We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Daily Telegraph columnist has tantrum about North Sea oilfield

Say what you like about the Daily Telegraph, which generally tilts centre-right in its politics and economics (particularly with incisive writers such as Allister Heath and Matthew Lynn), it does not seem to enforce orthodoxy. While the leader column and Heath have both applauded the UK government’s decision to permit oil drilling in the large Rosebank field in the North Sea – and mocked the fulminations of the critics, there were fulminations in the DT’s business section. An example comes from Ben Marlow, a columnist whose portrait glares out, Medusa-like, at a foolish and fallen world.

Marlow describes the timing of the announcement as “comically bad” and immediately shows his climate alarmism colours by noting that the announcement came a day after the International Energy Agency had warned that any new oil and gas infrastructure was incompatible with the Paris Climate Agreements of limiting global warming to 1.5 C. The new oil field is expected to produce as much as 500 million barrels of oil over its lifetime. Marlow goes on to state that bringing this oil field into production will do “none of the things that ministers and its cheerleaders claim”, and went on to berate the Conservatives for their alleged failure to cover the UK in solar panels and windfarms. And he went on to attack the government for sowing “confusion” among carmakers by putting back the ban on new internal combustion cars by 5 years to 2035. Further, he mocked the idea that producing more oil has any real benefits to the UK, saying that the oil goes into the world market. He does, rightly, criticise UK governments past and present for being weak on nuclear energy, but overall, Marlow’s column is a noisy example of green tantrum-throwing in an otherwise relatively sane newspaper. I wonder what his employers make of him?

So let’s examine Marlow’s central point, that the opening of this oilfield is a blow to the environment and won’t fix anything for the UK. Well, he ignores that some oil/gas fields will and have come out of production as the oil and gas gets too expensive to extract, reducing the commercial case for it, so if this is replaced by newer fields, that doesn’t necessarily increase the total amount of oil and gas in production. And even if it does, he’s assuming a straight-line link between increased C02 emissions, and increases in the average temperature of the planet. From my reading, there is a law of diminishing returns in nature, as in economics. Every extra ton of C02 produces less of a warming impact than the preceding one. Further, there is global “greening” to consider – although there’s a law of diminishing returns on that when it comes to the link with carbon emissions, I suspect, too.

And considering that he’s a business correspondent and editor, Marlow seems curiously uninterested in how, for example, developing this big oil field will generate export earnings for the UK, and a lot of tax revenue for the government. (On the latter point, this isn’t an argument that I know classical liberals would want to make much of.) The UK has to import a lot of stuff, such as natural gas from the Middle East and so on. Exports are what we need for imports. If the UK’s balance of payments improves, it benefits us in the ability to import more of what we want. As for the government, more revenues give it more ability to encourage R&D and the like in areas such as modular nuclear power plants, etc. Even for those who aren’t carbon fuel catastrophists, we can acknowledge that if we want to shift towards nuclear fission and fusion, and potentially as yet undiscovered sources, that requires a ton of wealth.

Marlow’s mockery of the UK’s supposed tardiness over wind and solar is again a reminder that the battery storage issue just doesn’t register. Without storage, the intermittency problem with wind/sun energy is a killer. (The writer Alex Epstein and others have made this point.) Marlow, and others who share his views, really have no excuses to not directly address this point and explain how they’d handle it.

A final point: The huge budget overruns and delays on the HS2 rail project from London to the North are surely another reminder to journalists who talk a big game about “infrastructure” that the UK’s record of delivering things on time, and on budget, is appalling. Rishi Sunak, whatever else he is, is not an idiot. He knows that the 2030 mark for banning sales of new ICE vehicles was and is insane. All he needs to do to win that cigar from this blog is to reverse the policy completely. Then stand back and watch Mr Marlow’s head explode.

The “fatal conceit” of Western environmental policy, ctd

“The key insight driving the environmental movement historically was that complex natural systems must be treated with respect. Crude interventions, however well-intentioned, can make things worse. Removing an apex predator can change a whole ecosystem. A flood-control dam that eliminates natural wetlands can make floods more dangerous. Attuned to the costs of unanticipated consequences, environmentalists urged caution and restraint by policy makers and advocated letting nature take its course.”

“Today’s green activists have largely forgotten these truths. The consequences are visible all around, and the payback has only begun. Ham-fisted, poorly thought-out green policies, too often designed by self-interested renewable-energy lobbyists, will exact economic and political costs even as their effects on emissions continue to disappoint. The most likely result, sadly, is that the political temperature over climate interventions will keep rising even as green climate policies fall short.”

Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal ($). When I read these paragraphs, I was reminded of the F.A. Hayek publication, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism. For what we have here is a conceit that the top-down approach can be brought to bear on containing CO2 emissions and forcing billions to adopt new energy sources, by force if necessary. What this approach misses is how rules can be gamed. For another part of WRM’s article is that Western policy is, intentionally or otherwise, transferring manufacturing power on a gigantic scale to China, and to a regime that doesn’t really give a brass farthing for climate, human welfare or liberty.

What a time to be alive.

The Royal Society of Arts succumbs to the Dark Greens

My wife is a fellow – she finds it useful to work there occasionally and attend events – at the Royal Society of Arts. I know Anton Howes, the RSA’s in-house historian (his writings on the Industrial Revolution are excellent, and he’s known to groups like the Adam Smith Institute).

(Here is Anton’s substack

In issue three, 2023, in what the RSA calls “The Planet Issue” of its quarterly magazine, are articles asserting how serious the climate “emergency” is, and in one article, (the print edition, I cannot find the web version, which makes me wonder why not) it has a piece by Tom Hardy, entitled “Tropes of Deception”.

Hardy is a member of Extinction Rebellion and co-founded of MP Watch, a constituency network “monitoring climate denial in parliament and MPs’ commitment to net zero”.

Hardy’s RSA article refers to the Global Warming Policy Foundation (involving the likes of Benny Peiser and Conservative MP Steve Baker, among others) and other supposedly nefarious “Tufton Street” organisations. As Hardy writes: “Their agenda: to deny the scientific reality of climate change at the behest of those vested interests whose bottom line requires a repudiation of net zero and renewable energy technology.” (So that’s a “no” for nuclear power then, or an endorsement?)

In what I think is the most unpleasant part of the article, Hardy refers to the “Editor’s Code of Practice” of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPOS) and refers to what the GWPF does, and how its reports are used by journalists. Hardy also writes about “cherry picking details from authentic research”. (Coming from a deep Green, this claim of cherry picking is a bit rich, given some Greens have admitted to mistaken alarmism.) Hardy suggests that IPSO would, if he had his way, drop the hammer on journalists quoting alarmist sceptic organisations without, at least, lots of disclaimers.

The whole piece, which includes swipes at the Daily Telegraph’s business journalist Ben Marlow, and the writer Matt Ridley, finishes with the line that IPSO must be “empowered” and be “free of political interference” (translation: the wrong kind of interference, as he defines it) and be a “priority of the next government”. (How very reassuring.) Hardy does not state what this might mean precisely, but one might reasonably infer that he wants to squash the ability of journalists to source anything other than alarmist content around human-caused global warming, or face some sort of consequence to their careers and publications.

What’s striking is Hardy assumes the case around a climate emergency is beyond any scientific doubt, that debate is over, that any attempt to challenge alarmism must be squashed, including by using so-called guardians of press “independence” to punish journalists that are naughty or foolish enough to cite sources such as the GWPF. This is a religious mindset, of the very worst kind. And it is being laid out in the elegant surroundings of the Royal Society of Arts.

I suppose there are several things that might have prompted Hardy to take this line, and for someone at the RSA to be complacent enough to print him. Hardy’s possibly worried that the deep Greens are losing public support. Hardy’s right to be concerned. For starters, as has occurred over the anger at London mayor Khan’s extension of the ULEZ rules on cars, regulations in the name of Net Zero are causing real political anger. The antics of Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, Greta Thunberg and others are also riling a population that has had enough with relentless nagging, taxes and rules. This isn’t just a UK issue. Look at Dutch farmers, for example.

There’s also the transparent bias that is alienating important parts of the electorate: if we get a hot summer, then the UN, for example, talks about “global boiling”, but goes mute when a snowstorm halts windmills in Texas, for example. The public aren’t stupid, and they can see the imbalance.

There’s also the whole COVID-19 aftermath and its impact on those claiming to follow “The science” (the definite article is a red flag). That episode has weakened trust in official organisations’ pronouncements on science, particularly given the dishonesty about masks, and the attempts – which eventually ended – to halt questions about China’s culpability and the role of a lab In Wuhan.

