Sunday, 31 January 2021

A Dark Green Background


UPDATE: Since first publishing this article, I have examined a further relevant document from the UK government: the 2019 “Report to the Committee on Climate Change of the Advisory Group on Costs and Benefits of Net Zero.” This has shed some interesting new light on the matter, so I have updated the essay to give some more details on the costs versus benefits angle.

This essay follows on from my review of the UK government’s recent “Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution,” which you can find at [[1]]. Today, I’ll trace the history of the global warming agenda, and in particular the bad things governments – particularly in the UK – and their cohorts have done to us in promoting, supporting and implementing it.

There’s a long, sordid back-story to the deep green agenda. It goes back fully 50 years. Everything in this back-story is available on the Internet to those who are willing to look, and able to sort the wheat of evidence from the chaff of lies and politics. A lot of it, indeed, is in government documents! That’s how I learned all this myself.

There are somewhat similar back-stories on other aspects of the green agenda. Notably, on air pollution. But today, I’ll confine myself to global warming, also known as climate change.

The role of the United Nations

Those of you, who have studied the green agenda, will already know that the driver of it, all along, has been the United Nations. The UN is an unelected, politicized and unaccountable élite, with a strong controlling and globalist tendency. It has dozens (at least) of agencies, through which it keeps a finger in every pie in matters that affect people all over the world.

You can trace UN involvement in the green agenda all the way back to the first Earth Day in 1970, which was personally approved by the then UN secretary general. You can read about the UN Environment Programme, started in 1972 under the directorship of Maurice Strong, a Canadian oil baron with a scandal-ridden career. His attitude can be summed up by the following quote, from a 1997 magazine interview: “Frankly, we may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse.” Later, Strong was implicated in the Oil-for-Food scandal of 2005, went to live in China, and died in 2015.

You can read about the UN’s 1982 resolution called the World Charter for Nature: [[2]]. This contains extreme statements, like: “Activities which might have an impact on nature shall be controlled.” “Their proponents [of activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature] shall demonstrate that expected benefits outweigh potential damage to nature.” And: “Where potential adverse effects are not fully understood, the activities should not proceed.” The resolution was passed by 111 votes to 1, with only the USA voting against. The UK voted for the resolution.

You can read about the 1987 report Our Common Future, which set the scene for the deep green agenda that has brought us all to this pass. The report is here: [[3]]. On its 30th anniversary, I wrote a review of that report at [[4]].

You can read about the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to whose extreme agenda the politicians signed up without bothering to consult the people they were supposed to be serving. You can read about Agenda 21 (since morphed into Agenda 2030). You can read about the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development [[5]], which introduced an all-embracing goal called sustainable development. You can read about the Framework Convention on Climate Change, in which Western countries agreed to restrict their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2000. This also set up the UN’s Conference of the Parties meetings; which have led to many subsequent commitments by governments, notably at Kyoto (1997), Copenhagen (2009), Cancun (2010), Doha (2012) and Paris (2015). You can read about the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set legally binding objectives for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

You can read about the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), founded back in 1988. Which, in its own words, “prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place.” You can learn how the IPCC’s 1995/6 report was re-worded, at the behest of governments, to be more alarmist; and the technical reports were then updated to match! You can see the infamous “hockey stick” temperature graph, so prominently featured in the 2001 report, yet gone by the 2013 one. And you can learn that vitally important numbers are missing. For example, the 2013 report doesn’t even give a best estimate of how much warming the IPCC expect to result from a doubling of CO2!

The science

If you are interested in matters technical, you can read about the science, and the way it has been corrupted or misused by alarmists. You can learn about the issues with the quality of the temperature data, on which any credible case for government action must ultimately rest. You can learn about how the numbers have been adjusted, in ways that are often documented poorly or not at all.

You can learn about the extensive use of computer models of the atmosphere in climate science. You can read about the assumptions they make, such as that warming from one cause (“forcing”) will result in a lot more warming (“positive feedback”). You can see how the model results are all over the place, and usually predict strong warming in the future. You can see that the models’ predictions are only rarely compared with real-world data since the prediction was made, and usually fail miserably. You can see that the modellers do not accept, as the scientific method requires, that their assumptions are falsified if the model results are far enough from observations.

You can learn about some of the underhanded methods, which alarmists have used in order to make their case look scarier than the reality. You can learn of the grafting together of unrelated data, without explaining what was being done. Of data inconvenient to the alarmist case being dropped altogether. Of statistical methods that produce alarming looking “hockey sticks,” even when the data they are fed is merely noise; or exaggerate the contribution of a small sample, even down to a single tree. Of attempts to minimize, or even to suppress the existence of, the period of relative warmth between the 10th and 13th centuries, known as the Mediaeval Warm Period. Of claims that CO2 is the one and only “control knob” regulating global temperatures; and of attempts to downplay the significance of other human activities which do affect the climate, such as land use changes and the urban heat island effect.

You can learn about alarmist scientists refusing to release the data on which they based their papers; thus, making it all but impossible to replicate them, or to show that they are invalid. You can read about attempts to stop publication of skeptical papers. You can read about skeptical scientists and journal editors being persecuted or even sacked. You can get an idea of the toxic atmosphere that has developed in climate science, and read about its history from the point of view of skeptical expert Dr Judith Curry, here: [[6]].

You can read about the photoshopped picture of a polar bear on an ice floe, published on the front cover of Science magazine. You can read about repeated claims that the science is settled, when anyone who understands science knows that it’s never settled. You can read about claims of a scientific consensus of “97% of publishing climate scientists,” who believe that “climate change is real, man-made and dangerous”. How many scientists was that 97% of? 77, picked from over 3,000 responses! And you will learn about – and may even get smeared with – the nasty names the alarmists like to call us climate realists, such as “denialists,” “flat earthers” or “conspiracy theorists.”

The accusation against us

This, I think, is the right place to say a little more about the accusation that is being made against us and our civilization under monikers like global warming and climate change.

