Climate Change – Solving The Problems

In part one I argued that the science is not as settled as it looks. The climate is too complex to make easy predictions, based on single factors like the greenhouse effect. I then continued to argue in part two, that even if the planet were to get warmer, it would not be clear to what degree this would be a problem. We would almost certainly see many positive effects from it.

But yes, we would see some problems from a changing climate. This brings us to the last IPCC assumption. It is here, where I think the public debate is the most wrong. On the first two assumptions, the official narrative is at least partially right. Sure, the science is not as clear as it is commonly assumed, but it is difficult to argue that a warming is not possible. So we are talking about probabilities. And sure, the general debate tries to avoid talking about positive effects of a warmer climate, but it would be difficult to argue that a changing climate poses no challenges.

Most change comes with problems. Old solutions stop working and need to be adjusted. This usually comes with some economic costs. And in particular, the climate has always been a major problem for humans. In part two, I already mentioned the statistic that the number of climate related deaths is down by 98%. Not too long ago, in many years, there where millions of people dying from negative climatic effects worldwide. This number is now down to the thousands, or tens of thousands.

Given the large number of casualties we have seen throughout history, one can hardly argue that the climate has not been a problem in the past. In fact, it has been one of the biggest problems humans have faced. There are even some extreme cases of historic cultures who practiced human sacrifices to appease the gods they thought in control of the weather. That gives us an idea of what a huge problem the climate has been at times.

That we are now facing significantly less danger from the atmosphere has everything to do with us having access to cheap, reliable energy, on a large scale. And fossil fuels have been the main source for that energy. They are an incredibly effective energy storage. Just thirty liters of fuel can move a car, weighing a ton, for several hundred miles. Fossil fuels have all the attributes a modern energy source needs to have. They are cheap, plentiful and reliable.

Despite all the propaganda we are hearing, as I write this, there are only two energy sources which meet these requirements: Fossil fuels and nuclear. And the problem with nuclear is that it is not a very mobile energy source. Maybe we will be able to develop other methods to produce cheap, reliable energy on a large scale in the future. In fact, that seems very likely. But right now, this is simply not possible. Anyone who says otherwise either does not know what he is talking about, or is outright lying.

The fact that we have figured out how to use this historic organic energy, has transformed our lives from being hard and short, to being long and quite comfortable. Without fossil fuels, it would have never been possible to lift people out of the poverty of nature. It is these fuels that give us the comfortable modern lives we enjoy today. Sure there have been problems. Industrial regions have experienced very unhealthy levels of pollution. But even with these problems, people usually prefer a life with pollution rather than going back to a life without the benefits of using this energy.

The remarkable thing has been that, thanks to technology, the more fossil fuels we have burned, the more our air quality has improved. We have successfully solved the pollution problem by filtering out the harmful substances. And in theory there is no limit to how much the air can be cleaned. In fact, there have already been experiments, in which the air coming out of the exhaust of a modern car, was cleaner than the surround one.

One of the reasons why so fewer people are now dying from the local weather is because historically, one of the biggest killers has been the failure of local food production. Before we had modern, fossil fuel powered, world wide transportation most people where essentially dependent on producing food locally. When this local food production failed, it usually resulted in many people starving.

Thanks to modern global transportation networks, which are almost exclusively powered by fossil fuels, we now have a very effective global food market. Not only that, we can now produce food in regions where it was previously uneconomical, because they were too remote from the consumer. Modern transportation, and refrigeration, has changed that.

But that is not all. Fossil fuels also serve as an effective fertilizer. This, too, has made infertile land available for farmers. For all these reasons, mass starvation has essentially disappeared from this planet, at least in any region that is politically not shielded from that global market.

And this is just food. Everyone of us uses lots of energy everyday, to make our lives much better in a huge amount of ways. Most of that energy still comes from fossil fuels. This gives us an indication of what is at stake. If we want to get out of fossil fuels, we would either have to go back to the short and hard lives our ancestors had before they gained access to all this energy, or we would need to find an equal alternative energy source.

The emphasis is on equal. People are quick to mention all kinds of alternative energy sources. These, however, usually fail to be real alternatives to fossil fuels. Again, a modern energy source needs to be cheap, plentiful and reliable. With the exception of nuclear, any other alternative energy production fails on at least one of these attributes. Many fail on more than one, or even on all three.

Wind energy is neither cheap, nor is it reliable. And amazingly, it is not even that plentiful. So we have a failure on all three accounts. That won’t get us out of fossil fuels. Solar fails as well. Yes, it is plentiful, but it is not cheap, at least not yet, and, most importantly, predictably unreliable. The sun simply does not shine at night. In order to make unreliable energy sources more reliable, we would need to have a good energy storage. While we do have some reliable storage technologies, all of these are very expensive and not scalable.

Given the enormous amount of energy that we are consuming, and its importance for our well being, we can now see that any kind of increase in the cost of producing energy, or a decrease in using it, would very quickly have serious negative consequences for our lives.

Let us take Germany as an example. I am from there, so I know a little bit about how Germany deals with energy. It is almost never good advice to follow the lead of German politics. Germany has always been on the forefront of dangerous political movements. It was Karl Marx who invented modern communism, and it was Germans who really took fascism to its extreme. Germany is one of the few countries that has been destroyed by both those ideologies. Millions of people were murdered. Giving this important “tradition”, it is no surprise that Germany is also one of the leaders of greenism. We just can’t help it, we have to destroy the country every few decades.

Germany is a special kind of stupid. It is popular in Germany to not only want to get out of fossil fuels, but to also get out of nuclear energy. And remember, these are the only two useful energy sources we have at the moment. The country has invested a lot in wind and solar energy, and it is forcing its residents to prioritize buying this electricity. That is why many environmentalists refer to Germany as a leading example for the future of energy usage. Countless times have I heart that Germany, on many days, can now generate the energy it needs from renewables.

This is complete nonsense. When Germany, a few years ago, decided to get out of nuclear energy the biggest economic research institute of the country, ifo, had a thorough look at the real numbers. Ifo, btw., is by no stretch of the imagination skeptical of the catastrophic climate change narrative. The report starts by stressing that global warming is real and a problem. But it is some refreshing realism of what is possible today in terms of energy policy.

Besides many other problems, renewable energies have given Germany one of the most expensive electricity prices in the EU. Germans now pay about 30 cents per kWh. The EU average is 20 cents. Before the country started to invest in wind and solar, its electricity prizes were below average. France’s average is 15 cents, and in the US it is about 10 cents. Both are leaders in using nuclear energy.

The 10 cents that Germany pays above the average EU country today costs the economy, which consumes about ½ trillion kWh per year, €50 billion a year. That is €50 billion in economic damage from trying to be more green, every year, just for Germany alone.

