Thursday, July 18, 2013

Arguing The Toss On Climate Change

Following hard on his purposeful assault on Michael Fallon two weeks ago, the redoubtable Andrew Neil had a go at Ed Davey this time around, and only peripherally on energy policy per se. His main thrust was an outright challenge to a simplified version of what one might call the warmist-scientific consensus. Of course, Neil is the better debater in every dimension than Davey - a Jesuitical novice could have mounted a better defence without raising his voice above a conversational level - but it's just a low-grade spectator sport with carefully-briefed sophistry on both sides. Taken at face value, there are rarely any knock-down points scored in such encounters, and I can't imagine many viewers changing their minds.

But points of interest still arise.
  • The days when the Beeb's policy was for active suppression of climate-change skepticism are, it seems, over. (Davey was more than just called upon to defend his position: Neil made it clear that in his view, Davey had failed to do so.) That's not a trivial development. 
  • Davey's principal fall-back arguments were (1) a Pascal's wager: even given uncertainty, it's still appropriate to insure against the downside of possible climate change (2) "a lot of our policies are 'no-regrets' policies" - we should be doing them anyway. 
Lots of people relish the fight over forecasts of temperatures - hockey-sticks at dawn - but I don't find that fruitful at all (go to Bishop Hill if you want to vent steam, though as one contributor says there, it can become a "back-slapping echo-chamber"). Better by far is a practical approach, where knock-down points can truly be scored. (1) and (2) above are perfect cases in point. Because it's trivial to demonstrate that current UK / EU policies don't represent any type of insurance policy against climate change: they don't even reduce CO2 emissions, thereby failing against even the most basic of their own criteria.

(The only thing that might represent insurance is adaptation and, as we know, UK expenditure on flood defences is pitiful.)

As for 'no regrets' policies, Minister, You Are Having a Laugh. Only self-financing, unsubsidised energy conservation measures and small-scale biomass / waste incineration could conceivably fall in this category: everything else is a massive gamble on rising gas prices - a huge speculative long. With our money.

At best, the other steps being taken might contribute to a bit of security of supply, and to Keynsian job-creation. But there would be cheaper and more effective ways of doing both. Nope, it isn't remotely difficult to paint the 'regret' scenarios.

This post first appeared on the Capitalists@Work blog

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1 comment:

A K Haart said...

"Only self-financing, unsubsidised energy conservation measures and small-scale biomass / waste incineration could conceivably fall in this category"

I agree. An attraction of energy conservation is that it provides some insurance against cooling too.