Prof Nordhaus forgets some basic Economics

Wattsupwiththat today carries a summary of William D. Nordhaus’s latest paper on climate change policy. The paper “The architecture of climate economics: Designing a global agreement on global warming” is published at the Bulletin for the Atomic Scientists here.

The basic economic fundamental for any policy is to have a net welfare improvement. Therefore in designing this policy, there should be a reasonable expectation that benefits will outweigh the costs. Prof. Nordhaus simply looks at the improvements to be made from switching from cap and trade (per Kyoto Agreement) to a carbon tax. Not just any carbon tax, but one that is uniform throughout the world.

Nordhaus claims that people should face the social costs of their activities. A carbon tax provides four strong incentives:-

First, it provides signals to consumers about what goods and services produce high carbon emissions and should therefore be used more sparingly. Second, it provides signals to producers about which inputs (such as electricity from coal) use more carbon, and which inputs (such as electricity from wind) use less or none. It thereby induces producers to move to low-carbon technologies. Third, high carbon prices provide market signals and financial incentives to inventors and innovators to develop and introduce low-carbon products and processes that can eventually replace the current generation of carbon-intensive technologies. Finally, and most subtle of all, the use of carbon pricing provides simple, straightforward information that market participants need to undertake each of these three tasks. Of course, placing a market price on carbon use will not work magic.

As a means of making consumers use fossil fuels more sparingly, taxes on fuel are highly inefficient. With no close substitute (at least in cost) for fossil fuels (whether for transport, domestic fuel and light, or industry) rises in price are highly inelastic with respect to demand. That is why in the UK, it is a great way of raising tax revenue – you can raise with impunity without major fall-off in demand. Prof Nordhaus can check this out from the effect on demand to the rising price of oil.

As for making producers move to non-carbon sources of power, it is mostly being driven by government policy. The costs of wind and solar power are still far beyond those of fossil fuels and prone to supply problems. For instance, the recent extreme cold in the UK was accompanied by weak sunlight (it is winter with less than 8 hour days) and virtually no wind.

The incentives to producers to switch to alternative energy sources are already there from the high oil price. It has more than tripled in price in less than a decade. The marginal impact of increases energy prices through taxes will be small, if not insignificant.

The fourth is just a combination of the three. It is only a reason if the word “subtle” is replaced by “insignificant”.

The disadvantages of a carbon tax

What Nordhaus does not look at are the disadvantages.

  1. Carbon Tax is regressive within countries. Those who will have to give up cars and foreign holidays and suffer lower heating and lighting in their homes are the poorest. In Britain, where death rates already surge in cold weather, this will be exacerbated.
  2. A carbon tax works by providing a stark choice – you either reduce energy consumption (and reduce your standard of living) or see your living standards fall in other areas. Without
  3. For many in the poorer, but developing countries, aspirations will be dashed. Economic growth is closely related to increase in energy usage per capita. In India and China with rapid economic growth, hundreds of millions of families will be aspiring to cars, foreign travel, washing machines, refrigerators and warmer (or air conditioned) homes. To control CO2 emissions means denying them these opportunities for many years. This is not just making them less affordable. It is also through slowing those high rates of economic growth. For these people – 40% of the world population – this welfare loss will be far greater than anything that runaway global warming can engender.
  4. A uniform tax is ludicrous. In the UK of the £1.23 per litre I last paid for petrol ($7.30 per US gallon of gasoline) over 50% was in taxation. Yesterday the VAT went up 2.5%, adding another 3p per litre. In the USA it is much lower. In Brazil, diesel is restricted to goods vehicles only and carries no tax. In Iran fuel is subsidized. In the UK (and much of Western Europe) a uniform tax would lead to a reduction in tax in an area where you want to reduce emissions most, whilst achieving large emission reductions in some of the poorest, but developing countries.
  5. Society bears the costs of individual consumption externalities. You should compensate the losers whilst punishing the polluters. But to do this efficiently you need to first identify the losers and the gainers from CO2 emissions. Who will lose from the consequences of climate change is purely speculative.

