Här kommer en intressant artikel av Nigel Lawson i gårdagens Daily Mail (Finansminister mellan 1983 till 1989) som blir ett utmärkt komplement till mitt tidigare inlägg Pour cold water on ‘global warming’. Artikeln är med anledning av att han publicerar sin nya bok – An Appeal To Reason: A Cool Look At Global Warming.
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Over the past half-century, we have become used to planetary scares. In the late Sixties, we were told of a population explosion that would lead to global starvation.
Then, a little later, we were warned the world was running out of natural resources. By the Seventies, when global temperatures began to dip, many eminent scientists warned us that we faced a new Ice Age.
But the latest scare, global warming, has engaged the political and opinion-forming classes to a greater extent than any of these.
The readiness to embrace this fashionable belief has led the present Labour Government, enthusiastically supported by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, to commit itself to a policy of drastically cutting back carbon dioxide emissions – at huge cost to the British economy and to the living standards not merely of this generation, but of our children’s generation, too.
Now, I readily admit that I am not a scientist; but then neither are the vast majority of those who espouse the currently fashionable madness. Moreover, most of those scientists who speak with such certainty about global warming and climate change are not climate scientists, or Earth scientists of any kind, and thus have no special knowledge to contribute.
But science is only part of the story. Even if the climate scientists can tell us what is happening, and why they think it is happening, they cannot tell us what governments should be doing about it. For this, we also need an understanding of the economics: of what the economic consequences of any warming might be, and, if there is a problem, the best way of dealing with it.
First, then, what is happening? Given that nowadays pretty well every adverse development in the natural world is automatically attributed to global warming, perhaps the most surprising fact about it is that it is not, in fact, happening at all. The truth is that there has so far been no recorded global warming at all this century.
But the fact that the present lull was not predicted by any of the complex computer models upon which the global warming orthodoxy relies is clear evidence that the science of what determines the world’s temperature is distinctly uncertain and far from ”settled”.
Genuine climate scientists admit that Earth’s climate is determined by hugely complex systems, and reliable prediction is impossible.
The most important greenhouse gas is water vapour, including water suspended in clouds. Rather a long way behind, the second most important is carbon dioxide.
The vast bulk of the carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is natural – that is, nothing to do with man.
It is striking that during the 21st century, carbon dioxide emissions have been growing faster than ever – thanks in particular to the rapid growth of the Chinese economy – yet there has been no further global warming at all.
Carbon dioxide, like water vapour and oxygen, is not only completely harmless but is an essential element in our life support system.
Without carbon dioxide, there would be no plant life on the planet. And without plant life, there would be no human life either.
Let’s look at just two of the alleged ”catastrophic” consequences of global warming: the threat to food production, leading to mass starvation; and the threat to human health, leading to disease and death.
So far as food production is concerned, it is not clear why a warmer climate would be a problem at all. Even the IPCC concedes that for a warming of anything up to 3 per cent, ”globally, the potential for food production is projected to increase”. Yes: increase.
As to health, in its most recent report, the IPCC found only one outcome which they ranked as ”virtually certain” to happen – and that was ”reduced human mortality from decreased cold exposure”.
The IPCC systematically exaggerates the likely adverse effects of any warming that might occur because estimates of the likely impact of the global warming it projects for the next 100 years are explicitly based on two assumptions, both of them absurd.
The first is that while the developed world can adapt to warming, the developing world cannot.
The second is that even in the developed world, the capacity to adapt is constrained by the limits of existing technology. In other words, there will be no technological development over the next 100 years.
All in all, given that global warming produces benefits as well as costs, it is far from clear that the currently projected warming, far from being ”catastrophic”, will do any net harm at all.
But the greatest curse of the developing world is mass poverty, and the malnutrition, disease and unnecessary death that poverty brings. To impede their escape from poverty by denying them the benefits of cheap carbon-based energy would damage them far more than global warming ever could.
That means that by the year 2100, people in the developing world, instead of being some 9.5 times better off than they are today, will be ‘only’ 8.5 times better off (which, incidentally, will still leave them better off than people in the developed world today). And, remember, all this is on the basis of the IPCC’s own grotesquely inflated estimate of the likely damage from further warming.
One thing is clear: the ”feelgood” measures so popular among some sections of the middle classes, from driving a hybrid car and having a wind turbine on one’s roof to not leaving the television set on standby, are trivial to the point of total irrelevance. What would be required is for all transport to be 100 per cent electric, and all electricity to be generated by nuclear power.
To cut back carbon dioxide emissions on the scale the present Labour Government (supported by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) is demanding would require a fundamental restructuring of the economy, involving a rise in the cost of energy dwarfing anything we have seen so far.
No doubt we could afford this hardship if it made sense. But does it? The UK accounts for only 2 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Even if the entire European Union adopted this policy, that accounts for only 15 per cent of global emissions.
By contrast, China – which has already overtaken the U.S. as the biggest single emitter – has said that there is no way it will agree to a cap on its carbon dioxide emissions for the foreseeable future. And India has said precisely the same.
So the chief consequence of decarbonising here, and making energy much more expensive, would simply be to accelerate the exodus of industry from the UK and Europe to China and elsewhere in the developing world – with, as a result, little or no reduction in overall global emissions.
And even if there were a global agreement to cut drastically carbon dioxide emissions, the economic cost of doing so would far exceed any benefit.
There may be a political explanation for this. With the collapse of Marxism and, to all intents and purposes, of other forms of socialism too, those who dislike capitalism and its foremost exemplar, the United States, with equal passion, have been obliged to find a new creed.
For many of them, green is the new red. And those who wish to order us how to run our lives, faced with the uncomfortable evidence that economic prosperity is more likely to be achieved by less government intervention rather than more, naturally welcome the emergence of a new licence to intrude, to interfere, to tax and to regulate: all in the great cause of saving the planet from the alleged horrors of global warming.
ut there is something much more fundamental at work. I suspect that it is no accident that it is in Europe that eco-fundamentalism in general and global warming absolutism in particular has found its most fertile soil. For it is Europe that has become the most secular society in the world, where the traditional religions have the weakest hold.
Yet people still feel the need for the comfort and higher values that religion can provide; and it is the quasi-religion of green alarmism, of which the global warming issue is the most striking example, which has filled the vacuum, with reasoned questioning of its mantras regarded as little short of sacrilege.
Nonetheless, the new and unattractively intolerant religion of eco-fundamentalism and global warming presents real dangers. The most obvious is that the governments of Europe may get so carried away by their own rhetoric as to impose measures that do serious harm to their economies. That is a particular danger at the present time in the UK.
Another danger is that even if the governments do not go too far and damage their own economies, they may still cause great damage to the developing world by engaging in what might be termed green protectionism. The movement to make us feel guilty about buying overseas produce because of the ”food miles” involved is just one example of this.
it is clear that the would-be saviours of the planet are, in practice, the enemies of poverty reduction in the developing world.
So the new religion of global warming, however convenient it may be to the politicians, is not as harmless as it may appear. Indeed, the more one examines it, the more it resembles a Da Vinci Code of environmentalism. It is a great story, and a phenomenal bestseller. It contains a grain of truth – and a mountain of nonsense.
And that nonsense could be very damaging indeed.
We appear to have entered a new age of unreason, which threatens to be as economically harmful as it is profoundly disquieting. It is from this, above all, that we really do need to save the planet.
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