Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Peter Lilley Challenges Brown on Climate Change Costs

Peter Lilley has written a damning letter to Ed Miliband, exposing the meaningless figures he has given relating to the cost of climate change. I quote it in full, as it is a classic of its kind...
Dear Secretary of State

You recently slipped out, without notifying Parliament, a massive revision of the estimated costs and benefits of the Climate Change Act.

I hope that on consideration, you will agree that changes amounting to nearly £1 trillion require both discussion in, and explanation to, Parliament. This is particularly important given the extraordinary way the government treated its own original estimates of the costs and benefits of the Climate Change Bill during the Bill’s passage through Parliament.

You will recall that your original estimates of costs and benefits of the Climate Change Bill showed that its potential costs (1) at some £205 billion were almost twice the maximum benefits of £110 billion. This was embarrassing for you because the reason governments are required to publish an Impact Assessment giving estimates of costs and benefits of any Bill is to enable Parliament to “determine whether the benefits justify the costs” (2).

In this case, on the basis of your figures, they clearly did not. Moreover, your initial calculations were based on the original target of reducing emissions by 60%, which was increased to 80% during the passage of the Bill. Normally each extra percentage reduction will require increasing marginal costs and generate declining marginal benefits. So the higher target was likely to make the disparity between costs and benefits even worse.

You nonetheless ignored your own department’s figures, refused to discuss them and proceeded to drive the Bill through – surely the first time any government has recommended Parliament to vote for a Bill which its own Assessment showed could cost far more than the maximum benefits?

However, you promised to produce revised estimates though, rather bizarrely, not in time for Parliament to consider them but after Royal Assent.

Five months have passed since then. Inevitably such a lengthy delay arouses suspicions – aggravated by the scale of the changes – that the figures have had to be heavily massaged to remove the original embarrassment.

The new figures for both costs and benefits have indeed been changed dramatically. As so often in the debate on Global Warming – when the facts don’t fit the theory they change the facts.

As recently as your last departmental question time on 5th March your Minister of State, Joan Ruddock, suggested to me that the original estimate of potential costs of up to £205 billion might be too high. She said “We are likely to find that the costs, which covered a very large range, were exaggerated…” Yet despite correcting for any previous downward bias the revised figures you have now published are not lower but substantially higher. The bottom of the new range for costs is in fact £324 billion – nearly 60% higher than the highest figure I have been quoting. And the top of the range is now £404 billion.

In other words the government now estimates that the Climate Change Act will cost every household in the country between £16,000 and £20,000 each.

When it comes to your revised estimates of the benefits, however, we enter Alice in Wonderland territory. Even though costs have broadly doubled, the embarrassment of them exceeding your own estimate of the maximum benefits has been eliminated. The benefits have been dramatically increased tenfold from £105 billion to over £1 trillion. I congratulate on finding nearly £1 trillion of benefits which had previously escaped your notice.

But surely such an astounding discovery merits explanation? The one element of the revision which is mentioned appears, of itself, to justify doubling estimates based on the previous methodology. But where did the rest of the newly discovered benefits arise from?

As you know, having studied physics at Cambridge, I do not dispute the existence of a greenhouse effect, though I am sceptical about the model building which seeks to amplify it. I support sensible measures to reduce CO2 emissions, economise on hydrocarbon use and help the poorest countries adapt to adverse climate change whatever it cause – as long as the measures we adopt are sensible and cost effective. But we cannot judge what is sensible and cost effective if we do not have reliable figures, and subject them to proper parliamentary scrutiny.

When the Department slips out figures which it appears to be unable to explain, unwilling to debate and which are so flaky they vary by a factor of ten - it can only provoke scepticism.

I should be grateful if you could answer the following questions:

1) When will Parliament be given an opportunity to discuss these new figures?

2) What is the explanation of the huge revisions in costs and, more particularly, benefits?

3) Why has it taken five months to produce these revised figures?