 

Prof Nordhaus’s mistake is only to look at the advantages of a Carbon Tax over Cap and Trade. He does not look at improving the situation on having no policy at all. He ignores the poor, proposing a policy that will deny the aspirations of billions. Further, he does not take into account the political dimension. The democratic and rich countries will not vote for a policy that can only be effective by significantly reducing their living standards. In Western Europe, this is further exacerbated by most studies showing climate change will do little harm, or be of slight benefit. In China, constraint on CO2 emission growth will also strongly constrain economic growth, which will probably cause political turmoil. Yet without China and other emerging economies buying into CO2 constraint, then Western CO2 reductions are in vain. See a talk by Roger Pielke Jr.

However, Prof Nordhaus recognizes that non-participation costs are very high for achieving emissions targets

The Death Penalty and Catastrophic Global Warming

Just posted to Warren Meyer’s Coyote Blog. (Warren also runs the excellent Climate Sceptic blog)

Like you Warren, I too am both a global warming sceptic and oppose the death penalty. The reason I oppose the death penalty is that the police too often look for the evidence to support their case, but not for the evidence that contradicts this. As a result, here in Britain, some serious miscarriages of justice occurred. For instance in the 1970s the IRA brought their bombing campaign to Britain. 21 people died in Guilford and 10 people died in Birmingham. In both cases both groups of men convicted were entirely innocent. One group was convicted due to residue of a chemical used in the bomb being found on the hands of the accused. It was later explained by the chemical also being found on a new deck of playing cards.

However, the worst case was for the murder of the hugely popular TV presenter Jill Dando. It was a cold-blooded shooting, by someone who then calmly walked away and disappeared. Barry George, was convicted of her killing on the evidence that there was a speck of gun residue in a coat pocket; that he had tried to join a gun club; that he had multiple newspaper images of the accused; and had a picture of him masked and holding a gun. Turns out the guy had a low IQ, who had a stack of old newspapers in his room, had and old Polaroid of him fancy dress with a de-commissioned gun. Jill Dando was a celebrity who had appeared 6 times in that stack of papers. He had attended a day care centre a short while afterwards and appeared calm. Yet he was a man easily excited and incapable of calm planning. The coat was handled by police officers who had recently handled firearms and the speck of residue was miniscule.

The alternative explanation was this was a gangland hit. Jill Dando was mostly a newsreader, but whenever she fronted any other show, the ratings climbed. Once a month she fronted “CrimeWatch”, the first program in the world to recreate crime scenes to help solve crimes. It has scored some notable successes over the years.

We are all fallible, particularly those who are trying to confirm their answers. It is often those who are least able to defend themselves (due to low IQ, or race, or poverty) that get wrongly convicted.

The global warming hypothesis is similar. There is weak circumstantial evidence to suggest catastrophic warming, but with a superior Queens counsel (public prosecutor) a persuasive case can be made. But a similar defence counsel would have the case quashed early in the trial.

Greg Craven’s Grid Extended

Greg Craven published a series of Youtube videos claiming to give a stark a simple choice for any non-scientist to rise above the “shouting match” a beliefs to reach a decision, with confidence as what to do about climate change. By understanding the flaws in his argument it is possible to develop a more sophisticated grid that enables us to make a more rounded assessment of the climate change problem.

Craven’s Grid

Greg Craven is a high school science teacher in Oregon, who has produced a series of Youtube videos (and later in a book), asking:-

“Which is the more acceptable risk?

  • Do nothing and accept the potential catastrophe of global warming?
  • Take action now, potentially harming the economy, but averting potential catastrophe?”

He puts this into a simple grid, with whether to take action along the horizontal axis and whether the global warming hypothesis is true or not on the vertical axis. Recognising that there are costs to combating climate change he allows for the worst case scenario. The cost will be global depression. However, this is as nothing compared with the worst case scenario the scientists are telling us will happen if we do nothing. The choice is stark. We do not know whether the global warming hypothesis is true or false – that is a shouting match that we will get no sense out of – but we should not take a chance, for our own sakes, the sake of the world’s poor and the sake of our children.

