back to article Britain's costliest mistake? Lord Stern defends his climate maths

As the year winds to a close and a new one begins, it's traditional to think about the future and good resolutions we may be keeping. In particular, we thought it would make sense to take a look at the resolution the UK made a few years ago: to cut carbon emissions on a scale unmatched by any other nation. How's that going, and …

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  1. david 63

    Here's a suggestion...

    ...solve today's problems today. Today's energy problems are fuel poverty and the real risk that the lights will start going out because we have an impending energy gap.

    Whatever fiddling around with spreadsheets you want to do the uncertainties are too great. It's open to both halves of the debate to change a number here or there to make the answer support their arguments. And why they are all arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin the opportunity to address some real problems are passing us by.

    Our descendants will have a better chance of dealing with there problems if they inherit a strong infrastructure and economy. If all the effort that was going into fiddling around with mitigations for a disaster that might not happen had gone into research into, for instance, new ways of using the limited hydrocarbon resources we have we would be in a better position in 100 years.

    It is depressing that this is not going to happen. It seems everyone but Eastern Bloc and China are prepared to sacrifice their futures to the opportunity to keep the populace in fear and dependency.

    BTW, the first person who says 'consensus' loses the argument, K?

    1. Mad Mike

      Re: Here's a suggestion...

      The big problem with all this is understanding the problem. Any attempt to create a solution to an unknown (or not well understood) problem is, at best, a very hit and miss affair. At the moment, we don't really understand the problem at all. Both sides of the argument point at this and that phenomenon and claim it supports their view. Undoubtedly, the recent storms and issues will be caused by man made climate change according to one side and simply natural variance in climate to the other.

      Unless we can truly understand the problem and come up with real proof of what is happening and what this will cause, how can we create a solution? Just about every prediction that is made (on both sides) fails to materialise and then out come all the excuses. Our failure to predict what will happen in a few years time clearly shows just how little we understand the mechanisms etc. behind global climate. So, how can we implement a solution (or at least mitigation). After all, a volcanic eruption or two and all our efforts are put to waste!!

      In the meantime, people are really, really suffering today. These impacts we do know, are provable and can be predicted. Every time energy prices go up, more old people die of hypothermia in their houses etc.etc. Let's deal with these issues now and when we can identify the problem, then try and implement solutions or mitigations. We are causing untold misery now on the basis that something will happen if we don't. The current 'science' is looking thinner and thinner as time goes on and more observations show the predictions aren't happening.

    2. david 63

      Re: Here's a suggestion...

      While, their.

      I only write this stuff, you don't expect me to read it too.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

      There are not two halves to this debate. This is a common "fact" trotted out to deliberately misrepresent the mainstream science position.

      There are two factions, one of which outnumbers the other by about 99 to 1.

      The views do not hold equal weight, however much you might wish otherwise.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        FAIL

        AC, that's a straw-man.

        Climate change itself is not the debate. Yes, it's happening.

        The debate is what we can and should do about it.

        And right now, practically every single thing that's come out of the politicians has been ineffective, expensive and harmful. In some cases it's even increased CO2-equivalent emissions, in all cases it's cost way too much and responsible for deaths - in some cases directly. (Wind power is ****ing dangerous.)

        - People will always min/max any defined-rate subsidy, creating the maximum subsidy for the minimum effort.

        The subsidies for solar PV and wind installations have just cranked up the cost of energy, with very little effect on actual CO2-equivalent or and none whatsoever on climate change.

        Had the same money been spent on research, or even simply insulating homes, we'd be in a much better situation!

        1. Hans 1 Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: AC, that's a straw-man.

          @Richard12

          I agree with most of what you say, which one could summarize as follows: The greenest/cleanest watt is the watt you saved.

          But saying that wind power is dangerous is ridiculous - it is not the safest energy source, but is way safer than the sources we use to get 80+% of our energy - shit, other sources are not even in the same galaxy, let alone league, except solar energy of course.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge
            Flame

            @Hans 1- Wind is very dangerous.

            Have you ever seen a wind turbine? Ever been to the top of one?

            Building and maintaining a wind turbine requires complex work-at-height in a location deliberately chosen to have high winds, be far from habitation (thus rescue/hospital) and nearly always in places where the weather and visibility are highly changeable. On top of that, there's also the additional power lines that must be run out to the installations.

            Offshore wind is far, far worse, but not included in the data up to 2007. (Few to no plants online.)

            Rooftop Solar PV was unfortunately worse, as again it's work at height, and unfortunately the workers tend to be less well trained and protected and so have more accidents.

            As of 2007, rooftop Solar PV, Hydroelectric and Wind were the three biggest direct killers per unit of energy generated.

            If you include deaths due to mining/extraction accidents and estimates of deaths due to particulates, coal comes out as the most dangerous (mostly due to China mining practice), followed by oil then biofuels, gas, hydro, solar PV and wind. Nuclear is the safest by an order of magnitude.

            Exclude China, and coal becomes safer than oil and hydro becomes safer than wind (mostly due to one accident in China that killed 171,000). Presumably China will slowly come down to this 'rest-of-world' level as their workforce safety improves.

            Wind turbines are however getting more dangerous, as new ones are being built in 'marginal' conditions - eg offshore.

            1. roger stillick
              Go

              Re: @Hans 1- Wind is very dangerous.

              Being afraid of heights makes you get a job on the ground... the average lineman probably gets hurt more often than a Hydro, Wind or Solar PV worker who hardly ever go out during a storm to fix anything...cross country transmission lineman get dropped off by Copter, on the line to be repaired...fun in the sun...

              Deaths from energy use is similar to deaths due to civilization...folks die...

              IMHO= what the problem really asks is how many will die of bad water... lack of sanitary waste facilities... lack of basic all-weather roads... lack of police, fire, and health workers... lack of basic food and shelter... if sensible energy policies don't allow for all of the folks living here to have a chance of simply surviving for another day...WHY are WE doing ANY of this guy's suggestions ??

              Should we maybe try to build out power transmission systems that don't fall over in the average storm of any kind...couple that with whatever Power Plant can work year around to provide this power...have emergency services with vehicles n radios that work in the entire area they cover ?? we should do the simple stuff first...fix the world later...if we are able to...RS.

              1. Richard 12 Silver badge
                Boffin

                @roger stillick - Work at height is dangerous work.

                UK HSE:

                Falls from height remain the most common cause of workplace fatality. In 2008/09 there were 35 fatalities, 4654 major injuries and a further 7065 injuries that caused the injured person to be off work for over 3 days or more, due to a fall from height.

                That's the first thing you're told in work-at-height and harness training.

      2. Ted Treen
        Boffin

        Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

        "There are two factions, one of which outnumbers the other by about 99 to 1. The views do not hold equal weight, however much you might wish otherwise."

        There was a time when those who believed the Earth (and a flat Earth at that) to be the centre of the Universe outnumbered the others by 999 to 1.

        The number of adherents does not in itself give credence to any particular philosophy.

        1. Mike 29

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          Bullshit. Flat earthers are a myth.

        2. silent_count

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          I like how Mr Treen is getting down-votes for stating what is objective fact. It also says a lot about those doing the down-voting that they don't want any inconvenient facts to intrude upon their delusions.

        3. Ted Treen
          Childcatcher

          Re: my earlier post:- 30/12/13 @ 17:47

          Hmmm... 12 thumbs down.

          Since I made no comment, either for or against the Global Warming theories, but just pointed out that the number of proponents does not change the veracity or validity of the argument, then I just suppose that there are many commenters who perhaps:-

          fail in English comprehension

          or

          viscerally react without due consideration

          or

          actually believe that if you get more people onside, it somehow proves your argument.

          or

          any permutation of several or all of the above.

          Nice to see reasoned discourse still rules...

          1. Mad Mike

            Re: my earlier post:- 30/12/13 @ 17:47

            @Ted Treen.

            I know how you feel. People read something, put their spin on it and then either agree or disagree vehemently according to their view on climate change.

            I've simply been saying that we don't really know what's happening or why (which seems a pretty neutral point of view) and that immediately puts me in the anti camp for some reason. Don't know why. I'm simply saying that as pretty much all theories on climate change don't produce verifiable results, our theories seem pretty poor at best. So, we simply don't really know what's happening and what will happen with any degree of certainty at all.