4) What is the purpose of publishing Impact Assessments which are ignored or not available until after Parliament has considered a Bill?

5) Which minister signed off the required declaration that the original Impact Assessment “represented a reasonable view of the likely costs, benefits and impact”?

6) Can you confirm that the costs of the Climate Change Act amount to between £16,000 and £20,000 for every UK household?

7) Can you confirm that the revised cost estimates still exclude transitional costs (which could amount to 1% of GDP up to 2020), ignore the cost of driving British firms overseas, and assume that all businesses identify and immediately apply the most carbon efficient technology available?

8) Can you confirm that although the costs of the Act will fall on UK households the benefits will largely accrue to the rest of the world?

9) Can you confirm that the Climate Change Act binds UK governments to pursue the targets regardless of whether other countries follow our lead (or indeed whether the climate warms or not)?

Yours sincerely

Peter Lilley

(1) Cost estimates exclude transitional costs which were put at about 1% of GDP until 2020, omit the cost of driving carbon intensive UK industries abroad which was said to be significantly likely, and assume that businesses will identify and implement immediately the optimum new carbon efficient technologies.

(2) Impact Assessment Guidance - BERR

I suspect he will get an answer which is less than fulsome in its detail.


Plato said...



Did he think no one would query such hilarious amendments?!

Great letter - LOL.

Anonymous said...

Another over-promoted student activist.

BrianSJ said...

Great letter. Thank you for publicising it.

neil craig said...

The wheels are coming off the catastrophic warming buggy. Watts Up With That says that the US mesia, a year ago was running articles 99/1 supporting warming, 2 months ago it was 80/20, yesterday it was 50/50.

Of course they do not have the benefits of the glorious BBC who are hacen't yet reached the stage of 1% honesty on the subject.

Alex said...

On the contrary. I expect the reply will be totally fulsome (NB: not 'fullsome').

ful⋅some   /ˈfʊlsəm, ˈfʌl-/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [fool-suhm, fuhl-] Show IPA
–adjective 1. offensive to good taste, esp. as being excessive; overdone or gross: fulsome praise that embarrassed her deeply; fulsome décor.
2. disgusting; sickening; repulsive: a table heaped with fulsome mounds of greasy foods.
3. excessively or insincerely lavish: fulsome admiration.
4. encompassing all aspects; comprehensive: a fulsome survey of the political situation in Central America.
5. abundant or copious.

Simon Gardner said...

I rather think eyes are elsewhere today and nobody will much care what Peter “little list” Lilley says about anything.

Not that global warming isn’t a clear and present danger™ and all.

Mark M said...

Ah, climate change. The great tax provider to governments who have run out of other ways to tax us.

Always remember that governments have the power to ban things that they don't want to happen, and the power to tax things that they know are going to happen regardless of the tax.

If they truly wanted us to emit fewer CO2 emissions, they would announce the gradual closure of all coal power plants, the commisioning of a whole new selection of nuclear power plants, would subsidise the production of electric cars, subsidise installation of solar panels, batteries and wind turbines in every UK home etc.

As all they do is tax us, it shows they have no interest in the environment, only in raising tax.

Simon Gardner said...

Mark M said... “If they truly wanted us to emit fewer CO2 emissions, they would announce the gradual closure of all coal power plants, the commisioning of a whole new selection of nuclear power plants, would subsidise the production of electric cars, subsidise installation of solar panels, batteries and wind turbines in every UK home etc.”

Here, here. Especially the bit about nuclear power - green energy. I have a feeling that will happen too.

The Green movement has completely got its knickers in a twist over nuclear power - as I was telling it 25 years ago when I could.

Nuclear power is the number one reason for having nothing to do with the UK’s Green Party (as I believe it is now called).

T England. Raised from the dead. said...

I posted this & more on Conservativehome the other day, some food for thought!
This example is from Dr Saul Griffth & Brian Cox.

