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The unintended consequences of climate change policy

I have a new paper out at GWPF, looking at the unintended consequences of climate change policy. This has been a long time in gestation, but I have to say I'm pretty pleased with the results. Those promoting climate change alarm should really be ashamed of themselves.

London, 19 January: A new paper by Andrew Montford and published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation examines the unintended consequences of climate change policy around the world.

We are constantly told about the risks of what climate change might bring in the distant future. In response, governments have adopted a series of policy measures that have been largely ineffective but have brought with them a bewildering array of unintended consequences.

From the destruction of the landscape wrought by windfarms, to the graft and corruption that has been introduced by the carbon markets, to the disastrous promotion of biofuels, carbon mitigation policies have brought chaos in their wake.

The new paper surveys some of the key policy measures, reviewing the unintended consequences for both the UK and the rest of the world. Mr Montford is a prominent writer on climate change and energy policy and has appeared many times in the media.

“The most shameful aspect of the developed world’s rush to implement climate change mitigation policies is that they have often been justified by reference to ethics. Yet the results have been the very opposite of ethical.” said Mr Montford.

“Andrew Montford has reviewed the sad truth about various schemes to ‘save the planet’ from the demonized but life-giving gas CO2: from bird-killing windmills, native peoples expelled from their ancestral lands, to fraud in the trading of carbon credits. Every thinking citizen of the planet should read this,” said William Happer, Professor of Physics at Princeton University.

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Reader Comments (76)

Very good Andrew. Am proud of having given my little contribution to this project. Unfortunately some lifestyle changes are preventing me from doing more.

Jan 19, 2015 at 2:07 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Excellent paper. I don't like to nitpick but there are several typos. Also, the section 'Grid inefficiency and carbon emissions' is wrong. Wind power does not provide baseload; In fact weind power cannot provide electricity for any of the three functions of generators, namely baseload, load follow and peak load. Wind power is just a liability to the grid. No way does wind displace nuclear. Examination of Gridwatch show that wind predominantly displaces CCGTs (ie CCGTs provide the backup for wind variability and intermittency) and therein lies the problem, because CCGTs become unprofitable, nobody will build any and current ones are being mothballed.

Jan 19, 2015 at 2:44 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Good paper. A comprehensive listing of the main issues. Link duly bookmarked!

(Your citation number 37 has a few missing sections which makes it somewhat unreadable.)

Jan 19, 2015 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

An excellent and concise assessment of the problem.
But I must endorse Phillip Bratby's comment and graphicconception's and point out that proof readers are not expensive and can usually be found in Yellow Pages. I really do wish more people would make use of them.

Jan 19, 2015 at 3:00 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike: I have in the past offered to proof read Andrew's papers for free, in confidence of course.

Jan 19, 2015 at 3:11 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

"Sustainable development" has become associated with all that is bad about climate alarmism, but in fact it developed out of good research that found that world bank projects in the 1970s were failing to have the economic development expected because the development was having other effects.

So, e.g. money invested to create agriculture land was not having the return, because the soils were being washed away, the land became infertile and the rivers silted up and fish stocks killed.

So, the idea developed that you should think about not only the economic impacts of policy but also the environmental and social impacts.

Then along came the eco-fascists who took this idea of "sustainable development", and turned it inside out and into "zu must do environment and damn the rest.2

And so a few decades later, we are now finding governments making exactly the same mistakes as the 1970s but this time, instead of focussing on economic development and ignoring the social and environmental issues, they are now focussing on the environmental "development" and ignoring the economic and social.

So, quite literally current "green" policy is failing because it does not meet the requirements outlined for sustainable development - largely because the arrogant green nutters running the show.

Jan 19, 2015 at 3:18 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Explains the sudden high cost (GBP13) of a 1.2*0.6 mtr (18mm) sheet of MDF chipboard at B&Q. Food & Clothes may have gone down, but everything else is sky high.

Jan 19, 2015 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterEx-expat Colin

"Every thinking citizen of the planet should read this,” said William Happer, Professor of Physics at Princeton University."


