Thursday, 10 July 2008

What is the point of emissions targets?

Let us assume that Saint Al of Gore and the IPCC are correct in their direst predictions and that Lord Stern and his ilk are correct in their assessment of the cost of global warming. What possible benefit can result from slashing emissions in the west when India and China are committed to industrialisation and its consequential CO2 production?

And let us be clear about one thing, neither China nor India will allow Saint Al to stifle their efforts to improve the material standards of their people (and in China's case the status on the international stage of their autocratic leaders). The head of China's State Council said last year: “our efforts to fight climate change must not come at the expense of economic growth.” The Indian Council on Climate Change made the same point: “It is obvious that India needs to substantially increase its per capita energy consumption to provide a minimally acceptable level of wellbeing to its people.”

One can, of course, see that cutting emissions in the west will stabalise matters while the east is increasing emissions: one tonne saved in the west + one tonne produced in the east = no change. But India and China have vast populations and a long way to go before their people enjoy anything like the standard of living we have taken for granted for the last two or three generations. It is impossible to predict with any accuracy the level of emissions India and China will produce and, therefore, impossible to say how much we have to cut in order to maintain equilibrium.

One can also see, because we are presuming Saint Al to be correct, that maintaining equilibrium will not avert the imminent disaster. So what exactly do we have to do here in the west? On the face of it we have to cut our emissions by a vast amount very quickly. Consumption of oil, gas and coal must become a thing of the past almost in the blink of an eye. And even if that is achieved we must then keep our fingers crossed that India and China will reach their target of economic well-being and then ... well, and then do what? Switch instantly away from oil, gas and coal just as they have built prosperity on the energy produced by those very fuels and, significantly, when China in particular has vast reserves? There is as much chance of that as there is of me holing every tee-shot I play in my next round of golf. It's pure La-La-Land.

Then along come Brasil, Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria and the rest, one by one as they create political stability they will aim for economic progress.

All the while our standards of living in the west will fall as our governments vie for the title of greatest grandstander in the alternative energy handicap. They will pump countless billions of whatever currency they wish into the speculative hunt for the miracle cure. Every penny of it will be raised by additional taxes which will hit the poor hardest.

I simply cannot help concluding that the approach of the British Labour Party government (and the Conservative opposition) is fundamentally wrong. They are looking at the matter from the wrong perspective and can learn a valuable lesson from the words quoted above explaining the Chinese and Indian positions. Instead of insisting that their first priority is to cut emissions they should recognise that their first priority is to protect the standard of living of their people.

Some would say the first priority of government is security, as it was in 1939. They are right, but security for what purpose? What is it that security defends? It defends our way of life against the risk of a less palatable way of life being imposed against our will. That is why we fought Hitler's Germany, it is why we armed ourselves against the USSR and it is one of the reasons why we maintain a military force today. There is no immediate military threat to Britain but there is a massive economic threat - the threat of material impoverishment at the shrine to Saint Al of Gore.

I started this musing by saying we should assume Lord Stern's armageddon scenario to be accurate. He said our continued pumping out of CO2 will have dire financial consequences for us all so how, you might ask, can we preserve our material standards if we do not cut our emissions enormously? On the hypothesis that Lord Stern is correct the answer is simple, we can't - on that hypothesis our CO2 will bankrupt us. If that hypothesis is correct for our CO2, it is equally correct for India and China's CO2 because CO2 does not hover in little packets above the country that creates it, like a catchy tune it spreads itself rapidly all over the globe. On his hypothesis we are going to go bankrupt come what may. The government wants to accelerate the process by introducing an additional crippling cost which cannot possibly provide a return if China and India's CO2 will destroy us anyway.

Why not let us enjoy the last brief moments of life as we know it?

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