Tyndall Centre’s New Totalitarianism

Updated with more examples 14/12/13 11am

The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (HQ at the University of East Anglia, with branch office just down road from me at Manchester University) held The Radical Emission Reduction Conference: 10-11 December 2013 at the offices of the Royal Society. Joanne Nova reporting on the conference quoted the following:-

Today, in 2013, we face an unavoidably radical future. We either continue with rising emissions and reap the radical repercussions of severe climate change, or we acknowledge that we have a choice and pursue radical emission reductions: No longer is there a non- radical option.

My first reaction was

These people have not discovered logic or the real world outside of their groups. For instance

1. Where are the robust, unambiguous, forecasts of “severe climate change” impacts? Lacking this, the “do-nothing” scenario could be an alternative.

2. Radical emission reduction policies may not work. Useless policies could end up causing mass impoverishment, leaving future generations much less able to cope with the coming climate apocalypse.

3. Radical emission reduction policies may be both necessary and work in theory, but will never be enacted because “radical” activists have not learnt the art of persuasion and appreciating that other points of view are possible.

Following an initial reading of the conference abstracts, this initial reaction was somewhat understated. The 1.01MB file is at radicalplanabstracts.pdf. Some notes.

The Philosopher’s case for Totalitarianism

On pages 15 to 17 is ‘Responsibility for radical change in emission of greenhouse gases’

Page 16

Generally it is acceptable to frame scenarios of climate change in terms of cost-efficiency, percentages of emission reduction or the target atmospheric CO2 concentration. Yet we develop the argument that predefining the outcome of any change limits the possible processes leading to this change. In fact, when we already know the necessary outcome, the change that is necessary cannot be considered radical at all.

Page 17

For the radical change in greenhouse gas emissions the responsibility towards the radicalness of change means that those involved in the climate change negotiations and policy-making need to let go of their preconceived notions of climate, change, and general structure of cause and effect, science and human life.

And in conclusion

We argue that one cannot desire radical change without acknowledging that we (individuals and institutions) may be swept off our feet, that we may lose influence and control. We need to accept that modifications are not going to bring about radical emission reductions. What we need is radical change, including radical change in our own backyard, our understanding of leadership and in our own epistemic notions of what change means.

All that matters is saving the planet. It is not about saving the planet for future generations, as we humans do not matter. It is not about the climate models being accurate – as they are supposed to about modelling cause (increasing greenhouse gas levels) with the effect (catastrophic anthropogenic global warming). And it is not science.

The Economist’s case for Totalitarianism

On pages 7 to 9 is ‘Demand-side regulation in the policy mix to achieve radical CO2 reductions: modelling global decarbonisation with E3MG

Page 7

Radical reductions in CO2 emissions from reductions in consumption of fossil fuels across the economy could be modelled as coming from changes in life-styles, regulations or prices or a mix of all three. The main demand-side sources arise from the use of fossil fuels in buildings, transport and industry, and indirectly, via the use of electricity generated from fossil fuels. We assume that the power sector becomes decarbonised via a mix of emission trading schemes and regulations. We then consider the implications of a rapid reduction in demand-side fossil-fuel use coming from higher energy prices and regulation of equipment standards and energy efficiency.

To achieve the plan, all the advanced countries (and some not-so-advanced like Belarus) will introduce emissions trading schemes ETS with low tariffs in 2015, sharply escalating after 2020. Emerging economies (e.g. China, Brazil & Mexico) will introduce schemes in 2020 at lower rates. By 2030, in conjunction with tougher economic regulations, coal-fired power stations will be phased out.

With respect to the regulations

These effects are then strengthened from 2020 onwards, with the energy saving, the associated investment and increase in prices all rising by some 17%pa. By 2030 the strength of the regulations is about 5 times that assumed by the IEA. The scale of this increase gives an indication of just how strong regulations have to become.

Italics mine. The plan will only work if it far, far tougher than anything yet on the table. At least the models predict that there will be a small net benefit.

