12 November 2009

IMechE Report on UK Climate Policy

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) in the UK has released a hard-hitting report on the state of the UK Climate Change Act. IMechE says:
To decarbonise the nation and achieve the 80% reduction in GHG output by 2050, the UK will need to undertake a monumental task at a scale it has never seen before, reducing carbon output per unit of GDP by over 5% annually until 2050. Between 2001 and 2006, we achieved an average of 1.3% annual reduction, but in more recent years, progress has been far more limited. Globally, while the UK, is one of the better performing nations. France has the most decarbonised economy among the large developed nations – through its move towards nuclear power as the predominant source of electricity generation.

For the UK to be on track to achieve the emission reductions required by the Climate Change Act, it would have to become as carbon efficient as France by about 2015; which magnitudinous challenge would require the equivalent of the UK constructing and putting into service about 30 new nuclear power stations in the next five years, while retiring an equal amount of coal-fired generation!

The report has been picked up by the UK media, which reports the following response from the Government:
"The Institute of Mechanical Engineer's can't do, won't do attitude is sending out a defeatist message ahead of the crucial climate change talks in Copenhagen. The truth is that if we act now we can not only beat climate change but gain from the green benefits that will flow in terms of jobs and investment from going low carbon."
If some of the numbers in the report sound familiar, it is because it relies a good deal on my analysis of UK climate policy:

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2009. The British Climate Change Act: A Critical Evaluation and Proposed Alternative Approach, Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 4, No. 2.


  1. Typical government response issued after their parade was effectively rained on by the folks at IMechE. Never mind that they completely ignore the fact that IMechE stated specifically how the goal can be reached: 30 nuclear plants in 5 years. I fail to see how this is a "can't do or won't do" attitude.
    It sounds like they all could use a little more of the, "Yes we can" spirit!
    If only the bureaucratic result wouldn't be to either bury ones head in the sand and pretend the problem doesn't exist or keep ones head in the clouds spouting lofty platitudes while contributing no real workable solutions.
    Or more likely they will just bad mouth anyone who rocks the boat.
    Okay team, let's all go out there and beat climate change! Carbon on 3, ready? One, two, three...CARBON!

  2. Roger

    Do you have an opinion on why the UK government is pursuing such an unrealistic strategy ?

  3. The IMechE had a poll when the Stern report came out. It had two options; Does the report go far enough yes or no? I asked for a 3rd option; Do you think it's alarmist and incompetent per Richard Tol's critique. I'd really like to have known the answer to that one but no reply was forthcoming and the poll seemed to be scrapped for lack of interest.

    Power engineers have been recommending since the 70's that UK government should get a coherent energy policy together but they never do. Oddly Thatcher wanted nuclear but abandoned it on cost grounds then natural gas came along and saved the day. Now they're back on nuclear which was deemed totally uneconomic before. But if they didn't do it when they had money, how can they do it when they are massively in debt? There is an enormous decommissioning bill coming up too - totally non-productive government expenditure. Maybe they'll end up just buying more power from France. Or maybe the Brits will just move en masse there and switch the lights off behind them.

    It's curious to see the optimism of consistent GDP growth in the middle of the worst recession since 1930. Is it the job of economists to be eternally uplifting - a bit like the clowns who come on between circus acts?

  4. One of the ironies of this topic is that the AGW alarmists all seem to be "deniers" when it comes to a realistic assessment of the costs of decarbonization.

    Although I am a skeptic, I would support efforts to drastically decarbonize, if I thought the effort would not cost much and would, in fact, benefit the economy. Unfortunately, I think that those who believe such are living in fantasy land

  5. "gain from the green benefits that will flow in terms of jobs and investment from going low carbon."

    Or they really this stupid or really this dishonest? There is no excuse for this kind of garbage. Statements like these are as bad as the Obama administration's claims that the "stimulus" spending saved 900 of the 500 jobs in a local school district.

    Green regulations destroy jobs on balance. To claim otherwise requires the rejection of basic fundamental economics. Bastiat explained the fallacy over 150 years ago.

  6. This is good, but extremely late, news. Finally, people who survive on doing arithmetic, and more importantly, who are critically important when it comes time to research, design, develop, test, and implement actual solutions to problems, have arrived on the scene.