            So, I've then asked whether trying to implement a "cure" for something we don't understand at all is really that wise. If you don't know and understand the problem is it really likely that the "cure" will work as desired?

            This all makes me an anti for the simple reason I'm not agreeing blindly with the pros. I'm not agreeing with the antis either, but that is lost on the pros.........

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          How could anyone downvote the statement that "The number of adherents does not in itself give credence to any particular philosophy"? It's obviously true, and worth saying repeatedly.

          There are two kinds of thinking: honest thinking and wishful thinking. Those who indulge in wishful thinking are prone to believe that "all people are equal, because otherwise it wouldn't be fair". Or "X cannot happen, because that would make me unhappy". Science is supposed to be the distillation of honest thinking: as Richard Feynman put it, "Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves".

          In science, you are not right because you agree with the majority. You are right because you are right, even if not one single other person agrees with you.

          1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

            Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

            "...How could anyone downvote the statement that "The number of adherents does not in itself give credence to any particular philosophy"? It's obviously true, and worth saying repeatedly...."

            It is, indeed, obviously true, at a logical level.

            However, in human society, it is NOT necessarily true. If a lot of people, the vast majority, think one way and you do not, then you have a BIG problem. Throughout recorded history, such a dichotomy has been responsible for many deaths. In such a situation, if you do not quickly persuade yourself that the majority belief is true, then you may not live long. You will certainly suffer some disadvantage.

            Just saying. No pressure...

        5. smartypants

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          "The number of adherents does not in itself give credence to any particular philosophy."

          Rather worryingly, the number of people voting that comment up was almost balanced by the number voting it down!

          What's happening to this once-great readership?

          For those of you who voted it down, please do read up on the fallacy 'Argumentum Ad Populam'

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

          This isn't a matter of debate. Such arguments are logical fallacies and should be shot down in flames on these boards. Please join me in picking up the machine gun and killing it dead.

      3. Mad Mike

        Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

        @Anonymous Coward.

        I would agree that one side outweighs the other in terms of support. However, that doesn't mean they're right!! If you look at history, the right decision has rarely been made in anything. It's always been biased by some outside influence. The question is, what's the outside influence in this case..............

      4. John Diffenthal

        Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

        Although you are clearly trying to avoid the use of the word consensus, numbers behind an argument are completely irrelevant to the quality of their position

        "Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. Michael Crichton - Caltech lecture 'Aliens cause Global Warming, January 2003.

        1. Vociferous

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          > In science consensus is irrelevant

          That is actually completely wrong.

          In every branch of science you have a couple of percent of kooks, people who believe weird things like that animals do not evolve, they just crossbreed (so a platypus literally IS a cross between a duck and a mole). That example is not a joke, there is a real biologist with a PhD and tenure who claims this.

          The reason those kinds of view do not become dogma, is because the majority of scientists disagree. And the reason the consensus doesn't favor animal-crossing-guys theories, is that it doesn't jive with the evidence. The scientific position is determined by the consensus of the experts of the field.

          The situation is exactly the same in climate science.

          1. Mad Mike

            Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

            @Vociferous.

            I think there's two issues with your statement.

            1. Even if the 'scientific position' (whatever that is) is 'determined by the consensus of the experts in the field', it doesn't make them right. As I said earlier, just because a lot of people think something, doesn't make it so. Also, if you look through history, consensus opinion has been wrong more often than right.

            2. What the poster was saying is that there can be the biggest consensus ever on something (even 100%), but unless there is verifiable experimental proof of something, the consensus is irrelevant. Science works on experimental proofs, not a lot of people thinking something is true. There was a scientific consensus about the Higgs Boson, but it wasn't regarded as anything near true until recent experiments seem to show it exists. Consensus without experimental proof is known as theory as we all know how often theories are wrong!! If I could get every expert in the field of physics to believe something, would nature suddenly change to come in line with the theory? According to your consensus theory, it would.

            So, the poster was absolutely right. Consensus in science produces theories, which remain exactly that (a group of people thinking and believing the same thing) until scientific experiments show it. As yet, we have very few scientific experiments that show anything around climate science and the whole area is largely theories. Indeed, almost every attempt to show an experimental proof of anything (such as producing predictions that actually happen) has failed miserably.

            Hence my earlier statements that we really don't have much of a clue about what's happening and why.

            1. stuff and nonesense

              Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

              There is often a misunderstanding regarding the meaning of the word "Theory" as used in scientific literature.

              The phrase "I have a theory that...." would in scientific circles indicate a hypothesis that requires proof.

              A scientific theory is a hypothesis that has been tested. The results (data) indicate that the hypothesis is correct to the required level of tolerance.

              The theory holds until a new better hypothesis is tested and verified.

              1. Uffish

                Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

                I have a theory that science has nothing much to do with the push to measure / avoid / reduce / mitigate / benefit from global warming. It's just a fig leaf for a political policy.

            2. Vociferous

              Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

              @Mad Mike:

              1) Outside mathematics and theoretical physics, no one knows what The Truth(tm) is. We can only know what our interpretation of the preponderance of evidence tells us.

              2) "verifiable experimental proof" is not a magical bullet in any science which care about historical events. No astronomer can ever recreate the birth of a star, much less the big bang; no paleontologist can have a dinosaur fossilize in the lab. Finding the Higgs boson was important because there were several competing alternative theories, and evidence (such as finding something which fits the description of the Higgs) is how you select which one to believe in.

              3) Everything in science is hypothesis, theory, or interpretation of observations. Contrary to popular myth theories (such as the Earth is flat, the Aether, the Geocentric world view or the alternatives to Higgs such as the Preon) weren't disproven, they were abandoned because more evidence supported the competing theory. That is, the consensus no longer favored them.

              In Science it is always the consensus of experts which determines which theory is considered right. There is no other mechanism for doing so. Even something like quantum theory or that hereditary material is DNA, took decades to get accepted, to become the consensus view of the scientists in the field. And there's STILL scientists who disagree.

              1. Mad Mike

                Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

                @Vociferous.

                I'm afraid you're doing it again!!

                'which theory is considered right'!! So, it's considered right, but actually that is based solely on the number of people believing it. Therefore, you're happy to 'believe' something based on no experimental evidence at all?

                Scientists work in Sigmas (effectively probability of being right). No climate science has passed even the lowest levels of this let alone levels required to be considered 'right' and therefore fact. If you were to talk with physicists about the sigma levels achieved by climate science, they would laugh you out the room. Climate science is constantly being sold as 'fact', but it hasn't even reached the sigma levels to even be probable let alone anywhere near 'fact'.

                Until all these scientists you speak of can get it somewhere near 5-Sigma, everything they say is at best a guess. It doesn't matter how many of them there are, it's still a guess.

                Same applies to the antis as well of course. Their science is no better, so again, they're guessing.

                And all this means, we don't really know what's happening and from that, what will happen.

                The consensus can be as large as you like, but until they get to 3,4 or 5-Sigma, claiming anything simply makes them bad scientists.

                1. Vociferous

                  Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

                  > ou're happy to 'believe' something based on no experimental evidence at all?

                  Sure, I am quite happy to believe in dinosaurs and the big bang, no problem. Neither have any experimental evidence whatsoever.

                  You're naively hung up on experiments, what you SHOULD care about is observations and what can be inferred from them.

                  > Scientists work in Sigmas

                  No, they don't.

              2. Peter2 Silver badge

                Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

                Contrary to popular myth theories (such as the Earth is flat <snip> weren't disproven, they were abandoned because more evidence supported the competing theory.

                No. Just no. The theory that the earth is flat has been decisively disproven. First by first sailing around the planet without falling off the edge and secondly by putting satellites in space that fly around the earth, which has been proven beyond any doubt to be more or less spherical if you ignore the slight flat bits at the poles and the slight bulge at the equator. No belief in this is required, you just have to do something like sail around the planet, look at a photo of earth from space or do your own experiments such as el regs own PARIS project (Paper Aeroplane Released Into Space) which reached a sufficiently high altitude to show the earth is curved.

                Science is not, and should not be a religion. Personally, I don't believe in "science". I believe in the scientific process. Science does not demand belief, it demands your eyes. The scientific process is quite simply a formalised method of someone wondering "what happens if you do x" and recording the results so that somebody else can repeat them to confirm they got it right.