The Increase in investment, including indirect effects, is about 4% above the reference scenario by 2030. Combined with the effects of revenue recycling and the lower growth in world oil prices, it generates more output and employment, raising both growth rates by some 0.2 percentage points each year over the decade.

So in China, which has had near 10% annual growth for over two decades based on cheap coal-based energy, can switch to much more expensive and less reliable “clean” energy sources, with a small net benefit. Hmmm.

People will change their lifestyles if they are unable to afford to do otherwise. Businesses who do not respond will be expropriated for the common good, and their denialist bosses sent to be re-educated in labour camps. The plan will work, and the economic models are infallible. Any deviation from the plan will be therefore be due to economic sabotage.

The Psychologist sees a problem – but does not want to say so

On pages 12 to 13 is ‘Psychology of human acceptance and engagement

A short abstract, quoted in full

The need to voluntarily write off fossil fuel reserves is now clear. The continuing exponential nature of CO2 emissions tells us that none of the talk and action to date on climate change has produced a detectable dent in the trajectory. It also strongly suggests that since efficiency and innovation have gone hand in hand with emissions growth, they are, in themselves, more likely to be integral to the dynamics of growth than to enable mitigation. The exponentiality further suggests that a feedback mechanism needs breaking at the global system level; there is plenty of evidence that local reductions are absorbed elsewhere in the system, like a squeezed balloon.

(Especially in the absence of very widespread CCS), a global constraint on the extraction of fuel is a ‘must have’. All actions can therefore be viewed in terms of their contribution to the conditions under which the global socio- economic system might shift to one in which humans have voluntarily agreed to leave fuel in the ground. Such conditions are more than the cocktail of science, politics, technology and economics to which most climate change analysis, including the above summary, is constrained. The most critically lacking element is the psychology of human acceptance of and engagement with a problem such as climate change, characterised by its abstraction, uncertainty and inescapably global systemic nature. We need to view this as an unsolved mystery, the most ignored part of the puzzle and critical to bridging the void between rationale analysis and policy.

My interpretation is that human beings do not want to sacrifice their immediate interests to some ill-defined and distant goals spoken by some “Johnny foreigners” who do not share their values. Further, leaders of energy-producing authoritarian countries will not leave these fossil fuels in the ground when they know that to do so would lead to economic collapse, swiftly followed by a violent overthrow of their regimes and their possible deaths.

The Social Scientist’s case for a Dictatorship

On pages 23 to 25 is ‘Social science prospects for radical change’

The only acknowledged truth is from the UNIPCC and the Stern Review. No acknowledgement that contrary perspectives are possible.

Social psychologists, among others, have drawn attention to the potential for climate mitigation which could be unlocked through the application of insights into the affective, cognitive, value-based, and social and broader contextual determinants of people’s actions.

Social Scientists must change the way we think.

Despite the acknowledged need to understand and influence the role of the individual in contributing to climate change, the disparity between what might be and what has been achieved has become discomfiting.

 

They are not getting the message across, and they cannot understand why.

 

With the exception of the establishment of a small number of iconic behaviours such as recycling, it has proved extremely difficult to bring about meaningful transformations in personal emissions at either the individual or societal level. On the basis of a number of reviews, it would seem that whilst some change is achievable, there are profound limits to what can be accomplished using current, conventional approaches.

 

Translation – we need more power.

 

Current methods of persuasion have failed. We need something different.

 

First up is control of the press, followed by enforced re-education have been the historical approaches.

 

There has been an expectation that change be confined to small-scale and undemanding changes in behaviour (for example, switching off unused appliances); a concomitant neglect of highly impactful activities because of the perceived political infeasibility of doing so (for example, levels of consumption);

 

Translation – we need more power.

 

… a reluctance on the part of social scientists to take strong normative positions (specifically, to see themselves as advocates for change rather than disinterested theoreticians);

 

Translation – we need stronger and more dogmatic beliefs in the cause.

 

…. and a lack of integration – and at times outright hostility – between different disciplinary traditions (for example between behavioural science and social practice based approaches).

 

Translation – we need only achieve this power if we unite into a unified force.

