Comment I find myself in an uncomfortable position over this climate change thing. I've no problem with the existence of man-made climate change, no problem with the idea that we ought to do something about it. But what we are actually trying to do about it seems bonkers, counter-productive even. So how did we get into this mess?
To start with I'm entirely happy to accept the output from the IPCC: the globe is warming, it's all us doing it. Perhaps I shouldn't be happy to do so but that's a very different argument. Similarly I'm happy to accept that the possible outcomes are sufficiently terrible that we really ought to do something about it.
Again, perhaps I shouldn't be but just, if you don't accept either of those two, bear with me anyway. For what really confuses me about what's going on is that even if we do accept those two points, what we're actually trying to do about it all doesn't seem to solve the problems identified.
I've argued at length, elsewhere (even in a book), that the very IPCC assumptions about the economy that are used to prove that we do have this climate problem that we must do something about, also show us that globalisation is part of the cure. So why are all those using the existence of climate change to tell us we must change our ways insisting that we must reverse globalization in order to do something about it?
Similarly, we can show that market-based economic systems encourage innovation more than planned economic systems. And we're pretty sure that innovation, new sources of energy and the like, are what we need to beat climate change. So why are so many insisting that we need a planned economic system to beat climate change?
But that's matters general. We've had, just recently, a number of bits and pieces which show that the solutions which are being pushed on us aren't quite what we really want. They seem to come more from some ideological playbook that I've not as yet read.
Take for example the Muir Trust's recent report on wind power. The takeaway point from this is that it simply doesn't work at any large fraction of the energy supply system. Put to one side the costs, the efficiencies, and consider the variability. It's well-known that peak power demands in the UK come on cold winter's days.
Yet just such cold winter's days are associated with high pressure areas over the UK: they themselves meaning no wind. So we seem to be spending a huge amount on an electricity supply system that will provide no electricity just when that's what we want: electricity. And yes, this "no wind" can and does go far enough that every single damn windmill in the entire combined Kingdom produces no power at all at times. In fact, they can consume power as a system, power needed to keep them ready to go when the wind does pick up.
Why so many windmill windbags?
Thus, in the absence of a storage system, populating the country with windmills just won't work. So why are we doing it?
On the other hand, we've also just been told that there's vastly more natural gas around than we thought there was. This shale gas thing. Now that will work: natural gas is lower in emissions than coal (higher than hydro, wind or solar of course), we can build the plants quickly, it's a domestic fuel, it hits pretty much all the right buttons.
Further, it will actually work, work in the sense of providing us with the power we need and desire when we actually need and desire it. But I'm actually seeing people arguing that we can't shouldn't use gas because it will stop us from investing in windmills. Which, when you think about it, is probably true: building something that works will indeed prevent us from building something that doesn't.
But why is there this huge attachment to something, windmills, that isn't going to work?