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Discussion > Leftie climate sceptics

If I could walk that way, I wouldn't need ... I can't remember whose joke that was originally. Eric Morecambe?

Marty Feldman :-)

Jan 25, 2014 at 1:11 PM | Registered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Mike Jackson

I start from the premise that individuals know better how to spend their own money than anyone else..
While I’m happy to accept your premise that you know better how to spend your money than I (or Ed Miliband) do, I start from a different premise: that the gap between the richest and the poorest has widened over the past thirty odd years to levels not seen since the twenties. Both our premises are correct. But which one should serve as the base of a rational political programme?
The private sector needs regulating to ensure it isn't ripping the customer off to boost its bottom line; the public sector needs regulating to ensure it doesn't become bloated and lazy and inefficient which there is a tendency for it to do.
Of course I agree. I tend to think that the bloated and inefficient nature of the public sector was due to sociological factors which any social scientist could spot, if they weren’t so busy defending Labour Party policies against conservative criticisms. The Oxbridge intellectuals who ran the Labour Party were happy to divide the interesting jobs (the Treasury, Foreign Policy etc) between themselves, and leave the direction of the economic workhorses (energy, industry, the post office) to the working class party members.
The Conservatives (especially Maggie’s claque) ran rings round them. The rise in the price of a stamp (from tuppence to tuppence ha’penny, for goodness sake) became a major political issue. Energy, post and communications, industry, are boring boring to the left wing intellectuals who represent the Labour Party in the media. If you want to place an article in the New Statesman, you’ll do better to have an opinion on transexualism or global warming, rather than the cost of heating a council flat.

And that’s where we are. There is no left in Britain or Europe worthy of the name.

Jan 26, 2014 at 11:28 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

And I don't approve of the widening gap between rich and poor either.
I don't think we're really all that far apart and if there were a "left ...worthy of the name", I have a nasty feeling we might be even closer.
And that's me drummed out of the club!

Jan 27, 2014 at 10:10 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Fritz Vahrenholt's surely another one to be added to the list:

Vahrenholt is remarkable, not so much for the book, as for his previous career, and his intellectual journey. He started out as a socialist politician and passionate environmentalist. Having studied Chemistry in Münster, he started his professional career at the federal environmental protection agency in Berlin, and the Ministry for Environment of Hesse. From 1984 till 1990 he had a leading role in environmental affairs in Hamburg, and became Senator for the Environment in Hamburg from 1991 to 1997. A man of impeccable green credentials.

In 1998 he entered the energy industry, and until 2001 was on the Board of Deutsche Shell AG, a Shell subsidiary. In 2001 he moved to post of CEO of the wind turbine company REpower Systems AG and remained there until 2007. From February 2008 he was CEO of electric power company RWE’s renewables subsidiary RWE Innogy, a post he stepped down from in mid-2012. Professor Doctor Vahrenholt has a doctorate in Chemistry. In 1999 he was made an Honorary Professor of Chemistry at the University of Hamburg.

So far, so successful – but perhaps not astonishing. The remarkable thing is that during his time with Innogy, running a wind farm business, he became concerned and disillusioned to find that the business performed well below expectations, and started looking for the reasons. He also started to look more closely at the whole theory of climate change, and became convinced that the IPCC position – that CO2 is the primary driver of climate – was simply mistaken.

That's Roger Helmer writing and Roger's surely not on the list, as an ardent supporter and friend of Thatcher. For myself, I am with Lindzen not Vahrenholt on what can currently be said about the sun's influence on climate but it's sure been an interesting journey for the German.

But what counts here? We're all coming from somewhere and most of us presumably had a leftie phase. (I think it was reading The Long Walk at a young age, about a desperate escape from the Gulag, that meant I never did but I consider that unusual.)

Still, always worth compiling the list.

Feb 6, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard Drake
Good to see you quoting Captain Mannering in favour of pseudonyms ;-)
The relevance of the left/right divide to the climate debate is the question of what to do when the lights go out. Bribe EDF into building us another few nuclear power stations, go on our knees to Putin for cheap gas, or have a state runenergy system?

