I sent the following response earlier today to a UK government consultation on the proposed review of the “Nett Zero” policy.
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Response to “Review of Net Zero: Call for evidence”
I have been studying the science, history and politics of the green agenda, and particularly the “global warming” or “climate change” issue, for around 15 years. Therefore, I felt impelled to respond to this consultation. I have a degree in mathematics from Cambridge.
You say that the review is to concentrate on ensuring that “delivering the net zero target does not place undue burdens on businesses or consumers.” But this cannot be divorced from the more fundamental question of whether or not the nett zero target is desirable, or even necessary. Which, in turn, depends critically on the question of how the costs and benefits of trying to implement such a target compare with each other.
You also say: “We are supplementing this with a broad call for evidence, giving the general public, businesses and other organisations a chance to share their views on the whole economy transition.” My view is that any such “transition” is unnecessary as there are no significant benefits to it for the ordinary people of the UK, and would be highly destructive to prosperity and quality of life. For example, many people would lose their mobility entirely, as the ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars prices them out of the market for personal transport.
Notwithstanding the politicians’ rhetoric of “no rowing back” on green commitments they have made, any review worth the name on this issue ought to consider seriously, and to evaluate, all options. Including suspension of the nett zero program pending a full and rigorous cost-benefit analysis, or even outright cancellation of the entire program.
As submissions to your consultation, I am attaching copies of four .pdf files:
- respcon-200731.pdf. This was my 56-page submission to your July 2020 consultation on “De-carbonizing Transport.” It gives a good summary of my position on green issues. I think it fair to say that my response, and the responses of others like me, to that “consultation” were totally ignored. I very much hope that does not happen again with this one.
- giroglb.pdf. My somewhat acerbic comments (written in January 2021) on the government’s November 2020 “Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.” You can also find this article on-line at https://libertarianism.uk/2021/01/24/green-industrial-revolution-or-great-leap-backward/.
- adgb.pdf. A follow-up article to the previous one, giving a potted history of the “global warming” or “climate change” agenda from an evidence-based point of view. This includes some comments on the UK government’s purported “cost-benefit analysis,” published in 2019, of nett zero as a whole. You can also find the article on-line at https://libertarianism.uk/2021/01/31/a-dark-green-background/.
- A very recent report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), which analyses the costs and benefits of the 2030 ban on sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles on the UK, which resulted from the “consultation” I referred to above. You can down-load this report via https://fairfueluk.com/CEBR-2030-BAN/.
The take-home message of the Cebr report is that the government should: “undertake their own rigorous analysis so that the full extent of net impacts can be more fully explored. The findings of this report strongly suggest that a similar government led analysis would come to a similar conclusion; that the benefits to UK households of implementing the fossil fuel vehicle sale bans are far outweighed by the costs.”
On page 26, they give the benefit divided by cost ratio of the 2030 bans, relative to a baseline scenario in which there are no bans, as 0.19. That means that the costs of the bans to ordinary people in the UK, as calculated using the government’s own cost-benefit methodology, will be more than five times the benefits from the carbon dioxide and pollution emissions that they save.
On page 28, they consider an alternative scenario, in which the benefits of curbing CO2 emissions are calculated, not using UK government methodology, but instead using the US government’s published value of the “social cost of carbon” per ton of CO2 emissions, which is less than a fifth of the UK government’s number. This estimate is produced using William Nordhaus’s DICE integrated assessment model, and seems to me much more believable than the UK number. (Though, if you use Richard Tol’s FUND model rather than DICE, which aims to assess benefits resulting from increased carbon dioxide, such as better plant growth, as well as the associated costs, you may reach an even lower social cost estimate.)
Cebr do not re-calculate the benefit versus cost ratio for this scenario, but doing the same calculation with their revised figures as they did on page 26, I come up with a benefit over cost ratio of 0.0644. That means that if you accept the US social cost figure, more than 93% of the money spent will be completely wasted, and less than 7% of it will generate any benefits. Even if you discount the “new vehicles” component of the costs, the benefit divided by cost ratio is still only 0.129. That’s not a good deal for the people of the UK, is it?
And this Cebr report addresses only one component of nett zero, the petrol and diesel vehicle ban. I wonder if any objective and rigorous cost-benefit analysis along these lines has been done for the other parts of the “ten point plan?” Or, indeed, on the risks of de-stabilizing the UK electrical power grid, of supply chain difficulties for materials like lithium, or of new technologies that are necessary to that plan not being ready when they are needed?
I take the view that government is and must always be, as John Locke told us, for the public good. That the public good is as Locke defined it: “the good of every particular member of that society, as far as by common rules it can be provided for.” And that government power, as he put it: “hath no end but preservation, and therefore can never have a right to destroy, enslave, or designedly to impoverish the subjects.” Therefore, I would suggest that the government ought to institute, as a very high priority, objective and rigorous cost-benefit and risks assessments on the entire nett zero project. To be carried out by, as the UN Declaration of Human Rights puts it, “an independent and impartial tribunal” with appropriate expertise.