One might argue that this is a small price to pay for saving the climate. But is Germany saving the climate for this €50 billion? What does it get out for this huge amount of money? And yes, even for a big economy like Germany, this is indeed real money. Germany’s energy mix is about the average of a normal OECD country. 21% of its energy use is electricity. The other 79% are almost entirely fossil fuels.

When we are talking about wind and solar, we are just talking about electricity. So how much electricity can Germany produce reliably for that extra €50 billion? The answer is about 2.8% of its electricity. That means about 0.6% of the overall energy consumption of Germany comes from solar and wind. In other words, for the €50 billion every year, Germany’s contribution to saving us from the greenhouse effect is a rounding error. And this is already not far from the limit of how much electricity can be theoretically reliably produced by wind and solar in Germany.

Since the government in Berlin has decided to get out of nuclear, fossil fuel consumption has actually increased. In order to remain a first world country, Germany is building a lot of new coal power stations. This is just scratching the surface of the craziness. I will spare you more details, as I think this alone, very well, illustrates the point which I am trying to make: Not using fossil fuels is prohibitively expensive.

Sure, if it was not for the environmentalists, we could go full nuclear on electricity, and therefore at least save those 20% of fossil fuel energy going into electricity. This leaves us with the paradox that if the climate change deniers got their way, CO2 emissions would almost certainly go down to the maximum amount possible. Given the prices that France and the US are paying, I am all for nuclear, bring it on! But that is about as much as we can realistically reduce our fossil fuel consumption at the moment. Short of developing really new energy technologies, technologies that are just as cheap, plentiful and reliable as fossil fuels, we will not get out of them on any significant scale, period!

I have no doubt that we will eventually find alternatives. E=mc2, so there is plenty of energy around. It is therefore just a question of engineering to make that energy available in the right form. But we cannot just pretend that we already have energy sources that are simply not real.

Once we have developed equal alternatives, we will get out of fossil fuels almost automatically. No fancy political conferences needed. If an energy source is cheap, plentiful and reliable, it will be easy to persuade people to use it. For that reason it did not take much convincing to historically get into fossil fuels. There is at least one non climate reason why we would want to get out of oil, coal and natural gas: Oil and gas revenues cause conflicts, and economically sustain a number of horrible regimes.

Governments around the world have paid lip service to try to get out of fossil fuels for decades. They are almost all doing the exact opposite. Most have increased their consumptions massively. They know full well that if they were actually starting to reduce their CO2 emissions, they would very quickly be chased out of power with pitchforks.

The climate change debate is at no point more wrong than when it comes to the solutions. Humans have always battled with the climate. The way we have dealt with it, very successfully, is by dealing with the consequences. This strategy has a proven track record of working very well. It has made us conquer the whole planet, from the Sahara desert to Alaska. The track record is actually worse when it comes to adopting to cold temperatures rather than hot ones.

And the one thing that really made us almost entirely independent from the weather is the use of cheap, plentiful and reliable energy. A lot of people have this strange idea that the only thing preventing us from going off fossil fuels is the oil lobby. But it is not the oil lobby that is doing that. It is the we-dont-want-short-and-shitty-lives lobby that is behind it. In other words it is all of us. Pretending otherwise is either ignorance or outright hypocrisy.

We already spend most of our lives indoors. One of the major reasons for that is that we are already hiding from very imperfect climates in most places on this planet. Probably the biggest downside from being homeless is to have constant exposure to the climate. For indoors, we have developed technologies that can give us any climate we like, completely independent of what is going on outside. These technologies are readily available, and easily scalable.

People facing 50°C heat waves need an air-condition and cheap energy to power it. The last thing they need is politicians meeting on conferences, discussion how they can make energy more expensive to save the climate. I am not much into conspiracy theories, but if I was, I could make the argument that climate change is a conspiracy to keep the poor countries down.

The environmentalists want to make us believe that the best, no the only thing, we can do about climate change is to abandon a strategy with a very successful track record of thousands of years. They want us to use less, or at least much more expensive and unreliable energy, in order to not disturb nature. It is almost like a religious cult, which has replaced god with nature. Nature is this wonderful entity, a mother that has a great plan for all of us. So we must not interfere with that plan.

That is superstitious nonsense. Basing our policy decisions on this mysticism will throw us back into the dark ages. Earth is a ball of dirt, accidentally cruising around the sun at a distance that enables life. It does not care about us, nor does it have a wise master plan. Nature is at its core ruthless and brutal. It is therefore wise to try to control it as much as we can. And we have gone a long, successful, way of doing that. Sure, sometimes we make mistakes and overdo it. But the overall track record of that strategy is very convincing. It would therefore be foolish to abandon it. If we did, the costs would be astronomical. And other than the costs of climate change, which are highly speculative, these costs would be certain.

The future will not be without problems. Despite the fact that we now live civilized lives, in other words, despite the fact that we have already gone a long way to defeat nature, it looks like mother earth will continue to give us some problems in the future. However, on the world market, we can be sure that billions of people are thinking about solutions for these problems. And only one lone genius needs to come up with one to solve a problem. Thanks to globalization, we now have a system in which we can rely on the combined wisdom, and luck, of several billion people for solutions of any kind. Just like in the past, we cannot yet imagine what kind of amazing solutions they will come up with.

With governments, on the other hand, we get the combined wisdom of a small group of politicians. These are often people, whose skills were not sufficient enough to get a job with a similar salary in the real economy. Many know very little about anything, and their motives are often questionable. In many cases it is just power. This group certainly cannot predict the climate, let alone control it.

On the market, we have the incentive to actually solve problems. Entrepreneurs only get paid if they can deliver a solution. In politics, the incentives are often reversed. Politicians get paid looking for solutions, not for finding them. More often than not, their incentive is to only make it look like they are trying to solve the problem. However, if they ever were to succeed of delivering a solution, the problem would go away, and with it the justification for their existence. So it is better for them not to succeed. Given those two choices, to either trust politicians, or the combined wisdom of human kind, it should be a no brainer which one to pick.

The only danger the future holds will be that ideologically motivated governments will prevent us from pursuing free market solutions, and force us into highly destructive ones. Using less, or more expensive, energy is one of those crazy solutions. Dangerous political ideologies have taken over governments many times in the past. In fact, as a libertarian, I would make the argument that governments are designed to attract those ideologies. The consequences of letting them save the planet will be horrific. While fossil fuels have a track record of saving humans, the environmentalists want us to abandon that strategy. This cure however, will be worst than the disease. We, therefore, must not let them save us!

Climate Change – Is Human Made Global Warming A Problem?

In part one I explained why I think the climate science is not settled. I don’t think that we are able to predict the future temperature of the planet with any satisfying accuracy. But let us for now, for the sake of the argument, assume that we are going to see a lot of warming. Would that be a problem?

