Monday, 12 July 2010

Think before you do your bit

We all like to do our bit in a good cause. The local primary school needs a new swimming pool, so people chip in a few quid here and there until the requisite amount has been found. As Remembrance Day looms lapels are adorned by little red poppies for which a little bit of loose change was dropped into a collecting tin. An earthquake demolishes the homes of little brown people, so we phone the number on the screen and use our flexible friend to add to the relief effort.

These might all seem like examples of doing our bit by pooling lots of small donations to produce a sufficient sum to help with a problem, probably because they are examples of exactly that, but they are each different things. In each there is an identified current problem which requires money and the solution is to have the little people reach into their pockets, but the difference is in both the scale of each activity and the extent to which the money given will be used for the stated purpose.

The school project is entirely local. It could be advertised further afield but is unlikely to reap much reward because few living in other towns and villages will feel any obligation to contribute. Unless old Iris the bookkeeper is having one of her creative moments, all the money raised will be used to provide a new pool, there will be no administrative costs.

Poppy day is organised by the Royal British Legion which is noted for having very low overheads because it relies substantially on voluntary assistance. It does have employees because it is such a large organisation that it could not operate effectively without some permanent staff. Necessarily this means that not all money donated goes to the care of ex-servicemen and women.

Providing food and shelter for trembling brown people is an international activity because the sums required are substantial and the organisations who get involved know they can tap into goodwill around the world. However, by their very nature, such organisations have large overheads. Some engage in widespread political lobbying and campaigning that eats into the value of donations they receive. And when it comes to delivering aid the results are variable, in part because of the need to pay bribes to national and local officials in order to be able to get any help through at all in some countries.

When we are doing our bit in these three examples, our bit delivers less bang per buck the further removed the beneficiary is from us physically and the larger and more corporate the body to whom we give our money. Yet in each case we give because we are satisfied that enough of our cash will get through to make a difference. Debatable though that might be in some specific instances of international disaster relief, failings are not widely advertised and the anguish of the next natural disaster always seems great enough to persuade many people to donate.

More than that, in each case it is absolutely true that whatever does get through makes a difference. The school might not raise enough for a pool in one year but it gets there eventually. Whatever is raised by the sale of poppies and the plea to help earthquake victims goes through the system and produces a result.

To my mind that is what "doing our bit" is all about. Our individual bit might be very small but it is pooled with other bits and even if the total remains modest it still achieves something because it causes something to happen.

Imagine what the reaction would be if the Royal British Legion promoted its Poppy appeal along the following lines: "Unless we raise £100million we cannot do anything. Once we raise £100million we can provide nursing care for one injured soldier for one day. Every further £1million will allow us to provide nursing care for one soldier for one day. We can only get to £100million if rich and poor alike give 20% of their income." Nobody would give a penny because the whole exercise would be futile. Giving £10 would not be "doing our bit" because it would achieve nothing other than making the donors poorer by £10.

True though it is that they will never get to £100million unless they start by raising £1 and then add to it, no good works will be possible unless everyone joins in and makes a substantial contribution and that will never happen because the cost of the of contribution required (on the hypothesis I gave) is out of all proportion to the benefit delivered.

I write, of course, not about the Poppy appeal (or indeed about swimming pools or quaking brown people) but about cutting emissions of carbon dioxide. On my last excursion I tried to explain why I consider it utterly futile for the UK to make any sacrifice at the bidding of the CO2 fetishists, but some were not persuaded. My resident Warmist, Mr Andrew, fought bravely and suggested that the little players such as the UK should do the decent thing and then seek to persuade (perhaps he meant shame) China and India into following suit.

It will never happen. The very reason they are industrialising is so that they can enjoy some of the physical comforts we have taken for granted for generations. We can only meet our absurd "emissions targets" by making those very comforts more expensive, thereby hitting the poorest members of our society hardest. To suggest that an industrialising country might slow or halt that process because we have made electricity and gas very expensive for our population and have chosen to get a small fraction of our electricity from windmills is pure fancy.