Craven’s Grid

Action?

Global Warming?

Lots Now

Little or None Now

FALSE

Global Depression

All Smiles

TRUE

Global Depression – BUT no catastrophe

Mega-Catastrophe

Someone then pointed out a gaping hole in Craven’s argument. This grid could be applied to anything that could potentially happen, no matter how unlikely. He uses the example of an invasion of giant mutant space hamsters. The outcome of everyone on the planet being eaten by such creatures is far worse than the costs of building the necessary defence shield to repel them. We must therefore look at the credibility of those who hold the hypothesis against those who do not. If the backers of the hypothesis are the vast majority of leading scientific organisations, and the opponents are few and far between, then we can give much greater weight to the global warming hypothesis. So the grid becomes like this:-

Craven’s Weighted Grid

Action

Global Warming

Lots Now

Little or None Now

FALSE

Global Depression

All Smiles

TRUE

Global Depression – BUT no catastrophe

Mega-Catastrophe

Craven’s Grid with numbers

Craven’s argument becomes much clearer if we put in some numbers. Let us say that the cost of action is 20, but the impact of the catastrophic warming is 400, or 20 times worse. The basic grid becomes:-

The basic grid, with numbers

Action

Global Warming?

Lots Now

Little or None Now

FALSE

-20

0

TRUE

-20

-400

AVERAGE RETURN

-20

-200

The figures are all negative, as the planet is worse off if catastrophic warming occurs, and the people on this planet are worse off if action is taken. The figure of twenty times worse is the upper limit of cost-benefits from the Stern Review (Tol & Yohe 2006). I chose 20 as a base to save on too many decimals when the grid becomes more sophisticated. (Twenty times of benefits over costs is the upper limit of the Stern Review?) Note that there is now an average return, with equal weighting given to whether the hypothesis is true or false. We end up with an expected cost of not taking action of 10 times greater than if we did. We can now incorporate Craven’s argument is that we should give much greater weighting to the consensus scientists than to the sceptics. Let us say the chances of the hypothesis being true are 4 times that of it being false. The weighted grid becomes:-

The weighted grid, with numbers

Action

Global Warming?

%

Lots Now

Little or None Now

FALSE

20%

-20

0

TRUE

80%

-20

-400

RETURN

 

-20

-320

So the expected outcome of not taking action is 16 times worse than of not taking action.

Major issues with Craven’s Grid

There are a number of issues with this basic decision-making grid. Most fundamentally, it relies on opinions of opinions. That is of the expert climate scientists convincing the scientists from other fields that they have a convincing case, then getting this much larger group to pass a resolution. If the vast majority of the membership can be shown to have studied this and agreed that the climate science is as strong as in their disparate fields and used for a basis of voting, then this might be a reliable, secondary, source. However, if there is evidence that the resolution is promulgated by a small number of the membership (and the majority not interested enough to oppose); or that there has been outside pressure to pass a resolution; or that there have been efforts to silence critics through abuse; or that pressure groups try to undermine the research grants on which critical scientists depend – then the resolutions should be at a minimum be viewed as worthless. This is along similar as the verdict of a jury in a court of law is viewed as worthless if there is any evidence jury tampering. Most courts would not just nullify the evidence, they may throw out the case, then prosecute those who would try to pervert the course of justice. If there is considerable evidence of this undue influence, then the balance of opinion should swing the other way. If the argument relies on secondary or tertiary opinions, then one should look very carefully at the actual scientific and policy arguments. As Craven does not offer up this argument (just mentions a paper by Richard Lindzen, to then neglect this issue entirely), I shall leave this as argument as just invalid and ignore it entirely. The alternative – to take as circumstantial evidence that the underlying case is weak – would cloud the analysis. Instead I shall concentrate on the science and policy issues. These can be divided into four areas:-