One major assumption in the whole debate about global warming is that the earth currently has an optimal temperature. Any deviation too far from it will lead to huge problems, maybe even an outright catastrophe. In particular, it is assumed that a warmer planet is a more dangerous one. But why should we assume that we are at an optimum, and that warmer is worst? I can see why 100°C more would be a disaster, but what is so bad about 5°C or even 10°C more?

If every degree more counts, then we should have already seen a negative effect from the 1°C increase we got in the last century. So, let us have a look at how much damage that 1°C has caused. One way to measure the negative impact of the warming is to look at how many people are now negatively effected by the weather compared to a century ago. There are statistics about this. For example, we can have a look at how climate related deaths have developed during the last century. This should give us an indication whether warmer is really worst.

Alex Epstein has crunched the numbers for his excellent book “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels”. The surprising result is that not only are casualties not up, they are down. And they are down by an impressive 98%. That does not seem to support the thesis that a warmer planet is more dangerous. Of course a correlation is not a causation. This statistic is not saying that people are now more save because it got 1°C warmer. But there is an indirect correlation. The major reason behind the large decrease is that humans have started to consume fossil fuels on a massive scale during that time period. We will get back to that in part 3.

This statistic definitely does not suggest that warmer is worse. What could be reasons to believe that to be true? Certainly there are regions on this planet which are already quite hot. In places like India, norther Africa or the middle east, we can already witness heatwaves of over 50°C. Personally, I like warm weather, but even I admit that temperatures that high are suffering. They are more than suffering, they are dangerous. These heatwaves kill a lot of people. Needless to say that if we add another 5°C or 10°C things will only get worse.

But this is a local problem. There are many regions which have the opposite problem. They are too cold. In Europe alone, tens of thousands of people die every winter from a weakened immune system, thanks to the cold weather. And Europe is not even the coldest place. The distance from the equator to the pole is about 10 000km. In the first hotter 6000km we find most of human civilization. Very few people, however, live north of the 6000km line. Those few that do, usually live within the next 1000km of it. North of that, we essentially do not find much human life. And there is only one reason for that: it is too cold.

That means that, just looking at the earth’s landmass, we find huge amounts of land being empty and unusable thanks to too cold weather. Humans have conquered almost the whole planet. The only exceptions are cold places, not hot ones. The earliest civilizations were in the hottest regions. The regions that reach these extreme 50°C heat waves, like India, are often very densely populated. The only continent that humans never really settled on is Antartica.

In the last 50 years, traveling has become significantly easier. How do we find people use this new won freedom? Do they escape the warm places and settle for the cold? Not really. Short of economic migration, people are not flocking into Alaska, but rather move to California or Florida. And that although Alaska has a good economy, and is even paying people for being residents, via an oil financed basic income. Humans are tropical animals. We do much better in warm weather rather than cold.

This does not make the problem of extreme heat waves go away. Even for tropical animals, 50+°C is a bit much. But it does show that there is another side to that story. Yes, we have local heat problems. But it is difficult to argue that human kind as a whole would not benefit from a planet that is a few degrees warmer. A lot of the landmasses that are too cold at the moment, would become available on a warmer planet.

And this is not just theory. As a recent study has shown, we have already won about 7% of green land thanks to the 1°C of warming that we got in the last century. So from that perspective, global warming looks more attractive than dangerous.

Btw., note that the above article in the independent is suggesting that this extra won green is not so good, because it was caused by global warming. This is typical for out debate about the subject. Effects of global warming are by definition bad, even when they are objectively not.

Are there other reasons, why we might fear a warmer planet? The biggest concern seems to be that we currently have huge land ice masses in Greenland and Antartica. If the planet warms, some, or all, of that ice might melt. It would find its way into the oceans and cause a massive sea level rise. If the ice in Greenland were to fully melt, we would get a 6-7m increase in sea levels.

That, indeed, looks like a problem. Humans like to settle along the coasts. Some of the biggest cities are located there. If we get a 7m sea level increase, Manhattan, for example, would be under water. Even that would, of course, not be anywhere near an apocalypse, but it is a huge problem. The economic damage from it would be significant.

But let us look into this problem a little bit closer. Greenland is currently covered by over 3km of ice. At the moment, temperatures on the ice shield are just around freezing during the warmest month of June to August. That means, if we get a temperature increase, the ice would start to melt during the brief summers.

Even if we had solid above freezing temperatures the whole year around, it would take at least decades for 3km of ice to melt. Obviously the speed would depend on how warm it really gets. It would also take at least decades for that water to distribute equally in the oceans. But, no one is really talking about Greenland becoming that warm anytime soon. Winters will almost certainly remain way below freezing.

That means that whether the ice will melt of not, will depends on whether more ice melts during the summers than increases during the winters. Even if that rate was positive, and we would see an overall decrease of the ice, it is clear that this would be a very slow process. It would take centuries at worst, but realistically millennia for all the ice to melt.

During the last interglacial, temperatures are believed to have been about 5°C higher than today. The ice in Greenland did not fully melt during the over 10 000 years of that warm period.

If that is true than we are looking at a sea level rise of 6-7m within a few thousand years. That suddenly does not look like such a huge problem anymore. That is enough time to build dykes, and slowly move buildings inland. At worst, it would mean maybe a foot or so of sea level rises during a century. This is about twice the rate of the sea level rise we have already seen in many previous centuries. No one seems to think that that was a huge problem in the past. In fact, the phenomenon is so slow that hardly anyone noticed that it exists at all.

I hope it is clear by now that the question of whether a warmer planet is a problem or not is a lot more complex than the public debate we currently have. Sure, whenever the climate changes, we might see local problems. People will have to adjust to the new conditions. This will be easier in some regions rather than in others. But it is not clear what exactly the most desirable temperature of the planet should be.

It fact, it is clear that this broad question does not make much sense. The earth has very different local climates, with much bigger differences between them than we could ever get from a warming planet. It does not make much sense to talk about problems or benefits in general. But if we want to be very general, good arguments can be made that a warmer planet would actually be overall quite desirable.

In part three, I am going to look at how to deal with potential problems of a changing climate.

Climate Change – Problems With The Science

Climate change has been a hot political topic of debate. Many people think that it is the most important issue of our time. We have to reduce our fossil fuel consumption now, otherwise we will soon face very negative, maybe even catastrophic, consequences from a warming planet. This, in a nutshell, is the official narrative we hear everywhere. Only nutters would think that there is anything wrong with it.

I am one of those nutters. I don’t think this narrative has as much substance as most people think it has. In fact, I will argue, most of the climate change narrative just does not make much sense. I have been a critic of this movement for a long time. From the moment I started to look deeper into the issue, I immediately could see problems with the science. This was about 20 years ago. Now, two decades later, my skepticism has only deepened. There are too many things that just do not add up.

In the following, I will argue in detail, what I think is wrong with the official narrative. I am going to start by laying out my concerns with the science. I will then continue to argue that no matter what the climate is going to do, the future will be bright. In other words, I am going to make a case for hope. And I am going to do this from a layman’s perspective. I am not a climate scientist. I am not even a professional scientist of any kind. I edit and mix film sound for a living.

And yet, I don’t think that one has to be an expert in order to be a critic. There are simple, easy to understand, arguments why there is no reason to panic. If you don’t believe me, then please just continue reading, and judge the arguments for yourself. All I am asking is to be open minded.

That is not to say that I have not done any research on the subject. To the contrary, I have extensively listened to both sides of the debate. Of course, it is possible that I am wrong. It is possible that I am simply missing something. But so far, I have not heard any refutations of my arguments for hope. If you can find any flaws in my reasoning, I would love to hear from you!

As far as I can tell, the public debate is centered around three major assumptions. These assumptions were stated by the IPCC in the early 1990th. They are:

1) Human made global warming is real
2) Human made global warming is a problem
3) We therefore need to prevent human made global warming from happening

It is important to understand that these are three separate thesis, each of which could be true or false independent of each other. Even if there is a human made global warming, this does not necessarily have to be a problem. On the other hand, if there is no global warming than that could be a problem. And whatever the problem is, it is not a given that the only way to deal with it is to prevent it from happening.

In the following three parts, I am going to take on each of these thesis one by one. I am going to show for each of them, why I think that the official narrative is, at the very least, one sided, if not outright wrong.

Is human made global warming real?

Let me start with the science. Are humans warming the planet? Science should ideally be a neutral. It is seeking the most accurate description of reality. It is, therefore, about rationally examining the arguments to come to the most reasonable conclusions. This, however, is not quite the state of the public debate about climate science. As soon as the temperature of the atmosphere is debated, I have found time and time again that people can get very emotional. Why is that? One might argue it is because so much is at stake. We don’t have time to let critics distract us from solving one of the biggest problems of our time.

But is this really how we usually react to discussing problems? Say someone goes to a doctor, and gets diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Life expectancy, according to that doctor is max. another 6 month. How would the average person react to that?

Personally, I would believe the doctor that the problem is real. It seems like a good starting point. After all, he is an expert and knows much more about the subject than I do. It therefore seems reasonable to take him seriously.

But what if a critic came along and told me that he had good reason to believe that my doctor was wrong. The diagnosis was flawed, and my chances of survival actually quite good. How would I treat this critic? Of course the guy might be a nutter who does not know what he is talking about. But given that I am facing a huge problem, would I not be very interested to at least hear what he has to say?

More than once have I seen people with deadly diseases desperately listening to any alternative theory, in the hope to find some crack in the official diagnoses, or maybe at least find an alternative treatment. A dogmatic believe in an authority seems like the least rational approach, when we face a huge problem.

This, however, is not the reaction I get from most people who see climate change as a big problem. Far from it. The most common reaction to skeptics is not interest, or even joy, but outright anger. For some reason, the very idea that climate change might not be a problem, terrifies a lot of them. In fact, I am willing to bet that if you, dear reader, are a believer in the theory of catastrophic climate change, and you have made it till this point, I got your blood pressure up, just by stating that I am going to make arguments against the official narrative. I got your blood pressure up, even though I have not yet made any real arguments at all. Chances are even higher though that I have already lost most believers at this point.

Even though climate change is a scientific subject, we don’t have a very rational debate about it. Critics are often immediately attacked ad hominem, as deniers who must have evil motives. Calling someone a denier implies that he knows better. He knows that what he says is not true, but, to advance some evil agenda, decides to publicly go against the truth. It also creates associations with holocaust deniers. They too go against, what they must know, is the truth, in order to justify evil politics.

The bad agenda when it comes to climate change skeptics is clear: critics are working for the evil fossil fuel industry. Sources for that claim, however, are rarely checked. I have yet to find any convincing evidence that there is a systematic financing of critics by the big oil companies. This seems to be more of an internet roomer than a fact.

But as so many things in this debate, facts are never really checked. They are willfully copied from one internet blog to another, because, weirdly, a lot of people seem to outright like the climate disaster narrative. Another thing that is weird about it is that it is assumed that no one could possible be right who got funded by the oil industry. On the other hand, this whole argument also assumes that government funding is completely neutral. Both seem like very questionable assumptions to me.

While there are undeniably a lot of very intelligent and knowledgable people, who support the common narrative on climate change, I more often than not meet supporters, who know very little about the subject. That however, does not stop them from being very passionate about the issue. Here is a summery of the, in my experience, average knowledge of the enthusiastic believer:

CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Enriching the atmosphere with it will lead to warming due to the greenhouse effect. The burning of fossil fuels frees up CO2 which has not been in the atmosphere for a very long time. This extra CO2 will therefore lead to a warming of the planet. Since life on this planet is tuned to the current climate, any deviation from it will have catastrophic consequences for humans in the not too distant future. How do we know that all of this is true? Answer: there is a consensus among the scientists.

Most people exclusively rely on authorities for their confidence of knowing the truth. The scientists agree, therefore, who am I, or anyone else, to question this theory? The idea here is clearly that truth is a matter of majority believe.

But scientific truth is completely independent of majorities. A theory either accurately describes reality or not. Would the earth be any more flat if more people believed it was? The history of knowledge is full of examples where the consensus got it wrong. From a believe in a flat earth, to eugenics, racism, and the believe in all kinds of gods, the majority of experts got it wrong many many times throughout history. And it was usually lone outsiders who changed that consensus.

The most impressive example of a mistaken scientific consensus is probably the falsification of Newton’s physics by Einstein. Newton’s physics was not just accepted among scientists. Until Einstein came along, there were literally zero critics of it, meaning the consensus was 100%. People were fascinated how complete and beautiful his theories were.

And then Einstein came along. Einstein was not a professor at a major university. He worked at a patent office in Bern when he developed his blow to Newton’s physics. But he showed, very successfully, that Newton’s theory was wrong on a very fundamental level. He faced significant opposition from the scientific community. Today, however, the consensus has changed towards Einstein’s theory. Time will tell, whether this consensus is any more true.

Science is not about a consensus. It is about good arguments. It is about checking theories against observations. And, in a strict sense, science cannot ever really be settled. As the philosopher Karl Popper pointed out, there is always a possibility that any scientific theory, no matter how well documented, is wrong.

Relying on a consensus can certainly be a rational strategy to form a first opinion. But it cannot be an argument in a scientific debate. And yet, when it comes to climate change, not only is this an argument often used against critics, it has turned into the most important argument for the case of catastrophic global warming. It is the argument used to essentially shut down any critics, before the criticism can even be voiced. That is not science, that is cult like dogmatism.

The irony is that the consensus is not even as clear as most people assume it is. The number often quoted is a 97% consensus among scientists about a catastrophic man made global warming. The first thing to note is that even that number suggests that 3 in 100 scientists disagree. That is not nothing. It is far more than one would expect from other “settled” scientific theories. If we asked scientists whether the earth is flat, or whether it is possible to travel faster than the speed of light, we would get a far better consensus than 97%.

But even the 97% consensus number in the climate debate is questionable. These studies are quite dubious. Some, for example, do not ask scientists directly about their opinion, they simply infer what the authors of published papers probably believe.

The 2013 John Cook survey, which came up with a 97% consensus, did not even ask a representative sample of scientists. It only examined papers of scientists “taking a position”. Meaning, the group of scientists, whose opinions made it into the survey, was pre selected by a bias. And those biased scientists then, surprise surprise, agreed.

Other studies simply did not ask about a consensus of the catastrophic global warming narrative, but instead examined the opinions on much more trivial parts of the theory, on which there is indeed a huge agreement. I will get into that in a moment.

The best way to challenge the consensus narrative, however, is to simply look at who the critics are. And there are many. In 1998, and then again in 2007, a petition, now known as the Oregon petition was signed by over 31000 scientists (not just climate scientists to be fair), urging the US government to not take action against global warming. These scientists clearly do not agree that we are facing a catastrophic man made problem. And 31000 is not a small number.

Among the critics are very renown scientists, like Richard Lindzen – atmospheric physicist at MIT, William Happer – physicist at Princeton or Freeman Dyson – theoretical physicist and mathematician at Princeton. These are Ivy league professors who are openly declaring their disagreement with the official narrative. So if one cares about being in good company, there is certainly no shortage of that on the critic’s side.

But then again, it should not be about whose company one is in, but about the arguments itself. When it comes to the actual science, there is indeed an almost consensus about certain aspects of the official theory. So far, I have not heard good argument against the following three assumptions. I will therefore assume that these assumption are true.

1) The greenhouse effect is real. Certain gases in the atmosphere will keep energy from escaping the planet. On its own, more energy is equivalent to higher temperatures. The greenhouse effect has been known for almost 200 years. It is basic physics and can be measured in a laboratory.

2) CO2 is such a greenhouse gas. Burning fossil fuels will add extra CO2 to the atmosphere. Therefore, by consuming fossil fuels, we are enriching the atmosphere with a greenhouse gas. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from 280ppm before the industrial revolution to 400ppm today.

3) In the last 150 years, the temperature of the earth has warmed by about 1°C.

The last one is actually the least certain of the three. It is not so easy to measure the temperature of the earth. Especially not to the precision of tenth of degrees. When scientists, at the end of the 19th century, started to keep temperature records, they did not have the means, nor did they care too much, about tenth of degrees temperature differences. They where interested in the weather. And when it comes to the weather it is not important whether it is 20.4C or 20.6C warm.

It also matters where the thermometer is places. Nearer, or further away, from a building, or the ground, might give us different temperatures. It is not clear where exactly to put the thermometer to measure the temperature of the earth. It is also questionable what value such an average has. A changing climate will look very differently in different places of the planet. Leaving all these concerns aside, we always need to form our opinions on the basis of the best data available. And the best data seems to suggest that the earth has warmed by 1°C since the end of what is know as the little ice age.

These three assumptions are indeed assumed to be true by the vast majority of scientists. I have no reason to doubt them. That means, asking scientists about them will result in an impressive consensus. But there is a problem: from this does not follow that any of the original three IPCC thesis are true.

How can that be? This must be a mistake. If the greenhouse effect is real, and we are enriching the atmosphere with a greenhouse gas, then surely, the atmosphere has to warm up. Everything else seems illogical. Whenever people publicly argue about the science beyond mentioning the consensus, it is usually this simple reasoning that is presented. But it is here, where my skepticism started 20 years ago.

There is a fundamental error in it. The argument assumes that the relationship between CO2 and the temperature of the atmosphere is linear. That means, for every CO2 increase there is a certain amount of warming as an output. But the Atmosphere is definitely not a linear system. It is one of the most complex systems we know, complex to the point of being chaotic. In fact chaos theory has its origins in the prediction of the weather.

What is the difference between a complex and a linear system? In a complex system the relationship between a variable and the output can be highly complicated. It can be so complicated that it becomes impossible to predict. That is to say, impossible to predict within a certain rage.

To be sure, the outcome of every system can be predicted with a limited precision. For example, if I drop a glass onto the floor so that it breaks, I can predict the whereabouts and size of the pieces within a clearly defined range. With pretty much 100% certainty, the pieces will be somewhere on the floor of the room, and every single piece will be smaller than the glass itself. The smaller I make the range of my predictions, the more likely I will be wrong, until the point where my predictions are not better than chance.

Even though this looks like a fairly simple system, it will be practically impossible to predict the exact size and location of all the individual glass pieces. That is because, for this type of precision, the system is simply too complex. Every little variation, from tiny imperfection of the structure of the glass, to air movements and the structure of the floor, everything will influence the outcome significantly. And we cannot know the parameters of the system to the precision we need.

It is important to understand that the reason we cannot predict this system precisely is not because we do not understand the physics involved. We have a pretty good understanding of the physics. And yet, despite that, it is in practice not possible to predict this seemingly simple system. That means that we cannot really hope to make significantly better predictions in the future. The nature of the system is fundamentally unpredictable if we wanted to predict it very precisely.

With almost 100% certainly, I can predict that air temperatures in London in July will be somewhere between 0-40°C. That is where they historically have been. This does not look like a precise prediction. It is definitely not precise enough to plan outdoor activities ahead on every given July day. However, if we consider that the theoretically possible temperature range goes from -273.15°C to tens of millions °C the system actually looks remarkably stable. The more precisely I want to predict the weather on any given day, the more likely my prediction will fail. And we all know this, since weather predictions are often no where near as accurate as we like them to be.

The atmosphere is a complex system, with many factors influencing the outcome. From the sun to clouds, oceans, winds etc, how all these factors influence each other needs to be understood precisely, in order to make exact predictions. But even if we did understand all these complex interactions in the atmosphere very well, that is not to say that we would be able to predict the earth temperature precisely. There is a distinct possibility that we will never be able to predict the climate within the temperature range that we would like to.

One cannot simply look at one factor and determine that this factor will influence the outcome linearly. There might very well be other factors in the system that either weaken or amplify the outcome. And yes, weakening is a real possibility.

Take our body temperature. Our bodies are certainly also very complex systems. If we heat up the environment, and therefore add energy to our body, can we assume that our body temperature will rise linearly with the temperature of the environment? Of cause not. If it gets hotter, we start to sweat. Conversely, if it gets cooler, our bodies start to actively produce more heat. These are build in mechanism to regulate the temperature. It prevents a linear relationship between outside and body temperature. These mechanisms keep our bodies at a stable temperature.

That is the reason why our body’s temperature is fairly predicable. But even it various within a very small range. Very precise predictions of tenth of °C would be a very difficult.

This is the key to my skepticism about the official climate change science. We are trying to predict a highly complex system within a temperature range in which it has historically not been stable. That, in principle, should be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do. And yet, I see politicians, people who have trouble organizing a good mail delivery service, meeting at fancy conferences to discuss, which temperature the planet should have. They are seriously debating, how to limit the increase of temperatures to 2°C. One does not need to understand much about climate science to understand that this is outright ridiculous.

The temperature range of the earth in the last 20 000 years alone, has varied by at least 7°C. Humans had nothing to do with that, and survived the changes without major problems. In fact, we only really started to flourish in the warmest periods. We will get back to that a little later. In order for us to have any chance of making predictions based on the greenhouse effect alone, one needs to assume that the greenhouse effect of CO2 is somehow such a strong factor that it will dominate the temperature in the future.

Even more than that, one would need to argue that CO2 will somehow trigger some other warming mechanism within the atmosphere that will amplify the warming. That is because the greenhouse effect of CO2, which, as mentioned, we do understand, does not give us much warming on its own. The increase of temperatures from this effect is roughly logarithmic. That is to say, for every doubling of CO2, we get the same amount of warming, which is about 1°C.

Let us do the calculation. We start with 280ppm before the industrial revolution and are currently at 400ppm. In order to double the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we would need to get to 560ppm. Absence of any positive or negative feedback, that would give us about 1°C of warming. To get another 1°C, we would need to double that again to 1120ppm. And for another 1°C, we would need to get to 2240ppm. What that means is that, just with the greenhouse effect on its own, to get to only 3°C increase in temperature, we would need to octuple the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. We haven’t even doubled it since the industrial revolution.

Yes, the greenhouse effect of CO2 is real, but on its own, it is actually not that scary. Since it is logarithmic, most of the warming happens at the beginning. That means we have already seen the majority of the warming from it. To get more warming we need to assume some kind of positive feedback mechanism of the CO2 greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. In other words, a feedback that would amplify the warming significantly.

Does such a feedback mechanism exists? It is certainly possible. This is where the complexity of the atmosphere comes in. In order for us to understand such a feedback, we would really need to understand the climate very precisely. And we simply don’t. Even the IPCC report itself lists lots of unknowns within the climate models. And of course we cannot be certain that there are no unknown unknowns. This is exactly where there is a very active debate among scientists, and no consensus at all. We do not understand how sensitive the climate is to CO2. And without such an understanding, precise predictions of the earth’s temperature are simply not possible.

As I said at the beginning, I am not a climate scientist. I do not understand the details of climate models, but I do understand the problem of trying to predict complex systems. And there is something else I understand: Any good scientific theory needs to be able to predict the future. In other words, any scientific theory needs to be testable. If a theory fails to make accurate predictions, there must be something wrong with it.

If a scientist predicts that B follows A, and then we observe that C follows A, we can be certain that there is something wrong with that theory. That is true, even if we know nothing else about the theory, at least if we assume that the scientist used his theory correctly.

If I am right with my skepticism, I would expect predictions of climate models to be overall fairly bad. After about three decades of global warming theory, enough time has past to take a look at some predictions climate models have made. How do they hold up against actual measured temperatures so far?

This is a chart from John Christy, a climate scientist of the University of Alabama. It shows a mean of all the prediction of all the existing climate models, as compared to the actually measured temperatures. As we see, just as I predicted, the predictions do not match the real temperatures we have measured. And it is interesting to see that all of them overestimate the warming. The actually measured temperatures have gone sideways since the late 1990th.

This is the reason why we now talk about climate change rather than global warming. The warming just did not happen, and so talking about global warming became increasingly embarrassing. Climate change, on the other hand, cannot be falsified, since the climate is always changing.

It is also interesting to see that the models divert from each other at all. After all, we are constantly being told that the science is settled. The science is settled to the degree that we can make precise policy decisions. Why is it then that these models disagree even with each other, let alone with the actual measure temperatures? Clearly there must be lots of things in the climate that we do not understand. Or, worse, if that is the track record of models that do understand the climate, then predicting it seems hopeless.

I want to be clear here. There are a lot of critics who suggest that the lack of an increase in temperatures proofs that the atmosphere is not warming. That is not my own view. I think the inaccuracy of the models shows that we do not understand the climate. But it is perfectly possible that we will get a warmer climate in the future, caused by CO2. Complex systems can behave in very extreme ways. Nothing happens for a while and then suddenly we see huge moves.

A snow avalanche is a good example of that. Everything looks calm while the snow builds up, and then suddenly all hell breaks lose. Predicting the exact moment the avalanche will go off, however, is impossible.

I am not saying that we will get a lot of warming either, I am just saying it is possible. My real point is that we do not know what the future holds. The climate is difficult, if not impossible, to predict. Some theories even suggest that we will soon see a new ice age, since we appear to be in a interglacial warm period. So there we have another reasonable possibility.

Reasonable predictions, therefore, range from predicting a significantly cooler to a significantly warmer planet. That is not very useful. Only time will tell, who has got it right. As the record of climate predictions shows so far, we definitely do not understand the climate, and it is questionable, though not impossible, that we ever will.

Unpredictability, however, is very difficult for humans to accept. We are so desperate to know what is gong to happen that there has always been a market for bogus future predictions. Even today, psychics, horoscopes and tarot cards remain popular for precisely that reason. But these are just the most obvious charlatans selling nonsense future predictions. It is a big industry!

At this point many will point out that, yes maybe global warming is not as certain as portrait in the media. But, given that we know it is going to be a disaster if it happens, should we really risk it? Is it not wise to maybe panic a bit too much instead of being hit by an unexpected avalanche in the future? Playing it save is an argument that instinctively appeals to many people. But the question is how save is that play? To answer this question, we will have to examine the other two IPCC thesis, which is what I am going to do in part 2 and 3.

Is The Electric Vehicle Revolution Real?

There is a widespread believe that we are currently witnessing the start of an electric driving revolution. Wherever I look, commentators seem to be in agreement that fossil fuels are on their way out. The only point of debate is how quickly this revolution is going to happen, and whether governments should introduce regulations to speed it up.

I, however, have my doubts that this revolution is real. Instead, I feel that this is little more than a hyped fashion, which will soon be calmed down by reality. Looking at the facts, it seems likely that a big proportion of future transportation will continue to be powered by carbon fuels. Electricity has some inherent flaws that can unlikely be overcome by engineering. The whole idea that electricity is the future of transportation is more driven by environmentalist ideology rather than facts. As such, it is not a market revolution, but one ordered from the top.

Why do people have the impression that electricity is the future? Has there been any kind of breakthrough in technology? It does not look like it. Instead, the source for the enthusiasm has a name – Elon Musk. As the CEO of Tesla, he is the mastermind behind the currently biggest electric car manufacturer.

Why is Tesla so successful? Musk does not appear to have done a lot of innovation when it comes to electric cars. His most impressive achievement is actually that he has managed to figure out how to re-use space rockets. But even Musk is powering those with fossil fuels, and we are going to see why that is.

When it comes to electric cars, Musk has done two things. Firstly, he has replaced the tank of his cars with batteries. But not special batteries, just normal batteries. The technology used has essentially been available for decades. Considering this, it might seem strange that none of the established car manufacturers had this idea before Tesla.

Except, of course, they did. Companies like BMW – with headquarters in Germany, the capital of green brain damage – have experimented with electric cars for much longer than Tesla has. But the result was always been the same – no one really was interested in buying them. Not even true greens wanted to drive one. Cars are generally too individualistic for even the modern comrade. Public trains are the politically correct choice of transport.

And non-comrades were certainly not interested in replacing their fuel engines. Electric cars have some real disadvantages. The most obvious one is that batteries will not get you as far as carbon fuels. To get to any kind of usable distance, engineers have to use a significant proportion of the car as a battery storage. But even than, Tesla cars only get to around a third to half the distance of combustion engines. The reason for that is simple – batteries cannot store nearly as much energy within the same space as carbon fuels. That is to say their energy density is a lot lower.

And once the car has run out of juice, it will take a long time to recharge. Not everyone is willing to take a longer break every 200 miles. This is another real disadvantage. Addressing that problem, Tesla, to their credit, has invented a technology that can recharge their batteries in 30 mins to 80%. Musk has created a quite impressive network of these so called super chargers. This makes batteries at least somewhat usable. But still, 30 mins is a compromise to the max 5 mins of refueling with non-electric cars.

As compensation for these disadvantages, one would hope that there would at least be an economic incentive to go electric. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Electric cars are much more expensive than traditional carbon fuel ones. Even though combustion engines are heavily taxed, and electric cars heavily subsidized, the consumer still pays a large premium for the privilege of driving an inferior car.

And that is the reason why consumers have rejected electric cars throughout history. For most people, it does matter whether they spend $20 000 more or less on a car. That premium is real money, even for those who are scared of global warming. And in my experience, when it comes to their own money, everyone is a capitalist, no matter what other ideology people pretend to hold.

Considering this, it was very predictable that consumers would reject an inferior, more expensive product. And they have done so for a very long time. Already at the beginning of the 20th century, when cars were a new technology, many car companies offered electric models. All of them were discontinued very quickly because of their inferiority to combustion engines.

This never changed, until Tesla came along. If there is one thing that Elon Musk did right, it is that he realized that electric cars are an expensive luxury. Therefore, trying to sell them to impoverished environmentalists is not a good strategy. People who do not care about money are a much better audience. We are talking about rich people who can afford to simply buy an electric cars as another one in their collection, and therefore neglect the disadvantages. Rich people, however, do not buy toy cars, if they cannot function as a status symbol.

And so Musk designed his Tesla models as powerful luxury cars. One of the big advantages of electric motors is that, as long as the engineers allocate enough energy to it, they can be much more powerful than combustion motors. The established car manufactures, however, were most concerned with saving energy, because of the low energy density of batteries. Consequently, producing powerful cars, which consume a lot of energy, were not really on their agenda.

Tesla changed that and Bingo! It turns out environmentalist ideology has penetrated society so deeply that rich people do like to be seen driving electric cars, as long as they look cool and are fun to drive. Musk, therefore, discovered where the real market for electric cars was. However, if it is true that the reason for Tesla’s success is to sell, in many ways inferior, but powerful and very expensive, cars to rich people than how will this lead to a revolution in electric cars for everyone? After all, for most people all the disadvantages still apply.

And this is not even the full story. In reality, Tesla cannot even sell luxury electric cars profitably. The company is a creature of cheap central bank credit. Despite the fact that the Tesla’s expensive cars are very popular, and that every single one of these cars is subsidized by the government, Musk has never made a profit, not even close. In fact, Tesla is loosing money on every car it sells, and seems to try to make it up on volume.

Central banks are the only reason why Tesla could grow to this size. And they are the only reason why the company is still around. Thanks to easy money policies, there is a lot of cheap speculative investment money available. This money helped Tesla to continue manufacturing, despite the apparent unprofitability. But at this point, it should dawn on even die hard Tesla fans that their darling is unlikely to survive. One wonders, why Musk is not straight with his investors about this reality. His silence, and outright denial, does not make him a very trust worthy fellow.

One wonders, if he is hoping for a miracle. But if so, it is not going to come. Instead, Tesla is sailing with green energy into a perfect storm. It won’t be able to produce cars productively any time soon. In addition to that, credit is drying up, thanks to central banks raising interests rates. As if that was not enough, the established car manufactures, who, unlike Musk are very experienced in producing cars productively, are about to enter the market with their own luxury electric cars.

And outside the luxury car market, electric cars still face all the disadvantages they have already faced since cars were invented. For a general change to happen, we would therefore need to see these disadvantages to shrink very significantly, or ideally to disappear completely.

Firstly, there is the costs of batteries. Currently, batteries are very expensive. That should give us a clew as to how readily available the building materials are. The scarcity of materials is the main reason why Tesla has problems producing enough cars to satisfy demand. Its customers usually have to wait a long time for delivery. This illustrates that current battery technology is not very scalable. And this problem is already apparent when hardly anyone is driving electric cars.

That means that before we can all drive electrically, we need to first find a battery technology that uses more available, and therefore cheaper materials. To my knowledge, this will still have to be invented, and is therefore the first real break in the revolution. Nevertheless, this seems to be an achievable goal, at least in theory.

Next, these cheaper batteries would need to charge more quickly. For a lot of people, 30 mins is already acceptable. But particularly for commercial use, this is still too long to compete. That is particularly true given that we will soon see driverless vehicles. Therefore, drivers won’t need a break to rest anymore. That means, every extra charging time is a net economic loss. If the whole transportation industry were to go electric, this would add up to a huge loss of wealth. And again, this is an unsolved problem at the moment. But just like the cost factor, it seems conceivable that this problem will be fixed in the future.