Almost everyone thinks they know exactly what we are accused of. But do they? The meme “global warming” doesn’t cover all of it, by any means. For, according to the best evidence we have, temperatures have been rising since the 17th century; long before the start of the Industrial Revolution, and long before any significant human-caused CO2 emissions. And temperatures in mediaeval times, and further back still in Roman times, are considered by most scientists to have been warmer than today. “Climate change” doesn’t cover it all, either. For the Earth’s climate changes; and always has done, even before humans existed! Thus, I find it extremely dishonest to refer to the accusation merely as climate change.

To state the accusation precisely, it is necessary to say far more; and to divide it into several steps. First, that the climate is warming, and has been since the Industrial Revolution began. Second, that the warming is global, not just local or regional. Third, that all, or a significant part of, the warming is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide; and would not have happened without those emissions. Fourth, that the effects of the warming caused by these emissions has had, and will have, negative effects on the planet as a whole, and on human well-being in particular. And fifth, that the benefits from avoiding these negative consequences would outweigh the costs of taking actions to avoid them.

A fundamental human right, in any civilized legal system, is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The best statement I have seen of it comes from the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms: “Any person charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.” And this right is even more important in a case such as this, where the accused is not merely an individual or a group of people, but every human being on the planet, and our civilization as a whole. Anyone that wants to compel others to take part in actions such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions, therefore, must first prove their case beyond reasonable doubt, for all five of the steps I listed above.

The UK government’s part

To continue the reading list. You can read about many bad things that the UK government in particular, along with those it funds and others that share its alarmism, has done to us in promoting and supporting the climate change agenda.

You can learn that right after the Rio summit, they were already aiming towards their goal of forcing us out of our cars. I well remember the propaganda! (Staged) pictures of rural roads chock-a-block with cars. Of traffic jams in foggy weather, complete with smoking exhaust-pipes. Of the aftermaths of accidents. Even the AA (Automobile Association), an organization founded in 1905 to defend drivers against government encroachment, criticized its own members for driving “gas guzzlers.” Not long after, there were attempts in parliament to set binding targets for reductions in road traffic. The first of these was made in 1994 by a Welsh nationalist MP, with a bill that had actually been written by Friends of the Earth and the Green Party! A Road Traffic Reduction Act followed in 1997, followed by several attempts to set explicit national targets or limits for road traffic.

You can read about the UK government’s perversion of the precautionary principle, which in its true form ought to be “look before you leap” or even “first, do no harm.” In 1992, in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, they had signed up to the following: “lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” But this is nonsense. For without a high degree of scientific certainty about the size and likelihood of a problem, how can you possibly assess whether or not a proposed counter-measure is cost-effective?

In 2002, though, they perverted the principle still further. My account is here: [[7]], and the government’s own report on the matter is here: [[8]]. It includes statements such as: “The purpose of the precautionary principle is to create an impetus to take a decision notwithstanding scientific uncertainty about the nature and extent of the risk.” “‘Absence of evidence of risk’ should never be confused with, or taken as, ‘evidence of absence of risk.’” And “the burden of proof shifts away from the regulator having to demonstrate potential for harm towards the hazard creator having to demonstrate an acceptable level of safety.”

Do you see what they did there? They abandoned all pretence of objective, impartial risk analysis, and of presuming us innocent until proven guilty. They inverted the burden of proof, demanding that we, the accused, must prove a negative; that we are not causing any problem. Which, in general, is impossible. And even if we’re not actually causing any risk at all, they can use the ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ trick to find us guilty anyway!

Add to all this the BBC’s 2006 decision to cut the broadcast time allowed to those skeptical of the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) meme; and you will see that they sought to deny us the right for our views to be heard, and the right to call witnesses – including experts. More recently (2018), the BBC likened allowing climate change skeptics to speak to “letting someone deny last week’s football scores.” Even though their own guidelines say: “We are committed to reflecting a wide range of subject matter and perspectives… so that no significant strand of thought is under-represented or omitted.”

You can read about the 2006 Stern Review, ostensibly a cost versus benefit analysis on taking action, or not, to limit carbon dioxide emissions. But the resulting report was grossly biased on the side of those promoting action. One economist commented: “the Review's radical policy recommendations depend upon controversial extreme assumptions and unconventional discount rates that most mainstream economists would consider much too low.” Furthermore, of the three available Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) for calculating the so-called “social cost of carbon,” and thus the costs resulting from CO2 emissions if no policy measures were taken, Stern picked the most pessimistic, the PAGE model. This model is known to produce “fat tailed” distributions with higher estimated likelihoods of extreme scenarios, and higher social costs, than the other two.

You can read about the 2008 climate change bill, where the cost and benefit figures put forward had such huge uncertainties (a factor of 7 for costs and 12 for “benefits” of action) that they were not fit for purpose. Yet only five brave members of parliament had the gumption to stand up for the people they were supposed to represent, and oppose the bill. The rest of them voted to subject us to Soviet-style “five-year carbon budgets,” as well as all manner of taxes, and caps on emissions of other greenhouse gases too.

You can read about the 2009 decision to stop even trying to use the “social cost of carbon” measure in cost-benefit calculations about CO2 emissions. This made it, in effect, impossible to answer the question “how much harm would CO2 emissions cause if we did nothing at all to reduce them?” A question which must be answered before you can even assess whether there’s a real problem or not! Cynically paraphrased, their argument seems to have been: “We know we can’t do a credible cost-benefit analysis that justifies any political action on this. But we’re already committed to political action. So, we’ll make up numbers to match the commitments, and hope that no-one notices.” I covered this, and the Stern report, in more detail in an essay at [[9]] (a little bit technical in places).

You can read how the UK committed at the 2009 Copenhagen COP meeting to a totally arbitrary target of keeping any global temperature increases under 2 degrees Celsius. And how then environment secretary Ed Miliband underlined the UK government’s extremism on the issue by saying: “the Copenhagen conference did not agree everything we set out for.”