  1. The climate models do not just predict huge rises in temperatures. Rather, they offer up a range of scenarios. The UNIPCC’s scenarios show a greater than 90% chance of temperatures rising between 1.1oC and 6.4oC this century (UNIPCC 2007.1 p8). Both extremes are fairly unlikely. However, if these scenarios were taken to their peak then the distribution of final temperatures would be skewed towards the top end. That is the cut-off of 2099 is likely to be a matter of timing
  2. The consequence of such temperature rise, the models predict, will not simply be higher temperatures, but severe disruption to weather systems. Extreme weather events, like hurricanes, floods and droughts will become far more frequent. Although impossible to predict the extent of climate disruption with each rise degree in temperature, the impacts are more likely to be more towards the exponential than the linear.
  3. Craven appears to assume that the policy proposed will be entirely successful in combating warming. The UNIPCC recognise that this is not realistic. They propose of target of limiting CO2 to 550ppm (twice the pre-industrial levels) warming to 2.0oC. If this policy successfully contains the warming to 2.0oC, then there would still be some adverse consequences to that warming. Further, this proposal must be signed up to by all the nations of the world and then translated into actual policies.
  4. There are also two broad approaches to policy that need to be considered. The most frequently advocated is mitigation – stopping global warming by stopping the rise in anthropogenic greenhouse emissions, or even reducing them. The other is adaptation – adapting to the climatic changes that occur, such as improving coastal defences; changing crop production; improving irrigation systems; and changing house design.
  5. The policy targets then need to be implemented, recognising that often large, and ill-defined government projects poorly managed, tend to over-run on costs and under-perform on benefits. Further, governments may sometimes get freeloaders, who generate costs but do not contribute anything towards the desired outcome.

This gives four areas that can be analysed separately, under the acronym FCPO.

Forecast – How much temperatures are predicted to rise and in what time period.

Consequences – The forecast change in the weather patterns (droughts, floods, hurricanes, etc.), along with the impacts on crop yields, forestation, sea levels etc.

Policy – The adopted remedy recommended to combat the consequences, along with actual legislation enacted and structures created.

Outturn (of the policy) – The actual policies enacted, along the results of those actions – both intended and unintended.

There is a clear dividing line between the climate science (Forecast and Consequences) and the social sciences (Policy and Outturn). The sub-divisions between the Forecast and Consequences and between Policy and Outturn maybe less distinct, but, as later analysis will demonstrate, are useful for purposes of clarity.

Extending the Grid for FCPO

The grid can now be extended include the four elements discussed in a series of stages. We start with Craven’s scenario were a mitigation policy is 100% successful in combating the adverse effects of global warming.

  1. The costs of action

Extending Craven’s Grid by:-

  • Keeping the costs of mitigation to 20.
  • Extending the True / False Scenario to five categories of warming. (None, lower, median, higher & extreme).
  • Including an extra option of “Adapt”. This is split into two parts. First are low cost contingency plans, given a value of 5. Then there are the reactive costs. These costs rise steeply with more extreme climate change.

This gives a revised grid below.

Costs of Action

Category

Extent

Mitigate

Adapt

None

A

None

-20

-5

0

B

Lower

-20

-10

0

C

Median

-20

-15

0

D

Higher

-20

-25

0

E

Extreme

-20

-45

0

RETURN

-20

-20

0

  1. The Climate Change Impact

This shows the impact of taking action. Points to note

  • The extreme case of not taking action is still twenty times the impact of not taking action.
  • Adapting to climate change is only half as effective as mitigation.
  • The likely catastrophic impacts are likely to be non-linear. I have assumed that it will double with each category rise.

    Climate Change Impact

    Category

    Extent

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    0

    0

    0

    B

    Lower

    0

    -25

    -50

    C

    Median

    0

    -50

    -100

    D

    Higher

    0

    -100

    -200

    E

    Extreme

    0

    -200

    -400

    RETURN

    0

    -75

    -150

  1. Net Costs of Action

    Adding 1. and 2. together.