 

In the first instance, we suggest that a radical social science of climate change mitigation would set out deliberately to enter territory which is complex and often seemingly intractable – but where personal emissions are significant.

 

Basically ban the use of cars and forget about foreign holidays in aeroplanes. Persuade people to do without the elements of consumerist society, such as designer clothes, televisions, computers, washing machines, Christmas etc.

 

That these behavioural changes are nothing to do with combatting a global climate change problem is shown by a very telling omission. There is no mention of any country other than the UK.

 

Democracy and human rights may have to be suspended

 

On pages 25 to 26- ‘Is wartime mobilisation a suitable policy model for rapid national climate mitigation?

 

The abstract concludes

 

We find that, while wartime experience suggests some potential strategies for rapid climate mitigation in the areas of finance and labour, it also has severe limitations, resulting from its lack of democratic processes. Furthermore, since restructuring the existing socio-economic system to mitigate climate change is more complex than fighting a war and since the threat of climate change is less obvious to non-scientists, it is unlikely that the public will be unified in support of such executive action.

 

Again, nothing about the global economy, just the UK.

 

And opportunities exploited for a radical redistribution of emissions

 

On pages 27 to 29 is ‘Personal carbon trading in a radical future

 

Personal carbon trading (PCT) is a radical and innovative mitigation policy which offers an equitable means of reducing emissions from household energy use and personal travel. PCT offers two dimensions of fairness – firstly, everyone gets an equal carbon allowance, a ‘fair share’. Secondly, modelling of the impacts of a PCT scheme shows it would be progressive and would disadvantage fewer low-income people than an alternative policy of carbon taxation.

 

Everyone will be allocated an equal share, and the computer models show that it will work.

 

What is left out is the problem of rolling this out globally to solve a global problem.

 

As I always say, compare and contrast my interpretations with what is actually written. When a publicly-funded body brings together a number of academics from different disciplines, all calling for massively increased power, there is something amiss. When it is held within the UK’s “academy of sciences” building, it is being given an official veneer of respectability.

 

NB First time comments are moderated. The comments can be used as a point of contact.

Kevin Marshall

Ed Milibands claims to have published an “energy green paper” untrue

Update 20.00

I owe the Ed Miliband and the Labour Party an apology with reservations. They did publish an “energy green paper” on Friday. The reservations are

  1. It was published at http://www.yourbritain.org.uk/agenda-2015/policy-review/policy-review/energy-green-paper. (Alexa, has no country data for the site)
  2. My mistake was to use the key words “Labour Energy Green Paper” in my bing search. There is (7pm) no reference to this in the first 50 hits, but there are references to the Labour Party website. Even the Chelmsford Weekly News article (No Alexa country data for this site) makes 20.
  3. The Labour Party Website (UK Alexa rank 9,080) still does not reference the document.
  4. The website referred to on the video (http://www.labour.org.uk/freezethatbill) is inaccurate. It should read http://www.labour.org.uk/freeze-that-bill. Even here you will not find a link to the energy green paper.

My mistake, in accusing Ed Miliband of not publishing the paper when he had, was due to a misconception. I assumed that Labour Party spin doctors would be super-efficient, and so the failure to publish would be due to simple, but embarrassing, clerical errors. Having now read the paper, it would seem to go a bit deeper than that.

 

Labour’s claim to have published a green paper on energy is untrue. There is no link on the internet to any document, whether freely available, or to purchase.

BishopHill reported on Friday 29th November that Labour Party leader Ed Miliband had launched a “Green paper on energy”, proposing a freeze in energy price is Labour wins power in 2015. At the BBC there is a video of Ed Miliband saying

…and what Britain needs is Labour’s strong and credible plan, that we are publishing today, to freeze energy prices until 2017 and reform a broken energy market so it properly works for business and families.

As I always like to read the original source material, I went to look for it.

Tried at http://www.labour.org.uk/news, which announces:-

The Energy Green Paper sets out the steps a One Nation Labour government will take while we reset the market during the 20 month price freeze to ensure energy is affordable and available…

But no link on the site to a pdf, neither a link to a shop where I might procure a paper copy of the green paper.