You can read about the Climategate e-mail releases. You can even read the e-mails themselves at [[10]]. You can learn that alarmist scientists had interfered with the review and publication process for papers on which the IPCC was supposed to rely. They had dropped, spliced or misrepresented data to produce alarming effects. They had refused to share data to allow others to replicate their work. They had plotted to delete data in order to evade Freedom of Information requests. They had conspired against journal editors who published skeptical papers. And more. Whatever they were doing, it was neither science nor honest. And so, since taxpayers had paid for them to do honest science, were these researchers not committing fraud against the people?

You can read about the three inquiries which the UK government commissioned into the scandal. But none of them seemed even to try to answer the important questions: Was the science of the climate alarmists sound, and properly and objectively done? And was their conduct ethical? The whole exercise was no more than a whitewash.

You can read about the COP meeting in Paris in 2015. Here’s what the UK government said, ahead of that conference: “A global agreement is the only way we can deliver the scale of action required to reduce global emissions. Securing an ambitious global climate deal in Paris is a UK Government priority and we are working with other countries to push political ambition.” And this was the Tories, not Labour.

And it gets worse. At the time of the Paris meeting, it looked as if global warming had stopped, and wasn’t going to reach the 2-degree threshold, or even near it. So, they moved the goalposts again, and arbitrarily lowered their 2 degrees limit to 1.5.

You can learn how the mainstream media demonize climate realists at every opportunity. This 2018 Guardian article is a good example: [[11]]. It is full of ad hominems like “far right,” “deniers” and “shamefully ignorant.” Yet it gives no factual rebuttal of the skeptical position. And its title, “Disempower far-right climate change deniers. Don’t debate with them,” gives active encouragement to those that want to suppress climate realist ideas from public view and debate. But for me, anyone that seeks to suppress their opponents’ arguments is merely demonstrating that they have no answers to them. Just like the Catholic church with Galileo.

You can take a look at the 2019 report that purported to do a cost-benefit analysis for “net zero” CO2 emission policies, here: [[12]]. You can note that the chairman of the group that produced this report, Paul Ekins, was one of the economists involved in the 2009 decision to move away from the use of the social cost of carbon. You can see in action the “mitigation-adaptation costs” (MAC) approach which replaced it, and you can marvel at how obscure and counter-intuitive it seems. You can note that one member of the working group was a representative of Shell, and wonder why someone from Shell was asked to write the section about the sociological aspects of “the energy transition.”

You can also see how, apart from quoting some (extraordinarily high!) numbers from an IPCC special report, the question of what would be the costs of taking no policy actions at all from here on in is never even addressed. The nearest they get is to say: “Given the potentially large damages from unabated climate change, and the perhaps small (but not negligible) existential risk of such change, we conclude that strong mitigation action is far preferable to not acting.” Which sounds to me much like “We have to take action, because a pixie might fart, and that would be catastrophic.” You may well conclude, as I have done, that whatever this report was, it was not an unbiased, quantitative cost-benefit analysis.

You can read about the Climate Change Committee (or is it Committee on Climate Change?), chaired by John Selwyn Gummer, Tory environment secretary from 1993-5 and also known as Lord Deben. You can read (but I don’t advise it) their May 2019 report, which seems to have been the immediate spark for the mad antics of the UK parliament in 2019. You can note that another of the economists involved in the dropping of the “social cost of carbon” measure, Paul Johnson, was one of the CCC members who produced that report.

You can remind yourself about what happened in the spring of 2019. After minister Michael Gove met with extremist group Extinction Rebellion, next day the UK parliament declared a “climate emergency.” Without any factual evidence for any such emergency, and without even a vote. A month later, they passed a bill imposing a target of “net zero” emissions by 2050, replacing the earlier target of an 80% cut from 1990 levels. This was at least the fourth time since 1992 that the UK government had moved the emissions reductions goalposts; always in the direction of greater reductions.

You can read about a so called “Great Reset,” a proposal to spur economic recovery after the COVID virus by acting “jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies.” This is a project of the World Economic Forum, a Swiss-based international organization of global big-business and political élites. (Al Gore is on its board). One of those unveiling the “Great Reset” in 2020 was consummate hypocrite Prince Charles; who travels by helicopters and private jets to give speeches about lowering aircraft emissions. He ought to have walked or cycled, as he wants to force us to do. And would not the first step of a “Great Reset” in the UK be to abolish the monarchy, and throw Charlie out on his ears?

You can laugh (or cry) at the harangues, with which we are constantly bombarded in an effort to persuade us to act to “solve” some unproven problem. That we should eat bugs instead of meat, in order to “save the planet.” That zero-carbon living is sustainable. That obese people losing weight could cut CO2 emissions. That there are too many people on our planet. And more. To such tirades, my usual reply is: You go first!

You can read, too, about the key role of UK universities in planning the green agenda. My own account of this is here: [[13]]. It reveals a top-down, collectivist mentality among many academics today. A mentality that favours big government, is hostile to business, industry and the free market, and disdains individual human beings and our rights and freedoms.

Which brings me back around to the recent Ten Point Plan, which I reviewed at [1]. I think I can fairly say that, if this agenda is allowed to go ahead, the future for everyone in the UK is truly dark green. And prime minister Boris Johnson must be whistling in the wind, if he thinks that will “unite and level up our country.” Far more likely, I think, that once the bad effects of the policies on ordinary people start to become apparent, it will turn millions of angry people against the political establishment as a whole, and the Tory party in particular.

Dishonesties

As you look at the history and the politics, and learn more and more, you will become furious at how the UK political establishment, and their cronies, have behaved towards us all. And if you are not from the UK, you will almost certainly be able to find similar things that your own political class have done to you. Just about every government in the world – except, maybe, a few countries like Saudi Arabia and perhaps Russia, whose entire economies depend on being able to exploit their fossil fuel reserves – is in on the scam.