The alarmists should read it too.

Jan 19, 2015 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnything is possible

And I have some experience in that field also.

Jan 19, 2015 at 5:00 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike Haseler
Environmental fanatics tend to be reasonably intelligent members of the middle classes with a guilt complex about their comparative wealth and comfortable lifestyle. They are usually very nice people, pretty good at what they do, loving parents, and totally ignorant of anything outside their tight little world.
Which means there is at least a 50:50 chance that when they try to assuage their consciences by helping the poor and underprivileged in other parts of the world (or even the other side of London) they will assume that their standards are universal, their ambitions are universal and that Greenpeace or FoE will get it right because, after all, they are the ones who know about these things.
Unaware that Greenpeace and FoE are reasonably intelligent members of the middle classes with a guilt complex about their comparative wealth and comfortable lifestyle. They are usually very ...
And repeat!

Jan 19, 2015 at 5:08 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I agree with Phillip Bratby and Mike Jackson's points - and if they're both unavailable, my proof-reading services are also at your disposal.

Good article, tho'

Jan 19, 2015 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnteros

In what sense is this a "paper"? "Papers" are normally understood to be formal, technical arguments crafted by competent people then submitted to a reputable journal for the basic sanity check of peer review prior to acceptance for publication.

Jan 19, 2015 at 5:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

"In response, governments have adopted a series of policy measures that have been largely ineffective but have brought with them a bewildering array of unintended consequences."

Is that not the very definition of modern government? Combine that with the famous and so very true Groucho Marx observation: "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." and most of the ills of modern life are explained.

Jan 19, 2015 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter C

Noel Darlow, never heard of white papers or grey literature? The IPCC reports used to be full of them (maybe still is).

Jan 19, 2015 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Mentioning unintended consequences is taboo in warmism, good intentions are king. The whole issue is full of half assed ideas and a curious lack of understanding of how reality and specifically people tick. They leap at solutions (which is not always a bad thing) but then won’t re-evaluate when the down sides emerge. They keep hoping things will come good. If they really wanted AGW to be put at the top of the agenda then the policies we adopted would be very different from the ones that appeal to a green.

Jan 19, 2015 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


IPCC reports attempt to summarise real science. There's a big difference between competent people presenting formal, technical papers unqualified people presenting uninformed opinions.

Jan 19, 2015 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

Well done Andrew on a short and useful list of some of the unintended consequences of climate policies.
The biggest harm is missing and is more esoteric. That is the harm to economic growth. That is why China, India and smaller Asian Tigers, are avoiding the whole issue of emissions constraints. Yet those countries are currently accounting for up to three-quarters of emissions growth.
For actual policy countries, higher costs per unit of output means lower living standards to consumers. These same higher costs relative to those non-policy countries will mean a shift of investment and jobs to the non-policy countries. The effects of both of these factors becomes most apparent in an economic downturn. For instance, the severity of Spain's economic downturn, with the current 25% unemployment will have been, to a small degree, exacerbated by the aggressive renewables policies in that country.

Jan 19, 2015 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Jan 19, 2015 at 7:04 PM | Noel Darlow

Your education is sadly lacking:

Jan 19, 2015 at 8:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

If you had read many papers you wouldn't think that competence was a requirement. Hoped for, maybe.

Jan 19, 2015 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterjferguson

If Will Happer is correct to remind readers of GWPF's latest that

"Ghengis Khan supposedly informed his victims: ‘I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you!’"

Heaven must view climate modeling's sins as rather venial to have dispatched Andrew in Chengis' place.

Jan 19, 2015 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Noel..if its just "uniformed opinion" are implying it has mistakes.
You do not mention any mistakes.!
Your "criticism"...and appeal to authority(sigh) is just uninformed opinion...and nothing more. :)

Jan 19, 2015 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrapetomania

Yawn, the Seitz troll returns. That's unusually intelligible for you, Russell, but given your own Adonis-like appearance - here's a link to your bizarre plan to *save the planet* by blowing bubbles, complete with photograph -

- the old British saying 'pot, kettle, black' springs to mind.

