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Discussion > Current climate policy is pointless – we need a new approach

Global greenhouse gas emissions are growing and will continue to grow.

This stems from the 1970s when Western environmentalists, wishing to bring the ‘Third World’ into the fold, exempted it from the obligations thought necessary for the ‘developed’ economies. But, once established, the concept couldn’t be changed. It was formalised at Rio in 1992 and culminated at Copenhagen in 2009. Then the ‘developing’ economies – including China, India, South Korea, Brazil, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Iran and now responsible for 67% of global emissions – humiliatingly routed the West. The EU wasn’t even involved in the final negotiations.

There was a clear victor. Equally clearly, there was a side that lost more comprehensively than at any international conference in modern history where the outcome had not been decided beforehand by force of arms.’

Rupert Darwall: The Age of Global Warming, 310

The victors have been in the driving seat ever since. They were adamant at the UN climate conference in Warsaw last November that they were would not accept binding commitments to reduce emissions. So, as Canada, Russia, Japan and probably Australia are moving away from commitment, countries responsible for nearly 75% of global CO2 emissions are most unlikely to agree to binding emission reduction. And the US, responsible for about 14% of emissions, will not agree to unilateral reduction. So essentially only the EU (a mere 10%) is left.

The Copenhagen victors now have the perfect excuse for continuing business as usual, while blaming the West. Hence China’s current demand that ‘developed’ countries must immediately commit ‘without any conditionality’ to reduce emissions by at least 40% on 1990 levels by 2020, whereas ‘developing’ countries need do no more than implement their ‘already communicated … nationally appropriate mitigation action’. And that involves no reduction commitment. All this, made worse by a demand for ‘100 billion US Dollars per year by 2020 … for developed country Parties …’, is wholly unacceptable to the West: an impasse confirmed last week at UN-sponsored negotiations in Bonn. In any case, the concept of the vast worldwide regulatory and social engineering project that would be necessary to make a global deal possible has always been hopelessly fanciful.

Thus the dream of a binding global deal in Paris in 2015 is shattered: CO2 emissions will continue their inexorable rise.

For Britain the only rational response now is to stop bickering about the science and to focus on politics and policies. The object should be to determine our optimum course in a world where we are rapidly losing influence, where emissions will rise and where our trying to prevent that from happening is pointless. Far better to face up to the reality that there’s no longer much point in emission mitigation and instead take account of what’s actually happening in the world by an overall strengthening of our economy, energy supply and infrastructure and the prioritisation of long-term adaptation to whatever climate change may occur.

Mar 18, 2014 at 6:04 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

A good first step would be to re-do climate science from scratch, ring fenced from what currently passes under that title.

Then we might have some idea of whether or not there is a problem.

Mar 18, 2014 at 6:41 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I think Robin may be saying it's too late for that Martin - if we want to avoid the worst effects of crazy climate policies. And there are extremely compelling reasons to back out of those policies even if the IPCC science is 100% correct. Going back to the science all the time itself becomes a crazy move - even for sceptics. I am going to introduce an analogy for this shortly that I am expecting will really shock people. I don't care either - as long as it also makes them think.

Meantime, all power to Robin's elbow. I urge people to read carefully and consider what he has to say.

Mar 18, 2014 at 6:48 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Oh Robin. You just don't get it. We punch above our weight, doncha know. When the others see us cutting CO2 they will all fall into line. Yes, they will.

Seriously, to get the powers that be to give up on that line may be asking too much short of a rude awakening.

Mar 18, 2014 at 7:26 PM | Registered Commenterrhoda

If Copenhagen was a complete flop, then I consider almost the entire world and the biosphere to be the victors. Let's have more of it. If everybody ignores the IPCC, their foolish models, and the foolish mantras about carbon dioxide, and gets back to addressing real problems for real people, then the environment will benefit too. Wealthier people care more about the environment, and can afford to care more about the environment.

If the price of that is more silly congresses that allow China and India to blame America and Europe, and allows American and European environmentalists to blame the 'dark forces of oily-funded skeptics' for more sensible policies, then maybe it is a price worth paying.

Pi$$ing off Greenpeace, FoE, and the BBC would just be the icing on the cake. They'll blame people who read Bishop Hill anyway, whatever the truth of the matter.