    Net Costs of taking Action

    Category

    Extent

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    -20

    -5

    0

    B

    Lower

    -20

    -35

    -50

    C

    Median

    -20

    -65

    -100

    D

    Higher

    -20

    -125

    -200

    E

    Extreme

    -20

    -245

    -400

    RETURN

    -20

    -95

    -150

     

  2. Weighted Returns – UNIPCC Scenarios as a basis

    The UNIPCC gives a 90% chance of temperatures rising between 1.1oC and 6.4oC this century. Using this pattern, I assume that the most extreme cases have a 5% probability and the median case as the most likely with a 50% probability. This gives a 20% probability to the lower and higher cases.

    Weighted Net Costs of Action

    Cat

    Extent

    %

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    5%

    -20

    -5

    0

    B

    Lower

    20%

    -20

    -35

    -50

    C

    Median

    50%

    -20

    -65

    -100

    D

    Higher

    20%

    -20

    -125

    -200

    E

    Extreme

    5%

    -20

    -245

    -400

    RETURN

     

    -20.0

    -77.0

    -120.0

     

  3. Weighted Returns – Based on Peak Scenario Warming

    As noted above, the final peak temperatures from the models are likely to be more skewed towards the upper end, as some of the peaks are likely to be well after 2010.

     

     

    Weighted Net Costs of Action

    Cat

    Extent

    %

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    5%

    -20.0

    -5.0

    0.0

    B

    Lower

    5%

    -20.0

    -35.0

    -50.0

    C

    Median

    40%

    -20.0

    -65.0

    -100.0

    D

    Higher

    40%

    -20.0

    -125.0

    -200.0

    E

    Extreme

    10%

    -20.0

    -245.0

    -400.0

    RETURN

     

    -20.0

    -102.5

    -162.5

  4. Weighted returns – restricting CO2 to 550ppm

    The policy to mitigate climate change does not have the unrealistic aim of stopping any future warming. Rather it seeks to stabalise CO2 at 550ppm or double pre-industrial levels. This will equate to a temperature rise of around 2 oC. This is around the lower level impacts.

    The climate change impact grid becomes

    Climate Change Impact

    Category

    Extent

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    0

    0

    0

    B

    Lower

    -20

    -25

    -50

    C

    Median

    -20

    -50

    -100

    D

    Higher

    -20

    -100

    -200

    E

    Extreme

    -20

    -200

    -400

    RETURN

    -16

    -75

    -150

    Note that the lower levels have some benefit from the climate change. But mitigation prevents the most catastrophic scenarios.

    The final grid becomes

    Weighted Net Costs of Action

    Cat

    Extent

    %

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    5%

    -20.0

    -5.0

    0.0

    B

    Lower

    5%

    -40.0

    -35.0

    -50.0

    C

    Median

    40%

    -40.0

    -65.0

    -100.0

    D

    Higher

    40%

    -40.0

    -125.0

    -200.0

    E

    Extreme

    10%

    -40.0

    -245.0

    -400.0

    RETURN

     

    -39.0

    -102.5

    -162.5

     

The FCPO Grid

The grid derived simply, but effectively summarises the “Consensus” case.

  1. There is a high degree of likelihood that we will have some serious global warming with huge consequences for the planet and the human race.
  2. The best policy is to limit CO2 to double pre-industrial levels. Re-active adaptation strategies are risky and ineffective compared with mitigation.
  3. The expected average costs of doing nothing are far greater than any costs of mitigation.
  4. More importantly than any expected average impact, there is a very real possibility of a massive catastrophe.

What is more it is a way of effectively gauging some of the arguments, underpinned with some risk analysis. By trying to turn the uncertainties into our best-guess risks we can get a more balanced and rigorous assessment of the science than Greg Craven’s. Further, we can also bring into the same analysis the potential effectiveness of any policy, and the project management aspect of delivering the planned results.

However, the ability of this grid to evaluate the science is limited. It can only be used for most top-down or broad-brush aspects. It is a way to get the relative importance of various aspects of science and policy within the totality of the subject, when they are vastly different in degree. If used for splitting hairs, then this will just be another tool to advance the “shouting match”. To focus and clarify the evaluation, a new question is required. “What is the worst that can happen?” is too loaded towards thinking of extreme, but highly improbable, events.

