As governments – our own included – start to throw around climate change commitments like confetti, I think it’s time for some honest talk. I am no Green skeptic and I think a) we can get to net zero within the next few decades and b) we should do. I think the evidence on the possible changes that our current path of increased emissions will have on the global ecosystem are so worrying that even if we think the worst scenarios are less than likely, we shouldn’t take the gamble. Besides, there will be many advantages to moving in the suggested direction, not least in terms of clean air for instance.
BUT we also need to be realistic and speak to some home truths. As coverage becomes increasingly unhinged from practicalities and overtaken by political and moral rhetoric we need to acknowledge a few awkward facts.
- The Left has hijacked Climate change and the Green Deal to spout nonsense about tens of millions of Green new jobs, which will replace all those dirty fossil fuel jobs. It sounds great on paper but there is almost no evidence it is true. We will lose tens of millions of well-paid, skilled, blue-collar jobs and they won’t be permanently replaced by solar panel fitters and such like. The Left risks running into the same trap that we liberal’s made around deindustrialization. We project a shiny new future for high-paid jobs but we deliver only low-paid service jobs – or no jobs at all. It strikes me that we are all collectively deluding ourselves that the US shale industry – a huge source of well-paid jobs – will find employment in these shiny electric-powered industries. And that dear reader that will create a massive blue-collar backlash.
- Industrial uses are a hard nut to crack. It’s absolutely right that we are going after the low-hanging fruit in terms of technological advances, especially with the grid and electric cars. But we are all kidding ourselves if we think that the myriad links between heavy industry (concrete, chemicals and beyond) and the hydrocarbon complex have sensible replacement technologies. Bill Gates has rightly drawn attention to this -instead of pumping endless squillions into fine-tuning car batteries might we focus instead on spending – and wasting – money on these industrial alternatives.
- There’s much-excited talk about getting to a 100% renewable grid. Great. But how are we going to get from say 75% to 100%, without nuclear power. I have had lots of debates with nuclear skeptics and I acknowledge their criticisms but it strikes me that we need a final 20% of solid, reliable baseload power that only nuclear can generate. If not, how do we get there exactly?
- The commentator Noah Smith, of Noahpinion has rightly castigated the economics brigade for harping on about a global carbon tax. For the avoidance of all doubt, it is a great idea and one I think rationally makes huge sense. But it will never happen. It’s a political nonstarter. We can’t even, yet, agree to common standards for taxes such as corporation tax that have been around for decades. Imagine the free-rider challenge presented by countries that refuse to indulge in a carbon tax. Related to this is another fiction. Carbon taxes are sometimes ‘reformulated’ as a tax justice issue. The receipts from extra taxes on invidious activities will be redistributed to the poorer amongst us to compensate them for extra spending – and presumably their lost blue-collar jobs. This may or may not be practicable – I doubt it somehow – but it entertains another delusion, namely that most of us won’t have to pay for the transition. Wrong. We will all face much higher costs in the next 20 to 30 years as we engineer the transition. Politicians should be honest and upfront about the costs (!!).
- Electric cars are a wonderful idea. Just as long as someone else pioneers their use first and puts up with the patchy infrastructure as of now. Where I live in the countryside, there is zero interest – beyond a few Tesla-heads – in electric vehicles, especially four-wheel drives or SUVs. We have all collectively done the maths – on purchase costs, on running costs, on access to charging points – and decided “great idea in another five years time”. ie. the car after next. City folk will probably make the transition earlier but here in the countryside, we’ll be waiting until circa 2026 before we make the leap.
- Air travel. Only last week saw the release of a report which suggested that the wealthier travellers …sorry frequent flyers …will have to bear the burden of extra costs and possibly even curtail their flying. On paper, I have no issue with this but most observers have spotted that many Green activists are actually punting multiple agendas all rolled up in the same policy proposals. Agenda number one is green socialism. The measures discussed are another tool with which to bash the wealthier in society. This has some mileage with some parts of the electorate but only a limited portion in my view. The other, Deep Green, agenda is that many activists simply don’t like consumption or overconsumption as they see it. The sustainability brigade believes with a moral zeal that there are too many planes, too many cars, too much food eaten, too many things in aggregate! As someone who believes in ‘progress’ – whatever that may be after John Gray has savaged it – as well as capitalism, and trusts the innate common sense of most people, I categorically disagree with this view but respect it. But I would wager that if this agenda is wrapped around the suggested changes, the chances of it getting through at the poltical level are around zero. Most folks don’t agree with either hidden/not so hidden agenda and will resent being told that their low cost Ryanair flight is morally unaccpetable.
- Crypto currencies are utterly insane from a climate change point of view. I suspect that there is more interest in climate change reform amongst younger members of the public – rightly, as they’ll inherit the costs – who are also by and large more interested in crypto currencies. This I suggest is a classic case of congnitive dissonance. Crytpos are an utter environmental disaster of epic proportions. We used to say that all the cryptos consumed about the same as Iceland. Last thing I heard it was now Morocoo. Given it five years and it will be something like Switzerland or a few Nordic countries. Are we all collectivley out of our minds !