There are several points the GWPF might want to comment on, given the attacks on it in the pages of a body as supposedly prestigious, and “royal”, as the RSA. (I note, as above, that a web version of this article is unavailable.) First, the RSA is clearly all in for climate change alarmism; it is publishing incendiary and bullying material from hardline ideologues that use disruption of ordinary people’s lives to make a case; ER has shut down the publication of a newspaper it does not like; the RSA has, in this specific edition of the RSA magazine, not provided any opportunity for a different point of view to be aired. Where, for example, are the references to the views of Michael Shellenberger, Bjorn Lomborg, Roger Pielke, Alex Epstein, former Obama advisor Steven Koonin, and many more? I guess they’re all evil and just in it for the money.

Samizdata regulars are, I know, unsurprised by all this. The RSA has, like English Heritage, the British Museum (assuming it has anything left in it), the British Library, and countless other supposed bastions of education and learning, been given the Gramsci treatment (the “long march through the institutions”). There may be people who continue to enjoy the place, with its lovely 18th century architecture, agreeable surroundings and networking parties over a glass of bubbly. Alas, champagne appears one of the few compensations from a body that appears intent on foisting shrill agendas. It may still do some good, which is why people such as Anton Howes can work there, but one has to plough through a lot of crap to find it.

There are many reasons why, as a radical classical liberal chap, I focus a lot of my attention on this issue. Because what the likes of ER want is to suppress, even kill, human flourishing. They are prepared to call for coercion; they applaud the disruption of people’s lives, and have shown an utter contempt for a free press. They’re bullies, and are beginning to realise that people are fighting back.

Samizdata quote of the day – tortured science edition

Prior to this, in November 2018, academics at Queen Mary University of London were due to publish a study in the Lancet that found schemes like ULEZ make no difference to children’s health. It took the LEZ (Low Emission Zone), the precursor policy to ULEZ, introduced in 2008, which levied fines on lorries, buses and coaches, and examined its impact on over 2,000 children. ‘Despite… improvements in air quality, there was no evidence of improvements in the proportion of children with small lungs or asthma symptoms over this period’, it concluded. Unhappy with these findings, the mayor’s office wrote to the lead author, Professor Chris Griffiths, and asked him to change the conclusion. ‘It reads like LEZ or similar have no impact at all’, deputy mayor Rodrigues complained. Griffiths refused to budge. ‘It’s difficult to alter the sentence you refer to as it’s what we set out to look for but didn’t find’, he replied. The study was published unaltered the next day, but the deputy mayor’s intent was clear – to rewrite science to meet City Hall’s agenda.

Fraser Myers

Samizdata quote of the day – Climategate redux

Shocking details of corruption and suppression in the world of peer-reviewed climate science have come to light with a recent leak of emails. They show how a determined group of activist scientists and journalists combined to secure the retraction of a paper that said a climate emergency was not supported by the available data. Science writer and economist Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. has published the startling emails and concludes: “Shenanigans continue in climate science, with influential scientists teaming up with journalists to corrupt peer review.”

Chris Morrison

Samizdata quote of the day – True but censored

But now, Facebook is censoring accurate information about the relationship between industrial wind energy development and the increase in whale deaths off the East Coast.

Yesterday, Facebook and Instagram censored my post linking whale deaths to wind energy off the East Coast of the United States. The censorship came in the form of a “FactCheck.org” article from March 31, 2023, which relied entirely on U.S. government sources.

The censorship came on the exact same day that Public and Environmental Progress released a new documentary, “Thrown To The Wind,” which proves that the FactCheck.org article is false.

Michael Shellenberger

Samizdata quote of the day – the fake climate consensus

We are told climate change is a crisis, and that there is an “overwhelming scientific consensus.”

“It’s a manufactured consensus,” says climate scientist Judith Curry in my new video. She says scientists have an incentive to exaggerate risk to pursue “fame and fortune.”

She knows about that because she once spread alarm about climate change.

John Stossel

… which will come as a shock to no one here 😉

Samizdata quote of the day – climate alarmism edition

“Really, think about this: A 4.6 billion-year-old planet with an 8000-mile diameter, with a molten core (heat, etc.), with an atmosphere that is only 50 miles/240,000ft thick (being rather generous), that orbits a star only 93 million miles away with 330,000 times the earth’s mass and that emits enough radiation to burn your naked ass in 30 minutes, is having its weather unalterably changed over the course of the next 5/10/15 years (whatever it is now) by the presence of a weak greenhouse gas, CO2, that happens to now be at its lowest level in damn near the entire history of the planet — a history punctuated by global glaciations while that weak greenhouse gas was far higher than it is now — and that also happens to be the basis of plant life (and therefore atmospheric oxygen), a gas whose greenhouse effect is dwarfed by that of water vapor (on a planet with a surface area that consists of 70% water), and that geologically is currently in an interglacial period. The models that generated this political bullshit have predicted nothing correctly — not sea level change, polar ice cover, or weather.”