They can only reduce their emissions by reversing the process of industrialisation. Even the direst predictions of what might happen in China and India as a result of man-made global warming are insignificant compared to the benefits they will reap from industrialisation. They are not going to stop nationwide industrialisation because it might (on the worst-case prognostications of NASA's computer games) have a damaging effect on very small parts of their countries. Still less are they going to do so in order to prevent even more of the Netherlands being below sea level than is currently the case (particularly after the dirty Dutch performance in the World Cup final).

It's not like passing round a collection plate in the knowledge that some good will be done no matter how small the donations. The Warmists present an all-or-nothing case. Reduce CO2 emissions below a certain figure and the world is saved, fail to reduce them below that figure and the world is doomed. Anything short of the magic number is of no consequence. When reaching the magic number requires poor countries to remain poor despite them having set out on a path to riches it is obvious what chance there is of that happening.

None of this is about whether the Warmists' so-called science is accurate, nor does it question the validity of the absurd and Apocalyptic pronouncements about the consequences of not making Saint Al of Gore even richer than he is now. I am assuming for present purposes that all that nonsense can be accepted at face value. The proposed cure can never happen.

It is, I believe, obvious and unanswerable that nothing the UK does can make any difference. Nor can the USA and India between them make a difference for so long as China do not also play. China and India can achieve nothing without the US on board. The US and China can do nothing without India. And lurking in the background are Russia, Brazil, Mexico and a clutch of African countries who see what India in particular has achieved and, at long last, have realised they can do the same. None of them can be shamed into playing the de-industrialising game. There is not enough money to bribe them into playing. It simply cannot happen.

Somebody needs to point this out to our new Secretary of State for Energy Shortages and Climate Change Claptrap.


8 comments:

J Bonington Jagworth said...

"Somebody needs to point this out..."

I think you just did, but this presents a curious circle of FUD:

The SSESCCC already knows it, but does not say so, as it will hurt his career.
[so]
He only believes what he is told by senior advisors who themselves know it, but do not say so, as it will hurt their careers.
[so]
The advisors believe what they are told by Professor Acton and the Met Office, who know it, but do not say so, as it will hurt their careers.
[and]
The scientists in the CRU and the Met Office etc know it, but are in too deep, and in any case rely on funding from the SSESCCC...

Don't Give Up The Day Job said...

Please pop by and vote on the fuckwits 2010 blogging list We're all bored with Mr's Dale and his sycophants giving each other a manipulated round of applause every Year.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr FatBigot, I've been meaning to reply in detail, but just haven't had the time.

Your argument is based on the belief that lower CO2 emissions are incompatible with greater industrialisation, but as one who thinks peak oil is very close, and who recognises that countries like India and China MUST continue to industrialise or become unstable, and who recognises that without the energy availability that this civilisation enjoys now, it would soon fall over, I don't see a palatable option other than to develop non-fossil fuel options like solar, wind, geothermal, fusion, fission etc, whichever are the most practicable. Even the most conservative of AGW sceptics would surely recognise that multiplying annual CO2 emissions 10 fold by burning coal to achieve a wealthy Asia and South America isn't feasible, CO2 increasing by 20 ppm annually? Atmospheric CO2 at 1000 - 1500 ppm within a century?
Even global coal reserves would be exhausted within a century if those nations relied on it to get them to the levels of wealth enjoyed in the West.

Regards
Andrew W

Pogo said...

Andrew W - whilst I don't disagree with your point that because fossil fuels are inevitably going to run out we should be looking at alternatives. What I *do* disagree with is the alternatives that are receiving the most support and attention from governments and the "green lobby".

We should, in my opinion, be heading towards implementing alternatives in the following order:-

1. Geothermal and Hydro - where such things are possible (ie not the UK).

2. Fission - capable of full base-load generation and we understand the technology. It too is time-limited but should keep the lights on until we manage -

3. Fusion - the eventual ultimate power source, should be having all the money pissed up the wall on windmills thrown at its research.

