My adaptation of ClimateHate is online at Comment is Free. It is substantially different from the first post, though the theme is broadly the same: the debate is all ad hominem, and this makes a risk for the greens.
A point I had NOT made was to go on about how much disrepute the Greens can bring upon their own case, by packaging it up with all sorts of other causes. Nef seem to exist to prove the existence of this problem, as their latest report shows. It is not as dreadful as the previous one – but then, it couldn’t be, because it was arguably the worst think tank report ever written, amateurish, attention seeking and brazenly biased.
I don’t have the space in this cramped cafe to launch a full critique. Much of the report is unobjectionable, setting out the parameters of global warming – how many ppm of CO2 we can afford to have -which is no doubt useful. Where it fails, for me, is in its analysis of how GDP cannot rise without busting those C02 limits. It gives almost no space to the idea that lifestyles, preferences and the shape of GDP will alter as prices alter. If $300 oil happened, the preference for certain activities shifts to other directions. There is no decent exploration of the elasticities of human behaviour in the face of different trade offs – which is clearly central to the debate.
As economies mature, the mix of their production and consumption changes. Oil intensity per unit of GDP gets lower, and could get drastically lower. For example, I bought a Wattson a few days ago. This will be recorded as GDP, and also lower Co2. If petrol doubled, I might drive to the theatre less, and pay more for home entertainment more. And so on. As economies mature, they shift from manufacture to services, and this can mean lower consumption of environmentally-limited items. Tim Worstall puts it well:
Economic growth is defined as the adding of value. No, really, it is. GDP measures the value added in an economy. It does not measure the resources required to produce that added value. It’s entirely possible to add more value while using fewer resources.
The other part of Nef’s report attempts to list a bunch of alternative energy ideas and prove, from here in 2010, that in 2030 they can’t deliver what they need to. OFten with just a couple of citations. This is socialist-planner-thinking gone mad. Imagine if you had sat in say 1990 and tried to work out the potential of the internet in 2010 . ..
So, why do they do it? Because nef have a broader, anti-consumption agenda. As this programme makes clear, some greens want more than just the end of CO2 threatening our environment – they want to specify how this should happen. Read the transcript about this. The point is made in this paragraph:
TOWNSEND: I was making a speech to nearly 200 really hard core, deep environmentalists and I played a little thought game on them. I said imagine I am the carbon fairy and I wave a magic wand. We can get rid of all the carbon in the atmosphere, take it down to two hundred fifty parts per million and I will ensure with my little magic wand that we do not go above two degrees of global warming. However, by waving my magic wand I will be interfering with the laws of physics not with people – they will be as selfish, they will be as desiring of status. The cars will get bigger, the houses will get bigger, the planes will fly all over the place but there will be no climate change. And I asked them, would you ask the fairy to wave its magic wand? And about 2 people of the 200 raised their hands
Now, I don’t know how typical this is. I am certainly suspicious of nef, and of people who categorically rule out nuclear power, despite acknowledging the huge threat of global warming to billions of people. But I think it is quite fair for the BBC to investigate this idea, which is why I was somewhat dismayed to read Sunny’s furious denouncement. I am deeply impressed by what Sunny has done at LibCon. But this sort of fury is the sort of thing my column today is expressing concern about.
UPDATE: Ca1eb writes a brilliant comment:
Can you imagine how dull it would be if everyone reasoned it out like adults:
Sceptic: “Well I’m just not convinced the warming is man made.”
Warmist: “Well even if it’s not, reducing carbon emissions is a good policy for the future.”
But instead what happens is nut jobs from either side wade it using the same kind of reasoning that they must have used during the crusades:
Denier: “There is no global warming! It’s been made up by the loony left to tax the rich! In fact the planet’s getting colder and we need more pollution to stop it.”
Alarmist: “You’re killing the planet! All you care about is globalisation and living off the poor! We need to abandon cities now and all live in teepees!”
Guess whom the Guardian then employs to write articles on the subject?
Tim Worstall’s other comment is also well worth reading through; it’s about 20 times as long as his typical blogpost . . .