Let’s say we want to give each person on the planet 5KW by 2035 to use as they go about their lives, doesn’t sound too much does it? Sounds fair & we have 25 years to achieve it, but can we do it without fossil fuel?

If we have 6 billion people on the planet each using 5KW of power that comes to 30 terra watts of global consumption, can we mix & match energies to make up the power?

For a chunk of the power we would need 5,000 nuclear reactors, that’s two & a half full size reactors to be built each week for the next 25 years.
You would need to build & install a full size 3 mega watt wind turbine every 3 minutes for the next 25 years (& not forgetting the land to put them on).
What about solar to raise 10 terra watts, you would need 250 sq metres of solar cells to be put up every second for the next 25 years.
What about Bio fuel, 2 terra watts. You would need 4 Olympic size swimming pools filled with genetically modified bacteria to be built every second.
The amounts above don’t take into consideration a population increase

It seems to me the only place to put our money is into fusion power.

T England. Raised from the dead. said...

The full post about fusion power.

Andrew said...

Alex. You are of course quite right, but writers and speakers continue to misuse the word "fulsome".
They should just think of it with reference to Brown's welcome to Obama today --offensive, overdone. gross.
I had to switch off the telly.

Anonymous said...

What evidence do you have about the clear and present danger of global warming Mr Gardener?

And I believe it is 'hear hear' - as in 'hear him'
Just trying to be helpful

Plato said...

Indeed Mr Den.

Hear, hear.

Simon Gardner said...

trevorsden said... “What evidence do you have about the clear and present danger of global warming...”

I rather think we all have it - apart from a few crackpot deniers. I’m not going to google for you when you can do it yourself.

Oh and that domestic windmill thing - it seems not to work with some mills generating less power than they produce to power their running.

Anonymous said...

So you do not have any evidence then?

The government are relying on domestic mills to help it meet its pointless carbon saving target - you had better tell them Mr Gardner.

strapworld said...

Trevors Den you have done us all a favour. Reducing the Gardner to a hopeless head case, a follower without any hard evidence.

Remind her of Eugenics next time it blesses us with her opinion.

jon dee said...

Very, very important letter and well done for its publicity.

I hope its taken up by others.

Simon Gardner said...

trevorsden said... And I believe it is 'hear hear'...

Thanks. I’m always getting that wrong. Some sort of permanent block or something.

Simon Gardner said...

trevorsden said... “So you do not have any evidence then?”

We all do. You can barely move without falling over it. It’s overwhelming I refer you to the answer you got before. Try just about every scientific journal of record in the relevant fields.

Roger Thornhill said...

A letter from an Opposition Parliamentarian.

We need the Climate Change scam to be exposed as a taxer's and control-freaker's wet dream.

Unknown said...

For what it's worth, here are a few links that give evidence for the global warming argument.

I'd recommend the last one. It is long and complex but it allows you to see where the contra arguments arose and how they were dealt with. The first one, from "Foreign Policy" is nice and qualitative, no maths!

By refusing to face up to the science the right is handing the argument to the Monbiot eco-facists. It does not have to be like that but it will be without the kind of intelligent response that Peter Lilley seems to be giving.

neil craig said...

I don't see any serious difficulty in building 5,000 reactors over the next 26 years. Well political problems but no enginering ones. Indeed if they were being built in those numbers we would find them being mass produced in the way Henry Ford did with cars. I'm sure there was a time when the idea of a factory producing 5,000 cars was considered moonshine.

Servallan there was a recent debate in St Andrews university on warming in which the chief sceptic stated that there was no actual evidence of catastrophic warming & challenged the warmist speakers to produce some. They produced no evidence whatsoever, instead relying on comparing sceptics to Nazis & duly lost.

For some inexplicable reason the BBC, even locally in Scotland, didn't report it.

Victor, NW Kent said...

Simon Gardner said:
"some mills generating less power than they produce to power their running".

I had some difficulty understanding this telling point. It does tell me that the writer has no physics or engineering training or theory. A mill would consume power in order to run. In the case of windmills of any variety that power comes free - from the wind.