You will see how, again and again, the UK political class have moved the goalposts. How they have disguised politics as if it was science. How they have failed to make sure that taxpayer-funded science is done properly and honestly. How after Climategate, instead of uncovering and punishing the wrongdoers, they whitewashed the matter. How they perverted the precautionary principle into a tool for tyranny. How they abandoned the presumption of innocence, inverted the burden of proof, and required the accused – that’s us – to prove a negative. How they have sought to suppress dissenting views, and denied us the rights to defend ourselves and to call our witnesses. How they biased their purported cost versus benefit analysis towards their desired goal. How they subsequently changed the rules to make it impossible to do proper cost-benefit analysis on these matters. And much more.

You may well find yourself thinking of deep green environmentalism as like a religion. An extremely intolerant one, at that; not unlike the behaviour of the Catholic church from the late 15th century through the Counter-Reformation. And you may find yourself comparing its leaders and its acolytes with those that sought to subject innocent people to the Inquisitions.

I hope you will come to ask yourself questions such as: Where’s the hard evidence for the alarmist claims? Where, for example, are the millions of climate refugees they predicted? The thousands of dead polar bears, and the hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of dead coral reefs, that would have been still living without human-caused global warming? Where is the proof, beyond reasonable doubt, that weather is getting worse on a global scale as they claim, and that the cause is human emissions of CO2? And where is the proof that the overall effects of human CO2 emissions on the planet and on our human civilization are, or will be, anything other than a nett benefit?

You will probably conclude, as I did, that the alarmist claims are, and have been all along, “fake news.” You will wonder how much longer they will be able to keep up their lies and deceptions. You will yearn for the truth on this matter to find its way into the public consciousness, and soon. And when it does, there will be hell to pay for those responsible.

You may even go so far as to ask: Why have the political establishment and their cohorts, for decades, persistently lied to, misled and been dishonest towards the people they are supposed to be serving? How have they managed to get away with it for so long? How could any human being worth the name behave so badly, so arrogantly, so irresponsibly, so unjustly, so uncaringly, so hysterically, so hypocritically? And why should people in any community of honest, civilized human beings tolerate anyone that behaves in such ways?

How ought governments to behave?

“Government even in its best state is a necessary evil,” wrote Tom Paine in “Common Sense.” He was right. Government, in some form, is necessary in any civilized community. But if not constrained to behave within reasonable bounds, it becomes an evil; a drain on us, and a danger to us all. So, I’ll ask: What standards of behaviour ought people in a Western democracy, such as the UK, reasonably be able to expect from those who govern them?

The idea of democracy has its roots in the Enlightenment of the late 17th and 18th centuries. And John Locke, father of the Enlightenment, was quite clear where the limits of legislative power ought to lie. “Their power in the utmost bounds of it is limited to the public good of the society. It is a power that hath no other end but preservation, and therefore can never have a right to destroy, enslave or designedly to impoverish the subjects.” And the public good, he defined as: “the good of every particular member of that society, as far as by common rules it can be provided for.”

What that means, as I interpret it, is that government must serve people, not rule over them. It must not pick winners and losers, except on the basis of how each individual behaves. It must never do harm to anyone who has not done, is not doing, and is not planning to do, harm to others. It should act for the benefit of the governed, not for the benefit of particular factions or vested interests. It should act for the benefit of all the governed; that is, every individual among them – real criminals excepted, of course. It should always uphold the rule of law: “the principle whereby all members of a society (including those in government) are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes.” And it must never implement any policy that will unreasonably or unjustly inconvenience, harm or require sacrifices from any of the people it is supposed to be serving. To this end, it must do honest, objective, rigorous, accurate cost-benefit analyses on all proposed policies, taking into account the interests of all those affected; and it must make them public.

Further, government must always be reasonable towards the people it governs. It must always respect the facts in any matter. It must always be truthful and honest towards the governed. It must never defraud, mislead, or act in bad faith towards the people; or, indeed, towards any of the people. And you should be able to expect these conditions to be applied to all government officials, and to those whose work is funded by taxpayers’ money. Bad faith towards the people should be end of career for anyone in, or funded by, government.

Moreover, government must always respect the rights, freedoms and dignity of the governed as human beings. And it must always follow due process of law. If it accuses you of wrongdoing, then before punishing you in any way, it must allow you your full procedural rights. Such as: A clear statement of the accusation. An objective and impartial tribunal to judge it. The presumption of innocence, until the accusation has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. And the rights to speak up in your own defence; to call witnesses, including experts, for your defence; and to have your side of the case heard in public.

But that isn’t how they have behaved towards us over global warming, is it?

Epilogue: How to go forward?

To abate, and then to fix, the problems I have identified here will require major reforms of the UK (and, in the longer term, the world) political system. To put forward, even in outline, any kind of credible proposals for such changes is a big task. I’m among those working on this task; but I still have a long way to go.

For now, I will suggest one thing we might look to do in the short term. That is, to put some independent quality control into the governmental system. I think we should set up audits of taxpayer funded institutions and projects, to assure that they have been and are being run in the interests of the people government is supposed to serve; that is, the taxpayers. I will dub these “Honesty Audits.”

Honesty Audits should be carried out by independent, impartial and suitably qualified teams, none of whom has a political axe to grind, or is a government employee, or has been involved in any of the work being audited. Questions like “Where is the cost-benefit analysis?” “How big are the uncertainties?” “How certain are we that this is feasible?” And “Will any particular groups or types of individuals be harmed by this?” ought to be asked. The results of the audits should be made publicly available to everyone. And those that persistently, or in large matters, have failed to deal honestly and transparently with the people, should be sacked, and banned from working on taxpayer funded projects in the future. That fate ought also to be meted out to anyone in government that, directly or indirectly, opposes Honesty Audits. On the principle of: if you’ve got something to fear, you must have something to hide!