And who's Chengis?

Jan 19, 2015 at 9:20 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Good paper.

Two items that could be added to a future paper:

1) CCS risks, Large man made repository of CO2 being subject to a mass release. Downwind consequences are really bad.

2) Human health risks due to PV panels in house fires. With 40,000 house fires per year, and an increasing number of PV installations, have the risks of tellurium release from within PV panels during a fire been evaluated. Andrews reference to the RCS site shows how dangerous this and other substances can be to human health.

Jan 19, 2015 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Richards


It's a train wreck of bigotry and deception. What else would you expect from an anti-scientific lobbying group like GWPF?

Jan 19, 2015 at 9:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

Noel Darlow, are you actually familiar with how science actually works, or are you indulging in psychological projection?

Bigotry? Smear the opposition with holocaust-implying insults.

Deception? Press releases claiming 'hottest EVER year' when no scientist who can understand probabilities would make such a ludicrously unsubstantiated claim.

Anti-scientific lobbying? Changing historical temperature records and compiling loaded and factually incorrect press releases? Take a closer look at NASA GISS - scientists NEVER change observations for their own or anybody else's convenience. If they do, they lose any claim to the title 'scientist' and become corrupt lobbyists.

You can't further human knowledge by faking results and lying to the press about them.

Jan 19, 2015 at 9:57 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Noel Darlow: I suggest you read the paper, carefully, check references, construct your science based critique, then write your comment. It might then be worth reading.

Jan 19, 2015 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

@Peter Stroud

Peter: a "paper" with a foreword which insists that carbon dioxide is not a threat but a benefit to the planet and uses pejorative language such as CO2 "jihad" and "windmills" is not to be taken seriously.

Jan 19, 2015 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

Isn't Noel one of the tree house boys? The last time I saw Russell on this blog, he appeared to be asserting that climate science was akin to homeopathy. However, given that his ability to write clearly is limited and that he prefers to appear pretentious and affected rather than to communicate, I might have been mistaken.

Jan 19, 2015 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Noel Darlow: please outline the parameters of the 'threat' posed by CO2.
And, to the best of my knowledege, a 'windmill' is a device that converts available wind into work.

You write in a fashion similar to a fifteen-year-old attempting to defend not completing his homework assignments to his teacher by using the tactic of bluster laced with complete ignorance.

Jan 20, 2015 at 2:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Noel Darlow,

4 attack comments from you (thus far) and no hint of a reasoned, informed scientific argument. Don't you get tired of embarrassing yourself?

Jan 20, 2015 at 2:44 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

And who may 'Justsaynotofearmongers' be ?

All I know is that he has not read the introduction to Matt's piece by Will Happer

Jan 20, 2015 at 5:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

"Mike: I have in the past offered to proof read Andrew's papers for free, in confidence of course.

Jan 19, 2015 at 3:11 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby"

Heck, I'd proof read Andrew's writings for a share of his big oil money!

Which I reckon to be, ah, um, significantly less than nothing. I'll still guarantee non-disclosure.

Jan 20, 2015 at 5:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

@Alexander K

"please outline the parameters of the threat posed by CO2"

The limits of what one can reasonably claim about matters of science are defined by the set of published papers* which have not yet been refuted. No more, no less.

If you want to comment on matters of science you must take the trouble to ensure that any statements which you make are supported in the literature. If they are not, they are not meaningful.

If you don't already know why CO2 poses a threat - despite over 25 years of very public warnings - I suggest that you read some books.

*real peer-reviewed scientific papers by competent people published in reputable journals not GWPF reports

Jan 20, 2015 at 6:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

Have any of the MSM picked up on this? Every scare story from Greenpeace is up there on the BBC, Guardian etc. Has this had any discussion. I have not seen any ( is is too early for commentaries/ discussions? ). Therein lies the problem. For all Andrew's sterling work, the GWPF is routinely marginalised by the liberal elite. Surly the Telegraph or the Spectator in the UK or Forbes in the US will give this wider exposure?