                A theory is looking at a set of results and then coming up with a possible explanation, which can then be proven or disproved by rational analysis and observation, to the point that something can then be proven by doing something like sailing around the planet or launching a paper aeroplane with a camera into space, thus proving that the planet does not have edges that you can fall off.

                1. Vociferous

                  Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

                  > The theory that the earth is flat has been decisively disproven

                  No, it hasn't. How have you ruled out the possibility that all who sailed around the world didn't hallucinate? How do you know the entire world isn't lying to you? Ridiculously tiny possibilities yes, but nonzero.

                  Absolute disproof does not exist outside mathematics and theoretical physics, because all observations are to some degree subjective and all theories are ultimately based on at least one unevidenced assumption. This is philosophy of science 101, guys, seriously, look it up.

        2. JohnMurray

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=b240PGCMwV0

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          Yes but the thing you're forgetting is that Michael Crichton was a swivel eyed lunatic.

      5. PyLETS

        Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

        Depends whether you count the number of reputable scientists on both sides, or the number of lobbyist dollars. Clue: you won't get the same disparity of opinion with one of these measurements as you will with the other.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          Unfortunately, what is understood by "reputable scientists" may have a great deal to do with lobbyist dollars (in the broad sense, including for instance media exposure and official recognition).

          By the time a scientist has become thoroughly reputable in the eyes of the establishment, it's often been quite a while since he did any original research or had an original thought.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

        however your 99-1 still cannot explain a 10+ year temperature plateau, cannot explain a growing winter ice field, cannot explain why the cure should cost 20 times the amount that the disease would and relies on ad hominem attacks referring to 'deniers' (if we deny MMGW 3 times do we get to have a windmill named after us) and 'scepitcs' as though we are all just doing the chicken little dance, although it is that 99-1 faction that seem to be running round going 'the sky is falling' and if you try and give us facts that don't fit our /grant/ hypothesis we are going to call you names and cover our ears and say you're holding the planet wrong.

        1. John Hughes
          WTF?

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          Why should those of us who have a clue waste our time explaining your bizzaro world fantasies?

          "Growing winter ice field"?

          What the fuck does that even mean?

        2. Hideki

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          the ice fields are not growing, they've shrunk for years and grown a bit this year, these sorts of small variations from the trend are to be expected.

          Also, there is no debate, anthropogenic global warming is a fact and given the massive latency any mitigation efforts will have to contend with it's not to early to start.

          Short answer, the sky /is/ falling and if we don't do something about it now, we're stuffed.

          1. peter_dtm

            Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

            Hideki - did you think to include the SOUTHERN hemisphere in your figures ?

            you know; of course that the ANTARTIC is currently 2 standard deviations ABOVE average ?

            or how about the TOTAL ice cover for the entire planet - - oops that's about the same as it has been for the whole of the record - which of course doesn't even go as far back as the 1950s when a US submarine surfaced at the North Pole.

            We DON'T actualy know what the ice cover is on average EXCEPT over the last few years.

            Just like we don't actually know what the earth's average temperature is - but we do know as an absolute piece of empirical science is that it VARIES naturaly. We don't know how or why in detail - we have some theories that appear to explain some long term trends - but we still have no idea what triggers an ice age or an interglacial.

            Here's another importent piece of empiracl evidence you can prove all by your self - Life does better when it is warmer not when it is colder.

            Lowest temperature on earth - -93C

            Hotest temperature on earth - +58 (might be a bit higher)

            where is OUR comfort zone - ~20C

            So why the panic ? I still fail to see why we can be worried over a couple of degrees warmer - unless you don't believe in science that is (ever heard of Darwin & Survival of the fitest?); life will adapt - just like it always does therough all the climate variations that have ever happened.

            disprove the null hypothisis (its natural mate; natural) using empirical observarions not models. Models ain't worth spit; not even simple models of simple systems (like refinaries or economies); for predicting real world outcomes. When there is empirical proof that some other hypothisis explains what is happening BETTER than the null hypotesis; then and only then should any one bother to take any notice.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          Yes it can, yes it can, that's not true, no it doesn't, no they don't.

          I especially like that fact you ended with a thinly disguised ad hominem. Well done.

      7. Darryl

        Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

        AC didn't say 'consensus', he said 'mainstream', so that's OK, right?

      8. WalterAlter

        Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

        If the science is "settled" then it isn't science, it's that simple. The global warming (or climate change, take your pick) religious fanatics understand that if they were doing science, their raw data would be made public and there would be debate on all GW "proofs" until common usage eventually rendered either GW or anti-GW into the dustbin of history. The GW imperative to create a vaporware speculative financial instrument, i.e., carbon futures, should hint at who is behind this trip to the laundry. Their hysteric ideologically polarized hallucinations have managed to break every rule of science and objectivity in the book. All the primary evidence in mafia capo Al Gore's celluloid chimera have been shown to be nothing more than the fevered manipulations of data never made available to the general scientific community for confirmation. Manipulated and discredited data, manipulated and discredited photographs, manipulated and discredited public hysteria, manipulated and discredited scientific literature...the whole mess needs the rigor of a forensic audit

        Earth's weather is solar driven, period. One can only hope the the GW fanatics manage to engineer themselves into a Solar Temple/Raelian reverie.

        1. John Hughes

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          > Earth's weather is solar driven, period. One can only hope the the GW fanatics manage to engineer themselves into a Solar Temple/Raelian reverie.

          This is just ignorant. Show me a correlation between *any* solar parameter and average temperatures.

          Of course the energy comes from the sun. But how much energy stays in the system is not due to the sun.

          1. Phil.T.Tipp

            Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

            "This is just ignorant. Show me a correlation between *any* solar parameter and average temperatures."

            I d i o t.

            I spelt it slowly so you'd understand, John Hughes.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          > Earth's weather is solar driven, period.

          That's the biggest load of bull anyone in this entire thread has written.

          And that's up against some pretty stiff opposition.

          At one point obviously true on the other utterly, utterly pointless and so dishonest to be laughable.

          You might as well say the Earth's weather is entirely Big Bang driven.

          "Well, when the sun goes into a red giant, the Earth will be vaporised, if we put that point on a graph, here... we can see that barring the occasion statistical noise the Earth's weather is entirely solar driven. That concludes the lecture I will now be selling tin foil hats in the foyer."

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

            > Earth's weather is solar driven, period.

            That's the biggest load of bull anyone in this entire thread has written.

            Admiral Fitzroy, best known for Captaining HMS Beagle, where he invited a bloke called Charles Darwin along for company and less well known for founding what later became the Met Office (which is why the Met Office head office happens to be on Fitzroy Road) was convinced up until his dying day that solar activity had an effect on the weather and there is plenty of scientific research which supports this view.

            Was he right? No idea. It's quite possible though so possibly not the best idea to declare that it's impossible.

      9. Tom 13

        Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

        Mainstream science was booted out of the room well before Mann should have been sent to the penalty box for high sticking.

        1. depicus

          Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

          The problem isn't climate control but one of population control.

      10. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

        "There are two factions"

        Benchley's Law of Distinction: There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don't.

      11. Vociferous

        Re: one small problem : "both halves of the debate"

        > however much The Reg might wish otherwise

        FTFY.

    4. stratofish

      Re: Here's a suggestion...

      >> ...solve today's problems today.

      I like this line of thinking and think it can be expanded to a more general use.

      I'll skip paying my heating and credit card bills from before today (where 'today' is always the present day) so that I can solve my current need for a PS4 and a holiday. My descendants being warm and unburdened by material goods will be in a much better position to pay off my debts! Or they will just carry on kicking the can down the road and not bother doing anything about it either...

      1. Boring Bob

        Re: Here's a suggestion...

        "My descendants being warm and unburdened by material goods will be in a much better position to pay off my debts! Or they will just carry on kicking the can down the road and not bother doing anything about it either..."

        Nothing new here, this is how national debt works. Anyway, scientists will have figured out nuclear fusion by 2200, so what is there to worry about?

    5. Katie Saucey
      Trollface

      Re: Here's a suggestion...

      'BTW, the first person who says 'consensus' loses the argument, K?

      'consensus''consensus''consensus''consensus''consensus'! Rats, well, I didn't feel like arguing today an anyway.

    6. arctic_haze Silver badge

      Re: Here's a suggestion...

      What exactly do you mean by "Eastern Bloc" in context of the 21th century? Are you sure your Tardis is well calibrated?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Here's a suggestion...

        Actually "Eastern Bloc" never made any sense. Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan... all nations with drastically diverse cultures, histories, and interests. There was a "Soviet Bloc", but that was far from being "eastern", as half of it was in Europe.

        Which brings me to that moronic term "the West". What on earth is that supposed to mean? In truth, it's a phrase used to conceal rather than reveal: apparently it means something like "the USA and its followers". What is constituted by "the West"? Presumably the USA, Canada, the UK, much of Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I defy you to name any place on earth that is "East" of that lot - given that the Pacific is more reasonably thought of as "West" of the USA and Canada.

        I once saw an article written by an establishment journalist (the sort of guy Paul Craig Roberts refers to as a "presstitute") which criticized the government of Ecuador and warned that it had better improve its relations with "the West". But actually, Washington DC is EAST of Quito - although the obvious spatial separation between them is north-south.

  2. Chris Miller

    The other point at which compound interest has an enormous influence on these arguments is in estimating future levels of CO2 emissions. For want of a better methodology, such projections mostly base a 'do nothing' scenario on some underlying growth rate with a proportionate increase in associated emissions. But that is to make two enormous assumptions: (1) that growth rates of 3% paci can be maintained over a century or two (not a common scenario, looking back over history); and (2) that wealth creating technology 100 years hence will require similar levels of energy and carbon dependency as that of today.

    These assumptions may turn out to be true, but any betting man would give you long odds against it.

    1. Mad Mike

      Indeed so. Predicting the future, especially around technology, is almost impossible. Simply look at predictions of even 20-30 years ago about today, let along 50 years or longer. So, who knows what will happen in the future and what our energy needs will be. Simply look at the energy required for servers of the past against a current server of the same processor power. The difference is astounding.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        The future is bright. The future is fusion coloured.

        "Predicting the future, especially around technology, is almost impossible."

        Oh yes. If there was any accuracy in long-term futureology at all we'd all have flying cars, personal jet packs, colonies on the Moon and Mars and be mining asteroids and comets for raw materials as well as fusion power plants so efficient it's not worth metering the consumer electricity usage.

        Coat. ---------------------------->

        Yes, that's right, the invisibility one.

      2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

        Or look at the famous "horseshit crisis" of the late 19h century.

        E.g., http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/the-great-horse-manure-crisis-of-1894 (or any of multiple links that Google finds)

      3. John Hughes
        Flame

        But, bizzarely, every estimate of future emissions has been to *low* not too high.

      4. Naughtyhorse

        true for tech...

        for generation - not so much.

        Here's a graph showing consumption since the war:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:UK_Historical_Net_Electricity_supplied.PNG

        It's pretty linear-ish. kit gets more efficient.... we get more kit.

        Trouble here is that the decisions are being made by politicians, with a 5 year time constant. If planning was carried out by academia & engineers then we would have sorted this out decades ago.

    2. NomNomNom

      We are in a plane primarily powered by coal, oil and gas. The faster we shovel in the coal, the higher the plane goes. If we go too high the climate is boned and on the flipside if we run out of fuel before we have developed alternatives the plane will come crashing down.

      Faced with this situation humans have come up with a brilliant plan. Coal, oil and gas are to be used at an increased rate, as fast as we can find it. Up we go! This ensures three things:

      -we are more likely to bone the climate

      -we will run out of fuel sooner and so have less time to develop alternatives

      -we will be higher when we run out of fuel

      It's the kind of wise plan that you'd expect from an intelligent forward planning species. Future generations will marvel at our savvy.

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        What is this climate change nonsense of which you speak? Don't you realise it's simply an EVIL SOCIALIST PLOT to RAISE TAXES and MAKE EVERYONE POOR?

        Well yeah - that 'ability to predict the future' thing we're supposed to be able to do as humans, and which makes us better and smarter than animals.

        Apparently markets (and the vested interests who fix them) are the best possible way to make sure that useful prediction can't happen.

        A smarter reading of Stern would suggest that he knows this.

        Tragically there are still people incapable of joined-up science - the ones who believe that 10 cm of sea level rise means nothing, when in fact you only get 10cm of sea level after a lot of other things have happened.

        Such as massive flooding because of increased rainfall, for example:

        Number of flood events by continent and decade since 1950

      2. Mad Mike

        @NomNomNom.

        But isn't that exactly what we're trying not to do. We're trying desperately to burn less and less (in this country at least) by spending huge amounts of money on other means of generation etc. The question is do we need to burn less. Long term, yes. It's a finite resource. At some point it will run out. What's being postulated now though, is that the climate will kill us before we run out. Hence, we need to stop using it, not to conserve it, but to stop something happening to the climate, even though we don't really know what that is.

      3. Rol Silver badge

        The plane will never run out of fuel, as the captain and his crew will do as has always been done, burn the poor until an equilibrium between weight and fuel required has been re-established. The game is to make as much money, regardless of moral cost, to ensure a first class seat no matter what the asking price.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @NomNomNom

        "Future generations will marvel at our savvy."

        I doubt it. They will marvel at your scientific ignorance.

        "If we go too high the climate is boned..."

        The climate is fine. Even taking the IPCC sensitivity estimates of 2-3C is largely positive. That warming takes around 100 years to work through the system.

        "...and on the flipside if we run out of fuel before we have developed alternatives the plane will come crashing down."

        We have 800 to 3,000 years of shale gas. I think that is long enough to develop an alternative. That plan is better than your plan - which appears to be wetting the bed and waving your arms around.

    3. Mike Street

      Indeed.

      In the 20th century, global temps rose by about 0.7 deg C, sea levels by about 17 cms. If there were any deleterious effects from this, they were wiped out many times by the advances in technology, by changes in population density and distribution, and by improvements in governments (especially in China, but elsewhere too).

      It seems reasonable to expect that these the scale of these changes will be at least as great in this century - probably greater. This will completely overwhelm, whether for good or ill, any supposed harm caused by a few degrees of warming.

      In other words, unless a catastrophe is really in the offing, and the IPCC says otherwise, then all our efforts should be aimed at increasing global trade and growth, thus lifting millions more out of poverty. Green policies which seek to prevent this - which is all of them - should be abandoned immediately.

      1. proto-robbie
        Pirate

        @Mike Street: No, don't agree

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't "growth" dependent on using the planet's resources faster than they can recover (otherwise it wouldn't be growth) and/or making a profit by plundering or underpaying for other materials, from the nations you want to help?

        NomNomNom's point is well made: Indefinite growth is not sustainable, and the current high growth rate of China in particular is coming at great cost to Africa and South America.

        1. Charles Manning

          re: " high growth rate of China in particular is coming at great cost to Africa..."

          These arguments are complete bullshit for many reasons:

          1) Pulling up the ladder: Europe used Africa, as well as coal etc, to "get ahead". Now when China, Africa, India et al want to use coal to advance their economies it is all bad, bad bad.

          If the west wants to tell the rest of the world to save the rain forests etc and forgo economic growth for the sake of the planet, then perhaps Europe should set an example. Tear down the cities in Europe, dig up productive agricultural areas, stop using energy and replant with the original pristine wilderness that was there before the humans screwed it all up.

          2) "Great cost to Africa". That is surely a huge myth. Where is there any proof that Africa has been disadvantaged by China or Europeans that came before? Over the last 100 years Africa is healthier (live longer), more wealthy, eat better and are better educated than ever before.

          Instant disqualification if you mention slavery as an example of whites disadvantaging blacks. Slavery existed in Africa long before the white man ever turned up. Slavery in Africa has never been whites capturing and selling blacks. It was black slave traders finding they could get better prices from white slave buyers than black slave buyers. When slavery came to an end in Europe/America the slave trade in Africa continued - into the 20th century.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @ Charles Manning

            "Instant disqualification if you mention slavery as an example of whites disadvantaging blacks. Slavery existed in Africa long before the white man ever turned up. Slavery in Africa has never been whites capturing and selling blacks. It was black slave traders finding they could get better prices from white slave buyers than black slave buyers. When slavery came to an end in Europe/America the slave trade in Africa continued - into the 20th century."

            You neglected to mention the existence of Arab slaving in Africa beginning a thousand years before the Europeans arrived.

          2. Dr Stephen Jones

            @Charles Manning

            "Now when China, Africa, India et al want to use coal to advance their economies it is all bad, bad bad."

            Exactly. Greens don't want Africa to develop, and are trying to do everything they can to stop it developing.

            So Africa suffers high mortality rates and malnutrition, and suffers unnecessarily from natural disasters, because white Guardian readers / NPR listeners feel guilty about their iPads.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Mike Street: No, don't agree

          I find it actually terrifying - not just profoundly depressing - that any readers of The Register need to be told that "Indefinite growth is not sustainable". Isn't it intuitively obvious to anyone with any intelligence at all? You don't even need any mathematical or scientific training to see it.

          1. Naughtyhorse

            Re: Indefinite growth is not sustainable

            Yet it is a fundamental part of the business strategy at the companies that pretty much all of us work for. And a common strategy employed by every government for the last 30 years.

            Whatever we achieved last year, next year we can do better.

            go figure

        3. Dr Stephen Jones

          @Proto-Rabble

          "Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't "growth" dependent on using the planet's resources faster than they can recover (otherwise it wouldn't be growth) "

          You're wrong.

          Economic growth is simply the monetary value of goods and services. But to makes these goods and services we use fewer natural resources all the time as our technology advances. We don't need to chop down trees for firewood, kill whales for their blubber, soon we won't need to dig out coal. We need less land to grow food. Much of this can "return to nature". You will know all this is true by looking out of the window.

          Basically, your philosophy is a medieval pre-scientific one. Consider yourself corrected.

      2. chris 17

        There where also 2 declared world wars, the Korean & Vietnam wars, cold war Soviet and west invasions of Afghanistan , the Gulf wars (not forgetting Suez, Bosnia, Falklands and other skirmishes) that released untold numbers of green house accelerants and other pollutants. Just not going to war will have a dramatic reduction in green house emissions.

        Peace in our time may be the answer, should save some cash to pay for research into making better use of the resources we currently have. If we can send a man to the moon and split an atom to prove a point, surely we can find better ways to collect and use energy for our needs

        1. 9Rune5

          Bomb us back to the stone age please

          "Peace in our time may be the answer"

          I thought war was mostly three parts waiting around mixed with one part of adrenalinerushed angst and horror?

          The temperature charts I've seen indicates a "pause" during WWII. With all men caught up in the logistics of war, there's less activity back home mixed with tight rationing.

          And finally, a decently-sized war means culling the number of people jumping up and down on this planet. Each individual exhales half a ton CO2 each year by merely existing -- not to mention climate gases released when breaking wind.

          I think war in our time would be the answer. If we seriously believe our tiny fraction of the trace amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere has any meaningful impact that is. (rolling eyes)

          Climatology is leading us down a very dark path.

          1. Charles Manning

            Re: Bomb us back to the stone age please

            "a "pause" during WWII"

            Bollocks.

            If anything, agricultural and industrial activity in UK and many other places **increased** to feed the needs of war.

            Besides, 6 years is not long enough period to measure any useful climate data.

            Here's an analogy. Go to the beach and do an instantaneous measurement of where the water meets the sand. Five minutes later do another. Now from those you really cannot tell whether the tide is going in or out. Even though tide is a huge change over the long term, there is so much natural short term variation that there is no way to draw any sensible conclusions from anything.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Bomb us back to the stone age please

            " a decently-sized war means culling the number of people jumping up and down on this planet."

            HIstory has repeatedly shown that any such cull or dieback is more than made up within 2 generations. It's a stopgap method at best.

            The single largest step towards cutting CO2 emissions to encourage people to have fewer children and ironically that's best achieved by lifting the poor out of poverty (Why? Because that bowl of cereal on your table has about the same CO2 cost as a 10 mile drive in a 4x4 - and the cost goes upwards from there)

            1. JohnMurray

              Re: Bomb us back to the stone age please

              Unfortunately the reduction of CO2 by fewer children also leaves a rapidly aging population with fewer ¨workers¨.

              The problem is insoluable without acceptance of one reality: those of an age unable to work and be productive are a burden on those able to work, and on the resources of the planet.

              That, in the near future, is going to be the single largest problem that will be irreconcilable; the best way to get on is to recognise that your parents are the problem.

              1. Mad Mike

                Re: Bomb us back to the stone age please

                @John Murray.

                The problem isn't so much your parents, but the lies that have been perpetrated by decades of politicians. Towards the beginning of the 20th century, you would have been unlikely to have a retirement unless you were very wealthy and lucky (as in living that long!!). Then, more people reach retirement age and had a few years (as in maybe a max of 5). This was potentially sustainable. Reaching the current day, people have been told by the politicians that they should have a retirement and it should generally be pretty long. Given average retirement age now, something like 20 years.

                This whole lie that's been told us by politicians has resulted in two things. Firstly, a great strain on taxes and pension funds (whether private or public etc.) in how to fund these non-productive people. Secondly, a lot of people using resources without producing any real, significant output. Both of these issues will have to be faced one day. The former has been half-heartedly tackled by the latest government, although the measures are nowhere near extreme enough. The latter has been swept under the carpet by everyone.

                We simply have to realise that either no retirement or a few years at best (5 years max) is probably the best anyone can reasonably have. The days of 20 year (or more) retirements were delusional. Trying to get the general population to understand this, is going to be some task!!

                1. Naughtyhorse

                  Re: Bomb us back to the stone age please

                  errr..

                  the demographic time-bomb is what you are talking about, it's to do with the ratio of producers to consumers driving the levels of contributions and benefits. it's been well understood since the 50's (when barbara carthorse was employment minister) and in common with my prior post in this thread it's to do with the fundamental weakness in leaving the planning for _any_ long term project in the hands of politicians.

                  In the old days when said politicos had some form of fundamental belief (marxist, monetarist didnt really matter, they believed in something) this was bad enough - but the modern trend toward career political managers makes it 100 times worse. For these dickheads there is absolutely no point whatsoever in spending money now to make the job of the next guy easier.

                  case in point HSR - it's all about construction contracts with little or no concern for the long term benefits or otherwise.

                  what should have happened with pensions is contribution levels should have slowly increased over the last 40 years and the retirement age should have been gradually increased. The equation can be made to balance - in the absence of massive changes in population growth - but it requires pain now to buy gain 30 years down the road. Our political systems cannot deliver that.

                  1. Mad Mike

                    Re: Bomb us back to the stone age please

                    @Naughtyhorse.

                    "what should have happened with pensions is contribution levels should have slowly increased over the last 40 years and the retirement age should have been gradually increased. "

                    I agree totally. As contribution rates cannot increase forever upwards, people simply have to accept that retirement years cannot continue upwards forever. There is a maximum ratio between work years and retirement years. The problem was obvious decades ago (as you say), but short-sighted politicians could ignore it for their careers, so why deal with giving the bad news!! Now, we've got to the point where we have to face it, but are still doing too little, too late.

                    The desire to be a politician should prevent you from ever being one......

            2. Charles Manning

              Re: Bomb us back to the stone age please

              "HIstory has repeatedly shown that any such cull or dieback is more than made up within 2 generations."

              Has it really?

              It was certainly the case for WWW1 and WW2, but that is because there were other huge changes at the time. Rapid advances in energy, transport, medicine and agriculture - all independent of the war - gave rise to rapid population growth through the 1900s.

              Now that agricultural technology & medicine etc are largely stagnated, perhaps a good old ding-dong war might have an impact.

              1. Mad Mike

                Re: Bomb us back to the stone age please

                @Charles Manning.

                Many of the changes that came about during and after the wars were a direct result of them. Medicine surged forward due to the injuries suffered by combatants. This is even happening today with big advances in artificial limbs due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Transport surges forward due to the need to keep troops supplied, make 'better' bombers, fighters, tanks etc.etc. Agriculture moves forward due to the need to feed everyone... etc.etc.

                So, if you want to move technology forward, a good war is a start!!

                1. TimNevins

                  Re: Bomb us back to the stone age please

                  Tell that to the relatives of those who've died that its for the best. Preferably on Veteran's Day.

                  Let me know how it works out.

                  1. Mad Mike

                    Re: Bomb us back to the stone age please

                    Maybe I should have attached the right icon to my posting, but I wasn't actually being serious. It's true that technology moves forward much faster during wartime and you only have to look at those during the 20th century to see that. It's for many reasons, but all based around need.

                    That's not to say I think the needless slaughter because two politicians (often) can't agree on something is worth it.

  3. bigtimehustler

    I am not so much shocked that his figures are crazy, he had an agenda to push regardless of what he claims now. What is most disgusting is that the government would make such a huge decision based on what report without sourcing a few different ones or peer reviewing the one you have had made. It just shows total incompetence, or worse that it matched the politicians agenda at the time so they didn't care it was rubbish. Either way, it shows things need to change in the way the country is run currently and the way such important decisions are made.

    1. Tom 13

      @ bigtimehustler

      There are critically important caveats on peer review. The most important one is that the reviewers are neutral with respect to results, or at least the legal framework of equal numbers of non-neutral parties are involved. In some ways it not having been peer-reviewed is a blessing. Even at the time the pool of possible reviewers was corrupted by politics.

      1. bigtimehustler

        Re: @ bigtimehustler

        Well, because it is important to choose the reviewers sensibly, does not mean its a good decision to have none because you can't be bothered to find the right ones. The likelihood that the one report writer you have is biased, either towards your point of view (most likely because you chose him) or against is far likely than 10 separate people.

        The argument is of course pointless, because we all know why one person was chosen, it precisely because this report was what the government was looking for.

    2. JP19

      "the government would make such a huge decision based on what report without sourcing a few different ones or peer reviewing"

      You seem to have the impression that politicians are vaguely competent and care about anything more than looking good and getting elected.

      They wanted a huge windmill so they could look good tilting at it. They commissioned a report that gave them one, why would they look further?

      I remember at the time thinking it was a huge international willy waving competition to see who could wear the hairiest vest, except it was us that had to wear the vest not them. Nu-Lab being the biggest pack of wankers in the world found winning easy.

    3. Charles Manning

      In a democracy, the voters choose who they get and thus ultimately the policies they get. The voters are not capable of operating scientifically, but instead want policies that fit their pre-conceived thoughts.

      The decision was made long before any reports were written.

      Expecting any due diligence or scientifically driven methods misunderstands how democracies work.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Strategy laundering

      "What is most disgusting is that the government would make such a huge decision based on what report without sourcing a few different ones or peer reviewing the one you have had made".

      Without digging into the facts of this specific case, I strongly suspect that the Stern Review was heavily skewed in the direction of unjustifiable optimism because that is what the government that commissioned it wanted to hear. It's the same in government as in business. When the management want to take a potentially questionable or risky course, rather than do so and take responsibility themselves, they often hire "consultants" or "experts" to give what is supposed to be their informed, impartial recommendations. Then the management can implement those recommendations, and if everything goes pear-shaped they have plausible deniability. "We only did what the reputable experts said we should do".

      The part that is often missed is the sleight of hand: behind the scenes, in true "Sir Humphrey at the club" fashion, the outside experts are told what to recommend. It's basically a form of "strategy laundering".

    5. Naughtyhorse

      I hate to piss on your chips mate,

      This is pretty much how all government decisions are made.

      Everyone on the greasy pole is well aware of the thoughts of the next one up the pole on any given subject, and makes good and sure that they never ever do anything to piss said upper pole squatter off.

      You bet your arse it's immoral. but not illegal.

      Exactly the same deal as with the dirty digger - you don't think he bothers to actually tell his flunkies what to write. he dosent need to, they write the wrong words, he can find someone who will write the correct ones tomorrow.

      not censorship - it's allowing the boss the freedom to run his business.

      depressing isnt it, and here's me with a brain the size of a planet and this pain in all the diodes down my left side.......

  4. HereWeGoAgain

    Not untypical

    Get voted out by the electorate, you get made a peer by your crony friends.

    You suck up to government, you get a peerage.

    The UK political system is rotten. Instead of rotten boroughs we simply have a rotten parliament.

  5. Himalayaman

    "Will the “cure" hurt us more than the disease"

    When the disease is slow death.... no.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "When the disease is slow death.... no."

      ...unless the "cure" is a quicker death because you can't afford heating in a sub-zero winter.

    2. Mad Mike

      @Himalayaman.

      "When the disease is slow death.... no.".

      But is that what the disease causes? Indeed, is there even a disease? We don't really know the answer to either of these questions at the moment.

  6. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Good article

    It's always seemed to me that all the climate change arguments are variations of "It's going to be a long winter, should I turn the thermostat down to conserve fuel or should I eat my children?" And one way or the other they always decide to eat the kids - on both sides of the argument.

  7. Alan Denman

    Learn to swim friends.

    Quite obviously it is much cheaper to just let everyone drown everyone in Kent.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Learn to swim friends.

      Personally, I'm saving up for my own oil tanker and a few jetskis.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Learn to swim friends.

        @ John Brown

        That may be a good idea, but it was still a POS movie! :)

        (Not as bad as The Postman, however)

    2. Mad Mike

      Re: Learn to swim friends.

      I think there are a few places more at risk than Kent!! Not least of all, London. Doesn't need that much of a sea level rise to drown London. That's why the Thames barrier is there.........

      Rather than let them drown, would it simply be cheaper and easier to move them to somewhere else?

      1. Naughtyhorse
        Trollface

        Re: drown London

        so not all bad news then

  8. fero

    "The result was quite possibly the most expensive legislation ever passed by Parliament."

    Actually wouldn't the most expensive be Income Tax, introduced in 1799?

    1. Irony Deficient

      the most expensive legislation ever passed by Parliament

      fero, that original income tax act was repealed during the Peace of Amiens. On an inflation-adjusted basis, I’d argue that the Tonnage Act 1694 would be the most expensive legislation ever passed by Parliament — that act granted the charter for the Bank of England, and to my knowledge the debt that successive governments have taken on through the BoE has never been fully repaid.

    2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      "...wouldn't the most expensive be Income Tax...?"

      I'm not sure what counts as 'expensive'. Income tax has a big turnover, but it also enables useful things to happen, so you could argue that it has a positive cost-benefit ratio.

      If you interpret 'expensive' to mean 'waste of money', I think a good contender would be that part of the 1911 Parliament Act which introduced the idea of salaries for MPs...

    3. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Pirate

      @ fero

      To the extent that it cost Britain it's American colonies, the Stamp Act might be up towards the top of the list. :)

  9. Turtle

    1000 Per Cent.

    "'Why should we sacrifice 10 per cent of our income today to make Bill Gates better off?' is how one of Stern’s critics, MP Peter Lilley, expressed this proposition."

    The answer to the Right Honorable MP's question is... "We should sacrifice 10 per cent of our income today to make Bill Gates better off because we will also be making Lord Oxburgh and his cronies 1000 percent better off - and helping to drive into even deeper poverty and kill off lots and lots of the world's poor. Long live Paul Ehrlich!"

  10. Pete 2 Silver badge

    An even costlier mistake?

    Following on the back of the mistakes, bad judgment, double counting and wrong assumptions. The root cause must be the inability of so many (all?) of our law-makers, governors and policy makers to have a grasp of basic arithmetic (not even maths). If they had, surely they could have applied the "sniff test" and come to the conclusion that the numbers this guy was bandying around smelt wrong?

    Even if they didn't feel confident in blowing the whistle on the whole thing at that point, surely a quick look around and seeing that nobody else was following the UK's lead, would have been a pretty big clue. But I guess our betters are still in a Charge of the Light Brigade mentality, than able to sit down with a calculator and a small slice of common sense.

    1. JP19

      Re: An even costlier mistake?

      "The root cause must be the inability of so many (all?) of our law-makers, governors and policy makers to have a grasp of basic arithmetic (not even maths)"

      Politicians don't deal with truth or accuracy. In almost all areas they sprout utter bullshit made up numbers to justify their policies or opinions. From binge drinking, knife crime, obesity to HS2 justification and Scottish devolution it is just made up shit.

      What matters to politicians is not that something is true or accurate, what matters is how many voters they think will or can be convinced to believe it. I think most of them spending all day lying to us and each other just don't understand the difference between truth and lie any more.

  11. Don Jefe

    Climate Science Is Not The Issue

    The issue is attempting to legislate unknowns. I do think evidence shows a significant Human impact on climate, but this isn't about evidence, it's 100% about government displaying a gross misunderstanding of the power of legislature and how science works.

    There's an incredibly flawed idea out there that 'science' answers questions and that's simply not correct.

    Bad science answers questions, good science creates more questions. Bad science is static and has 'proofs' (proofs are only for math), good science is dynamic and creates an equation in which the more you learn about something, the greater the likelihood earlier conclusions are found to be incorrect. Anytime you explore something and all your hypothesis are validated you're doing something terribly wrong.

    So then we've got politicians who, by default, cannot cope with dynamic situations. The very nature of politics is digital, on/off, the opposite of science. Legislators are then forced to choose the bad science to make policy around. The good science doesn't have any answers, but the bad science has any answer you want. So they make policy around what they deem is 'fact' and truly believe that laws have the power to validate the science they've chosen. They effectively close the door on greater understanding for at least a generation (in a democratic society anyway). They've decided what the answer is and have made that answer law.

    They're attempting to combine three extremely unstable elements (science, politics and people) and the results will never be satisfactory. Some few benefits in other areas may occur, but that's just a side effect, you can't manage to that.

    The best solution would be to seperate politics from science, any science, completely. The very nature of politics is wholly incompatible with science. In their purest forms one requires yes/no answers the other is incapable of providing any answers. I realize such seperation is unlikely to occur, but something has to change. It isn't about climate policy, it's about the damage caused to everyone by attempting to combine incompatible elements. It will always result in failure, the only question is how bad the fallout will be.

  12. arrbee

    Surely this is hardly news - fiddling these 'discount' rates to justify some action/inaction has been standard civil service practice for many years; it is low risk since it involves 'best estimates' and is rarely challenged later on when the numbers turn out to be badly wrong. Recent examples have included PFI, various BoE actions, new inflation measures such as CPI and CPIH, etc.

    The mainstream media have never been interested in challenging this stuff, possibly because it involves numbers, but then I guess thats why the civil service keep doing it.

  13. Jim O'Reilly
    Pint

    Following the pack

    In fiddling the model, Mr Stern was just following IPCC precedents. After all, the basic computer model for Global Warming has been revised downward drastically in the last few years, in part because none of the predicted warming has occurred. So just plain guessing of the model parameters by Mr Stern, with judicious insertion of biased assumptions, would be nothing new.

    I suppose those sea-based wind turbines could be used to anchor cruise ships and fishing vessels

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Investing in Wind Farms...

    ...is often claimed to be part of the solution to climate change.

    In my role an investment manager of a Social Impact charity, I am frequently presented with the opportunity to invest in on shore wind farm projects. I refuse every one. The only social impact I can see in these is a negative one: an increase in fuel poverty as we the population subsidise the feed-in tariffs and enrich the shareholders of these energy companies. The positive effect on the climate is but a rounding error on a rounding error, yet the poverty around us is only too real.

  15. Dan Paul

    Incompetent Fools should pay for their own medicine!

    The entire Climate debate is based upon a falsehood and no one is willing to admit it. Artificial price supports for "Green Energy" should be dropped immediately and the same money applied to finding a viable method of extracting North Sea natural gas. Politicians and Ecology types who supported renewables over common sense should pay for their ignorance from their own wallets.

    It is a straightforward matter to build natural gas fired co-generation stations (at existing coal plants) that will provide both electricity and recover the waste exhaust stack heat and provide distributed hot water for heating institutions and portions of cities.

    These cogens can approach 90% thermal efficiency and immense reductions in particulate pollution. CO2 will only be slightly reduced, but toxic smog causing SO and NO will be greatly reduced as compared to coal fired plants.

    These cogens are also able to modulate or stage to accommodate the needs of existing renewable solar and wind generation. As the renewables lose power at night, the cogens can be brought on line much quicker than coal plants can.

    Now you have a balanced solution that is more economical.

    The only thing left is to create a legal penalty for incompetent politicians who favor votes over common sense and facts.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Incompetent Fools should pay for their own medicine!

      "The entire Climate debate is based upon a falsehood and no one is willing to admit it."

      The debate may be based on falsehood but the Earth is most definitely getting warmer and human industries are definitely affecting matters.

      As evidence I'll cite the Athabasca Glacier that drains from the Columbia Icefield, whose rate of retreat is increasing yearly. Part of the reason? The entire thing is covered with a fine layer of soot. Don't believe me, take a field trip to Alberta and have a look for yourself. They let you walk on the damn thing but watch out for cracks. I wonder what will happen when all that shiny ice is gone? The ground underneath is glacial till, nice and dull and heat absorbent.

      I'll also cite the northward migration of the so-called "wheat belt" in the USA, a measured and verifiable symptom that people do not want to talk about, as it means all the food-quality grain is emigrating to Canada. It could explain all the "joking" talk of an invasion.

      Disbelieve all you want, but these things I've seen. No, I don't subscribe to "geen" views, but I'm not a lunatic denier either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Stevie

        "...the Earth is most definitely getting warmer and human industries are definitely affecting matters".

        Two statements, neither of which can be proved and one of which is arguably not even meaningful. What do you think it means to assert that "the Earth is getting warmer"? Do you mean the whole Earth - soil, air, seas, lakes, rivers - everywhere? Or are some bits getting warmer while others (not so fashionable to mention) are actually a bit cooler? And what is your timeline? If an individual is trying to lose weight, at first it seems simple to track the weight every week - say on Sunday. But you may see a loss of 3 lb from Sunday to Sunday, but a gain of 2 lb from Monday to Monday because of more or less random fluctuations. What time period can you adopt if you want to remove the effect of random fluctuations? We don't know. Very possibly there is no such choice.

        The bottom line is that we human beings - even the best and brightest of us - are a lot less clever than we like to believe. We can do some things, such as building huge dams and sending a few people to the Moon. We can even create new kinds of grain that allow more people to be fed - for a while. But we're not very good at thinking things through: predicting the nasty side effects of giant dams, for instance, or understanding whether the new improved grains will actually cause starvation on a far bigger scale in the not-very-long run.

        Understanding global climate, and the factors that cause it to change, falls very clearly into the category of "too hard" at present. Where I live, the Met Office can't even predict whether it will rain tomorrow.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Stevie

          "Where I live, the Met Office can't even predict whether it will rain tomorrow."

          If you don't know the difference between climate and weather, you probably shouldn't comment on either climate or weather related articles.

      2. Dan Paul

        Re: Incompetent Fools should pay for their own medicine!

        Stevie,

        Exactly the problem...the first world no longer produces a level of soot that can be further mitigated. Guess who is upstream from that soot falling here in the USA and Canada?

        China, Russia, India, that's who. Each of those countries electricity plants and foundries operate with literally NO EMISSION CONTROLS!!! Their people burn garbage in open pits, people burn coal and or fuel oil for heating.

        Now honestly tell me which country needs to reduce it's emissions? If you say ANYTHING other than those three countries, you are not thinking rationally. The cost of emission reduction is exponentially greater the smaller the existing amount there is.

        Let's not forget that we are in a period of increased volcanic activity both above ground (soot, and various IR absorbing gases) and below the oceans (heating ocean water, disturbing methane hydrate formations, changing water chemistry). Too many model discount their effects in favor of more popular blame monkeys (Man)

        BTW, the migration of the so called wheatbelt has more to do with excess population draining the aquifers (Ogalalla in particular) that provide well water to those areas. The vast majority of the droughts are beginning to taper off (remeber all that rain washing away the problems?) so we should see it come back when there is more water to keep the fields green. Remember the dustbowl? That WAS MANMADE and was fixed with changes to simple farming practices in 10 years.

        The fact remains that individual climate observations that take place on a cycle within the lifespan of a human being or two can not have any influence on global weather.

        It is supremely arrogant to believe that humans have much effect at all considering that the amount of sunlight that hits the earth in one day exceeds our global energy consumption dozens of times.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Incompetent Fools should pay for their own medicine!

      You can't get rid of 'price supports' for only parts of a sector, everybody gets them, or nobody gets them. The petroleum, natural gas and nuclear energy segments all benefit from massive 'price supports'.

      The thing is, those practices have been in place for so long people don't realize those supports are artificial. They think 'green power' is getting special treatment, but the fact of the matter is that they are only getting treatment equivalent to what other energy providers have been receiving since WWI.