The New Question

To focus and clarify the evaluation, a new question is required. “What is the worst that can happen?” is too loaded towards thinking of extreme, but highly improbable, events. The FCPO Grid looks at both the future scenarios projected by the science and at our collective ability to provide a remedy. There the new question becomes

By taking action, is there, on the balance of the evidence, an expectation that the future state will be improved?

The climate change consensus would contend that this is clear-cut – something that my FCPO grid replicates.

 

References

Craven, Greg 2007 Jun – Youtube video “The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See

Craven, Greg 2007 Oct – Youtube video “How it all ends

Craven, Greg 2009 – What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Craven, Greg Website – http://www.gregcraven.org/

Tol & Yohe 2006 – A Review of the Stern Review – WORLD ECONOMICS • Vol. 7 • No. 4 • October–December 2006

UNIPCC 2007.1 – Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report – Summary for Policymakers (Dec 08 format)

A (weak) case against the Sceptics weakens the AGW Case

Deutsche Bank tries to answer the sceptics by attempting to demonstrate the the AGW is not completely refuted.

The sceptics arguments do indeed fail to amount to a complete refutation of the AGW case. Most of the “sceptic” arguments are against the idea that there has been no anthropogenic warming at all and that there is no evidence at all for the case. This would be hard to establish, and most “sceptic” scientists would never make this case. But almost equally hard to establish is the case that there will be extreme warming in the future, with likely catestrophic and irreversible consequences. At the very least there must be a clear demonstration that the likely economic impact (valuing the flaura and fauna as well), will be greater than the economic impact on human society of reducing CO2 emissions. Being able to demonstrate that the extreme opposite is implausible (in the vaguest terms) does not establish a position without unambiguous evidence and relying on unstated assumptions. There are some analogies that might highlight my perspective.
1. In medicine to have a reasonable expectation that the “treatment” will leave the patient better off than the cure. Simply showing that a few patients survived the treatment and recovered from the illness does not mean that the treatment worked. Nor does showing that some patients suffered adverse (non-fatal, but painful) side effects from a generally successful treatment to a condition that is 100% fatal without this treatment mean, that the treatment should not be used.

2. In considering a loan to finance a new business venture, the lending bank would want to see more in the plan tham that revenues will be generated. It would want to see a reasonable expectation that even with some set-backs, it could both deliver an income to the borrowers and sufficient surplus to repay the loan.
3. In a criminal case, if all the prosecution had to do was
   (a) present a case, that could not be challanged by the defence no matter how weak.
   (b) demonstrate that the defence had not proved their case beyond reasonable doubt, whilst being able to dismiss any evidence they presented on the flimsiest of evidence, including that defence counsel are paid to be biased.

4. A child caught smoking behind the bike-sheds is told that they have shortened their life by up to a decade. This will happen on average if they smoke heavily throughout their adult lives, but will not happen, on average, if it is ten cigarettes a week for five teenage years. They may have minor health issues, such as less ability to fight off the common cold.

What they have missing here is the huge middle ground – not of some truth on either side – but the middle ground where there is a an insufficient case established and / or, an insuffiently coherant plan, and demonstrated capability to carry out the plan, to gain a signficantly positive outcome. That is to give a reasonable expectation that the solution will leave the planet and the human race the better off for having acted.

Put another way, without a clear-cut case that an imminent, catestrophic disaster can be averted with a clear-cut plan, that has little adverse consequences, then there is ground to be made in actively trying to clarifying the extent of our collective scientific knowledge and the improving on the solutions.

Hatip BishopHill

Andy Revkin doesn’t know which way to Panic

Andy Revkin today blogs about a 30km chunk of the Petrmann Glacier in Greenland breaking free. Yikes! We say! Run for the hills the see levels will rise!

Just hold on a minute! How much will this chunk of ice affect the global see levels? Well assume that this iceberg is only 20% submerged (still resting on some bedrock) and has a volume of 30km3.  With the oceans covering around 140 million square miles of ocean (363 million km2) this will raise ocean levels by about 16mm or 2/3 inch.