I will end with some more words of John Locke, which are very relevant to our situation today. “But if a long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people, and they cannot but feel what they lie under, and see whither they are going, it is not to be wondered that they should then rouse themselves, and endeavour to put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the ends for which government was at first erected.”



Sunday, 24 January 2021

Green industrial revolution, or Great Leap Backward?

 

Prologue: The decay of politics

For several decades now, there has been a continual decline in the quality of the political atmosphere, in the UK and elsewhere. In the UK, I think this probably dates back to the 1970s and Old Labour; but the Tories and New Labour have both actively helped it along. Government has lost respect for the people it is supposed to serve. It treats us, at best, as if we were naughty children. It takes no account of what we actually are: thinking, feeling human beings, who need freedom and justice in order to live our lives to the full. In consequence, many people have begun to lose confidence in politics and government, no matter which party is in power. And among such people there is a, slowly but inexorably, mounting sense of exasperation with the political establishment and those in it. The Brexit referendum vote in 2016, and the meteoric rise of the Brexit Party in the first half of 2019, were signs of this.

Meanwhile, the political class and their cohorts (such as bureaucrats, academe, media, big-company bosses) have steadily become more and more authoritarian, arrogant, dishonest, deceitful, untrustworthy, grasping, irresponsible, evasive of accountability, hypocritical, hysterical, and lacking in concern for us “little people.” It is as if they have formed themselves into a giant, psychopathic, criminal gang; and we are their chosen victims.

You can see this in their erection of millions of cameras to spy on us. In their tracking of our Internet and phone usage. In their obvious desire to use any “crisis” they can drum up, such as the COVID epidemic, to take away or restrict our liberties. But nowhere is it more clearly reflected than by their conduct on environmental issues, such as the matter often called “climate change” or, alternatively, “global warming,” “climate crisis” or “climate emergency.” And, in particular, by the UK government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution [[1]], published in November 2020.

The Ten Point Plan

The plan sets out policies the UK government intends to force on people over the next ten years and more, in the name of “building back better, supporting green jobs, and accelerating our path to net zero.” It shows just how far into the abyss prime minister Boris Johnson, the ruling Tory party, and the rest of the UK political establishment have descended.

Under more auspicious circumstances, some aspects of this would be quite amusing. The phrase “green industrial revolution” is lifted verbatim from the Labour party’s 2019 manifesto [[2]]. Yet this is a Tory government that is doing these things to us! Johnson writes in a foreword about his ambitious plans “to unite and level up our country.” That same Labour manifesto said “The climate and environmental emergency is a chance to unite the country…” and spoke of “levelling up across the country.” I’ve long been saying there’s no real difference between the mainstream political parties in the UK; and this proves it.

I’ll give some thoughts about the ten points themselves, before descending into the politics.

One: “advancing offshore wind.” “By 2030 we plan to quadruple our offshore wind capacity,” so they say, to 40 gigawatts. I feel a sense of déjà vu. Back in 2007, New Labour promised 33 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2020. How many got built? Just over 10. Good enough for government work, I suppose. They say also that the cost of offshore wind power has fallen by two-thirds in the last five years, and is likely to fall still further. But at least one expert says the opposite: [[3]].

Now, I do know that the UK government has over many years been very cavalier in the way it has treated costs and benefits of anything environmental. I know, also, that wind power is intermittent, so must always be backed up by a reliable source of base load power, whose costs must also be taken into account. Moreover, the ten-point plan uses the word could repeatedly, whenever it discusses touted benefits. Making me think, pigs could fly.

Two: “driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen.” Which could provide “a clean source of fuel and heat for our homes, transport and industry.” And the UK is a world leader in “investigating the use of hydrogen for heating.” But what would be needed to make hydrogen as a fuel work cost-effectively on a large scale isn’t off-the-shelf technology, or anything like it. And hydrogen has problems of its own: like cost, safety, difficulty of storage and of transport. Moreover, current commercial means of making it also emit lots of carbon dioxide. Overall, this comes over to me as pie in the sky.

Three: “delivering new and advanced nuclear power.” Hooray! A half-way sensible idea at last. Nuclear power is proven technology; the French have already been there. Unlike wind, it can generate the base load which any industrial civilization needs. There is plenty of fuel for decades at least, even without breeder reactors. And, despite Chernobyl and Fukushima, it has a good safety record. It is expensive, though. But much of the expense is down to long project timescales with their associated uncertainties, and costs deliberately imposed by government on behalf of activist groups, through “regulatory ratcheting” and “regulatory turbulence.” Indeed, there are still ructions and uncertainties over the proposed Sizewell C reactor development. And even Hinckley Point C, given in the plan as a case study, has faced immense political obstacles, including some put up by the EU and the United Nations.

Small modular reactors stand out as a potential for the future. But these are still at the development stage. And there is, as yet, no licensing régime to allow them to go live.

Four: “accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles.” With current technology, this means electric cars and vans. Now, electric vehicles have many disadvantages over conventional ones. Higher purchase price. No real second-hand market yet; and part exchange will become unviable, as petrol and diesel cars become all but worthless. Increased weight. Short range per fill-up. Slow charging, likely meaning long queues at filling stations. The possibility of a very dangerous fire in the event of an accident. Potential world shortages of materials to make the batteries. Battery disposal issues.

A major shift towards electric cars would also require a huge and potentially de-stabilizing makeover of the electricity grid. The roll-out of car charging points to tens of millions of homes and tens of thousands of filling station pumps would be an expensive nightmare. And how would those, who have to park our cars some distance from our front doors, be able to charge them overnight?

The plan talks of “thousands more ultra-low and zero-emission cars and vans on UK roads” and “thousands more charge points in homes.” But they understate the problem by many orders of magnitude. There are more than 35 million cars and vans on UK roads today!

