You are here:   Dialogue > The Politics of Climate Change
 
Now even the International Energy Agency agrees that because of this we are going to have to rely overwhelmingly on carbon-based energy. So the technology of choice is to capture the carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity generated in carbon-fired power stations. It is a wonderful idea, and there is only one snag: the technology doesn’t exist, and it may never exist. Only a year ago, when he was energy minister, the present Chancellor, Alistair Darling, told the House of Commons that the technology might never exist to do this commercially. At the moment it is totally uneconomic. A lot of companies have cancelled their research into this, because they think it has so little future. So this is largely pie in the sky. I remember when I was Energy Secretary, which was more than 25 years ago, the coming thing was nuclear fusion: “We’re going to move on from nuclear fission and have nuclear fusion”. But it hasn’t happened; indeed, we’re now told that it’s still about 25 years off. So you can’t just assume that you’re going to get the technologies you would like to get.

But the important thing to remember is that there isn’t really anything like the problem that is popularly supposed. Certainly not if you believe the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], and by that I don’t mean the directorate of this organisation, who are just alarmists, but the actual scientists. Even though they greatly underestimate — deliberately, I think — the benefits that can come from adaptation, they predict that the adverse impacts of climate change are not going to be all that great; that future generations, particularly in the developing world, are going to be far better off than they are today. The great disaster from which we have to save the planet is that the people of the developing world in 100 years time, instead of being nine and a half times as well off as they are today, will be only eight and a half times as well off. Of course, there may not be this growth, but if there isn’t this economic growth, then there won’t be the growth in the emissions, and so - according to the models they use - there won’t be the predicted global warming. But even on their assumptions it will not be a disaster, whereas the damage that will be done by trying to cut back on emissions is very great.

Oliver says that Stern doesn’t take that view. Stern is alone — I have not come across a single competent environmental or energy economist who remotely agrees with Stern. If you look at William Nordhaus at Yale, the father of environmental economics, he accepts that the cost will be huge. And the same for every other serious economist who’s looked at it — from Dieter Helm at Oxford, Richard Tol at Hamburg and Dublin, to Martin Weitzman at Harvard, to Sir Partha Dasgupta at Cambridge — they all accept it is likely to be hugely expensive. If you look at the reasoning in the Stern report, it is just laughable. It was a pol­itical propaganda document; he was a civil servant at the time and he had to support what was the Government’s policy.

View Full Article
 
Share/Save
 
 
 
 
Alasdair
July 8th, 2008
3:07 PM
Can I ask you to explain I find Lord Lawson’s comments on climate science dangerous. Yes. Read a scientist’s paper on climate change and you're given evidence alongside results and interpretations. Read Lord Lawson's book and you're left with fudged figures and a very slanted opinion on the subject. Ah! but this isn’t unique to Lord Lawson’s argument i hear you say. I agree the Environmental movement is as much to blame. As Alex Cull suggested, we need more people to read up on the climate science themselves, or the scientists and policymakers to become more effective in interpreting results for those of us without PhD’s in atmospheric science. The majority who don’t delve deeper into the science, the impressions they gain from the media and outspoken individuals like Lord Lawson is often inaccurate and damaging. Nothing to do with the ‘Proles’. I suggest you pick a fight with New Labour if you want to get excited about class and the hiding information.

TDK
July 7th, 2008
11:07 PM
Well Alastair, Nigel's comments look quite constructive to me. He is saying that we should deal with the increase in temperature rather than destroy our economy. Can I ask you to explain I find Lord Lawson’s comments on climate science dangerous, particularly for the layman who is left confused by the conflicting messages surrounding climate change. I find it chilling to read that you think certain comments can be too dangerous for the proles. Keep us in the dark eh?