But in the Youtube video accompanying this piece, the problem is much more serious than that. It seems that the Greenland icecap is melting in the summer faster than the snow is replenishing it. If it all melted then see levels would rise by 20 feet or 7m (2min 50s), so Florida disappears beneath the sea. But hold on a minute, computer models show that all this cold water entering the Atlantic may cause a sudden Atlantic cooling in years to come. (1min 50s). I might be a little uneducated, but if the Atlantic cools around Greenland, then this will affect the air temperature. That means there will be cooler summer temperatures nearby. So the net melting process will be diminished, stop or even be reversed.

The message from this for the residents of Florida is not to run for the hills, but buy in a sweater or two, and be prepared for bigger beaches – the tide will go out, and never return.  However, for those a nervous disposition, I suggest take a shot of Whisky (Springbank 21 y.o. or Lagavulin 16 y.o. are my favourites), sit down and relax. The ice-melt will happen over decades, so see levels will not rise much in the next hundred years. Even with a 5 degree warming, most of Greenland will still be below freezing throughout the year. But this will not happen, as natural correction mechanisms will diminish the impact.

Why Electric Cars Cannot Pay

In the Sunday Times of  1st August, Jeremy Clarkson does a review of BMW Mini E – an electric test car. (In Gear Pages 15 & 16).

He concludes that  electric cars are something that cannot be achieved – simply because they are too expensive, too short a range, and we have not got the electrical capacity.

There is another reason. We would decimate out public finances. Clarkson estimates that topping the Mini E up with standard rate electricity would cost £4, compared with about £12 for a standard Mini Cooper, or around £10 for a 60mpg diesel for 104 miles.

Now consider the exchequer impact. The £4 of electricity carries 20p of tax (VAT at 5%). The tax on petrol or diesel is about 60%, so £7.20 for petrol and £6.00 for diesel. The net loss for a typical 10,000 mile per year motorist is in the order of £650 – plus the road tax loss of around £100 or more.

If just a million car users switch to electric – 3% of the total – then the loss is around £750m per annum.

 Will motorists actually go for these savings? Not if they look at the total costs of ownership. The life of the batteries will be less than the 100,000+ miles that you expect from a modern engine. Current lithium ion might give you about 300 charges, or 30,000 miles in the Mini E. With the cost maybe £6,000 per pack (for simplicity), that would add 20p per mile to costs – equivalent to annual costs of £2,000 per year. The servicing may cost a bit less (no engine, but still all the other mechanical bits like brakes, tyres, etc.), but overall the cost of ownership.

Therefore, it will only be a small minority who will buy these cars – probably the richer end of the Prius set. Alternatively, the government will step in to subsidise the battery pack. So the middle class conspicuous consumers will be subsidised by the, poorer, users of internal combustion engines.

Finally, will this save the planet within Lord Stern’s criteria cost of £80 per tonne of carbon? Let us assume somebody swaps their standard small car with 130g/km of carbon with the zero-emission car. At 10,000 miles per year, that is a saving of 2 tonnes of carbon IF the electricity comes from zero-emission sources. The net cost to society is going to be at least 10 times that, so it fails the economic test as well.

To compare Environmentalists to Baptists is to insult Baptists

The THES, directed at a British audience, compares BP and environmentalists to bootleggers and Baptists – they have common cause.

However, some British Baptists may take deep offence at environmentalists being likened to them as (from the mainstream viewpoint of the Baptist Union of Great Britain) the following tends to be true.

1)      Each person should read the Bible (their data) and come to their own conclusions. They try not to overstate their case, but to come to conclusions after reflection and prayer.

2)      They are proud of their history as non-conformists and dissenters. As such they believe in religious liberty.

3)      The understanding of theology is not settled, and there are quite valid differences of opinion. There is room for doubt.

4)      Resolution of debate is not by a few experts handing down an opinion. It is from discussion and mutual understanding at the local level, to which all believers can contribute.

5)      You will not find these British Baptists looking for signs of the end times in every minor event, or proclaiming that those of other denominations or faiths are agents of the Devil.