Jan 20, 2015 at 7:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterSankara

Well, Noel, a warmer world supports more total life and more diversity of life. The benefit of the greening of the Earth by the rising CO2 is clearly a net positive, and warming, in contrast to cooling, must also ultimately be a net benefit for the biome and the Earth. The higher the sensitivity of temperature and climate to CO2 then the colder we would now be without man's input. Furthermore, if sensitivity is low, then we've bounced naturally out of the lows of the Holocene.

And in what universe is it that 'science' is confined to pulp and electrons. Your authority is a mirage, better an inadequate simulacrum. Skeptics have been driving climate science for at least the last half decade, exploring new concepts while your authorities put inadequate band-aids over the gaping wounds in 'consensus' climate science.

You need to get out more.

Jan 20, 2015 at 8:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Dang, 'a warmer world sustains more total life and more diversity of life'. That's the second time I've used 'supports' instead of 'sustains'. They've told me I'm only allowed three such mistakes.

Jan 20, 2015 at 8:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Noel Darlow should cut Alexander K some slack.

I have no problem with his refusal to acknowledge " why CO2 poses a threat - despite over 25 years of very public warnings" What's damning is his inablilty to grasp the 130 years of experimental radiative forcing science that preceded the present controversy..

Tyndall exposited the climate impact of CO2 with such sustained clarity that Victoria & Albert could follow his argument with ease!..

Jan 20, 2015 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Russell, Noel, scratch most any skeptic and you'll find what is denied is the peril, the Catastrophe. Most accept that higher CO2 means higher temperature, that is, most believe AGW, but differ about its magnitude and magnitude of its impact. There is a vast range of opinion about sensitivity, and at the low end, the figure becoming empirically evident, anthropogenic CO2 can only be a net benefit for the biome and for human society, in the amounts we can realistically release.

You should be happy; we're greening the Earth!

Jan 20, 2015 at 9:06 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Mike Jackson ... "Environmental fanatics tend to be reasonably intelligent members of the middle classes with a guilt complex".

Sums it up very well.

What I might add, is that those who are "anti-CO2" tend not to be engineers or those who have worked in industry (who are natural energy savers as energy is cost), but instead they tend to be public sector employees who typically have no idea whatsoever about the cost of anything particularly energy. So cost doesn't come into their mind and so they are typically incapable of understanding even very simple concepts such as that more very very likely more energy is consumed in making and erecting offshore windmills than is ever produced.

Also, because no one has YET found a way to offshore the public sector, they have no real idea about international competitive. So, they will happily burden companies in the UK with added costs, with no clue at all that this will cause those companies to relocate abroad.

Jan 20, 2015 at 9:09 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Why should we believe anyone who confuses Andrew with Matt?

Noel Darlow
Your persist in not addressing the point. You also appear (it's always hard to tell with shape-shifters) to believe that "science" depends on what some "scientist" has written.
So I can write anything I like and until someone refutes it it's a fact, is that what you're saying?
And if I warn about it for 25 years that makes it true?
What happened to: "When the facts change I change my mind; what do you do?" In the case of climate psyence the answer is increasingly looking like "I go down with the ship".

Jan 20, 2015 at 9:09 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

kim: "Most accept that higher CO2 means higher temperature."

Yesterday I wrote on my blog (describing the typical inter-glacial period) "It appears that global temperature after rising sharply to the peak, then had an almost equally precipitous decline into a trough around 16,000 years after the peak.".

I was merely describing what I saw and trying to understand why it happened and not thinking or in any way implying anything about future temperature change. But afterwards it dawned on me that if it happened in the last three cycles, then it is likely it will happen again.

Jan 20, 2015 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Andrew, in the solar PV section I would have added that based on Prieto and Hall's work ... the UK (/northern countries) it's likely that many PV installations will never recoup the energy required for their manufacture, installation and maintenance. They are negative power devices, and all the CO2 they produce is pumped into the atmosphere 'up front'

Jan 20, 2015 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterNial

It's a nice overview of the problem. Most of it will be familiar to regular readers of course though there were a few issues I wasn't aware of.

