Flat-Earth Hour

The WWF’s fatuous Earth Hour is a marriage of cynical Green eco-propaganda with scientifically-illiterate virtue-signalling

Every year, it happens. Despite “climate change” justifiably figuring ever-lower in their major concerns reported by people in surveys around the world, every year it still happens.

wwf earth hour 2The World Wildlife Fund, today a wealthy mega-corporation with slick marketing, more concerned with promoting undemocratic one-world government to prevent enterprise-capitalism and free trade moving millions from poverty into prosperity than it is with saving pandas or polar bears – the latter of which are doing just fine, thank you, despite its relentless but mendacious climate-alarmism – enjoins the world to plunge itself into darkness for an hour, to “save the planet”.

This isn’t the place to launch into a detailed exposition of the numerous manifest flaws in the theory of catastrophic global warming being attributable solely to the mere 3% of atmospheric carbon-dioxide that results from all human activity. It would make this an article of 8,000 words rather than 800. But for the purposes of this article, just hold two thoughts in your mind. First, that despite the measured atmospheric concentration of CO2 having continued to rise, global average temperatures have been flat for nearly 19 years. And second, that the Earth’s historical record shows no significant CO2-temperature correlation anyway.

earth hour comp

But, even if you refuse to believe what logic should tell you, that you can no more “fight climate-change” that you can “fight” tomorrow morning’s sunrise: if you uncritically accept the Green orthodoxy: the point to realise about Earth Hour is that your gesture – because, make no mistake, that is what it is, not a “contribution” – will actually be futile.

Firstly, a pinprick one-hour interruption to the overwhelming majority of residential light use that occurs at night will have no emissions-reducing effects whatsoever, on anything. At night, most power stations run at the same capacity as during daytime peak demand periods, and produce electricity (and thus the same barely-measurable amount of greenhouse gas anyway), whether it is being used to create light or not. There is no way sufficiently economically- or technically-feasible to store this excess power produced at night  – which is why electricity generators sell off-peak power so cheaply to run our electric hot water systems at night, which function as virtual batteries. Hydro and gas-fired plants are responsive to fluctuating power demand: but others are not.

Secondly, in Britain, domestic household consumption accounts for only ~30% of overall energy use. Heating and hot water represent ~80% of that ~30%, while lighting accounts for a mere ~9% of it. In other words, under 2.7% of Britain’s energy consumption can be blamed on a recklessly eco-uncaring population “destroying the planet”, as the WWF would have you believe, by having lights switched on at night.

Thirdly, just consider the language used to justify a minusculely-effective measure that will achieve staggeringly little, if anything, apart from potentially more traffic accidents and crime. “Climate change is the most serious threat facing people and nature”, pontificates the WWF. You might, however, think that continued sluggish growth in the global economy, mass-migration from a Middle East mired in religious schism-induced turmoil, and the global threat from expansionist, violent-supremacist Islamist-Jihadism, are far more serious than a now 19 years-halted global average temperature rise of just ~0.8°C in 150 years as the Earth recovers from the nadir of the Little Ice Age.

North Korea good on climate change

Mind you, there is one place on Earth where deep-Green ideology’s eco-argument, flawed as it is, clearly resonates. As the satellite photograph shows, North Korea is the most enthusiastic observer of Earth Hour on the planet. So much so, in fact, that it’s observed every hour – every night. This is what the WWF wants us us to emulate.

If you really feel you’ll be making a contribution to saving Gaia by sitting in the dark or in candlelight for an hour this evening, repeating what, for thousands of years, people suffered out of dire necessity and lack of alternative, go ahead. But all you’ll be doing is unthinking, narcissistic virtue-signalling, telling yourself and your neighbours what a good and caring person you are, while simultaneously demonstrating both your scientific illiteracy and your gullibility to cynical Green eco-propaganda.

It’s nearly 140 years now since Thomas Edison patented the first modern light bulb. It allowed us to light our homes and our public spaces like never before. It’s a small but powerful symbol of man’s victory over what for aeons was a terrifying natural phenomenon: darkness, and its companion, the unknown. The WWF’s misguided war on light via its fatuous Flat-Earth Hour is a perfect metaphor for Green-environmentalism: it wants to return us to the Dark Ages.

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The Heseltine Fascination

Chancellor George Osborne’s enduring deference to Michael Heseltine’s 1970s model of state-crony corporatism will lead to poor policy, regionally and nationally

Osborne budget boxUnderstandably, most of this week’s post-Budget reaction focussed on two things – Osborne’s continuing failure to ameliorate Britain’s worsening structural fiscal position, and the introduction of the illiberal (and almost certain to be largely-ineffective) sugar tax.

Less noticed, however, was how two Osborne announcements reveal, not only his ongoing attachment to the 1970s-style state-crony corporatism epitomised by (Lord) Michael Heseltine, but even his enduring fascination for Heseltine himself.

The first instance came just after Osborne’s reference to the Greater London Authority moving towards full retention of its business rates. He added:

“Michael Heseltine has accepted my invitation to lead a Thames Estuary Growth Commission and he will report to me with its ideas next year.”

