Tuesday, 28 October 2008

A simple matter of duty

There is a real risk of power cuts this winter because our national electricity supply network has insufficient reserve capacity to fall back on when demand is high. A cold winter in 2009-10 and power cuts are a near certainty. One might think this a suitable subject for emergency debates in Parliament. One might think it sufficiently important to keep the lights on that the government is dedicating every borrowed pound in its bloated budget to securing additional power as quickly and cheaply as possible. One might think that a threat to the normal comfort of the people of the UK would have a high priority.

For present purposes, imagine the very worst predictions of the global warming hysterics are true. The world is heating dangerously, lakes in darkest Africa will dry-up within the decade, the seas will rise 20 metres in the next 92 years (it was 20 metres in 100 years from 2000 but they've done nothing so far, so only 92 left), hurricanes and tornadoes will ravage the planet as never before, the seas will be awash with algae and polar bears will have to eat each other to keep cold. Imagine it is all true and that the only way it can be averted is by mankind as a whole reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide by 80% by 2050 (I can't say what this figure of 80% is to be measured against because no one seems to know).

Imagine also that you are a member of parliament in a country that produced just 1.87% of the world's human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, a percentage which is falling every year as China and India produce more and more. You know your country is not producing enough electricity to provide for the needs of industry and homes. You know many of your existing power stations will have to close in a few years. You know money is tight. You have to decide what to do.

What can you do? To tackle the energy deficiency you can commission new power stations. To tackle your country's 1.87% (and diminishing) contribution to the impending end of the world you can impose punitive measures to dissuade industry and individuals from engaging in activities which create carbon dioxide. You cannot do both. Your choice is between keeping the lights on or keeping the lights off.

I fail to see how there can be any serious debate about this. The duty of British politicians is to look after the wellbeing of the British people. If, as seems to be the case, there is an imminent risk of power cuts in winter people will die. That is what happens when the most physically vulnerable are unable to keep warm. They don't just get a bit chilly and put on a new cardigan while singing songs from the Blitz. They die. They die from excessive cold.

We are assuming that we must cut carbon dioxide emissions very substantially by 2050. Increasing energy production now might increase emissions and is, therefore, undesirable. But it is not as undesirable as old and frail people freezing to death. The extra emissions can be tackled in five years time (when the technology for doing so is likely to be far advanced of anything currently available) deaths from cold in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 or any other year you care to mention cannot be tackled later. Death is not reversible.

Other countries face this quandary and are choosing life for their people. Our Parliament is expected to vote for even greater anti-carbon dioxide measures than those already in place. It will result in more deaths through cold. That is an inescapable fact because providing more heat will breach even current measures let alone the new ones. More heat is off their agenda. Only less heat can contribute to their desired state of affairs.

It is a long-standing principle of law that everyone intends the probable consequences of their actions. If I punch you in the face my intention is to cause you pain because that is the probable result. If I shoot you in the head my intention is to kill you. If I am responsible for setting the level of electricity generation in the country, I intend the probable consequences of my decision. The probable consequence of voting to cut carbon dioxide emissions is that there will be insufficient electricity to heat homes and that people will die.

They should forget grandstanding about our 1.87% contribution to man-made carbon dioxide. They should think about the people they are paid to represent. It is a simple matter of duty.


energybalance said...

Maybe it's all part of a grand-plan that the old, frail and others unable to work will not be claiming benefits any longer in the scenario you aver??

One means to cut the soaring benefits bill. I am writing tongue in cheek, but I agree that carbon emissions are the least of our worries in the immediate term, but the lack of fuel is the real killer.

I just noted that the last drop of UK oil is due to drip in just six years. http://ergobalance.blogspot.com

I agree about the need for a real plan to take us through the complex and painful period of fossil-fuel depletion, and to make one, and voice the policy of it loud and clear is an act of simple duty.


Chris Rhodes.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Excellent summary.

pawb1 said...

I couldn't agree more. But how do you get the message across when the media and politicians won't listen? Even if you email this to all the politicians and all the media, you'll just get ignored as a loony and an alarmist. After all, the best advice (from all those highly-paid advisers and NGOs who don't live in the real world) is that it's all OK and not to worry.

Phillip Bratby

Alex Cull said...

The politicians seem to be sleep-walking into this. In last week's debate in Parliament, the sole voice of reason appeared to be that of Peter Lilley, who raised important points but seems to have been simply brushed aside. There was no proper discussion, more a sort of rubber-stamping exercise. Let's hope things are different next month in Poznan.

David Lewis said...

Phillip Bratby is so right and I share his frustration at politicians who don't understand and won't listen. His evidence to the Lords Committee on Renewable energy was superb but akin to casting pearls.Put his name into GOOGLE to read the facts.
Sadly the truth will dawn on the brainwashed by bitter experience when it it too late.