Alex Cull
July 5th, 2008
11:07 PM
Responding to Alastair, re Lord Lawson's comments about climate change being "dangerous" as they could confuse the layman, I think nothing could be further from the truth. The "science" of global warming is highly questionable, based on flawed computer models which are becoming ever more remote from reality. In his book, Nigel Lawson focusses on economics, rather than on the science, and makes a case, in my opinion convincing, that even if the IPCC's worst case scenarios come to pass, the proposed crash in CO2 emissions is by far the most expensive and deleterious option, for the world generally and for the UK in particular. Rather than staying out of the debate for fear of being "confused", I recommend readers to educate themselves and learn all they can about the science and the economics of "climate change"; they might discover that the science (and many other things besides) is not quite as "settled" as they have been led to believe.

Anonymous
July 4th, 2008
8:07 PM
The most likely suspects involved in global warming is the ever increasing reliance on oil, gas and coal; and we are in the midst of an economic kick in the face by their rapid increase in price, as the newer, larger economies industrialise. The discussion fails to address the most effective, climate friendly energy production - which Britain has scandalously neglected for the past many years - NUCLEAR ENERGY. France has a good example of its use on a large scale. Electricity is cheaply and easily distributed, and drives most train transport. Many small cars already run on Batteries, and these are rapidly evolving. Furthermore, instead of turning the vanishing petrol stations into blocks of flats!, they could well be replaced by Battery Swop Stations at appropriate intervals. Much industrial plant could be run on electricity Many houses were built in the 60’s to run on electricity, with night storage - and now more sophisticated storage of off-peak production could renew that trend. The politicians are afraid to tackle this because of the ignorant public wrath stirred over many years by ‘environmentalism-ists’ with arguments about the disposal of waste; while true environmentalists are turning to the much more frightening climate change problem. It took years for the politicians to have courage to act bravely about the death penalty, and also smoking in public. It is now time they seized the nuclear nettle.

Alasdair
July 4th, 2008
1:07 PM
I'm sorry, but answering a question on energy security with; ‘….even with the imported gas from Russia or wherever, all you need to do is have adequate gas storage. The Russians need the money so badly that they are going to have to sell the gas.' The construction of gas storage tanks is a far more farcical suggestion than anything to come out of the renewables camp. Nigel’s response throughout the article, gives the impression of an ageing politician un prepared to look to the future of energy production. I recognise the importance of constructive criticism of the science and policy’s attributed to climate change. However, I find Lord Lawson’s comments on climate science dangerous, particularly for the layman who is left confused by the conflicting messages surrounding climate change. The science should remain open to change and assessment, that is not the question. But, claims as to its validity and certainty should be left to the scientists engaging in the research, not economists looking to rubbish a topic they know very little about

Richard Calhoun
July 3rd, 2008
8:07 PM
An interesting dialogue and hopefully Letwin will learn from this. Yes, it is important to reduce waste of resources, which can be achieved by education and price. However to blame all the waste on emissions when it could equally be the World climate changing for reasons beyond our control is foolish, and it is being increasingly challenged by credible figures like Nigel Lawson and the Science community.

Bishop Hill
July 2nd, 2008
10:07 AM
If there are politicians reading this, your help in getting the Hadley Centre and the Met Office to release data and code is required. To have this veil of secrecy in such an important public policy area is a disgrace.

Patrick-on-Avon
June 28th, 2008
6:06 PM
I haven't read this book yet, though I shall, but I'm impressed by Mr Lawson's side of the argument here much more than by Mr Letwin's; backhanded compliments notwithstanding. ''...it’s very calm — is bound to be taken more seriously than if it were a diatribe.'' Excuse me, but the diatribe tendency in this debate has always been on the side of the doomsayers, with those of a less apocalyptic view derided as little better than malicious, with a whiff of the mental institution about them. So it's good to know that a man with a solid reputation has seen fit to redress the balance. I notice from my local paper this week that John Maples MP has done a u-turn after reading it, much to the outrage of the green bien-pensants. Look out Oliver Letwin. Just because Gordon Brown's Labour party looks like it's going down like the Titanic, doesn't mean your lot will fare any better if you persist in spinning cloud cuckoo as serious policy, especially if it means yet more taxes.

Post your comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.