Feb 8, 2014 at 8:40 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoff Chambers, my guess is that if there were a problem and the government asked for people and companies to do their best to reduce unnecessary power usage in order to avoid cuts, then although some people like the alarmists here would turn on all of their lights to spite us all, most people would comply. It would not surprise me if this resulted in a considerable drop in demand and no need for begging to Putin or EDF.

Feb 9, 2014 at 3:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Chandra, you have perfectly illustrated everything that is wrong with energy policy.

Feb 9, 2014 at 7:47 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna


Feb 9, 2014 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Chandra, apart from the appalling mischaracterisation of the contributors here which is sheer ad hom and does nothing but weaken your case, I can only assume you have little or no experience of the general public at large.

I recognise the idea, which is a sacred cow of the left, that people are fundamentally altruistic. It is equally a fundamental problem with any policy that relies on it that it is demonstrably untrue.

Feb 9, 2014 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

NW, ad-hom? Yes but since I am on the receiving end much of the time I see no reason not to reciprocate. On altruism, I think you are projecting your own character onto the population at large. When there is an emergency of some sort communities come together, look after each other and collaborate to make the situation better. Sure there are some who are selfish and think only of themselves, but I don't believe the country at large looks like you or what you imagine for it.

On reducing demand, it takes only one or two fewer light bulbs per household to account for each GW or so of generating capacity. There are of course some households who can cut no further than now, but there are many more households and companies that could reduce much more demand with just a little effort. And cutting this wastage would have zero effect on anything but the generators' profits.

Feb 9, 2014 at 10:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

“When there is an emergency of some sort communities come together, look after each other and collaborate to make the situation better.”

Some of the public would try to cut energy use during a crisis, though it would take considerably more than turning off a few lights. Unfortunately those who are most likely to act are those who are efficiently using energy already so the savings will be minimal. Businesses already try to be efficient so it’s more likely businesses will offer to close temporarily for a fee. Many can’t just turn stuff off at whim and still operate. Also, how long is this period of crisis set to last? People will act thoughtfully for a while but soon they either forget or see someone else ‘wasting’ energy and don’t see why they should be the only mug doing without.

More importantly, what is the political and financial fallout from an energy shortage? International markets will start talking about third world Britain. The money people will speculate we can’t pay our bills. Business will look elsewhere for cheaper more reliable energy. The public won’t be feeling generous when they realise that they’re worse off for their fortitude. A great many voices will chime up that governments were warned about the shortfall in energy supply. The ministers will mutter ‘but we agreed we had to reduce fossil fuels to reduce global warming’. To which the public will say ‘sod global warming, get the lights back on’. A bit like everyone agreeing that we wouldn’t dredge rivers because that might hurt the fish and we wouldn't disturb nesting birds on beeches by strengthening sea walls. Yep, the public are right behind those green initiatives… NOT

Feb 9, 2014 at 11:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2, I find what you post (unlike many others) is often quite reasonable. But you often spoil it for example in this case. I'm not suggesting that people cut into flesh and bone, just trim some fat - turn off things that have no effect on them. Look at Mackay's experience in reducing his electricity usage in Without Hot Air.

I think you, like NW underestimate the willingness of people to act for the common good. Turning off a few lights can actually save quite a lot - 20 million houses each turning off a 50W bulb on a winter evening equates to 1GW or 2-3% of demand. Your suggestion that companies can't reduce consumption doesn't ring true to me. Take just one look at the BBC news room with it rows of computers running screensavers (or whatever) to get an idea. Ok maybe that is just particular to public bodies spending other peoples' money, or maybe it is just a media thing. But I have worked in many private offices where computers, lights, equipment are left on day and night for no reason but that nobody bothered to turn them off, or to save a few seconds when they are actually needed.

Feb 10, 2014 at 2:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Chandra, why do you assume the worst in people when there isn’t a crisis?

My internet name is TinyCO2 because I have a small CO2 footprint. I know what it takes to cut it. What works and what doesn’t. The changes that made the most difference to my energy bills weren’t the ones most discussed by the media. I’ve worked in a business that was paranoid about cutting waste but it still went bust in this country because there was a fundamental amount of energy it had to use and it couldn’t afford the higher prices here, compared to China and the US. The little things help shave small amounts off the final bill but it isn’t a radical reduction.