6)      When studying their religion, contemporary theology tries to put meaning of the text in the context of what has gone before and after. Also, they look in the context of the time and place when the passage was written. Further, they would look at the original text in Hebrew or Greek. The antithesis would be to cherry-pick a few juicy quotes, mistranslate from the Hebrew and Greek, add in some unsupported assertions, add a good dash of sensationalism and proclaim loudly.

Found via Bishop Hill

A few Baptist blogs to demonstrate the point are Baptist Bookworm, Nah then, Andy Goodliff and Sean the Baptist.

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.

Climate Tipping Points – The Real Conclusion beneath Scientists Opinion

The Independent reports on a new paper about the likelihood of a climatic tipping point being reached by 2200. How did they achieve this? Have they come up with a new wonder-model? Or by achieving a fundamental refinement of the existing models? No, the answer is more mundane. They interviewed 14 leading scientists on climate change, asking them some sophisticated (but leading) questions. It is an opinion poll, with a biased and insignificant sample. But it is revealing about the quality of climate change “science”.

  For instance consider the following from the abstract.

 

Quote 1

“The width and median values of the probability distributions elicited from the different experts for future global mean temperature change under the specified forcing trajectories vary considerably.”

 

   I thought statistical results could only come from statistical analysis, not experts reviewing the literature.

 

Quote 2

“For a forcing trajectory that stabilized at 7 Wm-2 in 2200, 13 of the 14 experts judged the probability that the climate system would undergo, or be irrevocably committed to, a “basic state change” as ≥0.5.”

 

   In science, a probability can only be calculated from the data, and can be subjected to a battery of tests for robustness. In common parlance probabilities are used as an expression of opinion. Like the IPCC forecasts for temperature the distinction is blurred. In this case it appears to be the latter, so should be clearly stated as such in a scientific journal.

   A second problem is the forcing trajectory being stabilised at 7 Wm-2. That is on top of the existing 324 Wm-2, a 2% rise (See IPCC AR4 page 96). The current greenhouse effect makes average global temperatures of 14oC up to 33oC higher than they would have otherwise been. If the effect were a linear one, then I would expect this impact to be 0.7oC. However I would expect the relationship to be a non-linear, with a diminishing marginal impact for each successive increase in the greenhouse forcings. To get to the median IPCC predicted increase of 3.5oC for this century would require huge increasing impact. Maybe climatologists are too lost in their consensus to see the bigger picture provided by data analysis.

 

Quote 3

“Finally, most experts anticipated that over the next 20 years research will be able to achieve only modest reductions in their degree of uncertainty.”

 

Do you want some accurate, scientific, analysis of the climatic instability that will be brought about by rising temperatures, in turn caused by rising CO2? The best experts cannot see this being achieved until long after they retired.

 

The Real Conclusion

The top climate scientists tacitly acknowledge that there is no robust, scientific basis for the climatic instability forecast.

Hat tip: Richard North at EU Referendum

Icelandic Volcanoes – Climate Change in Proportion

Climate Change is not completely wrong. It simply exaggerates the impact rising temperatures, the greenhouse effect on those changes and then ability of human beings to change that.

An (extreme) example is the attempt to link the frequency of volcanic eruptions in Iceland due to the thinning ice caps.

This proposition is “As the ice melts the rock can melt because the pressure decreases,”

Wattsupwiththat try to put this in perspective through a two-step process.

1. Estimate the change in rock temperature melt point as the pressure decreases. This is estimated at 0.0013°C per metre of ice, so the disappearance of the entire 500m thick ice sheet would decrease the melting point of the magma beneath by around 0.5°C, or less than 0.05%. The actual loss is estimated at 10%.

2. In terms  of pressure, 500m of ice is equivalent to 20m or less of rock. However, volcanic eruptions are caused by magma rising to the surface from many kilometres down. 20m of rock is hardly significant in this.

However, the current problem of steam/ash clouds is caused by the magma being rapidly cooled by the ice. So without glaciers we would not have the current problem of planes being grounded.

What is important is the lack of perspective that the researchers have shown.  

Using a research