4. Tidal, maybe.

5. Solar, maybe.

6. Nothing else. And that includes abandoning wind, biofuels, hamsters in wheels etc.

Amazingly, the w/v is "curie" - you see, even Blogger is pro-nuke! :-)

Anonymous said...

Pogo, the reason I was open about what could be viable is because I see a potential for the energy supply situation becoming desperate over the next half century. As someone on an earlier thread here points out, the pachyderm on the couch is the burgeoning population, something that hopefully won't be dramatically reduced soon.

Another issue is that because the nature of energy sources has become so politicised, (the right likes nukes, the left likes renewables) hardly anyone these days seems able to look at such a basic issue as which is economically more viable with any objectivity.

Interestingly Mr Sowell, who seems to know a thing about energy economics, and who has a "right" political perspective, is a fan of wind power and a critic of fission.
http://energyguysmusings.blogspot.com/

For my own part I'd say that wind has now proven itself as economical, and that means without subsidies, at many places around the world.

Andrew W

TheFatBigot said...

Nice piece of deflection Mr Andrew. The point I was trying to make is that cutting emissions for the sake of the planet is a pointless task on any view of it unless sufficient reductions are made globally to accord with the theories of the IPCC and its computer games.

Replacing current forms of energy supply in order that we have greater security of supply and are not beholden to cloth-hatted dictators is a different matter entirely.

Your earlier comment, to which I made reference, suggested that the UK's policy of cutting emissions regardless of it having any effect on the climate was designed "to lead by example, and once the ball is rolling, to apply pressure to other players by whatever means are available". That is what I was answering here. I don't believe there is any prospect of that happening.

Anonymous said...

FB: "Nice piece of deflection Mr Andrew."

Thank you.

FB: "The point I was trying to make is that cutting emissions for the sake of the planet is a pointless task on any view of it unless sufficient reductions are made globally to accord with the theories of the IPCC and its computer games."

But I've already agreed with that, in the first sentence of the first comment of the previous thread I said "Obviously there is no point in any one country making an effort to reduce CO2 emissions if the rest of the world doesn't, but as you know, but apparently don't want to know, we are all in the same boat."

FB: "Replacing current forms of energy supply in order that we have greater security of supply and are not beholden to cloth-hatted dictators is a different matter entirely."

Not entirely, the main impediment to a reduction in fossil fuel use is the cost of that energy vs the cost of energy from non fossil sources, if reduced availability pushes up the cost of oil (initially) and other fossil fuels, people will shift to cheaper alternatives (though coal will continue to be cheap for decades even with ballooning consumption in developing nations).
The obvious example of a successful shift in use of a material for environmental reasons is that away from CFC's, so it can happen.

You ignored my point that I thought your argument that reduced CO2 emissions necessitates reduced wealth was unfounded, but if you are correct in that argument we may as well write ourselves off now.

FB: "Your earlier comment, to which I made reference, suggested that the UK's policy of cutting emissions regardless of it having any effect on the climate was designed "to lead by example, and once the ball is rolling, to apply pressure to other players by whatever means are available". That is what I was answering here. I don't believe there is any prospect of that happening."

I agree that the prospects of significant reductions in the rate of CO2 emissions growth for that reason alone, given current circumstances, appears very low, but things will change, both in terms of observed climate and market factors, those changes will obviously affect people perspectives(If you look at how human society changes it's startling how rapidly the absolutely unacceptable can become the norm).

Andrew W.

Roger Sowell said...

Mr. FB, you are absolutely correct that it makes zero sense for any one country to curb CO2 emissions and kill their economy while large growing economies do not. I believe this is referred to as self-impalement.

Mr. Andrew W. above mentioned my writings, and yes I am against nuclear power in its present form. If and when the technology can provide power as cheaply as does natural gas, does not pose a threat of deadly radiation when mishaps occur, does not produce deadly waste products, and cannot be used to produce bombs, I'll be happily in favor of nuclear power.

As for nuclear fusion, I would not count on that any time soon, if ever. I wrote on this briefly, see http://tinyurl.com/248bw5k