Moreover, the Tories have behaved very dishonestly towards car drivers. First, they put into their 2019 manifesto a date (2040) for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars; so, they could claim that those, who really only voted for them to get Brexit done, also voted for that. Second, in July 2020 they held a “consultation” on the issue of “de-carbonizing transport.” I spent almost a month writing a 58-page, reasoned response, with many good arguments why nothing needed to be done at all, and everyone should be left free to choose whatever form or forms of transport best suit them and their circumstances. But all the points I, and others of like mind, made were totally ignored. This showed that the whole “consultation” was, as I had cynically expected, just a rubber-stamping exercise for the deep green political agenda. A rubber stamp, which they then used to pull the date of the ban forward from 2040 to 2030.

And then, there’s this. “We will need to ensure that the tax system encourages the uptake of EVs and that revenue from motoring taxes keeps pace with this change.” I think I know what that means, for those who can’t afford to buy a new electric car. To retain mobility, they will have no option but to keep on running older petrol or diesel cars. But the taxes on these cars will be jacked up so high, that they won’t be able to afford to do that either. So, these people – and, I suspect, a very large number of people, including me – will lose mobility entirely. So much for Johnson’s “level up our country!”

Five: “green public transport, cycling and walking.” I’m old enough to have a free pass to use buses; but I don’t use them that much, because they aren’t convenient. (Only one route goes within half a mile of my home; and that isn’t very frequent, and doesn’t run at all in the evening or on Sunday). And many buses are uncomfortable, if not also slow. There are two railway stations down in the valley, but it’s a steep uphill hike back from either of them. As to the bicycle, it’s a fine means of transport in its place. I know this, because I once bicycled coast-to-coast across North America! But it isn’t a practical way for a 67-year-old, who lives at the top of a steep hill, to get around. Walking, too, can be pleasant and healthy; I do a lot of it. But it’s slow. And if you have a heavy load to carry (I play the tuba!), it’s a no-no.

What comes through very strongly here is the lack of concern for ordinary human beings. The plans seem directed at making life even more difficult for car drivers, with yet more bus and cycle lanes and schemes like low traffic neighbourhoods, rather than improving anything. These schemes have already caused difficulties for those who must travel by car, such as disabled people. And some of them have significantly increased journey times, and caused more pollution. Those who live in big cities or in town centres may, perhaps, think they would be better off with more public transport and less cars. But those who live in the countryside, in villages, on the outskirts of towns or in outer suburbs are likely to find themselves getting an extremely bad deal. This, again, is hardly “levelling up.” It is class war, being waged by an urban élite against the country and suburban people.

Six: “jet zero and green ships.” When I looked for details on zero-emission aircraft, I didn’t find much. My expectation is that they will, when (if?) they arrive, be smaller, slower, more expensive to run and with a shorter range than today’s jets. That would price many people out of the market for air travel, as well as raising the costs of long-distance trade, and so increasing the cost of living for everyone. The plan does mention “battery and hydrogen aircrafts.” But batteries have orders of magnitude less energy density than conventional jet fuels. And a vice-president of Airbus says that “the road to widespread hydrogen adoption in aviation is still long.” As to ships, electric container ships seem to be a non-starter, and large hydrogen powered ships look a long way off.

Seven: “greener buildings.” Heat pumps seem to be the proposed method of choice for future heating. But they are hugely expensive up-front, and installation is difficult. You may need new, larger radiators, too. But what if you don’t have the space for them? And, so I’m told, heat pumps are noisy, and more expensive to run than gas heating. And they stop working in the coldest weather; exactly when we need heat the most. In any case, how can you afford to install a heat pump if you don’t have the money? And what are older people to do, who have barely enough to live on anyway? How can they afford to “improve the energy efficiency of homes and replace fossil fuel heating?” They can’t. Nor will they be able to move, since the government plans to make selling or renting out older, unimproved homes “illegal!”

Tucked away at the bottom is a promise to “improve energy efficiency standards of household products so they use less energy and materials.” I think I know what that means; less and less effective appliances. Remember the EU directives that gave us expensive light bulbs that don’t deliver enough light to see by, and vacuum cleaners that don’t clean our carpets properly? This sounds like more of the same, in spades.

Eight: “investing in carbon capture, usage and storage.” If CO2 emissions actually were the problem that they’re made out to be, this might be a good idea. But it looks horribly expensive. The idea of storing the stuff under the North Sea sounds dubious. And there have been failed projects of this kind already in Germany, Norway and the USA, at least. Oh, and look at who the big players are in this pseudo “market.” I googled “carbon capture technology,” and the first three hits I got were ads from Shell, Aramco and Exxon Mobil!

Nine: “protecting our natural environment.” “We will safeguard our cherished landscapes, restore habitats for wildlife in order to combat biodiversity loss and adapt to climate change.” Despite that twee sentiment, this is actually one of the few half way sensible sets of ideas in this plan. Better flood defences and planting more trees, indeed, are two of the very few ideas here that could actually bring genuine benefits to real people.

But I still can’t rid myself of the thought that all the pap about humans damaging wildlife and biodiversity is really just a smokescreen. Whenever I ask a green supporter to name a species to whose extinction I have contributed, and to say what I did, and when, to contribute to that extinction, I never get a factual answer. And when I ask for hard evidence that humans are causing a biodiversity problem, all I get is links to alarmist reports from the World Wildlife Federation, or from the UN’s IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) – see [[4]]. IPBES is, almost exactly, the equivalent on this issue of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the global warming one. And its chairman is one Sir Robert Watson, who was also chairman of the IPCC from 1997 to 2002!

Ten: “green finance and innovation.” Aha, I knew the money men would get their cut! The big question, of course, is where will the money for all these schemes come from? “Green bonds” may sound like a great idea. But I wonder whether realistic investors may not choose   to stay clear of projects so big and complex that, even if well run, they would be very likely to tank. With politicians involved, that becomes absolutely certain to tank. Moreover, it’s clear from phrases like “mandatory reporting of climate-related financial information” and “ensure an equitable balance of contributions across society” that huge tax rises are planned to finance all this. And these taxes won’t go to help the poor; no, sir. These taxes will re-distribute wealth from the politically poor – us ordinary people – to the politically rich. The beneficiaries will be those, including the politicians and the big-company bosses, that want to profit from forcing us into an unjust, unfree, nightmare “green” world.