And the 6th element of the Periodic Table gets a commuted sentence until the next scare comes along, which should be due any minute......

Mar 18, 2014 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written Robin other than to say I think we’re already dialling back action on AGW. The EU and the UN will continue to push for something. They’re at the stage where they’re pathetically happy when there’s an agreement to have a meeting about reaching an agreement. It’s business as usual for the civil servant types who arrange and go to these events. It won’t stop.

The UK’s involvement is part of the white man’s guilt thing we have going. If it wasn’t AGW we were wasting our money on, it would be something else. Public opinion on energy bills and the economy will ultimately trump green sentimentality.

The US are fond of the white hat syndrome, saving the planet and all that, but aren’t daft enough to actually commit to it.

The next 12 months may be interesting. An El Nino appears to be cranking up and it will be informative to see if it’s a biggie and what it does to global temperatures.

Mar 19, 2014 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I’ve been disappointed but not surprised by the relative lack of interest in this post. Disappointed because I believe my point is of considerable importance. Not surprised because I’ve found for some time that ‘sceptic warriors’ are not really interested in a solution to the challenge we face that does not involve a continuation of debate about the science. I suspect they’re enjoying it too much.

Of course much depends on the definition of the challenge. For me it’s this: persuading Government that, in view of international political reality, it’s in the UK’s best interest to abandon its pointless obsession with reducing emissions and instead prioritise a strong economy, underpinned by reliable affordable energy.

Doubtless most ‘sceptic warriors’ would agree with that aim – but they somehow expect to achieve it by a battle about the science that will eventually force the warmists to surrender. I’m sure that’s wrong: perhaps the warmists will give up one day – but not for a very long time (and, even then, they’re most likely to quietly abandon the field rather admit defeat). And we don’t have a long time. The poorest and most vulnerable people are already struggling to cope with unnecessarily high energy bills – and, unless something changes, that’s likely to get much worse. We’re already losing jobs to places where energy costs are low. We face the prospect of power cuts, which in today’s world could mean misery for millions – especially, again, the most vulnerable.

No, our only hope of fixing all this in time is to sidestep the science and focus on the hard reality that there’s nothing we can do to reduce global emissions. And I couldn’t ask for a better illustration of the effectiveness of this approach than, as discussed elsewhere on BH, Benny Peiser’s participation in an RTE climate debate yesterday. And it was encouraging that George Osborne's Budget indicated an understanding of that reality – the door may not be open, but it may be susceptible to a firm push.

In my view, it’s all about whether people really want to bring about a critical change in our society – or whether they’re more interested in a fascinating intellectual struggle.

Mar 20, 2014 at 3:31 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Of course much depends on the definition of the challenge. For me it’s this: persuading Government that, in view of international political reality, it’s in the UK’s best interest to abandon its pointless obsession with reducing emissions and instead prioritise a strong economy, underpinned by reliable affordable energy.

And for me. You're 100% right to bang this drum Robin. It will make an enormous difference to the debate, right across the spectrum, if other sceptics listen.

Mar 20, 2014 at 3:36 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

There is a (another) nice article by Andrew Lilico on this theme:

our core strategy should be to adapt to climate change, not to attempt (futilely and expensively) to prevent it.

followed by a list of 7 unlikely things one would have to accept before logically embarking on a major mitigation strategy.

Why the relative lack of interest in the post? Well here are a few possible reasons.
1. Maybe a lot of people are more interested in science than politics?
2. Maybe Robin has said this before so it's not regarded as new?
3. Maybe people think politicians are turning this way anyway? (Osborne's dumping of the carbon tax floor "green crap" yesterday, which even Ed Balls seemed to agree with this morning on radio 4)
4. Maybe sceptic warriors are not really interested in a solution to the challenge we face beacuse they don't really think we do face a challenge?

Mar 20, 2014 at 5:03 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

It isn't that I'm not interested, I don't know what I'm supposed to do about it. I don't actually feel I have an influence on policy. I can't understand how policy can be so completely bloody stupid merely by chance. However, the tools we have for policy change are outfits like GWPF and Heartland. They plough a lonely furrow. Thinking people of a libertarian slightly right-wing persuasion get accustomed to institutional stupidity they can't do anything about.