It gets worse. In the home page, the lower part for the last couple of days has this:-


It says

Read Ed Miliband’s energy plan

The link is to http://action.labour.org.uk/page/s/energy-calculator/.


No details of the plan. No details of the links to a plan. But there is a link to a video of 1.26 minutes long.

At 1.22 there is a link to “labour.org.uk/freezethatbill”.


This takes me straight back to http://action.labour.org.uk/page/s/energy-calculator. The details do not exist.

Further, there is no link at the BBC, The Mirror, The Guardian, at Sky News, nor a number of other websites that have run the story.

The Labour Spin Doctors have been so concerned to get out the media message, they forgot the substance.

Kevin Marshall

 

 

The Summer Riots – causes and prevention

Whilst I was away on holiday in Pembrokeshire, riots broke out in the cities of London, Birmingham and Manchester. The following comment was just posted to John Redwood’s blog:-

We should look at this in context. All the riots except the first in Tottenham were copycat riots. People saw that with sufficient numbers of people, looting could be carried out without fear of arrest. There was also the adrenalin rush of rioting, just like football hooliganism. The rioting stopped when people started being arrested in large numbers. They also stopped in Manchester when it started raining.

We should not overreact in issuing draconian laws. Rather it is to understand that people react to the opportunities presented to them. We had in the inner cities for a few nights to opportunity to riot and loot in the belief there would be no punishment. Many took that opportunity. This can be gleaned from the work of Prof. Gary S. Becker, who pioneered the study of the economics of crime.

Prevention of the riots in the near future might simply be to show that many of those who rioted had been caught. Therefore the belief that criminal acts in a riot would go unpunished is a false one. Beyond this, there might some minor changes. First, by more rapidly escalating the intensity of Police action in an area and nationally. Second, by instituting temporary powers of arrest in, or near, riot areas for those covering their faces. Third, if riots are in the summer, for helicopters to spray water to simulate a heavy downpour. The water might also contain a harmless dye visible under ultraviolet light (that can be removed with soap and water) to identify those who duck into side streets.

The ideas are minor. They will not quell a serious political riot – but the more serious riots of the 1980s in Brixton & Toxteth were also stopped by the rain. These are superficial “shopping riots“*. They are only a reflection of a breakdown in society insofar as there are large sections of society who lack the moral sense to respect property and other people even when there appears to be no possibility of being caught for breaking the law. The rule of law needs to be respected by vast majority of people for the vast majority of the time for civil society to exist. Otherwise, the peace can be maintained only by draconian laws and thuggish law enforcement. In such authoritarian societies the civil peace is maintained only by fear of arbitrary arrest and restraint of peaceful activities.

*This is not an endorsement of David Starkey’s other comments on the subject.

AGW – The Limits of the Science

Just posted to Wattsupwiththat.

To say that we cannot make any predictions from models is inaccurate. However, a combination of the scarcity / inaccuracy of data and the highly complex nature of climate systems severely limit what we can be extrapolated. We are restricted to the most basic of “pattern predictions”. With respect to future temperature changes this is most probably restricted to the range of longer-term (30 plus years) trends. Prof. Bob Carter’s analysis is probably as far as we can go on the available data. That is we have a uniform, increasing, average temperature trend over the last 150 years, with 60 year cycles providing deviations around this trend. This trend is unexceptional when viewed from temperature data from ice-cores going back hundreds of thousands of years.

The attempt to cast every unusual weather event in terms of anthropogenic warming, and only selecting the data that fits the theories, not only risks policies that are inappropriate. It may lead us in failing to pick up the signals of potential trends for which the signal is weak, or where detection is from trends or patterns that do not fit theory. For example my house, along with hundreds of others in the area has been without water for over twelve hours now due to a burst water main, caused by the severe cold. A contributing factor to the delay in repair was the lack of resource available. Too much reliance on speculative forecasts of increasingly mild winters, and snow being a rare event has virtually eliminated contingency planning for extreme cold. Yet natural factors (e.g. La Nina, lack of sunspots) would have suggested otherwise.