Is that all? Hell, no. The final section, “the race to zero,” says: “In the coming year, we will set out further plans for reducing emissions across all the UK’s major economic sectors.” The pain and fall-out from all this for the ordinary people of the UK are only just beginning.

Comparison with the Industrial Revolution

The title “green industrial revolution” invites comparison with the Industrial Revolution, which began in the mid to late 18th century, and is arguably still in progress today. Now, the Industrial Revolution, in the UK at least, was an organic, bottom-up revolution. It was not initiated, or controlled, by government. Indeed, government didn’t even do that much to help it along. I can think of only three helpful things it did. It suppressed the destructive Luddites. It decided where new railway tracks could be built, over the opposition of the local landlords. And it introduced the idea of limited liability, under which honest investors in the new projects were protected against losing more than they had invested.

For consumers, the Industrial Revolution was also an era of choice; of take-it-or-leave-it. While companies were often forced by competitive pressure to adopt the new technologies, individuals, families, towns and cities didn’t have to make use of them if they didn’t want to. (Though they usually chose to do so, whenever there were clear benefits.) Moreover, if things went wrong, and the benefits did not come or could not be sustained, they always had the option to go back to the old ways. A case in point is my own town; the first place in Europe to have electric street lighting (in 1881). By 1884, the supplier decided they could no longer deliver the electricity at an affordable price. So, the town had to go back to gas lighting, and electric lighting did not return until 1904.

These green plans, on the other hand, are not a natural, organic revolution. They are mandated, from the top down, by a political class that seeks to mould the UK economy into a command-and-control system reminiscent of the Soviet one. They are eagerly supported, not only by green activists and their academic and media comrades, but also by the money men and the big-company élites, who stand to gain billions and more from all these projects. They are supported by church leaders, too – about as establishment as you can get. But they take no account of the many, for whom the policies will cause severe pain and expense, without any corresponding benefits. This is no less than a takeover of the economy by an élite, that seems to have no interest at all in the well-being of ordinary people.

And if things go wrong and goals set cannot be met, will there be any option to back out, and return to the old methods? If world-wide shortages of materials to make batteries, for example, were to slow down the roll-out of electric vehicles, would we be able to continue for as long as necessary with petrol and diesel cars? Even if the carmakers had not already dismantled their assembly lines, I very much doubt that the politicians would let that happen. The little people, they would opine, will just have to do without.

For these reasons, I find it very dishonest to try to liken this supposed green industrial revolution to the Industrial Revolution which began 250 or so years ago. I can think of two far better analogies. One was Stalin’s “Great Turn” of the early 1930s, which rapidly “modernized” Soviet Russia using a top-down, communist model; and in the process, committed genocide against the kulaks, and caused the Holodomor famine. The other was Mao’s “Great Leap Forward.” And we all know how that turned out. It is because of this analogy that I have dubbed the green industrial revolution plan the “Great Leap Backward.”

Indeed, I see this plan as part of a reactionary counter-revolution to the Industrial Revolution. You can’t get any idea much more conservative or reactionary (or, indeed, ridiculous) than “stopping climate change!” (Words of Alok Sharma, minister, on page 4 of the plan.) For the climate changes, irrespective of anything humans do. Always has done, always will. Yet these reactionaries want to freeze (no pun intended) the climate, so it never changes again!

The Industrial Revolution gave humans the power to take control of our physical environment. It has allowed us to mould our environment to suit ourselves, and to start making our planet into a home and garden fit for a civilized species. Yet those that promote this plan want to throw away everything we have so laboriously built over the last 250+ years. They want to scrap the foundations of all economic progress; the free market, and honest business and industry. For the sake of virtue signalling like “restoring habitats for wildlife,” they want to destroy our habitat – the natural habitat of honest human beings.

They don’t want the world economy to grow. They don’t want ordinary people to have freedom of choice in how we live our lives. They don’t want people to be prosperous – except themselves and their cronies, of course. And they are so dishonest, that they disguise their intentions, and make out that they want to lead us to a better world, not the dreary, depressing nightmare they actually have in mind for us.

Those, that promote or support policies such as these, are traitors to human civilization. They deserve to be expelled from our civilization, and denied all its benefits.

Economic recovery from the COVID virus

All this, so we are told, is to enable us to “build back better” once the COVID-19 virus is gone. Yet it seems, to me at least, to be an extremely risky way to go about building anything. There are the risks that arise in any command-and-control system. There are risks that technologies may not be ready when they are needed. There are risks in rolling out projects on such a large scale. There are risks of de-stabilizing the electricity grid. There are risks of high-profile accidents. There are financial and budgetary risks. And the likely loss of mobility, and exorbitant cost of adapting homes, for many ordinary people make the idea that the end result can possibly be “better” into nothing but a sick joke.

For how to bring back to life an economy that has all but died, look at what the Germans did in the 1950s. So effective was it, that it has acquired its own name, Wirtschaftswunder. It was based on low taxes, free market principles and fair competition; three indispensable components for building prosperity. For my taste, there was far too much government control over the process. But there is no doubt that it worked. The Wirtschaftswunder would be a far better model on which to base any country’s economic recovery from COVID, than this top-down dirigisme masquerading as a “green industrial revolution.”

And yet, responses to this reactionary, freedom-killing plan appeared, in the first few days at least, overwhelmingly positive. On the Internet, I had to wade through several pages of “it’s great” and “it doesn’t go far enough” responses, before finding any that were even slightly critical. But when you look at who has been making these comments, they turn out to be the expected suspects; exactly those that will most benefit from these policies. Government departments, politicians, academics, quangos, companies angling for green contracts, and the like. The only early negative responses I found were a couple of articles in the Daily Mail. Since then, there have been on the Internet many articles pointing out negative aspects and impracticalities of the plan. But no-one seems to be taking any notice. It’s plain that this is all a giant stitch-up. Of which we, the ordinary people of the UK, are victims.