Mar 20, 2014 at 5:18 PM | Registered Commenterrhoda


It is about the science but in a BBC Tomorrow's World flying cars way. We're not going to fry or fly and only time will reveal that. Sense currently has nothing to do with it.

Mar 20, 2014 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Three more articles indicating a change in the tide.

And even news from China.

The finance people are at last reigning in the eco fantasists. Even if they believe we need to cut CO2, they can see that there really is no point going it alone, despite Ed Davey's assurances that the people of the world are influenced by the behaviour of the UK. Yeah, right.

I've said before that sceptics concentrating on whatever floats their boat is better than sceptics drifting away due to feeling obliged to act out of character by pressing the cost of acting on CO2. But I'll echo Rhoda, what do you expect us to do? Could we persude George Osbourne to lunch?

Mar 20, 2014 at 6:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Richard: thanks. But I’m not yet convinced that sceptics will listen or that it will make an enormous difference. But I intend to go on banging that drum.

Paul: I liked the Lilco article – and unsurprisingly agreed wholeheartedly with that quotation. But I thought he spoiled it somewhat by overcomplicating the message. As for those possible reasons:

1. I think so: science often is far more interesting. But, in this case, the (boring) politics may be leading us to disaster.

2. Yes, I’ve been saying it for years. But much of the sceptic argument is not new either.

3. There’s probably some truth in that. See my ‘door may not be open, but it may be susceptible to a firm push’ comment – confirmed by Tiny’s other examples. So surely now’s the time to give it that push?

4. Do you know any sceptics who don’t think we face an absurd set of policies? I don’t.

rhoda/Tiny: ‘I don't know what I'm supposed to do about it.' Simple: mention it whenever the opportunity arises. Every little helps. And it doesn’t mean you have to give up on the science message.

ssat: ‘only time will reveal that.' But wait until we discover that nothing’s happened and you'll have to live with a ruined economy. Surely preventing that is worth a try?

Mar 20, 2014 at 6:37 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier


Nothing's happened already but the meme lives on. Mackay provides the only optimism for a return to sanity imho.

Mar 20, 2014 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

ssat: so how about injecting a little more sanity?

Mar 20, 2014 at 9:09 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Here’s a test.

First, assume my argument is successful and Britain starts a radical reversal of its current crazy climate policies – renewable subsidies are, so far as possible, abolished, fracking proceeds and even some ‘clean-burn’ coal power stations are built. Then what happens? I suspect it would be likely to be this:

1. The greenies, MSM, scientific establishment etc. are furious: they blame continuing international inaction squarely on our backpedalling – “the UK was an example to the world”, etc. Which, of course, would be the opposite of reality. But who cares about reality?

2. However, the greenies also recognise the game is up and (with a few diehard exceptions) give up their ‘save the planet’ campaign and quietly tiptoe away. Secretly, of course, they’re delighted to have an excuse to get off of what for them was becoming an increasingly embarrassing bandwagon. Now they don’t have to defend it any more – but they can, and will, retain their mantra: ‘the evil fossil fuel funded deniers left us with no choice.’ And any future damaging climatic events will be entirely our fault.

So, in a way, the greenies win. They retain their reputation and, in many cases, their position. No need to backtrack or apologise. No humiliation, no shame. And, when in 30/50 years the global climate is largely unchanged, we’ll all either be dead or too old to care. In the meantime, Britain rebuilds a successful economy based – as successful economies are – on cheap abundant energy.

Now the test: would it matter that the greenies were not defeated?

My answer: No.


Mar 20, 2014 at 9:43 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

More encouraging stuff, this in the daily mail

which refers to this press release from Manchester uni

"cutting greenhouse gas emissions, while crucial to reducing humanity’s longer-term impact on the planet, will not eliminate violent storms, tornadoes or flooding and the damage they cause."
"developing greater resilience to extreme weather events must be given greater priority "

I'm doing my bit, by tweeting some of this! (already retweeted by Lilico and David Rose).

