Child Poverty Bill – Another Labour Poison Pill?

Yesterday the government put forward the Child Poverty Bill, with mandatory targets for reducing poverty.  It is utter folly.

For those that really care about helping the poorest, meeting a particular target is not the way to go about it. It is fairly easy (and relatively cheap) to get a large number just below the poverty line to move just above it.  


However, people should consider the following.


1. The Measure is in relation to Median Income.

 It is not about actual living standards (how much you can buy with the income), but a relative measure compared with the median income. But at the same time the government’s environmental policies are lowering living standards – by pushing up fuel bills in the future and food bills (through the competition from bio-fuels). The poor (who spend larger proportions of their incomes on these items) are seeing their living standards fall, even though their “real” incomes might be rising and income inequality decreasing.

Further, if indirect taxes are increased (VAT, excise duties on alcohol and tobacco), then this will again fall disproportionately on the poor. Taxes will need to increase to reduce the deficit, and VAT is a good candidate.


2. Standard of life is more important than standard of living.

However, there is something much worse. The more government determines the income of people, the less control people have for influencing their own lives. In trying to eliminate material poverty, government will foster hopelessness. During the Euro-elections, Channel 4 did a survey of how people voted, concentrating on BNP voters. A distinguishing feature was that

 “Just 19 per cent of BNP voters are “confident that my family will have the opportunities to prosper in the years ahead”. This compares with 59 per cent of Labour voters, 47 per cent of Lib Dem and Green voters, and 42 per cent of Conservative voters.”


So a poison-pill policy directed at a future Tory government may help enlarge the disaffected underclass. Another example of Labour preparing for opposition.



More analysis can be found at


The Net Cost of Tackling Global Warming

Dan Hannan blogged today on the CAP & Trade Scheme just adopted by the US House of Representatives. Assuming all assumptions are correct, the impact on global temperatures will be just 0.05 degrees by 2015. The costs on the US Economy will be trillions of dollars. If adopted worldwide, we might get 0.20 to 0.25 of a degree reduction. This scheme would therefore fail the Stern Review proposals of the benefits of action exceeding the costs. Without even questioning the AGW science, we can claim to be creating net harm to humanity by these measures.

No warming in the Antarctic after all

Remember in late January an article in Nature was published concluding Antarctic warming over the past 50 years was more extensive than previously thought?


A chap called Ryan O. has got to the bottom of the numbers. The conclusion is that the statistical analysis is flawed, and the results do not stand up. Steve Mcintyre, on Climate Audit has published blogs here and here explaining and enlarging on aspects of the findings.


I wonder if Nature will publish these findings? I can say with near certainty that the press will not give the same prominence to this as the original findings. There will be no announcement on the BBC, nor will msnbc be announcing that “Flawed research undermines climate change consensus”. It is not just a media bias in the Global Warming Climate Change debate, but simply that counter-news is rarely reported. So every minor bit of medical research is shown as news, but rarely do we get updates that the results have been overturned, despite it happening 80% of the time. Yet in scientific areas that rely on statistical analysis this happens all the time. In studying economics I found in many areas, such as the Theory of Demand, The Phillips Curve and on the Monetarist / Keynesian debates on the 1960s to 1980s, papers were constantly being overturned.


For those who believe that predictive ability is the sign of good science James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute, should be commended. Quoted in OPedNews on January 24th 2009, three days after the article was published.


“I would be quite wary of assigning much value to this article. Raw temperature data and a number of studies over many years have determined that Antarctica is cooling. Now we have a single article, reliant on subjective data interpretation from well-known global warming alarmists, saying the opposite.

“For a long time now, Antarctic cooling has been a stone in the shoe of global warming alarmists. Now, conveniently, those who regularly blog on an alarmist Web site claim they have ‘statistically smoothed’ the data to show Antarctica is warming, even though surface temperature stations show a significant, long-term cooling trend.

“The article appears to argue that due to incredibly bad luck, many temperature stations scattered throughout the continent are located in random, isolated pockets of cooling that defy the overall warming trend. The odds of this being the case are quite remote, and the theory is notably short on reliable evidence. Adding to the dubious nature of the study’s conclusion is the authors’ self-interest in silencing an embarrassing mountain of raw temperature data that contradict the authors’ global warming theory.


Taylor points to the results contradicting established data. When that happens the review process should ask searching questions. Something seems to have gone amiss with the review process at Nature, despite them having taken 11 months to review the paper.

