It’s Not Whether Over Climate Change But What?


Apparently we’re now certain – to five sigma standard – that it really is us causing the climate change that really is happening. It’s been unpopular for near two decades now to insist, as I do, that this isn’t in fact the important question at all. Whether climate change is deeply uninteresting compared to the what do we do next question? The answer being, to my mind, to follow that settled climate science and thus not do all the damn fool things that are being done. That Green New Deal idiocy for example, that’s definitely and definitively ruled out. The worse the predictions the more something so counterproductive is ruled out in fact.

Evidence for man-made global warming has reached a “gold standard” level of certainty, adding pressure for cuts in greenhouse gases to limit rising temperatures, scientists said on Monday. “Humanity cannot afford to ignore such clear signals,” the U.S.-led team wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change of satellite measurements of rising temperatures over the past 40 years. They said confidence that human activities were raising the heat at the Earth’s surface had reached a “five-sigma” level, a statistical gauge meaning there is only a one-in-a-million chance that the signal would appear if there was no warming.

Well, Bully for them. As above I regard this as being unimportant. On the basis that this level of proof, or any other, doesn’t in fact matter. We’re talking politics here, not reality. And politics says that we all agree that there is climate change, that we’re causing it and something must be done. And so something is going to be done – something is being done. We’re spending trillions – yes, trillions, Germany has spent more than a trillion alone on this – on attempting to reduce emissions while still generating electricity.

Not very well it has to be said, closing down nuclear has meant opening up the lignite plants again and all that. The US has reduced emissions rather better than anyone else by moving from coal to fracked natural gas which is exactly the change that all environmentalists in the UK insist must not be allowed to happen and all that.

But the argument about whether to do anything or not, that’s all entirely gone and done. Because there’s that political head of steam up and something is going to be done. The task therefore is to try and influence the what, not the whether.

At which point we should turn to that settled science of climate change. The Stern Review, the work of William Nordhaus, the IPCC reports themselves – but in the technical part about economics, not the political bit at the front – the agreed plan that every economist in the field signs on to. We should have a carbon tax.

What we should not have is grand plans to reorder society. The Green New Deal is an insanity according to that settled science. As are all those other plans from those ivory towers. This is all far, far, too complex to be dealt with by central planning. We’ve only the one tool available to us, markets and their prices. We can, just about, influence those with the well aimed crowbar of a Pigou Tax. Nothing else will actually work.

No, we don’t get to say that it’s all so important that we should plan anyway. As Stern points out, resources are scarce. So, if we deploy them inefficiently then we’ll solve less of the problem than if we did it efficiently. The Green New Deal would lead to less amelioration of climate change than a carbon tax. Simply because it”s an inefficient manner of trying to do things.

As I say, whether climate change isn’t important and hasn’t been for decades now. It’s what which matters and only what which does. The damn fools are going to do something whatever the truth of the underlying contention. Our job is to make sure that it’s a carbon tax – the only thing that would actually solve the problem efficiently if problem there actually is.

There is no societal problem – other than “Oh My God we’re all too rich” – which is going to be solved by giving a blank chequebook, drawn on our account, to either Richard Murphy or Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. This latest finding just emphasises once again how important it is to implement the results of the settled science of climate change. We want a carbon tax and we want a carbon tax now.

Do note something important here. This Pigou Tax, this carbon tax, it should be about £30 billion a year for the UK as Lord Stern told us at great length. We’ve already got the Green taxes up at over that amount. The solution to climate change is already done that is, it’s just unevenly distributed.