The AGW science is not only costing us more for fuel. It is also putting us at greater risk of the consequences of extreme weather.

For Robert Carter’s views, see a video at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1326937617167558947#

Tackling Fuel Poverty OR Tackling Climate Change

John Leech, MP for Manchester Withington makes a valiant, but failed, attempt to reconcile tackling fuel poverty with combating climate change. The reason’s why such an attempt will always fail are as follows:-

  1. Reducing carbon emissions by 80% will mean moving into zero-carbon fuels. Nuclear power is the cheapest alternative, but still more expensive than fossil fuels, especially when decommissioning at the end in taken into account. Other alternatives – wind and solar – are not only astronomically more expensive per unit produced, but also increase the unit cost of back-up fossil fuel power stations.
  2. Then we have the carbon trading schemes. These act as a cost to pollute. They will only become effective if they are made much scarcer and therefore much more expensive.
  3. For the poor, we could then give them huge grants to insulate their homes and get more fuel-efficient heating systems. However, although some gains can be relatively cheap (loft insulation and thermostatic controls on radiators), the costs mount steeply to gain large reductions. Replacing boilers and radiators, putting in new doors and windows, or cavity wall insulation, are all highly expensive. The payback period is many years, or in some cases not at all (with interest costs taken into account).
  4. The elderly are disincentivised to reduce consumption by the winter fuel allowance. Yet rising fuel costs will lead to calls to increase this subsidy as well.
  5. Whilst in the UK we pay through the nose for non-fossil fuels, oil prices will continue to rise as demand from developing countries continues to increase.

 

Fuel poverty will only reduce substantially if fuel costs come down. That will only happen if someone comes up with a cheaper, clean alternative to fossil fuels. That will not happen for a generation or more. Subsidising alternative energy sources that will always be much more expensive than oil is currently may divert attention away from that search. It is the poor who will suffer from most.

Prejudiced economic analysis in South Manchester

Have responded to a letter in the South Manchester Reporter of 3rd June.

GM’s letter of last week is prejudiced against a small minority and ignorant of economics. The need to cut is mostly due to the government running up a deficit during the boom years, and then going on a wild spending spree to try to shore up the vote as an election approached. (The cyclical part will be (mostly) taken care of by a strong economic recovery.) So in this area, we can look forward to some shiny new trams and gleaming school buildings along with a generation of cuts to pay for it. For instance, the £120m for the Didsbury spur of the Metrolink alone is equivalent to over 30,000 teachers and nurses doing without a 3% annual pay rise for five years.

The consequence of this fiscal irresponsibility is not just financial. People will lose their jobs or have careers de-railed, others will be made ill through over-work, or through seeing their livings standards fall salaries are frozen, whilst taxes, prices and interest rates rise. Rather than opposing cuts now, people should look to areas where they are least painful. That means shelving some of the recently signed-off “investments”, such as the extra bus lanes on Wilmslow Road; less government advertising; or finding better value for money in the provision of local services. The consequence of not doing so is even bigger cuts later, and lower living standards for the next generation.

But why call somebody prejudiced and ignorant? I quote

“Once again, those who really control the wealth and power (the gambler’s in our casino economy and the obscenely wealthy) have demanded that their government makes the poorest people in society pay for the economic crisis.”

 

“….John (Leech MP) will no doubt remind him (The Chancellor) that the multi-millionaires are unlikely to feel any effect whatsoever from the cuts to education, benefits and the health service that will inevitably follow in 2011”

The underlying cause of the recession, I believe, are:-

-         The prolongation of the last boom through cutting interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, and again in 2001.

-         Failure to raise interest rates in 2003. This would have been very difficult politically.

-         Failure of the regulatory authorities to realise the systemic risks building up in the financial sector, and the risks building up in individual banks.

-         Deficit spending in the boom years, which kept the boom going at the expense of creating structural deficits.

-         Political spin, and dubious accounting (PFI contracts to put liabilities outside the National Debt figure), to hide the reality.