Climate Change – An opportunity for the UK to benefit humanity

In March, Phillip Salter, on the Adam Smith Institute blog, suggested that we should also open up peer reviews in climatology.  My response was


Dr Alister McFarquhar is right in that the opening up of peer reviews will not help.
There are is a way that the closed world of the Climate Change Lobby can be changed. Steve McIntyre of campaigns for the datasets behind articles to be published. In Economic Theory this already happens, which means that debate is actively encouraged. That is careers are made more through disputing established opinion than reinforcing that opinion. Such an approach should appeal to those on both sides of the debate. Those who believe in anthropogenic global warming should be in favour of optimal policies, so must want to see challanged the more eccentric views based on poor scholarship. It would also appeal to those are searching for answers, or who believe that proper debate brings greater understanding.


I would go further.

 The Government is looking for opportunities for investment to get us out of this depression. That is spending of money now that will lead to far greater returns for the economy in the future. In the area of the universities, this means promoting the UK as a world-leading centre of original research. Financing the launch of a new journal (say “Critical Perspectives on Climatology”) is one area where there is a huge gap in the market. The Government can justify it for the following reasons.

  1. The promotion of better science will give a new lease of life to the historical role of the UK as a fountainhead of great intellects.
  2. Reducing the risks to the poor. Extra measures to combat climate change will hurt the poor the most. For this reason, more objective analysis will reduce the risks that we will get policy wrong.
  3. Proper stewardship of the Earth means proper democratic debate, where all views are heard. This is another reason for Britain’s historical pre-eminence in science.
  4. When funding investment one should look for high returns. Most government-backed investment does not get back the money invested. This one could generate huge returns.

Steve Macintyre’s Peek Behind the curtain

Back in March Climateaudit published this blog. This deals with the suppression of a paper that says there is no evidence for a rise in the level of water vapour in the upper atmosphere in the recent past. Why is this important? The forecasts of dramatic rise in global temperatures are based upon the small rise in global temperatures so far experienced (and claimed to be caused by increases in greenhouse gases) resulting in higher levels of water vapour in the middle and upper troposphere. Without this positive feedback loop, the current 2oC to 4oC rise in temperatures predicted for this century are dramatically reduced.

The bottom line is that, if (repeat if) one could believe the NCEP data ‘as is’, water vapour feedback over the last 35 years has been negative. And if the pattern were to continue into the future, one would expect water vapour feedback in the climate system to halve rather than double the temperature rise due to increasing CO2.

In other words, if the data is right, expect global temperatures to rise by 0.5 oC.

The response should be one of ‘let us pursue this further’, not ‘let us squash this, as it rocks the boat’.

UK Green Party Manifesto – Grade E for Numeracy

The UK Green Party yesterday published it’s Manifesto for the forthcoming European Elections. There were some statistics that show a lack of numeracy.


UK Labour Party’s target emissions reduction


The Labour government now proposes a target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050, which works out at about 2.5% per annum. (Page 4 Col 2)


          Let us keep the maths simple. Let us take the base year as 2010 and set that at 100. This gives 40 years to achieve the target, which is 20. There are 2 ways of calculating this. – Beancounters will recognize the terminology.

  1. Straight Line Method. Take the same reduction every year. The reduction is 2.5 each year. So if 2010 is 100, 2011 is 97.5, 2012 is 95 etc. After 40 years emissions will be 100-(2.5*40) = 0
  2. Reducing Balance Method. Each year reduce the balance by 2.5% from the previous year. So if 2010 is 100, 2011 is 97.5, 2012 is 95.06, 2013 is 92.69 etc. After 40 years emissions will be 100*0.97540 = 36.32.


By the straight line method, emissions will be reduced by 100% and by the straight line method they will be reduced by 63.68%. The correct answer, by the straight line method is 2% per year, by the reducing balance method 3.95%. Neither approximates to 2.5%


Green Party’s target emission reduction


Based on the latest scientific predictions, an industrialised country such as the UK needs to reduce emissions by 90% by 2030. And we need a commitment to annual targets now, rather than aspirations for the distant future. The Green Party has calculated that the UK needs to be making reductions of around 10% per annum from now on. (Page 4 Col 2 to Page 5 Col 1)


            Let us see if the Green Party’s calculations are correct. Taking 2010 as a base, 2030 is in 20 years time. Using the straight line method, a 10% reduction per annum reduction will give 100-(10*40) = -100. That is we will be taking as much greenhouses gases out of the atmosphere as we are pumping in today. Children of today can look

forward to a chilly retirement. Vote Green for a White future!

            Using the reducing balance method, a 10% reduction per annum will be 100*0.9020 = 12.16. Strictly, to get a 90% fall would require a 10.86% reduction per annum, but 10% reduction would only miss the target by 2 years, so is a good enough approximation.



