My, what a long title. But its a quote from RN in a comment on my IPCC 5th Assessment Review post.

And since this butts head on into something I’ve been thinking for a while, but not said, I’ll write it down. Don’t call me too bitter or cynical, please. And just for the moment, don’t demand references either – this is all stream of thought.

So: for a number of years now, starting at some unknown point – possibly around Cameroon’s ridiculous dancing-with-huskies moment, but most likely more nebulous and earlier – the British political scene went soppy green. Windmills sprouted, solar panels were subsidised, and commitments made – and even passed into law – to decarbonise the economy, with no apparent thought to the cost. I was baffled. Not only were people speaking some of the right words, sometimes even in the right order and at the right times, they were making what appeared to be hard commitments. But what they weren’t really doing was making it clear who was going to pay for it all, which I found worrying. That is, in the end, the acid test. Which we failed.

For when “hard” times came – and, having wandered today around the heart of Cambridge Christmas shopping, those times are really not very hard at all – suddenly even rather minor pledges to pay started to look expensive and the pols started backing off. The most obvious sign of this is the “green levy” or whatever its called, put on fuel bills to pay for the likes of rooftop solar panels. We got some solar panels but I was never really clear who was paying the bills – the money comes from the power companies (or will, when we get round to finishing off the forms) – but obviously these companies aren’t going to give away money for free. I had assumed it was govt (i.e., our tax) money being recycled, somehow. But no! it turns out to be a levy on everyone’s energy bills. And when bills are going up and the supposedly-reticent-and-stuff-upper-lip-but-actually-as-whiney-as-everyone-else Brits see increased fuel bills (presuambly at least some people do read their fuel bills) and ask “why are they going up” and the govt shamelessly tries to blame it on evil fuel companies, then naturally the companies fight back and throw mud in the water with “no! its your green levy wot did it” and suddenly govt support just melts away.

Get to the point

Anyway, back to my point: during the “long” boom up to, whenever, 2007, when we all felt rich and expansive, the public said they wanted greenery and the pols said “yeah!” But it was shallow. No-one thought much about the cost – well, economist types thought about costs, but economists are dull so who’s going to listen to them? Certainly no-one cool.

Public opinion wasn’t prepared for costs-vs-benefits, and suddenly costs matter again. The pols bow to the wind. In a way I’m pleased – the previous policy consensus smacked rather too much of fairyland. It was untested by any real opposition. The opposition now is facile and unthinking, if they’re dumb enough to think that attacking the IPCC is a good idea. But if the good guys can’t beat off idiots like that, how are they going to cope against competent opponents that are sane enough to look at the weak spots, rather than the strong points?

Refs

Minister to admit failure on key climate change emissions target – me 2006.

Comments

  1. #1 crandles
    2013/12/23

    Not filled in forms? Doesn’t that mean you now get much lower feed in tariff rates than you could have got?

    [Hopefully not. I filled in some. But my completer-finisher score has always been zero -W]

  2. #2 Eli Rabett
    http://rabett.blogspot.com
    2013/12/24

    Remind Eli again how long the stupidest man on earth has been Chancellor of the Exchequer

  3. #3 Alan
    2013/12/24

    The added probblem with levies like the one you describe is that they are regressive – essentially they re-distribute money from the poor to the rich, as it is usually only the well-off who can/will install solar panels.

    [You also need to own your house, which excludes the poor -W]

    This isnt me arguing that there shouldnt be incentives BTW, or that there should be either,but just that green policies shouldnt be regressive (although perhaps thats just not possible).
    Anyway, a similar whine to the one you describe for stoic britons occurred in Australia in the early noughties when petrol prices were rising fast. Everyone pointed the ifnger at the government CPI-indexed fuel levy even though its wasn’t the cause of high prices, the government wilted and ended indexing. So now petrol prices are just a little bit lower than they otherwise would have been and theres a massive hole in the nations finances.

  4. #4 Russell
    2013/12/24

    Relax, Eli , Lawson is just taking a breather.

  5. #5 Hank Roberts
    2013/12/24

    > a breather
    He may want a snorkel:
    http://www.theweatherspace.com/2013/12/22/strongest-jet-stream-ever-recorded-to-bring-two-super-storms-to-united-kingdom-region-this-week-with-possible-tornadoes-in-ireland/

    [Odd weather recently. Really very windy last night - trees down near us, river up a bit - but not exceptionally so. But calm today, lovely clear sky -W]

  6. #6 BBD
    2013/12/24

    But it’s just weather…

    /sarc

    And it’s sodded up Christmas for a lot of people rather horribly. I got the silver lining – the TV aerial went, so no telly tomorrow.

  7. #7 Rob Nicholls
    London
    2013/12/24

    Note to self: Must learn to express vague generalisations more succinctly. “Fairyland” may be an apt description of the false impression created by the last labour government (and Cameron in opposition) saying they’re going to tackle climate change, while showing no intention of taking the steps required to tackle it. Perhaps denial of the cost of solving the problem is as bad as denying the problem exists in the first place. Perhaps they’re both symptoms of the lack of political pressure from voters to take action on GHG emissions. That pressure is going to have to be huge for politicians to see an advantage in making the big (and painful) changes required to our economy. I don’t think tackling climate change has ever been high up most voters’ lists of priorities…there is lots of work to do to turn this situation around.

    [Yes, agreed: there's a lot of work to do. Which is why, oddly, I feel a bit happier now the back pressure is starting to show: it was all a bit spooky when it looks like all-is-fine, when it was obvious it wasn't, really -W]

  8. #8 turboblocke
    2013/12/25

    Rather surprised that the increase in the wholesale price of fossil fuels didn’t get more traction in the media as it was/is the largest contributor to energy price increases.

    DECC suggested that the main drivers of recent increases are: wholesale energy costs,
    estimated to have contributed at least 60% of the increase in household energy bills
    between 2010-2012; network costs, supplier operating costs and profit margins, estimated
    to have contributed around 25% of the increase; and the costs of energy and climate change
    policies, estimated to have contributed around 15% of the increase.11

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmenergy/108/108.pdf

    [I'm not surprised. I think its hard to put into words, but the closest I can say is that no-one wants to say that no-one is to blame and that nothing can be done. That makes the pols sounds weak and pointless - which of course they are - and gives the meeja no-one to campaign at. The idea that there are fundamental economic forces that are at work and that need to be understood is not what people want to hear; they want quick fixes -W]

  9. #9 Russell
    2013/12/26

    ” he may want a snorkel”

    You may be thinking of his daughter

  10. #10 Georgie LeBonk
    2013/12/28

    So your measure of hard times is the amount of xmas shoppers in Cambridge ? Posh git. You really are clueless.

  11. #11 Steve Milesworthy
    Devon
    2013/12/28

    Seems to me that Labour hoped to put the focus on the structures of the energy companies, and hoped that the cause of some of the price rises could be found within the jiggery-pokery that goes on between the “vertically integrated” generation and sales businesses. The small energy company Ovo believe this:

    http://www.ovoenergy.com/2013/10/whats-wholesale-prices/

    and said so in their submission to a Select Committee.

    But this was rather complicated to follow.

    So the Big Six ganged up and focused on the tiny proportion of the bill that pays for green levies. Despite lots of clear graphs in the media showing how trivial green levies were (relative to the price rises) this suited certain Tory backbenchers. And Cameron is not committed to anything except what suits him at the time so he was easy to roll over.

    [Trying to focus on the structure of the companies could have been interesting, but a complex story is hard to play - and I can't see I've seen any credible analysis out of Labour. Or from Ovo, come to that - they're just doing what I've seen before, saying "the price of gas did X, so rises should not be Y". Analysing the internal structure might be difficult, but they could do the obvious - look at the profitability of the companies, and see if its excessive. That no-one is doing this(or rather, that no-one is reporting it) rather suggests to me that it isn't. It can't possibly be true that there's no-one at all economically competent in the entire Labour party, can it? -W]

  12. #12 Steve Milesworthy
    Devon
    2013/12/28

    Sorry for duplicate. The server is coming up with Not Available messages on posting.

    [That's OK. Removed -W]

  13. #14 CIP
    Here
    2013/12/30

    Active denial may actually be a step toward recognizing that pretending to do something is no longer working.

  14. […] 2013/12/23: Stoat: The British political establishment seems to be moving more towards climate chang… […]

  15. #16 Carlos
    2013/12/31

    This blog, while posting many interesting stories, falls down when it comes to climate change. Anthrogenic climate change is a hoax. The real driver of climate change, which is very real, are the influences reaching earth from space, specifically the sun’s cycles, cosmic rays, etc.

    [I'm baffled. You can't possibly expect anyone to believe what you're saying based on nothing but your own personal non-existent authority, so what's the point of your comment? -W]

  16. #17 Brian Schmidt
    2014/01/02

    Might be complicated for a politician to say this, but don’t politicians commonly lie about the costs of their proposals, and yet the programs push forward anyway? So the real issue has to go beyond that and address why the lie tripped things up this time, or alternatively that something else is the cause of the problem.

  17. #18 Mal Adapted
    2014/01/03

    Carlos’s comment might be less baffling if he’s a bot.

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