Mar 21, 2014 at 8:59 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

The Greens in their various incarnations will always be with us.
Like the grit in the oyster they can serve a useful purpose in reminding us that the environment does need our care and that while mankind may be the most advanced species on the planet and has every right to use the planet for his purposes it is not wise to go about things in a way that will destroy the very things we need to protect.
But I am talking about the environmentalists of the past, not the 'watermelons' that such as Greenpeace and FoE have become.
The lesson that the last 20 years ought to have taught us is that environmentalism has been hi-jacked by individuals (and organisations) which are not directed towards preserving and protecting the environment but only using it to further other causes for which they have never had, do not have, and never will have a popular mandate.
The DM article that Paul Matthews links to (and the Manchester Uni paper it reports on) speaks for a large number of ordinary people when it says that the obsession with global warming and cutting CO2 has in effect distracted the UK — and the US and Australia but hardly anybody else outside the UN! — from the action needed to deal with extreme weather either by prevention (flood defences) or response (emergency services, etc).
Needless to say, Grantham's Monkey is first out of the traps to decry any such attitude!
My answer to your question, Robin, is that I'm not looking for the greenies' to be "defeated". I would very much like to see some others called to account, starting with scientist-activists who think that because they are scientists they are God and because they are activists their non-scientific views carry weight that other people's do not and continuing with the long-discredited but still extant believers in Malthusianism, Communism, and Eugenics — especially those who believe in all three!

Mar 21, 2014 at 10:06 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

(Stern voice) - Good man, Matthews. Keep it up!
(Serious voice) - Shame that article was in the DM. Greenies will reject it for that reason alone.

Mike: I used to regard myself as an environmentalist. Still do really - but it's embarrassing (and misleading) to say so now.
One day it may be possible to call some of these people to account. But I fear I'll be long gone by then.

Mar 21, 2014 at 11:17 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

On damage, why on earth would an AGW sceptic support building extra storm defences when you don't think the number of storms etc will increase? These storms are supposed to be once in a lifetime events aren't they? Or are you saying that secretly you think the storms and flooding we had this winter really were AGW related?

Robin Guenier:

> In any case, the concept of the vast worldwide regulatory
and social engineering project that would be necessary to
make a global deal possible has always been hopelessly

That need not be so. A carbon tax levied in the US and applied equally to all imported goods from those countries not applying an equivalent tax would rapidly cause all countries to adopt the same tax. Why? A country exporting to the US could either levy no tax and allow the US to tax its imports and retain the revenue or it could impose the same tax and retain the revenue itself - no brainer.

Mar 21, 2014 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Who is talking about building extra storm defences, Chandra?
The Manchester Uni paper says that "developing greater resilience to extreme weather events must be given greater priority " which I would interpret as doing what we have been doing for the last thousand years, digging ditches where needed, maintaining them properly, not building in flood plains with the result that we then need to tinker with flood defences and risk increased flooding elsewhere.
It also means that you don't put all your eggs in one basket and assume that because the activists at the Met Office have bought into the "snow will become a thing of the past" meme that LAs can flog off all their snowploughs and stop buying road salt.
Your argument about not needing a global deal shows just what sort of a fantasy world you are living in. Unilateral action will not work. If you can't understand why then there is no point in trying to explain it to you.

PS It may well be that the winter storms were climate-related. If so, it was because the climate is cooling rather than warming. That is, as climate history tells us without the need for computer models, the more likely scenario.
Warmer=better in virtually every aspect of human existence, storms especially.

Mar 21, 2014 at 11:46 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

If you are unfortunate enough to have to deal with someone suffering from schizophrenia, is there much point in reasoning with them that their voices are not real?

Mar 21, 2014 at 12:24 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

(I wasn't talking about you Chandra)

Mar 21, 2014 at 12:39 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

@ Chandra, yeah, what Mike wrote.

Also, if you think a big tax is the answer go sell the idea to the World. Go on web sites not connected to AGW and convince them it would work. Go debate it with economists and bankers and all those other people between your wild scheme and implementation. Keep in touch, we'll be interested in a heads up before the tax goes live. Or is that a fantasy too far even for your imagination?

Mar 21, 2014 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Tiny: it didn't work so well for the EU when it tried to tax foreign airlines. And see this.

Anyway, it's irrelevant to the main point of this discussion. Ignore it.

Mar 21, 2014 at 1:49 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier