Peter Lilley, former Trade and Industry Secretary, wrote a piece for the Telegraph the other day about the impact of Net Zero policies (which this website mentioned here, but I think it merits a more detailed consideration).
Lilley is careful to point out that he is committed to the science of climate change which he calls “rock solid”, but he’s worried about what we’re doing.
In 2008 he voted against the Climate Change Act “amid terrifying predictions of catastrophic heatwaves”. He, who was told he was the only MP to ask for a copy (he says), had read the Impact Assessment which “showed the potential cost was twice the maximum benefit”.
I asked ministers if they know of any peer-reviewed study accepted by the IPCC (the UN body established to assess the science of global warming) that forecasts the extinction of humanity if the world takes no action to phase out fossil fuels. The answer was clear: there are none.
He goes on:
The central conclusion of Lord Stern’s official review of the economics of climate change was that if the world does nothing – not if we do not do enough, but if we do nothing – it would be equivalent to making us all 5% poorer than we would otherwise be, now and forever. But a 5% loss does not remotely amount to impoverishment of the human race, just setting us back by two or three years’ growth.
More recently, Prof. Nordhaus, who won the Nobel Prize in 2018 for assessing the costs and benefits of action on climate change, concluded that the optimum target for the world to aim for is not 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, but nearer to 3°C, which means there may be scope to delay our Net Zero target beyond 2050.
If a Nobel Prize is not enough and you want the imprimatur of the IPCC, these are the opening words of its chapter on the impact of climate change on the economy: “For most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers. Changes in population, age, income, technology, relative prices, lifestyle, regulation, governance and many other aspects of socio-economic development will have an impact on the supply and demand of economic goods and services that is large relative to the impact of climate change.”
Lilley of course is also pointing out though that there are numerous other factors which have far more potential, individually and collectively, to change our lives for the worse.
That conclusion is particularly interesting. During Covid we saw the belief that one threat to us, regardless of individual perceptions of how significant that threat was or the variability of its impact, was so all-encompassing that the potential consequences of measures to control it were widely ignored by governments and certain epidemiologists. Today we are all too painfully aware of the damage caused, but you wouldn’t know it from the Covid Inquiry.
Are we witnessing the same phenomenon right now with climate change? The other day the King suggested future generations will castigate us if we don’t act now. Should we be so fast to judge? Future generations often curse their predecessors for the unintended consequences of their actions. Act in haste, repent at leisure and all that.
Lilley finishes up by recommending that the market should be used to “develop lower-cost alternatives to fossil fuels for heating, transport and so on before forcing people to adopt new technologies whose cost has not yet come down to those based on conventional fuels”.
But he leaves us in no doubt that he believes his words will be ignored.
As ever, worth reading in full.