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Lord Turnbull publishes devastating critique of the Coalition's climate change policies

By Tim Montgomerie 
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Scepticism about climate change takes at least four forms:

  1. Some sceptics don't believe that the climate is changing.
  2. Others believe that climate is changing but it isn't 'man-made'.
  3. Some believe that climate change is happening but they don't believe government action can make a difference.
  4. Some believe that government might be able to make a difference but it's too expensive or risky to try.

Screen shot 2011-05-23 at 19.42.09 The various forms of "denial" are lumped together by those environmental fundamentalists who would discredit any voices of caution about expensive action to combat climate change. Another tactic of the climate change industry is to portray sceptics as fringe characters. That tactic is getting harder especially when figures as serious as Lord Turnbull are joining the sceptics. Lord (Andrew) Turnbull was, until recently, the most senior British civil servant and he's just written a paper for the Global Warming Policy Forum setting out his worries. Download a PDF of his full paper. He expresses many concerns about climate change science but some of his biggest policy concerns are highlighted in extracts below:

Britain should NOT act unilaterally: "Our Climate Change Act imposes legal duties, regardless of what ever else other countries do, or do not do. The UK, producing only 2-3 percent of world CO2 emissions, can have only a minimal effect on the global warming outcome. If we push too hard on decarbonisation by raising the price of carbon through a range of instruments we will suffer double jeopardy. Energy-using industries will migrate and, if the climate pessimists are right, we will still have to pay to adapt, e.g. by raising our flood defences."

Are we right to try and stop global warming or should scarce resources be invested in adaption? "Policy has been based on a preponderantly warmist view of the world. Many such as the Institution of Civil Engineers think that too little attention has been paid to adaptation, i.e. being more resilient whichever way the sum of natural forces and CO2 takes us, up or down."

Expensive wind power enjoys favoured status in EU energy policy: "The logical economist’s approach is to rank policy responses according to the cost per tonne of CO2 abated and then work through the merit order, starting with the most effective. Or, what amounts to the same thing, set a price on carbon and then let the various technologies – gas, coal with CCS, nuclear, wind, tidal, energy efficiency etc, fight it out for market share. But the EU Renewables Obligation is the denial of this logic. One particular set of technologies, and especially wind, has been given a guaranteed market share and a guaranteed indexed price, regardless of how competitive it is. The current pursuit of wind power is folly. Its cost per kWh substantially exceeds that of other low carbon sources such as nuclear when account is taken of intermittency and the cost of extending the grid far from where consumers are located."

The Liberal Democrats' objections to nuclear power are inconsistent: "The Secretary of State at Department of Energy and Climate Change has called nuclear a tried, tested and failed technology. It may be that in the UK historically it has not been as successful as it might have been but it has for 50 years provided around 20 percent of our electricity reliably, competitively and safely. Just 20 miles from our coast France has produced over 2/3rds of its electricity from nuclear and regards this as a great success... There is something profoundly illogical in Nick Clegg’s demand that nuclear power can only go ahead in the UK if it receives no public subsidy whatsoever, while at the same time promoting huge subsidies for renewables."

Current subsidies for solar power generation involve a transfer of power from the poor to the rich: "The feed-in tariff mechanism is fast becoming a scandal. Those lucky enough to own buildings large enough on which to install solar panels, or enough land for a wind farm, have been receiving 30-40p per kwh, for electricity, which is retailed at only 11p. The loss is paid for by a levy on businesses and households. It is astonishing that the Liberals who attach such importance to fairness turn a blind eye to this transfer from poor to rich, running to £billions a year. If you live in a council tower block in Lambeth you don’t have much opportunity to get your nose into this trough. The good news is that, at last, the government is beginning to cut back on subsidies to large solar operators, following the trend set in Germany and Spain."

The shale revolution: "There is a major new development which fits the description of a disruptive technology, that is the introduction of new drilling techniques which make it possible to extract gas from shale[4]. This has dramatically widened the geographic availability of gas, has produced a massive upgrading of gas reserves and is decoupling gas prices from oil. There is no peak in hydrocarbons. Gas has the advantage that it produces less than half the CO2 that coal produces. So we face a happy prospect that we can replace a lot of coal burning with gas, reduce energy prices, and make a big reduction in CO2 emissions, albeit not the complete decarbonisation sought by some, achieving in effect a dash for gas at the global level."

The Green Jobs Con: "My view is simple. If a technology can justify itself without massive subsidy we should build up our research and our skills. But if a technology exists only by virtue of subsidy we only impoverish ourselves by trying to build jobs on such shaky foundations."


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