I don’t know anyone who is wasting much energy. Sure, the odd thing on standby and a few chargers get forgotten but they’re not obviously extravagant. They shut doors, turn heat off in spare rooms, get insulated, etc. One elderly couple even has the thermostat down to 16C during the day and they’re terrified of the gas bill. Most of them have low energy bulbs already but as I found, you usually have to go up a grade to get the same light out of a fluorescent that you got from a traditional bulb. One friend turns all lights off bar a small one in their sitting room and with their thick curtains it’s impossible to see that someone’s in.

The big energy drains at home are the ones that are hard to do without. The fridge, freezer, washing machine, heating, cooking, bathing, vacuuming. How many people would consider their TV a luxury now, even if it’s a huge one? The sort of people who genuinely waste energy are the least likely to co-operate in a crisis. They wouldn’t do it deliberately, they’d convince themselves that they need whatever they’re using.

The business situation is also varied. Yes, there are some who leave lights on and computers on standby but without looking at each company it’s hard to say why they do it. Leaving lights on may be a safety or security issue if there are people continuously working there. They may be on for the cleaners. The biggest sinners are those for which electricity or gas is the smallest cost of their business. However, a closed steel business equals a lot of forgotten lights and computers and governments would rather shut off the big users than make smaller users use less. Invariably, the thoughtless office workers are actually bringing in more money than the efficient engineering companies.

Like I wrote, we could probably limp through a power shortage but at the end of it, people would be very cross and it would paradoxically make it harder for those trying to encourage people to reduce CO2.

Feb 10, 2014 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I think you, like NW underestimate the willingness of people to act for the common good.

But I have worked in many private offices where computers, lights, equipment are left on day and night for no reason but that nobody bothered to turn them off, or to save a few seconds when they are actually needed.

So what you think and what you actually observe are vastly different. Exactly. Incidentally, apropos of nothing at all, does your house have central heating?

Feb 10, 2014 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterNW

TinyCO2, I find what you write a little contradictory. You list your friends' low energy habits but find it noteworthy that one (one) "turns all lights off bar a small one in their sitting room". Do the others have lights burning in unused rooms or hallways? Or is it the single light in the sitting room that surprises you (how many do you need to watch telly)?

From MacKay's book, here's a quote: "According to the International Energy Agency, standby power consumption accounts for roughly 8% of residential electricity demand", and that doesn't include unused lights. He reduced his averge demand by 45W by turning off standby devices - do that in every house and there's a GW.

I also find it strange that your experience of work is so different from mine. It is of course possible that only in the places where I work do people turn all the lights on when they arrive in the dark at 7am and leave them on throughout the day despite their making no positive difference to the ambient level, just because nobody bothered to turn them off. And it is possible that it is only in the places I work where people leave computers on screensaver much of the day and all night. And I suppose it is even possible that it is only in companies who employ me that the heating is on and the windows are open because it is too hot. Are such things really out of your experience?

NW, I don't remember there having been a public campaign to reduce waste of the sort we are discussing, so your observation is not relevant. And neither are my personal heating arrangements, but rest assured they are very low CO2.

Feb 10, 2014 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

You don't remember such a campaign. Again we hit limitations to your experience.
It's entirely relevant. You believe that a bit of propaganda will change the way people think and behave. How very totalitarian.

I surmise from your last comment that you have a shiny new central heating boiler with a nice green sticker on it which assures you that it is as green as can be, while it is maintaining your entire house at a temperature which allows you to sit around in your underwear. Central heating and low emissions is completely incompatible. It would be honest of the extreme greens to actually tell the UK population this, but it should be fairly obvious why they don't.

By the way, as with TinyCO2, your assumptions about my lifestyle, consumption and emissions levels are completely wrong.

Feb 10, 2014 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW


> I surmise from your last comment that you have a shiny new
> central heating boiler with a nice green sticker on it...
blah blah

You couldn't be more wrong. Oh wait, you are a climate science "skeptic", of course you could...

> Central heating and low emissions is completely incompatible.

Oh really? Know something about it do you? Or just spouting froth? If your house leaks heat like a sieve, as is customary in the UK, it is indeed difficult to reduce emissions. But unequivocally incompatible? No.