      1. Nial

        Re: Incompetent Fools should pay for their own medicine!

        "They think 'green power' is getting special treatment"

        And they would be right....

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10542388/Wind-farms-handed-5-million-to-switch-off-turbines-as-thousands-of-homes-left-without-power.html

        And that's on top of the vastly inflated price per KWH green energy producers are paid.

  16. bed

    On the other hand...

    Since we are, I think, discussing climate change, as opposed lies, damned lies and statisticians (or economists), then it is worth pondering that, irrespective how valid you consider the thesis of anthropogenic climate change, it only needs someone (company, nation etc.) to consider it valid, to initiate the research and development and successfully develop low carbon renewable energy technologies and to subsequently develop a monopolistic stranglehold on those who do not (most of capitalism). Hence, it may not matter, but keep an eye on those (probably a long way east of here - or west of there) who think it does.

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Go

    So discreditied "review" --> time to cancel the Act?

    I won't argue the review's conclusions but it sounds iffy based on the methodology.

    If you're playing by the Treasury Green Book rules then you need to use the rate (although WTF the Treasury gets a 3.5% rate is beyond me).

    The Act was another of Tony Blairs stabs at immortality, along with it a little f**k you to Gordo.

    It would seem there are as good a reason to dump it as there were cancelling the National Identity Card Register and other bits of control freakery.

    Sounds like a New Years Resolution to me.

  18. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Boffin

    Warning signs!!!

    Having done many studies and put together many models measuring market growth, expenses, ROI, TCO, etc., any time somebody comes to me with an ROI that goes up towards 2000%, I immediately start peering (No pun intended, m'lord) behind the curtain and checking their math.

    Hell, I'm not sure that brushing your teeth gets you a 2000% ROI! At least once you factor in the time used, cost of toothpaste, floss and brushes.

    But hey, this Stern guy got an ermin robe and a lifetime job out of it, so at least somebody benefited...

  19. Richard Pennington 1
    Coat

    Peer review

    After the review, he got his peerage.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Long live quote mining ..

    "As soon as it is established that one of those risks is possible (and even most skeptics must acknowledge that the Stern Review has accomplished this task), then clearly it can be said that there is an established need for climate policy. To argue to the contrary, skeptics and critics have to guarantee that none of the impacts highlighted in Figure 1 can ever occur.

    "They have to make the case that there is no chance that the climate is changing. Because they know that they cannot support such a claim, they know that they will win the hearts and minds of the public at large and the policymakers that represent them over the short-run only if they focus debate about the Stern Review on damage and cost estimates that are extremely suspect in their best light and completely indefensible in the worst case scenario. We cannot let that happen." Gary W. Yohe and Richard S. J. Tol

  21. brock2118

    This would have been a brilliant success if only the Chines and Indians werent opening a coal plant a day. Also, alas, the Australians fell off the wagon.

  22. dannymot

    Will the “cure" hurt us more than the disease?

    Possibly, but as another of the possible outcomes is that the disease hurts us to the point of extinction, your question becomes one of utter stupidity and small mindedness.

    1. Mad Mike

      @dannymot

      "Possibly, but as another of the possible outcomes is that the disease hurts us to the point of extinction, your question becomes one of utter stupidity and small mindedness."

      Extinction? Possibly. However, highly unlikely given that one of the reasons why humans have survived and got to the 'top of the tree' is our ability to adapt. Yes, water levels may rise, temperatures may rise etc.etc., but a climate change big enough and fast enough to cause our extinction is highly unlikely. Do we spend whatever it takes to "cure" something that has only a 0.000001% (or whatever tiny chance you care to specify) chance of happening, especially given the impact this "cure" is having today.

      You're using a very emotive and extreme argument to have a go at someone, so let's use one the other way:-

      How many old people do you want to die this winter for your "cure"?

  23. Davie Dee

    what to do....

    I still want to know what right we have to decide what climate we "should" have? can anyone answer that?

    With all climate change there will be winners and losers world wide, rather like the people who bought a lovely home next to a river because it looked nice in the summer only to be beating their drum when it floods when it rains a lot. Winners and losers

    So who are we to decide what is "right" and how much of the climate change is natural? what will we let change as nature surely intended and to what level have we made it better/worse for people?

    I am no expert on the matter but id hazard a guess that trying to keep the climate the same will only result in a bigger fuck up down the line. It just seems like a massive amount of unanswered questions and id have thought these things should surely have been put to debate long before we decide to cover the country in concrete and wind farms and cranking up the price of fuel to the point people cant keep warm!

    So, yes lets not needlessly pollute the world with toxins, lets try and make energy cleaner I have absolutely nothing to argue with that stance, but everything else above that seems a tad far. I mean, closing down coal plants because they are dirty? why? its cheap and for some investment it could have been made greatly cleaner.

    Im sorry green folk, I don't deny there is an issue to be fixed, but the knee jerk "must do something NOW" mentality has I fear made things worse and polarised an argument that actually, most people would have probably agreed with if a bit more understanding was made before jumping in with 2 feet.

  24. Anne W

    Uncertainty about economic impact

    So climate change is happening but there is a bit of uncertainty about the economic impact: really? – well I never…..what… uncertainty about rational attempts to anticipate future impacts?…in that case best chuck out the whole of science, and social science and replace with the word of a journalist…. Or because there is a bit of uncertainty, climate change it is not happening…..?

    Stern reported several years ago - scientific reports since then have suggested climate change will be more serious than thought at the time – e.g. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v505/n7481/full/nature12829.html

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Climate change, Global warming.. how about air posioning

    Ever hear of a "Heat Island"? Ever hear of smog, or OZONE index? These are the effects of humans interactions on the environment. These are not speculation, these are not fantasies of politicians or tree huggers, these are realities.

    Sea level increases, maybe, no clue. More powerful storms, ya I think so, considering Sandy, Dean, Wilma, Rita, Katrina, Ivan, Andrew, etc the list goes on. Look at the speed of the storms, in the last 30 years the strength of these storms has gone up, and the latest explosive Sandy, over 800 miles wide...

    There are things that can be done to mitigate some of this though, white, or light covered highways, moving away from dark gravel, dark roves, etc. Elimination of the heat islands will help things some, but over all we need to tackle the problems with the health of our air. Effects you want? Look at the rate increases of asthma alone. In the US the rate of asthma has gone way up in the last 30 years. Look at the health of populations, how many people in the world are driving and have seen ozone alerts? I guess it is ok as long as you are not affected, but you are, all of us are. The planet is one thing, but look at the personal effects, more respiratory illnesses over the last 35 ish years, more cancers, more illnesses.

  26. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    99 to 1?

    Then leave it to the market. No sense in the 99 getting their panties in a bunch over what I drive or how I heat my house. Their collective actions will far outweigh mine, making all the arguments over my behaviour moot.

  27. Eponymous Bastard

    Hot air

    It's all hot air, and what a lovely mild winter we're having? I hope all those warmist freaks fall on their swords when the next ice age sets in. No they won't, because they are spineless liberal retards who probably eat too many vegetables and create more than their fair share of hahaha "greenhouse" gases via flatulence and whilst driving their fucking hybrid vehicles with their precious little retardlets strapped into the back smearing saliva over their fucking iPads. Yeah, coz it's their prerogative to breed isn't it? Unchecked population growth is the biggest "threat" facing planet earth. Even pseudo-intelligent people acknowledge that. look forward to reacquainting myself with a Lee Enfield 303.

  28. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    I can't imagine the math being too much of an issue really.

    However the initial assumptions used to set up the mathematical model might be worthy of challenge?

  29. Ted Treen
    Happy

    That's more like it...

    Seasoned, rational, well-thought out and well expressed discourse.

    I don't agree with all commenters, but I whole-heartedly commend them for the intelligence and reason shown.

    How the Reg used to be - with the "Yar Boo Sucks" name-calling element conspicuous by its (relative) absence.

  30. NotWorkAdminn

    Aghast

    Not a single mention of "Cool It" either witin the article, or the comments. If you haven't read it, please do.

  31. Rattus Rattus

    "...because rulers of a democratic state work on behalf of the electorate"

    Hohohoho

    Hahahaha

    Heeheeheehee

    Oh, that was a good one.

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