Mark Rippetoe. Mr Rippetoe is a strength training coach, based in Wichita Falls, Texas, and a pioneering figure in what is called barbell weight training. (Full disclosure: I use his methods and have got results.) Here he is in full Texan “growl” mode here. He’s also, in my view, very funny and a real character. We need more like him.

Samizdata quote of the day

“One of the few sensible things Noam Chomsky ever said was that if you want to understand the world, read the New York Times backwards; that is, start at the end of the story and read up.”

Steven F Hayward, making this comment in a long and damning critique of “climate crisis” viewpoints and suppressors of dissent.

(Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.)

The sheer dishonesty of it all

The Lancet published the chart on left with a different X-Axis to downplay fact that cold causes ten times more deaths than heat in Europe. Björn Lomborg corrected that with the chart on right.

Samizdata quote of the day – a new rent-seeking class

“How many environmental justice majors does it take to calculate the CO2 emissions of a light bulb? This isn’t a joke. Businesses now employ scads of college grads to do this. For years America’s political class has lamented that too many college grads are working in low-paying jobs that don’t require post-secondary degrees. The diversity, equity and inclusion and environmental, social and governance industries—DEI and ESG, respectively—are solving for this problem while creating many others. In the modern progressive era, young graduates are finding remunerative employment as sustainability coordinators, DEI officers and “people partners.” Instead of serving up pumpkin soy lattes, they’re quantifying corporate greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring employers don’t transgress progressive cultural orthodoxies.”

Allysia Finley, Wall Street Journal ($).

A Lamborghini tractor at the gates of Downing Street

“If we don’t learn from the Dutch eco quagmire we might end up with Farmer Clarkson as PM”, warns the Times.

Jeremy Clarkson is a bit too much of a Remainer for my political tastes, but we could do a lot worse. But Robert Colvile’s article is not really about Britain’s most famous petrolhead. It is about the slow but relentless growth in the scope of a law for which nobody voted, Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, a.k.a. the “EU Habitats Directive”.

This was designed to protect and restore rare species and conservation sites. One thing they needed protecting from was nitrogen pollution.

In November 2018 the European Court of Justice ruled (after a referral from the Netherlands) that any “plans or projects” near such sites were permissible only if there was “no reasonable scientific doubt as to the lack of adverse effects”.

In other words, before you could build a house or spread fertiliser on a field, you had to prove it would not increase nitrogen emissions. Which you couldn’t.

This ruling — known as the “Dutch case” — triggered the nutrient neutrality crisis, which is blocking an estimated 145,000 new homes in England.

But in the Netherlands the results were even more dramatic. The country’s highest court quickly suspended 18,000 construction projects and ordered drastic cuts in nitrogen emissions. Given that 46 per cent came from cow dung, MPs proposed halving the number of cattle. Which led to outraged farmers blockading roads with tractors, and the formation of a new party, the Farmer-Citizen Movement. Which is now well ahead in the polls.

As the article points out, Brexit has not prized the UK loose from these laws, although it has made it less inconceivable that one day we might be.

Above all, this story illustrates the dangers of the precautionary principle at the heart of EU law, and in particular our interpretation of it. This principle holds that before you do anything, it must be proved to be absolutely safe.

In the nitrogen ruling, the language about “no reasonable scientific doubt” set an extraordinarily high bar. One that drove Natural England to unilaterally halt the construction of 145,000 desperately needed houses across 74 council areas, because there was a risk of nitrogen from flushed lavatories running into rivers — even though planning permission had already been granted, and the homes would be responsible for only a fraction of local pollution.

What’s striking is the absolute nature of such decisions. There is no evaluation of trade-offs, no way to argue that, yes, we need to protect rivers, but also to build homes and fill bellies with crops. The Economist notes that the Netherlands’ environmental rules have imposed “wide-ranging restrictions on new economic activity”. Same here.

For many Brexit campaigners, the hostility to innovation embedded in the precautionary principle — for nitrogen emissions, read gene-editing, or AI — was a key justification for leaving. But the poison has entered our bloodstream.