Of the two statements, there are 4 possible answers. Only one of these answers can be correct, so a 25% mark is possible, or an E grade. However, as the method of calculation is not stated, a much less generous marker, would give them an F.

Waste Recycling – Nappies this time

Just finished knocking out a couple of manic notes on waste, just to see this blog on the cost & benefits of nappies from the ASI. Like with the Manchester Conjestion Charge, it illustrates how properly looking at an issue, can provide a different answer to simply justifying the popular view.

When my kiddlewinks were babies, we used disposables. Here time was a factor, as well as avoiding a stinking job. However, again like the conjestion charge and recycling, people’s time is not valued. How long before some bright spark suggests that the truely green way is to hand wash in cold water and carbolic soap, and then putting it through a mangle? Need a strong bleach though, as the environmentally-friendly sorts do not work.   



Weighing up Waste Recycling – Impact on future generations

Tim Worstall’s article on waste got me thinking, manically.


The cry goes that we should not leave our rubbish, or more broadly our environmental problems, for future generations. However, this is only part of the issue. Future generations will benefit from better technology to deal will environmental problems. Further, with economic growth, they will have better resources to deal with this. This is not a trivial point. In real terms western countries are over 30 times richer per capita than 250 years ago. Looking at the UK, with GDP of £1200bn (USD2100bn), with a steady growth rate of 2%, would mean that the economy will be 7.24 times greater in one hundred years and 52.48 times richer in two hundred years. Reducing average output growth  by just 0.1% means that they will be 6.57 times richer in 100 years and 43.14 times richer in 200 years. If the future generations have to clean up our mess, in 100 years they will have £810bn (USD1420) extra to do it with (67% of current output), whereas in 200 years they will have £11,219bn (USD 19,633bn) extra to clean up with (935% of current output).


There is always a problem of running out of landfill, but this if a political rather than a physical problem. There is also a problem of containing the waste and containing the chemical run-off. The methane can be tapped and used as a fuel.


The limit to waste creation


If the waste is to be contained, the problem becomes one of a trade-off between re-processing or recycling now and generating sufficient capability of future generations to recycle later. There is a risk that the problem will become a runaway one, growing faster than the increased capacity to produce later. However, with proper assessment this then becomes a small risk. as the technological advances will mean the real cost of dealing with the issue reduces over time. It is the flip side of the growth equation. The best method of improving this is for small, but long-term incentives. In particular directing research along disparate avenues, like venture capitalists putting small amounts of money in various ventures. It is probably something for philanthropists, rather than governments, as it is necessary to be eclectic, but also cut funding should avenues not be fruitful.  


As a final point, what is most important is developing a framework for our thinking, not to provide solutions. One that goes beyond just listing the advantages and disadvantages, but relating them to one another. It is finding the best answer, not justifying our particular views with pseudo-facts.

Weighing up Waste Recycling – The personal perspective

Two cheers “Waste of Time” appeared in the Guardian on 13th October by Tim Worstall, on the costs and benefits of waste recycling. Like the Tif Manchester, it is another example where people’s time is not taken into account in making the governement making decisions.

It would be interesting to look at the total package. Such things to consider are


The neighbourhood impact


I have now got four wheelie bins for waste. A large black one for general waste, a large green one for garden waste (no pet litter or food waste), a slim blue one for paper (no cardboard, window envelopes) and a slim brown one for bottles. Then there is a plastic bag for tins and cans. Sorting the waste, I fill the green bin about every 2 to 4 weeks (the larger items going to the tip in my car), the bottle and paper bins about every 4 to 6 months and the black bin is almost full every week. A corner of my garden has become a recyling centre, and a portion of the shed as well. I may not have the tidiest garden, but it looks natural, expect for the “green centre”, that I try to hide with a “rustic” hedge.


The type of material


The best sort of material to recycle is garden waste. Properly managed it rots into a useful by product. Metal in big chunks can easily be recycled. But some must take more energy and time to recycle (taking the whole process into account) than cost of landfill and producing new.


The environmental impact


The government has now committed us to reducing our CO2 by 80% by 2050 – hopefully in my lifetime. Maybe it should start by reducing recycling to the point where the CO2 (or equivalent) produced by the whole process of recycling is less than the CO2 (or equivalent) produced by managed landfill and producing new. One thing to start warning people off is using hot water to rinse bottles etc, or going in the car to a recycling point with half a dozen bottles. The amount of CO2 impact is usually greater than just chucking the “recyclable” bits into the bin. The government should provide guidelines on this.