Where do we go from here?

It’s hard to see us making any progress against bad green policies through the current political system. In the UK, all the mainstream political parties have “gone green.” The only potential exception is the former Brexit Party, recently re-badged as Reform UK. But I am not sanguine that Nigel Farage is radical enough to want to tackle this issue head on, despite the enormous vote potential. (More than 60% of the UK electorate are car drivers!) There are a few climate realist parties in Europe, but many of them carry unpleasant far-right baggage. In the USA, the Republicans seem to be wavering on the issue; and there’s nobody else.

Besides which, this is not a “left” versus “right” matter. Nor, from what I see, does it have anything to do with any of the prevalent social divides, like race, skin colour, birthplace, nationality, social class, gender, sexual orientation, culture, religion, ideology or lifestyle. To me, it looks more like the divide which German Jewish sociologist Franz Oppenheimer identified in his 1908 master-work, The State. This separates users of what he calls the economic means – “the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others” – from users of the political means – “the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others.”

To a first approximation at least, supporters of the green agenda, like politicians, public sector employees, state funded academics, mainstream media, and politically oriented or subsidy craving company bosses, tend also to favour the political means. And we ordinary people, who by our nature utilize the economic means, are the victims of this agenda.

I sense that the mounting anger and vexation with politics, which I and others feel today, is a sign of a penny starting to drop in the minds of more and more people; a dawning sense of just how badly politics today is screwed up. So, I think that a change of party at the helm, or a new political party, or some other kind of movement within the current political context, is not going to achieve the necessary level of change. What we need, in my view, is to ditch politics as it exists today, and replace it by something better. What we need is no less than a new and better way of looking at how we humans should best organize ourselves for what Aristotle called “the common good of all.”

I am among those, who are working towards a better way for us human beings to co-exist with each other. And I expect that to reach this goal will require a fundamental re-think of who we are, how we ought to behave, and what we are here for. I hope to be able to publish some draft ideas in the next few weeks or months. But today, I’ll leave you with a quote from author and activist Bryant McGill. “Revolution starts in the mind. Question Everything!”

Friday, 1 January 2021

COVID-19: the “second wave” - Update

This is an update to my paper of December 3rd on tracking the COVID-19 epidemic in fourteen Western European countries. It uses the data up to and including December 31st 2020. The data sources are the same as before: Our World in Data and the Blavatnik School of Government, both at Oxford University.

The main news this month, apart from seemingly never-ending lockdowns and the ghost of Christmas passed, has been the new, supposedly more easily transmissible strain of the virus, discovered in the UK. Initially, I was a bit skeptical. But as you can see in the graph at the top, the UK (pink line) does indeed have a climbing trend in new daily cases, which over the whole of December is very different from the trends in the other countries. So, I think we can fairly say that there is indeed a new, more transmissible strain, in the UK and perhaps some other countries.

In other news, no sooner had I changed all my “magic spreadsheets” to use the newly added reproduction rate (Rt) data column, than all 14 countries stopped reporting this data! There has been no Rt data for any of them since December 4th. I had already noticed that the Rt looked as if it was being calculated differently in different countries. So, perhaps they got together and decided the Rt values weren’t fit for purpose. A great pity, since it is (would be) one of the most interesting statistics of all at the present stage of the epidemic. It will be interesting to see whether, and if so when, they resume providing this data.

Cases

I’ll begin with cases again. I’ll skip the total cases per million graph, as it doesn’t show anything significant, which you can’t already see from the daily cases per million graph above.

Here is the list of daily cases per million as at the end of the month:

The UK, Sweden, Netherlands and Denmark are leading the pack. And every country except Belgium is now above the WHO’s “naughty boy, you mustn’t unlock” threshold of 200 new cases per million population per day. Yet many of the countries are under more severe lockdown than they were a month ago. This suggests to me that the WHO’s threshold is too low for its apparent purpose. Making me think, might it have been better to base any assessment of “high risk” status on hospital occupancy figures, rather than simply on cases?

Here’s the weekly case growth graph:

Ireland is now at the top in weekly case growth, suggesting that it too may have a more transmissible strain of the virus. The UK is second. The next group seem to be a mixture. Some have weekly case growth negative and roughly static. Others have recently turned a corner back towards, and in some cases even into, positive case growth. I wonder if this may be a “Christmas effect?” Again, time will tell.

Here’s the histogram of who is where:

And the latest lockdown stringency graph:


The issues, which were causing the UK stringency not to include measures which were only in place in individual constituent countries, do appear to have been fixed. The ordering of the stringencies is also worth a look. I haven’t seen Germany up at the top before! And the stringent lockdown in the UK is clearly not succeeding at slowing the rise in new cases.

Tests

For tests, I’ll show the graph of cumulative tests per 100,000. This shows that, with the exception of Denmark in second place, none of the countries have in the last few weeks been greatly increasing their testing rates.

And here is the graph of cumulative cases per test over the course of the epidemic:

The countries divide into four groups. In the Netherlands, Switzerland and perhaps Germany, cumulative cases per test are still rising. In the UK, Ireland and Denmark, the rate, which had all but levelled off, started to rise again during December. In Belgium and Spain, the rate is now falling. The rest seem to be staying roughly constant.

Deaths

The daily deaths per million graph is inconclusive:

And the deaths per case, with a 21-day offset, tell us that several countries have had a bad December in this regard; most of all the UK, Belgium, Germany and France.



To conclude

I decided that, at this point, it isn’t worth reviewing again the effects of lockdown actions in individual countries since the beginning of December. One more month seems insufficient time to make any clear judgements, and the figures will have been distorted by Christmas (and will be further distorted by the New Year). I plan to take another look towards the end of January. By which time, I will hopefully be able to show also some data on hospitalizations and vaccinations.