Feb 10, 2014 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

It appears that what you asking for is what many of us have accused the eco-activists of pursuing, namely a return to the poverty-standard of living of the 18th century.
You pose the question "how many [lights] do you need to watch telly?" which is what gives the game away, I think. Why should our lifestyle be dictated by what we need? And who is to decide what we need? You? David Cameron? Ed Davey? George Monbiot? Al Gore?
I was brought up in the 1940s in a house with no insulation in the sense in which we would mean it today, no running hot water, no central heating. And various other inconveniences that I would prefer not to have to go back to. This does not mean that I now leave all the lights on or that the central heating is going full-blast 365 days a year but it does mean that I can decide on how comfortable I wish to be and I have no wish to have that decision dictated to me by others — not politicians, not bureaucrats, and especially not eco-activists.
I agree that there is a lot of room for improved energy efficiency but that's not really what we are talking about, is it? What we are concerned with is a move to stop people being able to switch lights and other appliances on and off as and when we need them (note, when we need them, not when somebody else says we need them or are allowed to have them). Allegedly it's in the name of "saving the planet" but in reality it's more to do with social control, isn't it?

Feb 10, 2014 at 2:29 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Jackson, with the effortless ease to which only a seasoned journalist can aspire, you completely misreported what we are talking about. Your editor would have been proud of you.

We were talking of the public response to a request to reduce demand in the event of supply insufficiency. You are on your favourite hobby horse chasing after the imaginary fox that wants to impose behaviour on the public. I'm not interested in running down that fox but you go ahead - tally-ho!

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

IF you believe that there is a need to reduce emissions AND you heat your entire house you are a screaming hypocrite and nothing more need be said. This does not preclude having a good standard of insulation, but the law of diminishing returns comes into it well below the current standard, particularly as the Building Regulations or the English equivalent insist on an ever greater level of fixed ventilation which takes no account of how exposed any given building is.

Also , what Mike Jackson said above.

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

I'm well aware of what you were talking about, Chandra, but apparently unlike you I am capable of developing an argument.
I am disputing your assumption that (a) there needs to be a supply insufficiency and (b) that the British public, or those in any other democracy, would docilely do what government wanted them to do if they asked nicely.
And among the reasons why they would refuse is the very simple one that many of us have had experience in our youth of harsher living than we have now and have no desire to go back to it.
Those who have not suffered the joys I described will be even less likely to kow-tow to those who want to turn the clock back to the days when power supplies were unreliable.
By the way, would you have addressed me in the rather offensive tone that you did if we had been having this discussion face to face. What's the matter with at least reasonably civil discourse? Or is that reserved for those who agree with you?

Feb 10, 2014 at 7:42 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I am really pleased to see this thread ^.^

I was for a long time a believer in the link between left wing politics and a belief in AGW and I still am :)
However what we have experienced on BH is the fact that there are still those who are individual thinkers who will make their own minds up about things and ignore group think. I have been truly educated by people like Paul, Geoff and Robin Guenier, all truly left wing but still logical thinkers. Where others have fallen into the trap of denigrating all "lefties" as AGW pushers on BH I have attempted to put the record straight.

Feb 10, 2014 at 9:34 PM | Registered CommenterDung


I do not think " a request to reduce demand in the event of supply insufficiency." is consistent with forcing us all to fit new "energy saving" gas and electricity meters that give the government the power to switch off our supply at the flick of a switch.
Patience is also tried by the use of the phrase "supply insufficiency" which is a tacky way of saying how badly the government has screwed up our energy industry.
As usual I am in total agreement with Mike and I too began my life in the forties with no running hot water, no central heating, no indoor toilet and no insulation. The progress since then has come largely through the use of fossil fuels.

Feb 10, 2014 at 9:50 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Another left wing skeptic is Jim| Sillars a former Labour and SNP MP.

Jim gave an analysis of the problem from a left perspective at a recent meeting in Glasgow.

Feb 10, 2014 at 10:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterBryan

Without going overboard on this, it's also worth remembering what our parents put up with to make sure (as far as they were able) that our children didn't have to put up with some of the hardships that had been their lot throughout their lives.
I'm pretty sure my parents (and aunts and uncles) would be horrified to see what they worked for being unpicked by a bunch of know-nothing eco-nuts. If they have their way we will end up worse off than our grandparents and only then will they start to understand the damage they have caused.

Feb 11, 2014 at 11:13 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson