Renewables are rubbish

Says James Lovelock.

Britain should abandon its \”vain\” attempts to stop climate change by increasing its reliance on renewable energy and concentrate on flood defences, the environmental pioneer James Lovelock has said.

Essentially, in the debate over whether to mitigate climate change or adapt to it, Lovelock is saying adapt, not mitigate.

There is some more formal logical support for this idea as well.

The Stern Review said that the cost benefit analysis was such that (leave aside the controversy as to how he did this cba) if we were to spend 1-2 % of GDP per annum to mitigate then the benefits would be higher than the costs. The 1-2% would and should come from Pigou Taxes on emissions.

That really is the core of the Stern Review.

OK, now, we currently have Pigou Taxes on emissions of some 1-2% of GDP. No, really, we do: the fuel price escalator for example, was specifically brought in to meet \”our Rio commitments\” which are indeed all about CO2 emissions. Add landfill tax, renewables obligation and we\’re up there in the right sort of numbers of 1-2% of GDP.

Good, so, according to the cba of the Stern Review we\’re already spending the sort of money which is correct as far as the costs go to get the benefits of mitigating climate change.

Ah, but, no one is saying that this is all we need to spend (sorry, no one on the \”we should mitigate\” side of the argument, including Stern): there\’s much more we have to do in order to mitigate. However, this entirely cocks up the results of Stern\’s cba. If we have to spend 3-4% of GDP per annum (just to make up a number) then the benefits of mitigation are no longer larger than the costs. Thus, perhaps, we should be attempting to adapt, not mitigate.

Please note this is not to dispute Stern\’s results: I\’m not saying that he\’s used the wrong discount rate (which is largely what explains the difference between his estimates and, say, Nordhaus\’) nor pointing to anything else he\’s got wrong. Rather, I\’m simply pointing out that he and others don\’t in fact believe the Stern Review results because they\’re all arguing that we should be spending more than 1-2 % of GDP.

But if you argue that we should be spending more than this then Stern\’s cba no longer applies: the benefits of mitigation at this cost are negative, they are lower than the costs.

Thus, according to Stern, we shouldn\’t be doing it.

6 thoughts on “Renewables are rubbish”

  1. But its hardly about how much money is spent, I could sell you some anti-global warming skin cream for £1,000,000 a jar, but its not quite as effective as spending the same on building flood defences.

  2. “But its hardly about how much money is spent”. In which case who says we need to spend 1-2% of GDP?

  3. hmm … say the extra mitigation spending consists of electrifying all transportation in the UK. That’d cost money, but it would also be an investment with future benefits (lower power consumption, regardless of how it’s generated). When you talk about how people apparently want to spend more than cba justifies, how are you treating investment spending?

  4. actually, apologies, I don’t think the above question in coherent – if the spending is investment with future benefits, then of course that get’s netted out in the cba. Still, when people talk about “spending x on climate change mitigation”, when we use those figures we need to make sure we use net cost (net present value) rather than gross cost.

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