    The forced, crammed-down-their-throats, of both the identification of the 'problem' and its only acceptable solution, will eventually come to an end. Reality is going to bite like it has never bitten before in history.

    The number of procedures and processes between problem-identification and solution-implementation that have been simply unacknowledged are almost uncountable. Nothing ever works correctly when this approach is used. And in the present case, the problem in fact has not yet been completely identified and specified and its consequences quantified and prioritized. Solutions (plural) can not begin until after these steps have been completed.

    I almost never venture into the politics. But I have noticed the almost exact behavior in some "scientists" as demonstrated in the recent "debate" over health-care in the US. Those in positions of power, and who did not attain the positions on the basis of knowledge, said Only we know the problem and its only solution and here it is. The precautionary principle and just do something in action. Procedures and processes were unacknowledged and skipped. The forced-by-positions-of-power approach is guaranteed to fail.

    Note the number of spectacular failures and ongoing debacles as just do something is attempted to be applied in isolation to inconsequential aspects of energy conversion.

  7. "gain from the green benefits that will flow in terms of jobs and investment from going low carbon."

    Can anyone explain to me what kind of investment a low carbon economy is going to benefit from compared to a higher carbon economy?

  8. -7-DaveJR,

    I would not offer any investment advice.

    But, The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley has offered this economic forecast with respect to our own Cap & Trade insanity:

    “each ‘green job’ would cost the taxpayer $800,000, destroying some 40 real jobs for each bogus or ‘green’ job artificially and temporarily created.”

  9. There was also David McKay's Without Hot Air. The politician's all know it's impossible to de-carbonize in a short time period. They don't want the public to know Copenhagen is a fraud. The US EPA tried to gag two of their scientist's for saying cap & trade is a joke. This is no surprise to us NJ's as Lisa Jackson used gag orders at the NJ DEP when she was slipping favors to developers.

  10. For the most part, ordinary people haven't a clue what the real impacts of Goreism are.

    For example, up here in the Great White North, regardless if we go with a 6% cut from our 1990 GhG emission levels (the Kyoto target) or the 20/20 target . . 20 % reduction of our 2007 GhG emission levels by 2020, Canada needs to reduce our carbon GhG emissions by about 150,000 megatonnes (Mt).

    For a close comparison, just use the "Multiply by ten" rule to get the USA numbers . . . close enough.

    So what does this mean? Look at the list below – it is a subset of a list I downloaded from Environment Canada.

    Start cutting all or some of the categories back until you have a total cut of 150,000 Mt. My favorite way would be to stop using every car, truck, bus, boat, plane and train in Canada. That would total 147+ Mt and be close enough to our 150,000 Mt target that could claim victory.

    Electric/heat generation 126 000
    Fossil Fuel Industries 70,000
    Mining & Gas 23,000
    Residential 40,000
    Automobile 41, 000
    Light Gas trucks 45, 000
    Heavy Gas Trucks 6,640
    Heavy Diesel Trucks 40, 100
    Railways 7,000
    Off Road Diesel 25,000
    Off Road Gas 6,7000
    Domestic Aviation 7, 804
    Metal Production 13, 800
    Chemical Industry 8,900
    Mineral Production 9, 400
    Agriculture 60,000

  11. Roger: The Chamber has an interesting report out on the international negotiations and what it would take to cut global emissions 50% by 2050 (http://www.energyxxi.org/reports/15347_Copenhagen.pdf). Completely unrealistic, in my humble opinion.

  12. Those pesky mechanical engineers, speaking in a sensible manner regarding carbon alarmism...just what are they trying to pull here?

  13. BBC


  14. This is the reason Britain loves global warming more than any other nation.

    London Carbon Trading market to be worth trillions of dollars

    Paven Sukhdev, a career banker for Deutsche Bank who now works on the issue for the UN and EU, argues that at least 65% of reductions must be made within developed countries. That means firms such as AEP may still be limited in how much they can invest in projects abroad.

    Firms in developing countries may not have to buy credits at all. That has led to worries in the City that there won't be enough money to buy all the forest carbon. London's financial centre is the main home to the incipient global carbon market. Prof Heal believes that in a decade, the trade could be worth trillions of dollars.