To anyone familiar with the history of Heseltine’s political-economy, this should have rung warning bells. First, the very name “Thames Estuary Growth Commission” itself carries connotations of the semi-bureaucratic, state-interventionist, “Government picking winners” model of infrastructure development that Heseltine has long so admired (and of which more later).

ebbsfleet-map 2014 v3Second, it recalled Osborne’s previous, and underwhelming, foray into Thames Estuary development. In the 2014 Budget, he announced, to the now habitual fanfare, that “Britain’s first Garden City in 100 years”, including 15,000 houses, would be built at Ebbsfleet. Critics, however, soon pointed out that a mere 15,000 houses hardly amounts to a Garden City, plus the inconvenient fact that Ebbsfleet itself, sitting on a flood-plain with an average height of just 2 metres above sea level, bordering the Thames Estuary, might be a, shall we say, less-than-ideal site for a new Garden City.

 Two years later, just 65 of the planned 15,000 houses have been built.

Then, shortly afterwards, Osborne named-checked the National Infrastructure Commission (beginning to sound familiar?) which he’d established under the aegis of the Treasury last year, and proclaimed the following:

“They recommend much stronger links across northern England. So we are giving the green light to High Speed 3 between Manchester and Leeds”

HS3 would, of course, be an extension of HS2, which is itself far from certain to go ahead, being mired in controversy:

  • Its projected cost has risen inexorably from even the risibly-low estimate of £50 billion once peddled unconvincingly by the Government, which, astonishingly, excluded off-balance-sheet costs.
  • It would have to be funded almost exclusively by borrowing, when the National Debt is already £1.5 trillion and rising.
  • HS2 IEA WellingsIts claims for economic regeneration of the North are dubious.
  • It is, and is likely to remain, beset by planning approval disputes and housing-blight claims, for years.
  • Its claimed service improvements could be met by lower-cost alternatives.

HS2’s flaws were comprehensively and forensically exposed by Dr Richard Wellings’ 2014 paper for the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Heseltine Infrastructure CommissionTurn now to Osborne’s National Infrastructure Commission itself. Who does one find adorning the ranks of its Commissioners? Why, none other than ……. Michael Heseltine.

Heseltine was recruited into the Treasury, with Osborne’s approval, to “advise” on infrastructure development and urban renewal, because of his 2012 report “No Stone Unturned In Pursuit Of Growth” that purported to be a putative blueprint for stimulating economic growth.

In its 89 recommendations, however, over 80 of which the Coalition accepted, it presented in miniature a picture of the interventionist-government corporatist state of the 1960s and 1970s: the decades in which Heseltine cut his political teeth, and for which its practitioners could, despite its manifest flaws, conceive no alternative.

It showed that Heseltine remains an unrepentant apologist and enthusiast for Big Government: that his vision for stimulating economic growth is one of national industrial policy, governmental top-down oversight, regional-quango consensus investment, local council-level enterprise partnerships with spending grants. For Heseltine, Adam Smith’s invisible hand must, it seems, be subsumed within multiple layers of statist-corporatist glove.

Heseltine no stone unturnedHis is an approach that instinctively eschews solutions based on economic liberalisation, deregulation and free markets: like regional pay to mitigate any crowding-out effect of nationally-set pay rates, especially in the public sector, on local job opportunity uptake: like encouraging more non-State free schools and academies, with the freedom to adjust their curricula to make them attractive to students who will be seeking employment in the area: and like, above all, unblocking the planning process in which so many developments can get bogged down.

He appears to favour what he termed “growth funds” being allocated through new Local Enterprise Partnerships. But given that the money would come from people and businesses via the tax system in the first place – Government has no money of its own – quite why government and the local quangocracy would be better judges of investment potential than savers, investors and businesses themselves was not explained. Not much of Gladstone’s enjoinder to let money “fructify in the pockets of the people” there.

Heseltine’s recommendations were roundly criticised at the time by a Professor of Economic Geography at the LSE(!), no less, as “a return to policies, many of them not particularly successful, that were developed in different times, to tackle different challenges”. It’s difficult to suggest these words don’t equally apply in 2016.

The FT’s Janan Ganesh wrote in late 2012 that Heseltine’s prescription for encouraging infrastructure development was very much a Gaullist vision. This still resonates: Heseltine’s vision is more akin to France’s state-dirigisme of Les Grands Prôjets: yet it’s in France where the State’s share of GDP persists at an unsustainably-high 50+%, unemployment is at levels not seen for two decades, and competitiveness continues to fall.

osborne delivers budget 16mar16Osborne’s reverence for Heseltine is misguided, and counter-productive. To stimulate the infrastructure growth of the future, Britain needs, not reheated 1970s-style regional industrial policy predicated on state-interventionism, but a comprehensive supply-side revolution. We need a smaller state, lower, simpler and flatter taxes, less-onerous workplace regulation, a freer and more responsive education system, and a major reform of planning law.

Sadly though, while we have a Chancellor of the Exchequer so ideologically in hock to Heseltine’s state-crony corporatism, that will remain an impossible dream.

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