Sunday, January 24, 2010

Climate Change Quackery

I agree we should be taking the problem of climate change seriously - based on the risks suggested (if not proved) by the scientific evidence, supported by the much greater certainty of problems with the security of our energy supplies when we have so much reliance on fossil fuels from unstable political environments.

But the problem should be given a bit of perspective - it is one of a number of potential threats to our continued existence on the planet (at anything like current population levels), and when allocating resources careful consideration needs to be given to the balance between the mostly certain cost of taking a preventative measure, the possible effects of not taking a preventative action, and the likely costs of mitigating these potential consequences if they do come about.

Cambridge City Council spends hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money each year on 'the climate change agenda', including a dedicated 'climate change' officer. Where this work is targetting investment that will reduce the energy costs of running the Council, and there will be cost savings going forwards, then great. Trouble is, I fear a lot of the money being spent in this area is more about being seen to do something, than a considered pragmatic response to the problem.

These fears have been heightened by an email received this week, inviting me to a workshop on the topic 'decarbonising Cambridge':

"The Decarbonising Cambridge study is being undertaken by energy consultants and town planning experts on behalf of the City Council. The study will provide part of the evidence base from which the City Council will develop policies aimed at controlling carbon emissions from new developments and increasing the level of local renewable energy supply. These policies will form part of the emerging Local Development Framework, the key set of documents that will influence the shape of Cambridge’s future growth."

Excuse me - 'decarbonising Cambridge' - who dreams up this quackery - if the City Council is really trying to remove all the carbon from Cambridge, we are all in real trouble.

Yes, local government can play a role in energy efficiency, supporting renewable energy production or lower energy lifestyles through the planning system, but the biggest way of persuading individuals that a low energy approach is a good idea is for such measures to unequivocally save them money.

As sensible as measures like low energy lightbulbs and energy efficient buildings might be, if the climate change threat is real, self-flagellation by the chattering classes, coupled with policies that could cripple economic development and therefore have a disproportionately damaging effect on the less well off (people and countries) aren't the answer.

The best responses to the climate change threat are going to involve technological revolutions in the generation, transmission and storage of renewable energy - and it is unlikely that these changes will require local or even national self-sufficiency in renewable energy production.

If the measures local authorities take now, particularly in the knowledge based powerhouse that is Cambridge, succeed in crippling economic development and consequently delay technological progress, to say they might be counterproductive would be an understatement.


NickW said...

I think Cambridge City has done a marvellous job of reducing it's carbon footprint.

For starters, vapourising almost £10 million of tax payers money in get rich ponzi schemes (Iceland) and ticket sales scams will ultimately help reduce the cities carbon footprint by reducing consumption.

I nominate Ian 'this time next year Rodney' Nimmo Smith as Cambridge's climate champion.

NickW said...

As point of interest and in regard to climate change what alternatives could that £10 million have been spent on?

For starters it could have funded approximately 10 Megawatts of onshore wind turbines. Sensibly the location would not be Cambridge City itself but 20 miles north is ideal territory for wind developments.

A 10MW development would produce approx 22 gwh of electricity per annum which equates to about 7500 households annual usage.

The value of this electricity including renewable obligation certificate payments would be in the region of £1.1-£1.3m per annum.

Even after deducting costs a far better, safer return than with Icelandic Banksters.

Offset against coal fired electricity this would save approx 20,000 tonnes of Co2 per annum plus all the other nasties coal fired electricity produces such as particulates and mercury.

Jobs, proper engineering type jobs would be created locally - or at least in the region.

The electricity would offset the importation of approx 9000 tonnes of coal

I don't know what Cambridge City's Carbon footprint is but I am fairly certain it is less than the above.

The wind farm with turbine refurbishment at 20-25 years would last 50 plus years.

Instead the City Council deemed it more prudent to hand this money over to fraudsters and criminals.

On the subject of the missing millions of which Cambridge are unlikely to see a penny of, and come to think of it why should the Icelandic Taxpayer be expected to underwrite the losses? It is a private issue arising from a dodgy money deal between crooked banks and inept public authorities who miserable failed in respect to their fiduciary duties?

Other than the fact that refusal to pay is invariably met by violence I am amazed anyone continues to pay their Council Tax to the City Council.