There is also a paragraph on this topic in Matt Ridley's piece:

The policies being proposed to combat climate change, far from being a modest insurance policy, are proving ineffective, expensive, harmful to poor people and actually bad for the environment: we are tearing down rainforests to grow biofuels and ripping up peat bogs to install windmills that still need fossil-fuel back-up. These policies are failing to buy any comfort for our wealthy grandchildren and are doing so on the backs of today’s poor. Some insurance policy.

Jan 20, 2015 at 9:38 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Mike Haseler
Add 'academia' to your feather-bedded public sector. There are numerous highly-qualified scientists working their socks off in the real world or in university departments where private funding is hoping they will come up with the next big scientific/technological breakthrough because the firms involved hope to make money out of it.
We've just seen a breakthrough in antibiotics, a field where developments are desperately needed.
Then there are the theoreticians — procto-craniologists to a man — who don't have a clue what is happening outside their own intestines and surface only to pontificate.
And the less they know about any subject the louder they shout.

I fear you are wrong about the future direction of the earth's temperature. CO2 has over the millennia evolved into a wonder-molecule which now has the ability to do something it has never previously done in the history of the planet. It has split into two different types of CO2: "natural CO2" which has been around forever and for much of the life of the earth in considerably higher concentrations than at present, increases in concentration following ~800 years after temperatire increases, and is essentially harmless, and "anthropogenic CO2" which exists in very, very small quantities but has the ability to cause temperature increase and thereby planetary catastrophe.
Not sure how that actually works outside computer games and the fevered imaginations of environmental activists but apparently it does and it means your temperature observation is a bit out of date. On the other hand ...

Jan 20, 2015 at 9:45 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I'm glad these two have the 'Mike'.

Jan 20, 2015 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Well written, in measured tone, and informative.

I would however question the tone of the introduction. Although all true, I suspect that it will put off anyone who is not already a skeptic. Preaching to the choir is all well and good, but it would be better to get the message to those not already converted and I think a different tone is needed for that.

(previous posts using this browser have resulted in duplicate comments - apologies in advance if this happens again here)

Jan 20, 2015 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered Commentergareth

Noel Darlow, you don't get to define what a "paper" is.

It may come as a shock to you, but people write papers, such as government discussion papers, papers for their local historical society, papers published on specialist blogs or in specialist journals, etc, in many ways and for many reasons.

The attempt by sections of the scientific community to appropriate the term exclusively for their own use and circumscribed by their own definitions is profoundly anti-intellectual. It's also a classic bit of trade union territory-grabbing to exclude the competition.

Some of the most important "papers" written on subjects such as science, mathematics and history were not peer-reviewed. Many were written before peer review even existed. Merit is the only thing that matters in a "paper."

You are not going to get away with that nonsense around here.

Jan 20, 2015 at 11:02 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

una mentira repetida constantemente no se convierte en realidad

Jan 20, 2015 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered Commenteryomismo

First of all it is a paper by Merrriam-Webster's definition:

a formal written composition often designed for publication and often intended to be read aloud (presented a scholarly paper at the meeting)

Second if you want to criticise it: quote the part you think is wrong and say what you think is wrong with it. "It's all wrong" is not a valid criticism.

Personally I think it is measured and well cited and needs to be widely read.

Jan 20, 2015 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterClovis Marcus

The material harm wrought by the political panic created by sundry schemers and a host of 'useful idiots' intent on saving the world from carbon dioxide is shocking. The sombre nature of this is made all too clear by the calm and careful writing in this pamphlet. From the sharp foreword by William Happer, through the item by item, page after page litany in the main body of the report of the destructive impacts of half-baked, ill-thought-out interventions, Andrew and GWPF have provided us with another resource with which to resist the madness. The madness of the self-anointed who alone can save, and run, the world. The madness of those only too keen to take advantage of their actions. All because of an extremely poorly supported conjecture that increasing ambient levels of a biologically vital trace gas will drive the climate system into dangerous convulsions. It is a conjecture that has suited many destructive people, making them more influential. This report marks their card.

Jan 20, 2015 at 12:05 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

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