and the reason why looking at it department by department is problematic is that the Home Office does not generate crime. It is elsewhere that generates the crime. For example, if I may ride a hobby horse particularly, DCLG, if the housing standards review is acted upon, will be generating burglary over the lifetime of the new homes that are about to be designed. Of course, the private sector generates crime by the way in which it designs products and services.

If I may take 30 seconds of your time to say how I got into crime reduction in the first place, I used to be a proper forensic psychologist doing tests and whatever. I was at Wetherby borstal in the mid-1980s and two items on the six o’clock news were next to each other on my way back across the M62. The two items were, first, that new detention centres were being opened at New Hall and Send and the second item was that the Ford Motor Company had made record profits. I nearly left the motorway because of the link between those two things. At that stage, the most popular car for car thieves was the Ford Cortina and the Ford Cortina could be opened one chance in two by any Ford Cortina key if it was not absolutely brand new. The notion was that the costs were being visited by Ford on the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice—same thing then—with the consequence of having to open the New Hall and Send facilities.

In summary, would it be fair, then, to say that homes generate burglary, auto manufacturers generate car theft, shops generate shoplifting, flammable buildings generate arson and individuals of all kinds generate robbery, rape and murder by being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

The logical solution to crime would therefore be to close any building that might be burgled or burnt down, restrict or ban the sale of anything that might be stolen (shut down the entire private sector, if need be) and to lock up anyone who might possibly provoke some sort of crime against their person.

A reasonable approach, I'm sure everyone will agree.

May 27, 2014 at 9:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

Professor Pease was obviously scripting an annual student revue for a university and attempting to tick all the boxes marked 'avin' a larf'. Either that, or the good professor has wriggled out of his armless jacket and escaped his handlers.
And individuals who live and work inside the Westminster bubble have no clue whatsoever how the rest of the world regards them and how utterly irrelevant they are to anything whatsoever.

May 27, 2014 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Are open prisons "sustainable" if the inmates keep walking out? Do we need a committee to answer that question? The inmates of Westminster (it's a pity some of them don't walk out) probably do.

May 27, 2014 at 11:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

When people use terms like Climate Denial/Disruption and Carbon Pollution/Criminals, do they realize how stupid they sound? These terms have no common sense meaning. It's just like listening to religious talk that you aren't familiar with.

Someone should make a machines that sucks the carbon pollution out of Greens.

May 28, 2014 at 12:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterEric Gisin

Waiting for the other shoe to drop. I suspect that will be when they start measuring CO2 emissions in terms of number of murder equivalents.

May 28, 2014 at 2:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan H

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