So that’s what Mark Lynas has been up to is it?

I wondered where he’d been. For there was that wailin’ of a decade back that ohmygodwereallgonnadie and then the reverse ferret of actuallyyouknowitsnotgoingtobequiteasbadasthat.

So, what’s the next thing? Can’t be writing books and articles about climate change without some contrarian point to make after all. So, what’s going to be the girtbigclaim to be made in a shocking and powerful book that keeps the grants and commissions rolling in? Why would poor island nations turn for advice to an advisor who wasn’t being radical?

So here we have the pitch on that next girtbigclaim:

Forget net zero – let’s have a ‘fossil freedom day’
Mark Lynas

Let’s just pick a day, somewhere off into the future, where we say we’ll never use fossil fuels beyond this point.

No, forget all we know about humans and politics and government. That this requires armed wardens guarding the Forest of Dean to ensure that no commoners scrape out a few hundred pounds of that surface coal. That some international source of control will be necessary. For what if some place decided not to and didn’t have to retreat to being medieval peasants as a result? Who is going to take on China which produces the germanium that makes fibreoptics work, the Ge gained by burning coal?

No, no, let’s just go for it!

My suggestion is extremely simple: we set a date for the worldwide exit from fossil fuels, a sort of independence day from carbon. Like all ideas that eventually become mainstream, at first sight this looks preposterous. You mean, we actually have to stop burning oil? No more petrol? No more LNG tankers plying the world’s oceans? No more giant coal machines scraping up carboniferous forests from underneath medieval villages in eastern Germany?

Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. A fossil fuels exit date forces us to confront what net zero doesn’t – that we have to actually entirely stop combusting carbon.

Gosh, what bravery, such iconoclasm!

I propose 2047,

Oh, why?

Fittingly, 2047 is also exactly a century on from the year of Indian independence in 1947,

Twattery of the highest order.

We should time a change in the energy system of the world to mark the ascent to political power of Edwina Mountbatten’s lover ?

Well, that’s certainly radical. Twattish, but radical. And it’ll provide at least a decade’s worth of opportunities to campaign, write, be commissioned, talk show appearances and book readings before the inevitable reverse ferret.

It also entirely ignores everything that we know about climate change. What the IPCC, Stern Review, Bill Nordhaus and his Nobel, every damn economist on the planet actually, has been saying. Which is that old saw, prices matter.

What’s the price of stopping the use of fossil fuels on that orgasmic (well, we suppose it was for Edwina, she did go back often enough) date? What’s the benefit of doing so?

What those actual numbers are doesn’t matter for the logic here. Pick any set you like but you do have to do the calculation.

For as all those economists keep trying to point out the aim isn’t to have no climate change. We’ve already sold that pass by agreeing that we’re not going to stop the use of fossil fuels at 3 pm Tuesday afternoon next week. For we’ve all also agreed that 1 or 3 or 5 billion dead folk is a rather high, a too high, price to pay for not having 1.5 oC of gorbal worming. We think that wouldn’t be a maximisation of human utility over time – which is, as the economists keep insisting, the actual goal.

The actual aim is to have the right amount of gorbal worming. That right amount being the quantity of it, balanced against the not having it, which over the centuries best promotes the greatest interests of the greatest number.

Which is prices. The price of not having gorbal worming is somenumberofsmilingkiddiesnotenjoyingtheworldbecause economicresourceswerespentonidiotclimateschemes. The price of having gorbal worming is somenumberofsmilingkiddiesnotenjoyingtheworldbecauseeconomicresourceswerenotspentonclimateschemes.

We want to take the actions which maximise the numberofsmilingkiddiesenjoyingtheworld. We do not want to take the actions which maximise the numberofsmilingkiddiesnotenjoyingtheworld. That means we want to take those actions which cost less, in the reduction in number of smiling kiddies now but maximise the future number, and not take the ones that cost more.

Prices matter, d’ye see?

The general answer from all those tens of thousands of economists who have worked on this problem specifically, the further tens of thousands who have worked on the base problem of externalities over the past century and a bit, is that you don’t set the target and you don’t then manage and plan to gain the target. Instead you set up the mechanism, with prices. Then leave society and the economy to chew through that information – prices being information, d’ye see? – and we get to that maxima. Where we’ve balanced that future damage against damage now, where we’ve reduced future costs to the minimum consistent with not making humans, over time, worse off overall.

All of this being explained rather well by Bill Nordhaus – Nobel and all that? – by Artie Pigou that century back and the Stern Review is a 1200 page exegesis on the point. This is the collective human wisdom on the subject. Stick the $80 per tonne CO2-e on it and don’t, for God’s Sake, try to plan shit.

But Mark Lynas wants to propose something different. Because, well, got the publisher lined up yet Mark? Book tour booked? Script for the TED Talk ready?

Just a little reminder, it’s not self interest, it’s enlightened self interest.

15 thoughts on “So that’s what Mark Lynas has been up to is it?”

  1. Of course some of us would say that those tens of thousands of economists being paid to take this bollocks seriously is at the root of the problem. What one might regard as the Gravy Train factor.

  2. The actual aim is to have the right amount of gorbal worming. That right amount being the quantity of it, balanced against the not having it, which over the centuries best promotes the greatest interests of the greatest number.

    I think the actual aim is the accumulation of power, wealth, and the satisfaction of epatering les pleboise forever. Mr Lynas is a very minor heirophant of the Gaea mystery cult, so he’ll have to be satisfied with an obol from the Guardian.

    If facts had anything to do with this they wouldn’t have shamelessly segued into claiming, without evidence, there’s a “climate emergency”.

  3. All life on this planet is carbon based. That is why in science fiction stories humans are described as carbon based life forms. How can we become free from carbon? We need carbon.

  4. Seeing crap like Lynas’s, which for some unaccountable reason seems to be taken seriously by TPTB, makes me glad that I’m old and that (with luck) I’ll be able to live out the “useful” remainder of my existence in continuing fossil-fuelled comfort. I’ve no descendants to worry about, so if the stupid fuckers want to reduce everyone to medieval lifestyles thereafter – Good Luck to them!

  5. Stick the $80 per tonne CO2-e on it . . .

    ” . . . it made sense to remain in ‘lockstep’ with the EU on carbon taxes.”

    Looks like you might get your way.

    . . . and don’t, for God’s Sake, try to plan shit.

    As has happened in every country that has levied carbon taxes. You know they will continue to plan shit and we’ll suffer both.

  6. Isn’t it time Tim acknowledged that ‘everything that we know about climate change.’ is in fact not a thing? ALL the commenters here know it. It’s bollocks, the whole thing. A scam. A confluence of malign interests. It’s people of the same trade gathering together not even for merriment or diversion but with the usual result.

    And stick your pigou tax where the sun doesn’t shine, but the wind doth blow.

  7. @rhoda
    “ALL the commenters here know it”
    Not strictly true. Connelley could be on here in a minute to tell us it’s real. But, then, Connolley earns his living from “climate science”. As a research scientist of con games I’d be inclined to put that in with the research data.

  8. That’s an interesting thought, jgh. Carbon free artillery for the modern green military. Coming to a battlefield near you, soon.

  9. What none of these people ever seem to consider is that if there really is a way to predictably control the climate, who decides what that climate should be? For instance there might be people in Siberia who would welcome not having their bollocks frozen off for ten months of the year. You can just see the EU building giant CO2 capturing machines, whilst anyone who wants it will burn carbon for all they’re worth.

    Like BJ I hope to see out the rest of my days in carbon fueled comfort. But I do have children, so I hope this nonsense passes soon for their sake.

    I suspect that this is largely a white European fad, a late civilisational form of decadence, that has characterized all civilizations which have run their course. Any Third World countries going along with it are just doing so for the bungs. And the two or three billion children that will be born in Africa this century will put an end to this nonsense. The population of the EU is just a rounding error in these estimates.

  10. I have to agree, IR. After all, if the matter was so dire, the Germans wouldn’t have decided to shut down their nukes and mine brown coal. Even the French have shut down Fessenheim.

    If TPTB really took the nonsense seriously, they’d scrap the regulatory rubbish and copy the French building program. After all, this is proven to work, whereas running everything with windmills doesn’t.

    But then I accept the narrative that the earth is just a melted-down nuclear reactor covered by a layer of mildly radioactive waste, some of which can walk and talk and use a computer. So life is actually adapted to low levels of radioactivity

  11. I propose 2260.


    Because by the we will have learned how to harness the power of dilithium crystals.

  12. @Ian Reid – “who decides what that climate should be?”

    Currently, the goal is to prevent change. This is, of course, a very conservative position and quite a bit of environmentalism is either convervative or seeks to return to an older situation (e.g. rewilding). There is some merit in the conservative position – we have accommodated the current situation, so a change to the climate is likely to require expense (and, possibly, conflict) to adapt. For example, if you live in somewhere like the UK where air-con is very rarely needed, you probably don’t have it in your home. If the climate gets warmer, it may be necessary to fit air-con. Equally, if the climate gets colder, houses may not have sufficiently powerful heating, so may require upgrades. If sea level rises, then buildings may have to be abandoned etc.

    But if we ever get to the point where climate can be controlled, expect vicious conflicts over what it should be.

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