Anonymous said...

Dear folorne hope - your first example gives no evidence at all, it is full of untruths and aunt sallys.

The claim that scientists are not divided; - ignores the very large conference of sceptic - yes - scientist which took place a little while ago.

The author classes himself as an 'educator' - he wrote a book about climate change in 1989. Temperatures now are no different to then. He needs educating.

Taking your third example at random - this too proves nothing.
The quote "...concluded that the potential damage from greenhouse gases was real and should not be ignored.. " is based on no evidence - other than computer models presumably.
The remark - "Warming from doubled CO2 of 1.5 to 4.5ºC was possible, the panel reported"
- is contradicted here ...
"The earth’s climate (in contrast to the climate in current climate GCMs) is dominated by a strong net negative feedback. Climate sensitivity is on the order of 0.3°C, and such warming as may arise from increasing greenhouse gases will be indistinguishable from the fluctuations in climate that occur naturally from processes internal to the climate system itself."

The IPCC models rely on strong positive feedback to produce their doomsday scenarios. These scientist - thats scientists - show that observations and experiment show a negative feedback.

On the basis of this uncertainty the govt are committing us to huge costs - as exposed by Lilley (well its the govts own figures).
Ask yourself where this money will come from?

DespairingLiberal said...

Peter Lilley is much more intelligent than the typical Tory MP and this is a good, well-argued piece that deserves serious debate.

One initial thing that jumps out - note that PL does not "as a physicist" challenge the underlying truth of human-induced major climate change. This is of course different to our esteemed blogger, who has, er, no science training and is, er, completely convinced that it's all bunkum.

Anonymous said...

Oh and you might want to reconsider the whole 'greenhouse' hypothesis.

The other point to consider is that most of the energy - heat - supposedly being absorbed by the greenhouse gasses (of which water vapour is the biggest part) is at wavelengths not absorbed by these greenhouse gases.

This is proposed by Michael Hammer (a scientist)
He also points out here that feedback is negative not positive

So no wonder observation fails to match computer modelled theory.

Anonymous said...

Despairing liberal - its quite possible that 6 billion people will have some effect on climate, but it is nothing like as disastrous or cataclysmic as the desperate warmists insist.

As my posts try to point out many other scientist claim that the positive feedbacks invented to create this scenario do not exist.

Indeed if the earth were so susceptible then life would not have evolved in the past. These claims are indeed 'bunkum'.

Victor - you are right, to a point. But small mills generate small power which is subject to variable winds. By the time you add in the costs to produce them then there is not much net green saving.
Its to do with the energy being a cube of the wind speed related to the size of the vanes.


I would have thought there could be some benefit for isolated houses and farms etc.

When its windy.

Mulligan said...

Mr Lilley misses the whole point. There has never been an exercise in history offering such an opportunity for pick-a-number any number in monetary/temperature/sea levels/polar bears/how many years we have left etc etc. And of course when you can dupe enough people to buy in unquestioningly into the "science being proven" then you also have the best thing since religion for control the people.

Is climate changing, yep - just like it has since the big bang - does man contribute, probably , but nowhere near as much of a factor as that big orange thing in the sky (or volcanic activity, or the carbon released into the atmosphere by the destruction of the rain forests to plant bio fuels - another triumphant own goal for the eco-fascists..)

ps like many an adolescent boy Servalan was the highlight of Blake's Seven, but she seems to be keeping some very suspect company in her old age.

bgprior said...

Mark M, Simon & Co,

If they were economically-literate and wanted to do something rational about climate-change (assuming it's a problem we need to do something about...), they wouldn't pick a list of "winners" and direct energy companies to implement them (that's pretty close to what they are doing at the moment, actually). They would introduce a rational carbon-price equally across all sectors and activities, and let markets discover the optimum balance of adaptation and mitigation, and how the various technologies and changes to behaviour fit within that balance. That may turn out to include more or less nuclear, solar, etc, but I promise you no politician or civil servant knows any better than you or I what the correct balance should be. Haven't we had enough micro-management and dirigisme yet?