Whether I have highlighted all the points, I am sure to be closer than someone who just blames the rich. The reason is that I, at least, attempt to understand the issues.

Manchester Withington Polling Fiasco

Whilst the Chair of the electoral commission should carry the can for the travesty that occurred, there are also lessons to be learned. As a voter in Mancheter Withington, I believe the following should be looked into.

  1. Mcr Withington has always had the highest turnout of the 5 Manchester constituencies. Was this allowed for?
  2. Students tend to vote late – on the way to the pub. The problems were mostly in areas with high student numbers e.g. Fallowfield and Ladybarn.
  3. Was lack of voting booths (2 per station) an issue?
  4. Were there procedural changes? The clerks seemed to take longer than usual (there was local elections as well). Was this due to having the electoral lists in postal address order, rather than alphabetical order of name or street address?
  5. Queues were already forming at 11am. Why did none of the clerks summon help? Or if they did, why was none available?
  6. Also, why did it take much longer in Manchester Town Hall to count the vote? The result was at least 3 hours later than usual. I think this happened in lots of other areas as results seemed to come through more slowly.

 

If government agencies cannot get a simple procedure like voting correct, then what hope have we for reducing the impact of cost-cutting in more complex areas? By improving and simplifying procedures, productivity can increase, so standards of service will not be reduced as much. Understanding a simple failure can give insights into other areas.

Does Lucy Powell support the Robin Hood Tax or the European Union?

Lucy Powell, the Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Manchester, is proud to be associated with the the Robin Hood Tax Campaign.  You will find Ms Powell proudly proclaiming this on her website, with pictures of her next to Glenys Kinnock and Arlene McCarthy MEP. Ms Powell also got a splash in the local South Manchester Reporter on 19th March 2010 campaigning on the very subject.

However, on the 1st April, the EU published a Commission Staff Working Document “Innovative Financing at a Global Level”, SEC(2010) 409 final. Before you yawn and drop to sleep, on the subject of Financial transactions Taxes it says

At least for a levy on currency transactions some legal aspects have to be considered. In relation to the original proposal by Tobin for a currency transactions tax legal obstacles were put forward by the ECB on its compatibility with the free movement of capital and payments between Member States and between Member States and third countries under Article 63 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (ex Article 56 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community (TEC)).45 Since the mechanism of a currency transactions levy is supposed to be based on taxing the net position of foreign exchange transactions, it could represent a restriction of the free movement of capital and payments (Article 63 TFEU). Besides the effect on the netting operation itself, it indirectly restricts underlying transactions, including those between Member States and with third countries, by rendering them more costly. It is unlikely that, for this restriction, a justification sufficient for the purposes of the Treaty could be found. Even if e.g. raising funds to benefit stability funding were to be considered as an overriding requirement of general interest, that requirement could not explain why transactions involving countries with different currencies would be treated less favourably than those involving only one currency. Furthermore, the tax is considered to be disproportionate as funds could alternatively be raised by other means of budget attribution without affecting a basic freedom of the Treaty and, in any event, because the scope of the tax would be unrelated to the risks to be covered by the tax revenue raised. Even a very low tax rate would constitute an infringement, and it would not be possible to establish a threshold of insignificance.

Which translated into simple English means that a Robin Hood Tax is illegal under European Law.

So a simple question for Ms Powell.

Do you, Ms Powell, as Labour PPC for Manchester Withington support

a) The Robin Hood Tax?

OR

 b) The Labour Party’s Policy on support for the European Union?

I think that the voters have a right to know before May 6th

Is recycling rotting food hygenic?

My local council now says that I can put waste food in the green recycle bin. Oh lovely! Imagine the green bin after having the remains of a chicken carcass and all the juices after putrifying in the hot summer. Especially with some solidified milk on top. Remember the swill bin at school. Now imagine if were only emptied once a fortnight and you get the idea.

My own view is to continue with what I currently do. Double-bag the solid food and swill the liquid or jellified material down the sink with a good dose of detergent.