Finally, and most importantly, there is the energy density of batteries. And it is here where we are facing a really hard problem. A few month ago I came cross a video of the youtuber thunderfoot, in which he argues that we are already at an optimum capacity for batteries. Thunderfoot is a professional chemist, and his reasoning seems very compelling.

The argument is simply this – to increase the capacity of a battery means to increase its energy density. The problem with that is that, while this is in theory possible, it will always come with a huge safety trade off. By increasing the energy density, a battery will inevitably become more dangerous.

A battery, by its very nature, needs to contain all the elements needed to release the energy. Any such compact system is at risk of releasing that energy in an uncontrolled way. By now, we are very aware of what can happen, if a battery goes into malfunction. The reaction resulting from an uncontrolled energy release is already quite violent. That, for example, is the reason why certain batteries are banned from flights.

To make matters worse, once ignited, it is very difficult to stop the reaction. That is precisely because the system does not need any external elements, like oxygen, to continue. Once a battery in an electric car starts to burn, it is difficult to extinguish it.

And that is already a problem with the current energy density of batteries. But imagine we increase that density even further. The more we increase the energy density, the less safe the system becomes. Currently, batteries have about an energy density which is 1/10 that of TNT. That means, if we were to increase the energy density of batteries by 10 fold, we would end up with a bomb in our cars, equivalent to the same weight of TNT. That does not sound like such a good idea.

But here is the thing – gasoline has about 10 times the energy density of TNT. So in order to get the energy density of batteries to match that of gasoline, we would need to create an energy system that, if anything goes wrong, would be 10 times as explosive as TNT. It seems quite crazy to put that into a car.

The reason why gasoline is so save is because it can be stored away from the element that is needed to release the energy, which is oxygen. Since oxygen is everywhere in the atmosphere, we can just use that oxygen spontaneously wherever we are. This, btw. also saves us a lot of storage space, making it even more efficient. And if anything goes wrong, we can easily extinguish an accidental fire by cutting it off from oxygen. This makes it an incredibly save system with a very high energy density. It does not look like we can get better than that, even in theory. In other words, gasoline is an optimal energy storage. That is why Musk is using it to move his rockets.

If this argument is correct, then that means we cannot hope for future battery technologies to become anywhere near as energy dense as the fossil fuels we use at the moment. The laws of thermodynamics, which are hard physics, seem to be in the way of achieving that goal. And if that is true, then obviously the idea of electricity being the future of transportation is fundamentally misguided. At least if that electric energy will come from batteries.

It very much looks like burning gas on the go is the best source of mobile energy we can hope for. That means, that anyone who needs a lot of mobile energy, like big ships, planes and even lorries will likely continue to use it, maybe forever. If this is true, then the only question remaining is where will the fuels come from? Will it be fossil fuels, or self made fuels?

It is certainly possible to indirectly use electricity as a mobile energy source. The electricity will then produce the fuel that is used for mobile energy. For that to be profitable, however, electricity would need to be significantly cheaper as it is right now, as the majority of the energy is lost in the fuel production. Nevertheless, in that scenario the vehicles would still continue to burn these fuels while they are driving. And it does not look like that this is going to change anytime soon, if ever. So I am sorry, but the electric vehicle revolution is largely an illusion.

Chris Mounsey on Energy costs and climate policy

Chris Mounsey joined us for this section to talk about Energy prices. Chris’ superficially contentious central point – which none of the panelists actually disputed – was that the reason energy prices are high is becuase it is Government policy to increase them. That in order to protect the climate government policy has been to reduce the demand for energy by making it more expensive. This has happened through the Cap and Trade / Emmissions Trading scheme, through Green Energy mandates and other interventions. Chris observed that becuase energy costs are built into every economic transaction, increasing energy costs in this way silently pushes up costs throughout the economy, not just prices on energy bills. This narrative differed hugely from the oft repeated claim that Energy companies are extracting huge profits from consumer bills.

Kristian Niemietz’ research made two appearances. From the chair, I made the point that the increase in food bank use, seen as a moral and market failure by many (and a victory of both by me, if you want my opinion) is not just down to the increasing food prices we pay, but is caused by all of the various drains on our income, and energy is one of the major ones.

On his own behalf Kristian asked why it is that total carbon emmissions are capped and traded and  – at the same time – the energy market is micro-managed with certain industries and types of power generation protected or discouraged. Kristian’s view was that a cap and trade was enough and, that once the licences to emit were moving through the economy, the market would determine the best way to address the cap. Individual managers made decisions about what emission producing activities to cut and which to licence.

I also asked Chris whether the process of arriving at the selected mix of top down caps and micromanagement was fair, accurate and honest. He said that while it might be contentious, he suspects the answer is no. Chris gave a quick review of the controversy surrounding the University of East Anglia’s work on climate modelling. Some hacked data, code and emails had been released to the public and the emails had caused quite a stir (the “Hide the Decline” controversy) which ended in a select committee inquiry. However, for Chris the “smoking gun” was not the “Hide the Decline” email (which hinted that climate thoeries had been proved wrong) but the code and programmer’s commentary on the code which revealed a number of problems:

  • Data used inaccurately, reversing it’s meaning
  • A process that could not be reproduced
  • No process for handling invalid inputs

So alongside controversies about where this data came from in the first place Chris was doubtful (to put it mildly) as to whether the process was either honest or accurate.

By now the 2008 Climate Change Act had been mentioned a couple of times, and Chris had made the point that this hugely expensive (£80-140 billion) Act had been passed on Ed Miliband’s watch. I put it to Ian, therefore, that the problem was caused by “his lot” the social democratic progressives and Green enthusiasts in Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party. Ian disagreed on three counts:

  • That environmental policy was the result of a “perfect storm” of tory and left-wing ideology which prioritises the protection of the country-side and the eco-system.
  • That in fact not much climate change legislation had been passed recently – Cameron has “cut the green crap” during the crisis.
  • That it was not possible to reduce the cost by much anyway because extracting energy from the ground was inherently very expensive.

It was Ian’s view that the other panelists were on the wrong track and this was not a good place to start working on reducing the cost of living.

Picking up on the first point I put it to Yaron that there was an inherent contradiction at work when every political ideology stands in favour of policies that make every value – regardless of what it is – much more difficult to obtain (by driving up the cost of every economic transaction). Yaron described this as naive (professionaly naive, I assure you dear reader) and said that humans regularly “commit suicide” – as individuals and as collectives. The environmentalist movement is an example of this happening to the West, but at the moment enough common sense is prevailing to avoid unmitigated disaster. Yaron’s preferred course is to allow fracking, and oil extraction investments to be made freely because the benefit of having carbon based energy vastly outweigh the damage from climate change, even assuming it happens just as environmentalists sell it (incidentally, though it may sound incendiary the expert has – prior to the event – already highlighted the fact that his is an officially recognised option, one which culture seems biased against).