Simon Gardner said...

Victor, NW Kent said... “"some mills generating less power than they produce to power their running". I had some difficulty understanding this telling point. It does tell me that the writer has no physics or engineering training or theory. A mill would consume power in order to run. In the case of windmills of any variety that power comes free - from the wind.

There was a bunch of electronics associated with the relevant mains power supply interface of the mills sold by B&Q which itself consumed power. They (B&Q) discovered rather late that the units were consuming more net power than they were actually producing. That’s why they were withdrawn. The last figures I saw suggested that (except in exceptional situations) domestic windmills were not going to provide net power at all.

I readily confess my physics only went as far as first year at University when I swapped for Genetics.

Unknown said...

So Ian,

Will Peter Lilley be sending a copy of his letter to David Cameron with a sharply pointed question as to why Cameron supported the Climate Change Bill and does he still support the Bill? And the rest of the Tory MPs who voted for this economic suicide pact?

Its no use snarking at Milliband when your own party voted heavily in favour of the Bill, Ian.

It reeks of hypocricy.

Iain Dale said...

Desp Liberal, 7.43. As usual you completely misrepresent my position.

Brit in, so just because the Tories supported the Bill, they shouldn't seek to scrutinise what the government is doing. Do you actually understand the role of an opposition? Clearly not.

Unknown said...

Trevorsden, your post is one of the more sophisticated responses. I had some fun chasing it through. Thank you.

The Lindzen study looks like a real killer - you win! However there is just one point to check. His data on LW radiation came from a 2002 study. The authors of that study subsequently updated it having identified calibration errors in the original work: Now this could simply be establishment scientist fudging the data or it could simply reflect the, acknowledged, lack of understanding of feedback loops. Either way the data is suspect and this analysis cannot lead to a conclusion one way or the other.

Link number three was simply in because it gives the background to the cooling hypothesis of the 1970's. It does not attempt to make a case for AGW. The first link is a qualitative discussion, as I wrote, no maths! The last link is by far the most substantial, though you will find links to data sources in the New Scientist feature.

I agree that it is important that these issues are raised and discussed. There is a range of responses putting the contra argument to AGW. Some are simply a refusal to discuss it, others are innumerate. Some, like yours, are highly sophisticated and deserve respect.

My serious fear is that by sticking to a complete rejection of AGW, the right is going to hand the discussion to the Monbiot tendency. Peter Lilley's response is the right one. This is an issue, it requires a response. The response must be cost effective and supportive of a free society.

neil craig said...

I don't think the right, or anybody else completely rejects the possiblility of AGW. What is rejected is the claim that the scientific evidence proves CAGW (Catastrophic AGW). A degree or so of warming would be beneficial, as proven by the Medieval & late Roman Warmings which were probably more than 1 C above today. Moreover increased CO2 is certainly beneficial to crop growth.

For the warming to be catastrophic & thus justify all the laws & spending it would have to be producing warming significantly beyond historical experience - 3 degrees or more - for which not only is there absolutely no evidence but the fact that the globe is currently cooling provides strong counter evidence.

Thomas Bewick said...

I don't think Peter Lilley's arguments are convincing. The UK's target is consistent with the contraction and convergence path followed by many countries. Clearly the UK's efforts will be meaningless without international support, but developing nations have made it clear that the developed world needs to take the lead on this issue.

On the issue of cost-benefit analysis, most people acknowledge the deficiencies of studies based on highly aggregated information. This is why it is more sensible to do a cost-benefit analysis including disaggregated impacts, i.e., a multi-criteria analysis. When you do this, as is done in the Stern Review and IPCC report, the benefits of climate change mitigation become clear. There are a lot of unpleasant potential impacts of climate change, and by not cutting emissions substantially, the risks of these impacts becomes much higher.