I will change if some will volunteer to clean out the green bin occasionally. It needs doing as the grass cuttings in the bottom are well composted. But the flies and stench from the rotting fruit put me off at present.

MCC Waste Food

Manchester rejects Conjestion Charge

At 12am today we found out the results of the referendum on the £2.8bn package. With 53% of the electorate voting in the postal ballot, 78.8% voted against the proposal. This is the comment just posted on Iain Dale’s Diary,

 

It is worth taking a look at what this means for government policy generally.

Greater Manchester Transport paid £10m to put the package together, along with £3m spent on publicity. A majority of local politicians were strongly in favour, with most of the rest sitting on the fence.

The package was a good example of how the government views policy. It seems to have been devised to justify a particular favoured viewpoint, so was going to be biased from the outset.

 

Criticisms are

1)  A forecast of increasing growth in Manchester, with many of the new jobs in the city centre.

2) An overestimation of the effectiveness of a congestion charge in moving people onto public transport.

3) A failure to look at the total costs and benefits of the move, including the time taken in travelling, or the interests of commuters from outside the borough.

4) Figures pulled out of the air, such as “30,000 jobs will be lost” or “only 10% of people in Greater Manchester will pay the charge”

5) The use of threats – it is all or nothing. I wait to see if the government really carries out that threat, or just waits a period and introduces the Metrolink – the big ticket item – piecemeal.

6) Failure to publicise the budgeted 5.5% annual increase in congestion charge revenues to 2041, or that it would continue long after the £1.2bn loan

 

We should look to the local politicians to recognize that they have gone way out of line with popular opinion, and learn from this.

 

My own view is, as a (slightly manic) Beancounter, is that we should have independent, scrutiny of policy proposals, to see if they are of net benefit to society. Maybe the revised proposals should go through this filter.

 

I should be pleased, but instead am saddened. The government has expended a huge effort on a policy that is not only flawed, but completely out of line with what people think. Local politicians who have strongly backed this scheme should reflect, and admit that they got the mood wrong. It is unlikely to much affect the outcome of the local elections, as most politicians backed the proposals to some greater or lesser extent, and few wholeheartedly opposed the package.

 

POSTED TO Iain Dale’s Diary on the same subject.

Depairing Liberal said a few hours ago.

 

“That’s right Iain, far better for everyone to sit in ever-growing traffic jams for longer and longer every night. The last thing we need in our cities is considerably improved public transport, cleaner air and healthier people.”

It is true that congestion charging supplies a solution in the short-term. The Manchester scheme relied on the congestion charge (average £3 a day) to reduce peak time traffic flows by 15-20%. With reduced traffic flows the traffic would speed up. Peak time traffic was estimated to speed up by 30% for cars and 12% for buses. The problem is that in London & Stockholm, peak-time traffic did decrease by this amount initially, but 2 years later it was back to the levels it was before the conjestion charge was introduced. As I explained on my blog, people adjust their expenditure to afford the more desirable option. In Manchester, this is travelling by car. In a wealthy country most people can adjust their expenditure to afford the £650 (average charge) to £1200 per year (maximum charge) by renewing their car less often, or by driving a cheaper vehicle (currently we do no have the cheapest vehicles possible – they do not sell. So there is plenty of room to go down market.) The public transport option is to spend much longer travelling, with the longest journey times in the worst weather (as fair-weather public transport users jump in their cars when it rains, or it is cold, as occasionally happens in Manchester) and much of the extra time spent waiting or walking.

But in Manchester, part of the solution was to implement some bus lanes on dual carriageways, such as the A34 (Kingsway). If a significant reduction was not achieved by the congestion charge, some congestion will get worse not better.

On the environmental impact, the worst pollution was caused by buses. Central Manchester around the bus terminus (Piccadilly Gardens) is the 2nd worst place in Britain for carcinogenic pollution. The best way to spend a few hundreds of millions would be to fit the dirty old buses with some sort of filters, or replace them with new ones.

The whole package was dotted with useful ideas, but in totality the costs far outweighed the benefits. It was a complex package where the authors did not consider the question “Does society as a whole benefit from this proposal?”

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